Last Sunday Christy and I drove eastward to Whitley City KY. We were invited to be a part of a constituting service at a church plant. The day would prove to be quite different in many ways, but started out with the same feeling that I'd been experiencing over the past several weeks. Since moving to Bowling Green we've been attending a different church each week; looking for a church home so I was used to the feeling of uncertainty in what to expect. But this trip would be different.
The night before we drove the opposite direction to Henderson Ky to pick up some wooden children's chairs that were donated by an established church. We didn't get to visit very long in Henderson and did not take the time to ask for the story behind the extra chairs. Maybe the church had moved from wooden to plastic. Perhaps they had a surplus due to a decline in attendance or a generational shift came with no little ones coming up to replace those growing older. Williamsburg Lighthouse Church in Whitley City Ky needed these chairs for their growing children's ministry.
As we drove the two and a half hours to the eastern time zone with chairs in tow, we passed church facilities of all shapes and sizes gearing up for Sunday service. Many of these churches could count the ministry to their communities in multiple decades, if not 100+ years. Lighthouse could count theirs in months (36) like a new parent does with their first child.
When we arrived we noticed a small building with a gravel parking lot. The side of the church had a newly installed air conditioner and a newer wooden porch with a ramp stood out front. Pastor Mike Raftery came out to meet us and took us on the nickel tour of the church. It included a walk through the sanctuary, through his office, and out the rear section of the building that held the Bible study areas. It was small. Had I walked through the same building with another church, I may not be able to recall any of it. But here's what made it special:
1). The passion of the people: As soon as we got out of the car, Mike's wife Tracy pointed us to the small gravel parking lot with excitement saying, "we've expanded our parking lot so more people can park here!" Another member told us about a missions team who came and built their porch on the front. Someone told us about the new air conditioner as they described the joy of worshipping in an air conditioned building. The kids were giving high-fives to the pastor as they entered and the senior adults were in tears as several gave testimonies about their first few years as a church. The people of this church were passionate about what God had done and what He was going to do in their lives and in that of their community through the proclamation of the gospel message.
2). The heart of the pastor and wife: Pastor Mike and his wife Tracy are not from Whitley City, or even Kentucky. They are both veterans of the armed forces and Mike is from New York. But Mike fits into his community. The church fits into the community. He didn't try to come into an area and bring an entirely new culture of worship. Mike understands that in order to reach people with the gospel, he needed to be able to speak their language. Mike moved into the area, got a bi-vocational job, and began to make friends. Mike also has a desire to multiply in order to reach more people with the gospel. After the service Mike said, "I can't wait until we help start a church out of Lighthouse!" They truly love their community and church family.
3). Their heart for the gospel message. This service was peppered with gospel references, a plea to receive Christ, and encouragement to the church that they be about sharing the Good News as they go in order to make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. Mike's desk had gospel tracts and literature on it, no doubt for people to utilize and as a reminder to be about the business that Christ sent us out to do.
Christy and I were headed to a different church, much like we'd done for the past month. But this Sunday was different. It was a blessing to not only take part in the service, but to see the joy on the faces of those gathering in a church plant who received the benefit of working with over 2,400 Kentucky Baptist churches who supported this endeavor. Even a gesture as seemingly small as donating chairs so little ones can have a place to sit provides an example of the partnership we can have as we work to see people saved and churches started. As Lighthouse gathered last week for worship, they sang, prayed, listened to the Word being preached, and corporately gave just like they'd done before, but this Sunday was different. It was their constituting service and they became an autonomous church, they experienced the difference that a Sunday can make.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.