In 1971 Jim and Beth Darnell had an encounter with God and began to run with what He had called them to do. When they started to share with their friends what God was doing in their lives, they came into a new dimension in their walk with the Lord—the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A church was started in their home and at the same time several families in the Lutheran church began to have a fresh encounter with God and started a home Bible study. God was working all over San Marcos. By the summer of 1971 many young people had turned their lives over to God and met together at a youth Bible study. As an overflow of what God was doing, the Darnells opened the Morning Star Coffeehouse Outreach above the J.C. Penney building on the San Marcos square (Hopkins and LBJ).
All of these groups joined together in September of 1972 to form Hill Country Faith Ministries Church. Jim Darnell was the first pastor. After gathering in homes and public meeting rooms they found a place to meet at Bonham Elementary School. When the church outgrew that facility, they moved to Owen Goodnight Junior High. There were many college students from SWT coming to the church services and they quickly found a need for a discipleship program. The Messiah Mansion Discipleship Center was established at the old Pennington Funeral Home along with the church offices at the corner of Endicott and San Antonio Street, a now restored historic home. It was a great place for night meetings as well.
By 1974 God was moving mightily and funds were pouring in for a land acquisition the church so desperately needed, a miracle took place and ten acres on River Road were purchased, paid for in cash! No one could doubt it was God providing since the church was filled with college students! From Goodnight, the church relocated to the Duke and Ayers building downtown (101 E Hopkins) in 1975, as they waited for God to provide money for a building on their beautiful land. They did not have to wait long. In 1976 the first building was built. There was a gym and then classrooms. The church met in the gymnasium for many years.
The Messiah Mansion Discipleship Center became Hill Country Bible College, which continued to train students for ministry from 1975-1984. Jim Darnell was the first President with Dr Fount Shults as Academic Dean. Between 1972 and 1976 Hill Country Church started satellite churches in Austin, New Braunfels, Gonzales, and Victoria all in Texas, as well as a church in Telluride, Colorado. Many were hungry to be a part of what God was doing in that time, and the churches continued to grow.
In the fall of 1976 Hill Country Christian School began with Ron Carnes serving as principal until 1988. The school started because a great need was seen in the church to support Christian families with a Godly school teaching Bible-based curriculum, dedicated to academic achievement, but most importantly to raise up and train children to follow after God. After 1988 Joe Lunz became the principal and still continues this powerful ministry that has graduated many outstanding Godly students. Since 1985, a new wing was added to the building with a fellowship hall, kitchen and more classrooms.
The church continues to grow even now with the new sanctuary built in 2006. All of this is a wonderful testimony to God’s faithfulness and His prevailing purposes!