By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NIOTA — Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in rural McMinn County had a small sanctuary that was constructed 60 years ago and a fairly recent fellowship hall/gym.
Recent growth in the church created a space problem in the sanctuary, so members began seeking a solution.
They decided to trade buildings, but it wasn’t quite that simple, said pastor Gerald Perry.
In 2016 the deacons and church leadership presented a proposal that would transform the fellowship hall into a new sanctuary that would seat twice as many people and then remodel the old sanctuary into a fellowship hall.
Perry, who has been with the congregation for 11 years, said the leadership decided they needed 90 percent of the members to agree to the proposal. When the vote was tallied, it received 89 percent affirmation from the church. “We were devastated,” Perry candidly admitted. “We were so excited at what God was going to do.”
Perry acknowledged he was very discouraged. After praying about the matter, he sought counsel from Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He called back within 10 minutes, Perry noted.
“He encouraged me, lifted me up, and challenged me to go to the pulpit and share my heart, then have 40 days of prayer,” the pastor said.
So, that’s exactly what Perry did.
After the 40 days of prayer, a second vote was taken and it passed with 98 percent of the members affirming the decision. “I am so appreciative of Dr. Davis and his support,” Perry said.
In May of last year, the church began transforming the fellowship hall. Though it went smoothly there were some “hills to climb” that no one could have foreseen. The hurricane that swept through Texas last summer caused delays in receiving the steeple and baptistry that had been ordered. Then, there was a problem with the carpet that had to be corrected.
Finally, however, the building was completed in late February thanks to the efforts of many of the church members who spent the week before putting the finishing touches on their new worship center. Approximately 60-70 people (more than half the average attendance) showed up to help, Perry said. “It was amazing and such a blessing,” he said.
On Sunday, March 4, the church dedicated its new sanctuary, which by the way, was completed debt-free.
Perry thanked the congregation. “You guys are the ones who made this happen. It is because of your graciousness and God working through all of you,” he stressed.
He reminded members, however, that the building is not about them or the pastor, but is about the Lord and His work. “We dedicate this building to God.”
Martin Bowlin, retired pastor at Mount Pisgah, who was at the church when the fellowship hall was constructed and is now a member at the church, was pleased with the transformation. “I dreamed that when we built the fellowship hall it would become the sanctuary one day.”
Dreams do come true.