By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NEWBERN – First Baptist Church here reached a milestone on April 3 as the congregation celebrated becoming debt free.
The church held a note-burning service on its new sanctuary. The church borrowed $1 million in 2011 to go along with the $1,032,923 in cash the church had raised before breaking ground for its new $2.3 million facility. The church moved into the new building on Aug. 5, 2012.
Pastor Danny Klutts chose the title “Milestones” based on Matthew 17:1-9 for his message on April 3.
Klutts, who has served as pastor of First Baptist for nearly 21 years, is grateful for his congregation. “We have good people who have been faithful in their giving,” he observed.
When Klutts arrived in Newbern, located near Dyersburg, the congregation averaged around 175 in morning worship. That number has climbed to between 300-340 in the past 21 years.
When the church decided to build its sanctuary and voted to borrow $1 million, Klutts recalled someone said, “We will never pay it off in my lifetime.” He was wrong.
The church hoped to have the debt paid off in 10 years and accomplished the goal in half the time, Klutts said.
The church has a history of building and becoming debt free. First Baptist constructed a gym in 2005 for less than $500,000 and paid it off in just three years, Klutts recalled.
As for the sanctuary, “we didn’t really push paying off the debt early,” he said.
Klutts is excited about being debt free. “It expands our ministry,” he said, adding that missions and ministry are key components of the church. First Baptist already supports missions in Tennessee and around the world by giving 10 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.
Now without debt, the church can do more locally and help fund missions trips for its members, Klutts said.
Local missions is important to him and the church. “We have an ongoing food pantry and benevolence program to take care of local needs,” he said.
His philosophy is simple. “Let’s not ever have someone in the shadow of our steeple not know we’re here.”