Established three years ago, Berean Baptist Church is an 11,000-square-foot building and on five acres of property.
While the entire world has been going through a much-publicized economic recession, a small congregation in Newton County has paid off a large debt in a fraction of the time it would take most churches -- even in a good financial climate.
"I can't explain it other than to say it was a God thing," Dr. Tom Rush said of the news coming out of his congregation, Berean Baptist Church of Covington.
Established just three and a half years ago, Berean Baptist Church recently paid off the mortgage on its 11,000-square-foot building and five-acre property located at 20 Old Social Circle Road and U.S. Highway 278. The pastor said the debt was around $350,000, and was paid for by a congregation that numbers about 75 in attendance on Sunday mornings.
"It's amazing we were able to pay that off in the time we did," Rush said. "...We have a very committed congregation and we just put the need out there and they just came through and worked hard to pay it off. We committed our funds to doing that because we felt like it was something the Lord wanted us to do to get out of debt. It was a God thing more than anything else."
Founded in July 2008, Berean Baptist Church called Rush as its first pastor and rented space from Maranatha Community Church on Highway 278, located about one-half mile east of the Hub Junction. A few months later, Maranatha offered to sell its building to Berean Baptist and the church agreed with United Bank providing the financing, Berean's finance chairman Darrell Whiddon said.
"Like all new churches, we have had our share of challenges in getting started," Rush said. "But God is good and he has blessed us tremendously. We have a faithful congregation that has demonstrated a great desire for a deeper understanding of the scriptures and a sweet and welcoming spirit."
Many churches would work for many more years than did Berean Baptist to pay off a debt the size of $350,000, but Rush said the church gives "the Lord credit for it." Rush said the church had a building fund and paid its mortgage each month. The pastor said the church "put the need out there" and everyone contributed and while some were able to contribute more than others, it all worked to pay off the debt.
"My people are faithful," he said. "They're good givers and they believe in what we're doing. God has blessed us in this process and now we can commit the funds to missions and ministry."
Sometime in the near future, Berean Baptist Church will celebrate with a note-burning celebration, the details of which will be announced at a later date. The community will be invited to attend the event.
In the meantime, the community is invited to join the church for Bible study and worship on Sundays and Wednesdays. Sunday School is at 9:15 a.m. and morning worship follows at 10:30.
At 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, the community is also invited to Berean Baptist Church to watch the movie, "Courageous."
Berean Baptist Church offers a preschool ministry for infants through the age of 3 at all services. The children's ministry includes Awanas and choir and the church also offers student and college ministries, discipleship classes and a music ministry.
The pastor has begun a new series during Sunday morning worship and is preaching from the books of Daniel and Revelation.
"For more of the last century there has been a growing interest in biblical prophecy," Rush said about the new series he is preaching. "Unfortunately, that interest seems to be dying down. People seem focused on the here and now rather than the there and then. For many folks the struggle is just to survive, to make it through another day, week, month or year...
"The word of God is a prophetic book and it has much to say about the future. I believe if we were more interested in God's plan for the ages, we would be better fit for kingdom service in the present day. One day we will all awake on the other side, standing face to face with the God of the ages. Will we be ready?"
The pastor said Berean Baptist Church is here to help.
"Our goal is to be a fellowship of encouragement," Rush said. "We want people to come and know Christ and be in a church home where they can love the Lord."
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.