Clint and Sara Byars
It all started when...
Forward is the fruition of a decision made in 1997. I was not raised in church, in fact I had 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 just merge with the collective consciousness when we die and there’s no real afterlife. I also stumbled into drugs in my teenage years, this opened the door to all sorts of occult beliefs and mysticism but I still held to the idea that death is the end.
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 but then to know God. During the first 5 years of my conversion I simply talked with God and would experience the tangible presence of Jesus. I still knew nothing about religion since I didn’t attend church during those 5 years. At the end of that 5 year period, 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. Just before this time Sara and I met at the University of Georgia 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 eternity apart from God 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 and Leon Fontaine. In 2000, we packed up and moved to attend IISOM with the intention of moving back to Atlanta and starting a church. While at Impact I completed school, worked as the 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 just worked for a while while we planned where we would launch Forward. God had given us the name Forward sometime in 2004.
Once we bought a home in Newnan, we launched the church out of 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,