A GREAT START TO AN EXCITING FUTURE
Sixteen of Bethel’s founding members met together last Wednesday. It was a celebration of sorts—the first such gathering in nearly 40 years. The Church Renewal Labs Team initiated the effort because we wanted to hear the group talk about the dream that launched Bethel Church and about our history. We also wanted to see if this group thinks we are tracking with God’s plan for us today.
Here are some of the highlights from what was shared:
· The handful of people who agreed to leave Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in 1979 to start Bethel began by renting space at Highlands United Church. They were a hardworking, tightknit community.
· After being together for 11 years, the group voted on a motion to build their own building. The motion failed the first time around. Only 74% of the membership voted in favor—one vote short of the required 75% majority. However, a discrepancy was noted in the tallying, and a new vote was taken. The second time around, the “yes” vote tipped the scale, coming in with a 76% majority.
· The building plan went ahead, and God blessed that step of faith in ways nobody could have imagined. At the time of the vote the membership had plateaued—it may even have been declining—but when the group agreed to move forward, the church started to grow. Look around you at the numbers we have today, and you can see the fruit that came from that initial faith-step.
· Bethel has changed with the times. Bethel Christian Reformed Church became Bethel Community Church, and traditional worship services featuring music accompanied by a pipe organ gave way to contemporary music led by praise bands.
· When they built the church building the group was motivated by a mission. They wanted to touch their Bannerman neighbours with the love of Christ. God has blessed their dream in wonderful ways. Today, Bethel is shining Christ’s light in Bannerman and is recognized as a strong and caring community partner.
Two things especially impressed me about this meeting. First, I was struck by the level of sacrifice these original members made to get our church off the ground. Everyone wore several hats. No amount of sacrifice was too great to help the new church thrive.
Second, it is apparent that the dynamism that launched Bethel Church remains strong. Someone said, “We have grown to be a big church hosting many activities. Maybe it is time for a new group from Bethel to step out in faith and start a new church as we did!”
I think the Holy Spirit may be speaking to us through these visionary pioneers. Over the next year our congregation we will be considering the very proposal that was made at this meeting. Is it time for us to take a fresh step of faith and plant a new church?—Pastor Tom
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