Hap & Di's Story

Hap & Di's Story

It all began with a baby. Every church has a story to tell. Our story begins back in the early seventies. While students at the University of Illinois, Happy and Dianne Leman became Christians through the ministry of the Apostolic Christian Church where they had both been raised as preachers' children.

Throughout the next five years, they experienced a deep hunger for personal and spiritual growth as disciples of Jesus. During this time, they also struggled with the problem of infertility. After extensive medical tests, doctors told them that children were medically impossible without major surgery, and even then, chances were slim.

During their desperate attempts to have children, a fellow insurance employee told Happy that God was still doing miracles. While initially reserved, Happy and Dianne decided they had nothing to lose by investigating this claim. Contrary to what they had always been taught in church, they began to discover that God was still healing the sick and moving by miraculous power in response to believing prayer. They were filled with the Holy Spirit in May, 1977. This launched them on a journey of intense study and seeking after God. While they were waiting for God to break through with healing, God spoke to Happy and Dianne independently that they were to begin teaching the Bible.  

Full Story

1978. In April of this year, Dianne miraculously conceived a baby through the healing power of God but she would not know this for several months. During this time they felt called to start gathering friends to teach about God’s love and power. Assisted by Ben and Tina Hoerr, they opened the Good News Center in May of 1978.

Their original purpose was to teach the Bible, the principles of life in the Holy Spirit, faith, and healing. Twenty-five people attended that first meeting in the back room of Happy and Dianne's home in Southwest Champaign.  

In July of 1978, Dianne went to the doctor after not feeling well and was joyfully surprised to discover she was pregnant with their first child. Even the doctors at the hospital, who had not seen her in the preceding year, agreed that they could take no credit, and that it was a miracle. The conception and birth of JD were real confirmation points of God's power and willingness to intervene in the affairs of His family. JD has since been followed by four other miracle children—AJ, Julie, J, and Cory.

This healing spurred tremendous growth in the group, as people continued to bring their friends and family to the Bible study. The ministry grew beyond the capacity of the Leman's home. So, the group rented, and later purchased, an empty church building at 701 South Lincoln (now the U of I's Oregon Computing Center) to hold the two weeknight Bible studies. A Sunday evening praise and worship service soon followed, and a Sunday morning service was added a short time later as a church began to emerge. The ministry offices and meetings remained at the facility until the end of 1984, when the church built a new facility on a ten-acre tract of land at the southeast corner of Lincoln and Bradley Avenues in Urbana. This new building was dedicated in January of 1985, and still serves as the location of the Urbana worship center today.

While Good News Center has changed its emphasis from time to time, its focus and vision has always remained constant: to see John 14:12—"that we would do the same and greater works" of Jesus—come into reality. Through the years, people who have hungered for authentic Christianity and the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit in the church have felt at home there.

1981. Happy and Dianne began to sense that they needed a freshness in their approach to the ministry. Their unending commitment to John 14:12 kept them continually on the lookout for others who might have that same vision. In early 1982, they prayed that God would lead them to the right people, the right experiences, or the right information so that they might clarify what they were to do as a church.

1982. A Christian Life magazine arrived at their home which described the ministry of John Wimber and his new course at Fuller Seminary entitled "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth." Happy and Dianne immediately realized that they had found something that was fresh, unique, and could quite possibly be the answer to their prayers.

1983. Happy and Dianne attended their first Vineyard Pastors' Conference. The conference revolutionized their lives in two ways. First, they saw the necessity to plan their ministry. Second, they were impacted by every member of the church being released to minister to one another by the Holy Spirit. While they had always given a prominent place to the Holy Spirit in their church life, the Vineyard model was unique and different.

1984. The Holy Spirit spoke to Happy and said that Good News Center was to be a Vineyard. From that point on, Happy and Dianne carefully took one step at a time, leading the church to a willingness to become adopted by a larger association of churches and lose their independent identity.

1985 - 1986. It had become quite clear that the people were fully embracing Vineyard values and direction. Happy taught a series of sermons on Sunday morning entitled Our Place in The Kingdom. This culminated in our formal adoption into the Association of Vineyard Churches and a subsequent name change to Vineyard Christian Fellowship on March 2, 1986.

1986 -2009. In the following years, the church developed as a place that partnered with people to fulfill our mission..."to continue the works of Jesus." The Vineyard movement birthed a hunger  to "do the stuff" that we see Jesus doing in the Bible. He tells us in John 14:12, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father." The Church began to see this vision as extending beyond one congregation or place, and we began to plant churches across the midwest as well as developing firm partnerships with missions and church planting in Mexico, China, and Taiwan.

2009 - 2011.  As our congregation continued to grow and our church began to have an influence regionally that extended far outside the Champaign-Urbana area, we began to follow a vision that would allow us to have more stories in more places with more people. With that in mind, we launched our very first multi-site church in Sullivan, IL in 2009. We currently have several multi-site campuses (groups of people that meet regularly throughout Central Illinois to worship God) where they hear a relevant message, impact the community they are located in, and do life together in small groups.

2012 - 2017. In 2012, Todd White came and deposited a revelation that began a whole new chapter in the life of our church. The message of our righteous identity began to weave itself into the fabric of our Church’s DNA. From there, God continued to deposit new layers of revelation that included Grace, Sonship, the Father’s love, new levels of power ministry, and more. In many ways, this was the other side of the coin for our church. Hap has shared that his life verse is Matthew 6:33 (KJV) 33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." In fact, Putty Putman gave a message a little over a year ago about this very thing. For years, we pressed into understanding the Kingdom, as this was a keystone in the greater Vineyard movement. But, God was revealing the second part of that verse - His righteousness.