I am an extremely minor public figure, sort of semi-public. Sort of like the Richard Dean Anderson of redheaded Christian YouTubers. The guy you sort of think maybe you’ve heard of, but you can’t place him.
So I need to make a small semi-public statement about the recent closing of my church. People wonder; people ask; people are concerned for me. But the great thing is, it’s a good story of God’s kind and clear providence, with real blessing at the end.
In short, God called our pastor, Tom Parr, back to BJU Press after 15 years planting our church. His teens want to go to college, and this is the way to do it. I am 100% supportive of this move, and I’m excited for the Parr family. The general plan was for me, the assistant pastor, to take over after his departure; but along with Pastor Tom, God called away about half our small church (average attendance 43) at the same time, including multiple key “doers.” Two of our most essential doers, my dear brothers N. and J., were especially big losses. N.’s amazing success getting the Navy to keep him in our area for 10+ years finally ran out, right during this time, and he was told he was deploying to Japan (and later, Norfolk—long story). J. had been planning a move to another state to be near family. Several other families were also planning to leave the area for various reasons.
I prayed and talked to counselors, especially my godly wife, and I simply did not feel called to suddenly become a bi-(or tri-)vocational church planter. As a shepherd, I just didn’t think that was best for the people, not when we have numerous other doctrinally sound churches in the area. The burden on my wife, in particular, would have been simply too great, I felt. She was ready to follow me, but she would have been the only pianist and the only kids class teacher—and our kids would have been the only kids from a member family. (There would also have been two kids from the family of regular attenders.)
Pastor Tom supported me as I led the church toward closure. After a lot of open discussion—without rancor, praise God!—we all as a church came to agreement to disband and donate our assets to other ministries. It wasn’t hard; we didn’t have much. We didn’t have a building. When the vote came, it was unanimous but for two abstainers—Pastor Tom and his dear, generous wife. Tom graciously explained to the church that he just couldn’t bring himself to vote to close the church he’d given fifteen years of his life to. But he didn’t say this with any disgruntlement or petulance; I felt it was exactly the right thing for him to do. He explained that he supported the church’s decision.
During the midst of our discussions, but before the final vote, two “seekers,” a married couple of former atheists who’ve been attending our church for a number of years, suddenly indicated that they were ready to openly proclaim their faith in Christ and be baptized (a church teen was also ready for baptism). So on our final Sunday we had an extremely special baptismal service, incredibly moving. Pastor Tom gave a beautiful and appropriate eulogy for the church, and in it he (frankly) dispelled the little remaining guilt I didn’t know I had for leading us to close instead of to continue. We are now seeking the Lord about which of several good church options in our area we should invest in. We have numerous Christian friends in the area, and especially at a few nearby churches.
The Lord gave us remarkable unity during this time. Every bump the Lord smoothed out, and one of them—the one I can’t tell you about!—was smoothed out in a way that I could never have planned but that gave me particular joy. We voted to give our sound equipment and beautiful pulpit (built by N.) to needy churches. We voted to give our nice electric piano to the area church that gave us a rent-free meeting space for a whole year during COVID. We also voted to send our pastor and his family off with a financial gift that we pray will remain a token of our gratitude to them for their years of self-sacrificial service. And we are now excited about sending some nice checks to our three missionaries, one of whom has been a respected friend of mine since I was 15 (we supported him before I ever came to the church) and who was praying about getting a second car—I’m especially excited about this!
Cornerstone Baptist Church ceased as a spiritual entity on Oct 24, 2021; we will cease as a legal one on Dec 31, 2021, so as to make time for careful disbursement of our assets.
(This does mean that I have several dozen excellent, fairly new hymnals—Dan Kreider’s Sing the Wonders—in my garage, ready for a new church home! We voted to donate them. Could your church use them?)