The quote above is from William Carey (1761-1834), the English Baptist missionary to India who is called “The Father of Modern Missions.” This was his statement of unwavering gospel trust and fiery gospel action. As we trust God to work, we are called in response to step out in faith and follow completely. If we are a people who expect to see God move, we must be a people who radically and visibly place everything on the line in our efforts to obey him.
That motto should be at the heart of everything First Baptist Church Henryville is and is doing as we move into the second half of 2012. The first half of this year has seen the mixture of tragedy and triumph. The tornado in March devastated our community and has forever changed Henryville. In the wake of this tragedy, however, we have witnessed the gospel of Christ rising from the dust of the debris and powerfully changing lives. We have been witnesses to the triumph of God’s powerful good news. We have seen six months of tragedy and triumph.
And now in July we are being challenged to see one more thing. In the wake of tragedy, and in response to triumph, we are called to trust. With that in mind our church voted last night in our monthly business meeting to embark on a renovation and expansion project to our current building facilities. I want to take a few minutes to tell you what we are doing, why we are doing it, what will be happening, and what I am calling you to do in the weeks, months, and years to come.
On the recommendation of the building committee, finance committee, deacons, and pastoral staff the church has voted to continue with the previously approved building renovations which are needed due to the tornado damage and are covered by our insurance, and to additionally add to that a twenty-five foot extension to our worship sanctuary which will (as new pews are added) provide extra seating for over one hundred people during our worship services.
So what will this look like? First, all of the brick on our building (which was loosened by the tornado winds) will be replaced by a combination of new brick and siding providing a new exterior to our church. Second, the church offices and the lobby area outside of them will be renovated to provide the best use of space as well as office areas for all of our pastors. Third, new handicap accessible restrooms for both men and women will be added, replacing the limited restrooms we have on our main floor. Third, the entire building (back of the church, fellowship hall/gym, front of the sanctuary) will be provided with new entrance ways that are both nice and handicap accessible. Fourth, the heating and air of the building will be updated, which will provide greater comfort and much greater efficiency for both the upstairs and downstairs area. Finally, the worship sanctuary will be renovated and extended. We will be adding seating/pews (including an area for wheel-chairs), updating our pulpit area, baptismal pool, and choir space, replacing the carpet, removing the wood paneling, improving the lighting, the sound system, and our screen.
These are big changes and they are not entered into lightly or without much prayer, discussion, and planning. With the recommendation from the committees that the church elected and after a vote of the church body, we are beginning to make these plans a reality.
Before I list a few of the reasons that have led us to these plans, let me explain clearly why we are NOT doing this. I do not want any misunderstanding. We are not doing this because we are seeking to simply “look good” or make a great name for FBC Henryville. We are not doing this simply to spend money.
So why are we doing this? Simply put, we are doing this for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God. Our church’s vision statement says that we exist to glorify God in all things, by proclaiming the gospel of Christ to all people, so their lives are transformed for all time. That is the heart of what we are doing. This may look and sound like a building project. In reality it is a gospel project. So what does doing this for the sake of the gospel and God’s glory mean? Here are our reasons in a little more detail:
1.) We are doing this because our church facilities are already required to be updated due to the damage that was done by the March 2nd tornado. Most of this damage is unseen but structural, so addressing it is not merely recommended. It is required.
2.) We are doing this because a church that exists for the glory of God should seek to express that mission through our properties and building. Let us be clear: First Baptist Church Henryville is not a building. We could vote to meet in a tree house and FBC Henryville would still exist. Bricks and mortar do not make a church. With that said, however, everything the church does is called to reflect our confidence and passion for the glory of God. That includes the way we treat, upkeep, and renovate the facilities that God has provided for us and where the church meets on a weekly basis. Our building should reflect our desire for others to see God to be as beautiful as he really is. One way that we want people to see that is by our desire that our property look as good as it possibly can.
3.) We want to reach our community and world with the gospel. We do not want to stand before God in the end, knowing that we could have done more but didn’t. A passion for God’s glory is a passion for people seeing and savoring that glory. That means we want to provide the best, most comfortable, and the most space, for as many people as possible. We want to make our entire building accessible not just for young people in good health. We want to make our building accessible to all people. That means making everything handicap accessible. We want to provide enough restroom space to handle our growing numbers. Since the tornado our church membership and worship attendance have grown steadily. Our current sanctuary only holds around 200 people. For the last month we have been having in excess of 150 people. Space is getting tight. We have to provide room. This isn’t about us. This is about the gospel.
4.) We want to be good stewards of what God has given us. This project will cost us financially. Our insurance is covering the vast majority of what we will be doing, but we will be asked to reach into our wallets and give. We believe, however, that this step is a reflection of good stewardship. There are other things that could be done. There are far grander and far more expensive things that we could do. We want to be responsible, however, with the resources God has given us. This action will provide a great amount of improvement for the lowest possible cost. As the church grows there will be a time and place for other improvements and/or renovations. This, however, is the responsible move for us right now.
5.) We want to place our faith into action. We claim to follow a God who is powerful enough to save anyone. We claim to follow a God who can do anything, and who has promised to provide his people with everything they need. If we really believe that, then we are called to step out and do, to risk, to follow. Faith without works is dead. A church that refuses to look into the unknown future and follow even when the stakes are high is dead also. We don’t want to be an unfaithful fellowship.
Work will begin on our facilities immediately. As I write this on Thursday morning, a crew is working to make our fellowship hall and gym area handicap accessible. Far the most part the work that is coming will only involve the areas in and around the church offices and the sanctuary, so let me quickly explain what you can expect in the coming weeks.
1.) First, our parking lot area will be cleared to allow for better and closer parking. This includes moving the large trailers that have been placed in our back parking lot since the tornado.
2.) The brick exterior of the entire building will begin to be replaced. This will not, however, hinder access to the building during our weekly services. At no point will any of our Sunday school rooms be closed, although some classes may have to be moved temporarily.
3.) Our office area will begin a transition and renovation. The Sunday school office will move downstairs (providing space upstairs for our associate pastor and student pastor). Toby’s office will be moved to the Trustee/Food Pantry office up the hill for a few weeks while the construction is taking place. If you need him you will still be able to reach him on his cell phone and find him there or at our building site.
4.) The temporary wall that is currently dividing the fellowship hall from the gym area will be removed allowing us to have our worship services in this area while the sanctuary is under construction.
5.) Beginning Sunday July 22nd our worship services will be held in the gym/fellowship hall area. This will last for (if everything goes according to schedule) no longer than about six weeks, meaning we should be back in our renovated sanctuary by the end of August or the very beginning of September. Our services in the gym area will be full services and will include moving our church pews (which have to be moved temporarily out of the sanctuary anyway), sound system, piano, organ, pulpit furniture, and screen into the gym. Because we are installing handicap accessibility (ramps) into this area all of our members should be able to gather there for worship during this time of transition.
6.) We plan on having this stage in our renovation project completed as we begin our Fall schedule.
There are big changes that are happening. A lot has happened to make this possible. And so before I close this article there are a few things that I want to call each of you to.
1.) Know that your church leadership loves and cares for each of you. I love this church. I love this town. I am committed to this church. I only want what is best for this church. I am with you. I know these are big things we’re talking about, but I want you to know that I am willing to risk everything for you. I’m not leaving you high and dry. Sonia and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the days to come and will give our blood, sweat, and tears for you. I know that Cade, Amy, and the deacons and committees of this church feel the exact same way.
2.) Pray. God is working. Satan is working too. Let us not grow so complacent that our guard is down. We cannot advance the gospel in this community apart from a reliance on God’s power even in our weakness. Prayer is not just beneficial. It is essential. We cannot live without it. I need your prayers. Our church needs your prayers.
3.) Actively seek unity. We will all disagree with one another at some point. There may be aspects of the renovation that you will not personally like. There may be some changes you aren’t comfortable with. I understand that. I really do. Whenever you have a large group of people who covenant with one another for their lives, you aren’t going to fully please every person all the time. That’s okay. I do want us to be intentional, however, about building unity in our body. How do we do that? First, we do not make our own desires and wishes a requirement for fellowship. Second, we seek to put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own needs. Third, we seek to strengthen the heart of our unity – our passion to proclaim the gospel. As our passion for the gospel increases our divisions about things that don’t really matter will decrease.
4.) Give. This project will require financial giving. This project will require that we obey God’s command to give and to tithe with a generous and trusting heart. Pay attention to Cade’s upcoming sermon from Malachi 3:6-15! God will provide everything we need. I believe that. With that confidence, however, comes the responsibility to give out of the abundance that God has given us.
5.) Trust. God has sheltered us through many storms. God is with his people. God is working and transforming lives. God has a great plan to use FBC Henryville now and in the future. Knowing this, how can we not have faith? Psalm 20:7-8 says “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Some trust in carpenters and financial planning. Some trust in only what we can see or achieve in our own power. May it always be said of FBC Henryville, however, that we trust in the name of the LORD our God. He is our anchor. He is our provider. He is our hope. He is everything.
There are exciting days ahead for First Baptist Church Henryville. I am excited to be your pastor. I am grateful to God daily that he has preserved me through many trials and dangers for such a time as this. There is no place I would rather be. There is no church I would rather serve. There is no gospel I would rather proclaim.
”Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21