Owensboro—In late spring of this year, Kenny Rager, pastor of Life Community Church in Owensboro, one of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s “high impact church plants,” stood in the parking lot of the old daycare they rented as office and ministry center space and watched as it burned to the ground.
“We had to go through the fire before this could ever happen,” Rager expressed, referring to Hall Street Baptist Church gifting their entire property—church building, additional property near the church, two buses and all of its assets—to Life Community.
“Kenny, this just means that God’s going to do something big,” a church member told Rager as he stood with him watching the fire consume the building and much of their supplies. Thankfully, because the church met for worship in the local community college, the items for church services were safely stored in a trailer outside and untouched.
“He was absolutely right,” Rager said. “The fire turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.”
When Hall Street heard of the fire, they offered to share their facilities with Life Community, at no cost. Out of thankfulness, Life Community chose to pay them rent each month anyway.
Behind the scenes at Hall Street, the financial situation looked grim.
“We have a long rich heritage, but we’ve seen a decline in our membership and attendance,” Jim Nelson, pastor of Hall Street Baptist Church who will have their last service on October 9, told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
He continued, “When we were looking at our problems, even recently the air conditioning, we began to pray as a church and God took the blinders off our eyes. We knew we had more space than we needed and we wanted to be good stewards of God’s property.”
“Most often, churches merge or one might sell to the other. We decided to become a legacy church. Legacy churches realize that what’s best for the kingdom is to gift our church to a healthier one,” Nelson said.
Nelson added of the decision, “Thinking of 1 John 3:16, true love is when you lay down your life for the brethren. The decision took a lot of courage but the majority of our members understand. And for some of our members who have been here the longest, they’re excited to see the parking lot full of cars again.”
Life Community is very humbled by this gift and plans to honor the church by continuing ministry in the community, Rager said.
“We hope to be able, more than anything else, to reach out to that neighborhood, that community, and let them know that there’s a new church here and we will carry on the legacy of Hall Street Baptist Church,” Rager shared.
He continued, “They did a lot of ministry in that community too. We want them to know that as the Hall Street ministry is coming to conclusion, we want to honor their ministry by continuing to reach out in that neighborhood and let that neighborhood know that we will be there to carry on the torch that Hall Street left.”
At the business meeting (or family meeting, as Life Community calls it) to vote to accept the property, Rager told the church “that we were on the receiving end of generosity, so we had to receive this gift with humility.”
For a few weeks the church had been collecting shoes for the needy. “I told our people that as a symbol that we will receive this building with humility, I am challenging the people in this room today to take the shoes off of their feet and lay them on the altar to give to the poor as a symbol that we will always be servants,” Rager said.
And they did! “The day we voted to receive that building, we voted with bare feet. We left church that morning in our socks and bare feet. I’ve never been in a business meeting before where I’m wearing just socks, but I was that day,” he said.
“Isn’t this crazy? Look how this came about. The Holy Spirit was all over this,” Rager added.
Rager concluded, “I hope that this is a reminder to associations here in Kentucky why we need to plant new churches in our communities. There’s renewal and revitalization, but we still need new churches in Kentucky.”
Life Community will hold services on the new property in the gymnasium “because it feels more like Life Community,” Rager said. Their first service will be October 16 at 11 am. (WR)