It was the fall of 1885.
The Wilson, Tims, Hackler, Boswell, Kizziar, Hubbrad, Russell, House, Bratton, Balch, Buttrell and Hopson families led by Rev. Perry organized the Mansfield Methodist Church. For $100, they would eventually purchase the land on which the first building was constructed.
Over the course of the next five decades, the building where the church gathered was either severely damaged or completely destroyed on three separate occasions. In 1903 the one room structure was wrecked by a storm. On September 25th, 1942 the entire church was destroyed by a fire. A little less than nine years later, on September 14th, 1951, another fire caused severe damage to the interior of the sanctuary as well as the church’s four classrooms.
The fire in 1942 happened on a Friday evening. Five days later, Rev. Wayne Reynolds gathered the church for a prayer meeting. In his own account, Rev. Reynolds described the outcome of that gathering in this way.
“After that first Wednesday night prayer meeting, we went out right then and there and had a groundbreaking for a new church.”
I share all that today to ask a question.
What do you do when your world falls apart?
You may feel as if this has been your experience in 2020. I certainly understand that sentiment. At the very least we have all experienced a massive disruption in our lives. Overwhelmed by the unexpected we often find ourselves paralyzed to act and end up missing the most important question.
What are you going to do about it?
Dare we be so bold as our predecessors in the faith?
Stepping out in faith with others to start something new?
Partnering to buy a small piece of land trusting that one day God would build a church there?
Believing that God would double that investment again and again and again in generations to come?
Breaking new ground while the ashes of what once was are still smoldering.
One of the historical accounts of our church expresses it in this way.
“Despite the disasters of storms and fires, through the loyalty and faithfulness of it’s members and the untiring efforts of it’s ministers, this Methodist church has moved forward obeying the command of our Master.”
Perhaps we should be asking ourselves a different question as this year draws to a close and we prepare again to celebrate the coming of what John describes as “the light” that “shines in the darkness” that darkness cannot overcome.
Maybe our question should be,
Dare we find ourselves negligent in the proper and faithful care of the gift entrusted to us by the giants that have come before us?
When our world falls apart, what do we do next?
Pick up a shovel.
Turn some dirt.
Move forward in obedience.
And do it all with the confidence that God will honor our faithfulness.
There is no other way.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.Hosea 10:12