The Congregation of the First Southern Baptist Church has dwindled in numbers low these many years — but never in spirit.
And in their long, cheerful, loving time in our community, they’ve offered many lessons in faith and love.
But never more so perhaps than in the manner of their going.
The clever and wise sign in front of the 51-year-old church on Ash Street has offered snippets of insight and revelation to drivers rushing past for many years now. But inside the church, the pews all too often stood empty — in a town blessed with many churches serving the community and their congregations with love and patience.
Meanwhile, not so far away, the congregation of the Expedition Church crowded into the Julia Randall Elementary School Cafeteria, praising the Lord and folding the chairs for every service.
The Expedition Church started in a living room with a spontaneous, informal approach to services — with a band, book studies, modern songs and remixed hymns. Like so many churches in our lucky little town, they supported good causes — like the wonderful Christian Clinic and the Time Out Shelter. The congregation adopted a village in Africa, spreading a message of love and faith and good acts from one continent to another. But they spent the money donated on such causes — without much left to put into a church fund.
Then a small miracle occurred — although perhaps not even so surprising when you consider the faith and devotion of all the people involved. The Expedition Church asked the Baptist Church whether they would consider selling the church or leasing space. It was really just a wishful thought — since the Expedition Church couldn’t really afford the purchase price or the rent.
But the congregation of the First Southern Baptist Church talked it over — and prayed.
The First Southern Pastor Rick Hatch made a remarkable offer: They would simply give the church to Expedition — so that the 51 years of prayer and hymns and seeking after truth would continue.
And so it shall.
Somewhere, someone should put the story of the donation on the wall, so that 50 years from now, children can learn the lesson of love, which never dims.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7