This visit was supposed to be the Bloom Freewill Baptist Church, but we got a little off course thanks to me, and we ended up attending the Union Freewill Baptist Church. God must have wanted us to go here today.
It was actually over a year ago that we attended this church, and I’m sure there have been changes. But if I do not write about it now, we might not get back for awhile. So here it is, a lovely church and great people. Stop by to see them.
Beverly and I didn’t realize there are so many Baptist Churches in our County. Neither did we realize they were divisioned into different denominations of Baptists. The Freewill Baptists migrated from Wales in 1701 settling in Pennsylvania known as the Welsh Tract. They are confined for the greater part to the South, Freewill Baptists in the North have affiliated with the American Baptist Convention. The Union Freewill Baptist Church is located on a stretch between South Webster and Wheelersburg Ohio, an early agricultural and livestock belt of Scioto County!
Beverly and I were again blessed in our experience and the minister’s sermon was both inspiring and dynamic. It became obvious to us that we were experiencing with a surprised congregation this minister’s last sermon at this church.
We were warmly greeted at the door by a youth minister named Zach Conkle. Small world, we learned that he is friends with my brother’s son Drew who owns Shorty’s Barber Shop. Always a good place to swap stories I might add! Here’s one for you. Zach was visiting Drew in their home in Greg and Jeannie’s absence. A snow storm arose extending his stay and they began searching out dinner. Zach said they found some filet mignon in the freezer and lit up the grill and there was dinner! Brother Greg and his wife Jeannie do not remember the event but gave me permission to tell the story.
The pastor approached us in our usual back row pew, introduced himself and warmly welcomed us to the church knowing we were guests and he was about to extend his farewell message to the congregation.
The service began and a congregation leader mentioned an upcoming men’s retreat. Then there was a birthday call with those having birthdays going forward with their offering. Now children went forward to make an offering to the tune of a song sounding like take me out to the ballgame. I found the name of their excellent organist on this day to be Sandy Little. She was at her post on the organ when a choir went forward and took their places. Their first piece was “My anchor holds”, followed by several others.
Then it was time for the minister’s sermon. He started out by saying, “if you have a snickers bar you had better eat it cause you will not be going anywhere for awhile”. The pastor said he had been asking God about his future, though this was not his first time to do such and he had felt a great peace from God that this was his time to leave. He had been preaching at Freewill Baptist for 10 years.
He said, “I have married here and buried here, I have worked with your children”! Then he shared a message of support and guidance for the deacons of the church. As far as his board he said there are those I would trust with the lives of my children. He pointed out that he had received other pulpit offers but had extended he was not ready to leave the Freewill Baptist Church.
But now, he said, if I wanted to stay here, I could not. I’m not being run off by the board or anyone else. My master has other things for me to do. I don’t own me anymore.
He then referred to Corianthians Chapter 1, verse 10. We don’t follow men, we don’t worship men, we worship Jesus Christ. He said, I used to run after people begging them to stay at our church. I no longer practice this. We don’t follow or serve a pastor, we serve christ.
You don’t follow a man and what a man does, to build a church. If everything falls down when I walk out of here then everything I have done here is a lie. Never let the people of this church forget Calvary, nothing has changed mankind more. It was the pivotal event in our history and faith! The word of God and your soul is all that will get you through.
This was your church when I got here and it will be your church when I am gone. A church doesn’t depend on a man, it depends on God. Don’t leave this church. Don’t follow me. I will still live a mile down this road! Someday I will return to this church and will sit in the back row. A little boy will come up and say, who are you? I will say nobody, just another visitor.
Lastly the pastor pulled the congregation from their seats to circle the room. He had each person take up hands in this circle. Then he broke from the circle, placed the hands back together as he parted to the inside of this circle to close his point. He said, “as one breaks away from the church God will put it back together again”. Tears and love filled the room. Whatever had transpired to this point didn’t matter because a pastor and even more so God was sure to put it back together again!
And so we have visited the Union Freewill Baptist Church. We have been blessed by it’s people, their pastor, and his sermon. Beverly and I will continue our journey!
As believers, let us share the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world! Each one reach one!
Reach Randy Rucker at Ohiorancher5@gmail.com.