Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Faithful Church

Back in 1993 when Operation Christmas Child was just getting its start in the United States, Fellowship Baptist Church was built here in Erie County, PA. The church previously met for more than a dozen years in the local YMCA and they were thrilled when God blessed them with this beautiful building on 14 acres of wooded property.

In 1994 Fellowship Baptist was one of only two churches in Erie County to participate in OCC and they’ve continued over these years to faithfully pack gift-filled shoeboxes to minister to children around the world as one of our two longest-standing church partners.

Over the years they experienced, as many churches do, some divisions that reduced their membership greatly. Still, because of their faithfulness and sacrificial giving this small core were able to pay off the mortgage and make repairs to their building. They kept the church cleaned and maintained on their own.

And they continued their faithful service to OCC and other mission endeavors. They ran a large youth group with 40 or more students—a number often greater than their total Sunday morning attendance. In 2010 these faithful few packed 228 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child—a total larger than most churches ten times their size.

On Easter Sunday of 2011 a church of their denomination on the other side of the county called Grace McKean formed a satellite church named Grace Harborcreek and began holding services in the high school just a few miles away from Fellowship Baptist.

Because they were worshiping in a school, Grace Harborcreek struggled to find a space to begin youth ministry. So a faithful group of youth from Grace McKean began fervently praying for God to provide a space for their counterparts in Harborcreek.

During this time the folks from Fellowship Baptist were also praying for the new church in their community and the Lord began to lead members of Fellowship to donate their building and land to Grace Harborcreek.

Could this be God’s calling? That the beautiful land God gave to them and the church they sacrificed to build and maintain should now be given away?

After continued prayer for confirmation, Fellowship Baptist affirmed what they’d held to all these years—their faithfulness was to God alone. The building and land they’d stewarded so well belonged to Him and since they believed He called them to pass it on to a new church, they would be obedient. Their investment in His Kingdom would continue.

The agreement to give and receive this property with a value of $900,000 has been accepted by both churches but the transaction has not been finalized yet. The small group of Fellowship Baptist members still meets for worship on Sundays and they continue to gather items for their Operation Christmas Child packing party this fall. They’re planning to pack more than 200 boxes again this year.

In a society that values ‘bigger and better’ it’s important to remember that there’s not a special place in heaven for pastors or members of mega churches. There are, however, rewards for the faithful.

No matter the size of our church or the number of shoeboxes we pack, obedience and faithfulness are what bring joy to the Father.

Though the faithful at Fellowship Baptist have regifted the land God provided for them in 1993, He’s preparing new land for them. “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;” Psalm 101:6a (ESV)

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