Clint and Sara Byars
Founding and Lead Pastors of Forward Church
Here’s the quick version of why we started Forward Church. Forward is the fruition of a decision we made in 1997. Sara and I were not churched people but we knew we wanted to spend our lives helping people know God’s radical love. I was not raised in church. I had only been to church about a dozen times before the age of 21. Those sparse visits were usually for Easter or some other special occasion. By my teenage years, I had adopted the idea that we merge with the collective consciousness of the universe when we die and there is no afterlife. I stumbled into drugs in my teenage years which opened the door to all sorts of occult and mystical beliefs.
As detailed in my book, Devil Walk, I came to know that God was real in 1991 because I had an encounter with the devil and hundreds of demons. I reasoned, “if the devil is real then God must be real.” This sent me on a journey to first regain sanity, then to know God. During the first 5 years of my conversion, while in college at Georgia State and UGA, I simply talked with God. I would experience the tangible presence of Jesus. I would read my Bible but I still didn’t go to church, it just wasn’t prat of my upbringing and I didn’t really know what it was about. At the end of those 5 years, I had read the Bible many times and had an intimate relationship with Jesus. I thank God I had this experience before “going to church.”
Just before Christmas of 1994, I got a call from my Mom who invited me to the church where her friend’s brother-in-law was the pastor. This was Pastor David Michael of Faith Cornerstone in Dunwoody, GA. I visited there and shortly realized that God was calling me to eventually do what Pastor David was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to inspire people to experience the unconditional love God had shown me. Around this time Sara and I met at UGA and fell in love. We moved back to the Atlanta area at separate times and began regularly attending Faith Cornerstone. We knew we eventually wanted to launch a church in the Atlanta area because we are both from here and love it. I grew up in Tyrone / Peachtree City, attending McIntosh and Sara grew up in Marietta, attending Walton.
I took to the streets early on in my conversion just to tell people that God loved them and wanted to have a relationship. I never took an evangelism class and had only heard one person in my life witness to me. I just knew that God was real, Jesus had died to save them from an eternity apart from him and people needed to hear about it. I saw nearly 200 people come to Christ in the first year of ministering on the streets of Atlanta.
During that time Dr. Jim Richards spoke at our church. Once we heard him, we knew we wanted to move to Huntsville, AL to be trained at Impact International School of Ministry. Dr. Richards' books have influenced people such as Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack, Leon Fontaine and hundreds more leaders that are now promoting the true Gospel message. In 2000, we packed up and moved to attend IISOM with the plan to move back to Atlanta and start a church.
While at Impact I completed school, and served in multiple roles: IISOM outreach leader, Youth Pastor, small groups director, young married’s pastor, associate pastor to Dr. Richards and IISOM instructor. I held these positions at various times between 2000 and 2006. Sara and I moved back to Newnan, GA in October 2006. We took some time off and built up a graphic design business while while we planned the launch of Forward. God gave us the name Forward sometime in 2004.
After we bought a home in Newnan, we started meeting in our home in October 2008 with 3 other families. In less than a year we could no longer fit in our house so we rented a few different spaces before settling into our current location in Sharpsburg, GA. We truly feel that God has gathered a family of people, who genuinely care for one another at Forward. We are excited to keep moving forward and bring the Gospel to the South Atlanta region.
Our focus in on setting people free from the bondage of legalistic religion and laying them in the lap of a loving Father who absolutely adores them. We trust the Holy Spirit for people much more than we trust in our Pastoral gifts, it’s much more fun that way. If you’re in the area, we invite you to visit and worship our amazing Heavenly Father with us at Forward Church.
Grace and Peace,
Founding and Lead Pastor of Forward Church