I am happy to announce to my few blog readers that our church has taken an immense step forward this year. Perhaps I should fill you in on a little of our history before I tell you what that step is.
In 1985 my wife and I moved to Victoria, BC from our first home in Greenville, SC. We were informed of a church-planting opportunity among some Christians in Victoria and, filled with zeal but perhaps lacking in wisdom, we launched out without any support and sort of a promise of a job when we got there. Well… I would never recommend anyone follow our pattern. We were long on idealism, at least.
Nevertheless, we held the first public worship service of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria on the first Sunday in August, 1986. We had begun with a Bible study in our home on Saturday nights. We made a few contacts and by the time we launched out we had about ten people gathered for our initial service. Within a few weeks my sister, a recent university graduate, moved out to join us and our adventure really began.
In 1989, we joined Baptist World Mission as missionary appointees. I had a secular job in those days, but it involved many hours and very spotty income (real estate sales!). So we were appointed to the Mission and went on part-time deputation as we continued to work at planting the church. This arrangement worked well and our church began to grow in spite of the fact that I spent some time each year away on deputation meetings. We have no theory of church growth. Everything we have tried to do in order to “grow on purpose” has not worked. How our church has grown is pretty well a mystery to us. It is the Lord’s doing, and it has occurred one step at a time.
We were meeting in a community hall for very little rent. The hall was our location for our first fourteen years. It had a main room with hardwood floors and plaster walls. The sound really bounced in that hall, our ten (and growing) sounded like a hundred when we sang. When we added a Sunday school, we used the adjoining kitchen and a room in the basement that was shared with the local library (later a day-care used the basement space and we shared with them). Over the years we met there every Sunday and held occasional extended meetings with supporting pastors as evangelistic speakers.
For some time our services involved the ongoing Saturday night Bible study and the Sunday morning service. Eventually we added the Sunday school, as I mentioned. I think the Bible study came to the end of its useful life about the time we added the Sunday school. Our philosophy has been to be flexible with our church services. Now that we are in our own building, they have morphed a couple more times since those early days.
In late 1998 we heard a church building was available for sale. We had been saving for some time and were able to put together a deal to buy the building and all its furnishings. For all of 1999 and half of 2000 we had a tenant church in the building, their rent helped us pay our mortgage down faster. While we continued in the old community hall for our morning services, we held evening services in our building during that period. It gave us a foretaste of our future (part of which involved learning how to sing in a much quieter building!).
The first Sunday of July 2000 we took over our building for the first time. That week involved a week of meetings with evangelist Todd Sivnksty, his first full-time week on the evangelist trail. We’ve had Todd speak for us at least twice since. That first Sunday brought several first-time visitors — another church in the area disbanded the week before. Some of those visitors stayed with us and became valued parts of our church. A highlight of those meetings were two professions of faith. We eventually lost contact with one of them, but the other (a man we had witnessed to and prayed for over seven years) is still with us and is now one of our deacons, a real asset to our ministry.
One highlight of now sixteen years in our own building was an intense study “Thru the Bible” in 2005 and 2006. In this study we began with a chronological reading of the Old Testament, coordinating the preaching each Sunday and Wednesday to cover the material read that week in our Bible reading. The summer of 2006 we covered the Intertestamental Period and did an exposition of Malachi. Then we turned to the New Testament (a much less intense reading schedule!) and followed a similar procedure to read and preach through the New Testament chronologically. The study was very profitable to us.
Over the years we have seen a number of folks get saved, some of them are now in heaven. One old gentleman came to us by way of a flyer sent through the mail. He was saved at seventy-five years of age and was a member of our church for almost twenty years before he went to heaven. We have seen some saved out of the drug culture and other kinds of troubled lives. Many others have come to us as believers, looking for a solid Bible preaching church. In all of this we’ve emphasized building spiritual life by persistent daily Bible reading, prayers, church attendance and living a life of holiness before God, separated from the world. All in all, we have experienced great blessing working with many wonderful Christian people.
Our philosophy of ministry is “self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating.” In other words, we led our church to make decisions as a congregation, to act as a self-governing body, accountable to the Lord in all things. We’ve diligently worked at building a self-supporting congregation, emphasizing the need to take responsibility for all the ministries of the local church. We also intend for our church to be self-propagating. That means we want our people to be evangelists, reproducing their spiritual life in the lives of others. Beyond that, we hope our church will become a catalyst for starting other churches in the area one day.
Our missionary support is one factor that has kept us from being fully self-supporting. However, the Lord has blessed our ministry and this year we have been able to see that change. Our church voted to increase their support of the pastor by sufficient funds to replace our missionary income. Consequently, we submitted our resignation to Baptist World Mission and as of February 29, 2016, that aspect of our relationship will end. We thank God for all He has done to build this work and this church. There are still many needs and challenges that lie ahead, but by God’s grace, we know we will be able to overcome them one by one.
This summer, August 7, 2016, will mark our thirtieth anniversary. We are planning special meetings from Sunday through Wednesday of that week with our good friend and mentor, Dr. Fred Moritz, Emeritus Director of Baptist World Mission. We are so grateful to him and all the staff and leaders we’ve been associated with through BWM. They are a great blessing. And we believe this week of meetings, marking our thirtieth anniversary, will be a great blessing as well. The Canadian dollar is down these days, Victoria is a great vacation spot, why don’t you join us? We’d love for you to be able to see the little church that God built.