On October 20, I wrote about the situation with Riverside Baptist Church in Fort Worth. This is the church where I met Amy, where we were married, and the first church where I served on staff.
I received an update an email yesterday morning regarding Riverside’s last service in the building, scheduled for December 23 at 6 pm. The contents of the email from Pastor Mike Raymond follow below.
Through a series of events we are now vacating the building. We will be having our last service in the building on December 23. Although our congregation is heartbroken about these developments, we are a people of faith and believe that the God who has led us to this time, will also lead us through it. Our prayer this Christmas is that God will once again fill our sanctuary as we celebrate what He has done at 3101 Race Street for the last 114 years.
We want those influenced by Riverside in the past to hear about the service and if possible attend the evening service at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 23. We invite past members, community members and any others to come and join us for this night of celebration and prayer for the future.
3101 Race Street
Fort Worth, TX 76111
Celebration Christmas Eve(ish) service
6:00 p.m., Sunday, December 23
If you know of anyone who has been a part of Riverside Baptist Church, please pass along this information.
Please check out the new Devotional menu item above. You’ll find the daily reading from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening updated by Alistair Begg. If you’d rather have a physical or electronic copy of the book, you can pick it up at Amazon (affiliate link)
I meant to post this yesterday, which was Reformation Day. Five Hundred (and one) years ago, the Reformation rally cry rang out, sola scriptura (Scripture alone). For so long, the “ordained” had kept the Bible out of the hands of the “ordinary”.
It was a very good thing that people like Martin Luther came along with a passion to make the Bible available to ordinary people in their ordinary language (which is the way that God always does!). People like William Tyndale died … yes … DIED … for trying to get the Bible translated into ordinary, everyday language of everyday people.
If you want a deeper appreciation for the Bible and how it was preserved and translated (especially the ESV), take ten minutes to watch this video.
Granted, I don’t have all the specifics on this, but there was a lot of lamenting on Facebook this afternoon regarding a church in Fort Worth whose building is about to be demolished to make room for new condos. An auction was held today to dispose of the contents. Another is planned for a later date. Many former members speak of the fond memories of growing up in the church.
The last I understood of the situation, this church had sold its building to a larger Fort Worth church for its homeschool Fine Arts Co-op to use and that as long as the church continued to meet as a church, it could continue to meet in the building. Yesterday, someone said that the building had been sold by the Co-op’s host church to a developer who plans to develop the property commercially.
This is the church I attended and served in when I was in Seminary.
This is the church where I met Amy.
This is the church where I married her.
This is the church where I was ordained.
This is the church where I first served in pastoral ministry.
This is a church that averaged around 1500 in attendance in the early 1970s.
This is a church that had almost 500 present on “High Attendance Sunday” in 1985 (my first semester in Seminary).
At some point in their history, Riverside Baptist Church lost its way. I remember people saying that the problem was that the neighborhood changed and the church didn’t; Riverside’s decline was blamed on “white flight”.
Many seminary students wrote research papers on the church for their Church Growth Evangelism class. They suggested how they would reverse the church’s decline and lead the church back to health and growth, if given the opportunity to implement their plans.
I attended a funeral several years ago. It was a funeral for the head of the church’s Women’s Missionary Union. Over the years, Rosemary had encouraged the church to give to state, national and international missions. As I watched the members struggle to their feet and manipulate walkers and canes to make their way past the open casket, I was taken aback at how the spiritual condition of the church was reflected in the physical realm. Unfortunately, the church members were unaware of how unhealthy the church had grown.
Tom Rainer has written books about churches in plateau and decline. One in particular is Autopsy of a Deceased Church. In the book, he presents a post-mortem of churches who had closed their doors. The deciding factor in those churches is that they had become inwardly focused. And Riverside had too.
I remember a church business meeting when we were to vote on letting a Spanish-speaking mission church use one of the buildings on the property. One of our members voiced her opposition with, “Those people are going to rob us blind.”
I remember another church business meeting when we were discussing our plans for renovating the church sanctuary. I was shocked at how much concern people had for theater-style seats as opposed to traditional pews. And then there were discussions about the color of the carpet and upholstery.
This afternoon, I read the comments of former members of the church on Facebook. They talked about how sad the situation was. One recalled being brought to the church by her grandfather a day after she was born. Others talked about being baptized in the church. Others talked about their relationship with the Youth Pastor twenty-five years ago. It was striking that all of the comments were about what happened in the past. Not the recent past, but the long ago past.
The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes an individual church may need to close its doors. The first church I pastored did just that … five years ago this month. And we felt God’s leading in doing so. The doors remained closed for a few months until our local Association reopened the doors with a new sign out front that reflected its purpose: Missions and Training Center.
Another local church had sold its property to a developer and its new building was still under construction. They brought their used AC units with them and replaced the dead AC units that we were unable to replace before we closed the doors. Meanwhile a ministry from Fort Worth used the building as an outreach to the families of prison inmates.
I served as Interim Pastor in some other churches for a couple of years before being called to pastor another church in the local Association. A few months later, I learned that a new church plant needed a permanent home and our local Association was going to vote to lease-to-own the property to this new church. They needed twenty Executive Board members present to form a Quorum to vote. As a church pastor, I was automatically on the Association’s Executive Board. I arrived for the vote and I signed in with the twentieth signature on the sign-in sheet. It was another confirmation that God had led us to close our doors. This new church would be able to use the property in ways that we could not. This week, our Association’s Director of Missions weekly newsletter included an announcement of an upcoming missions conference hosted by the church that had purchased our old church building.
Indeed, the gates of hell will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. Please join me in praying that God will raise up a new church in the Riverside neighborhood of Fort Worth: a church that will minister in ways that Riverside Baptist Church could not.
This was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. And no one in the theater said a word until after they were outside the building.
The Gosnell trial wasn’t about abortion. Neither was the movie. Regardless of how you feel about abortion or “reproductive rights”, this is a very important film to see.
As I watched the movie, I kept asking myself, “How did we ever let this happen?”
As I walked around for a while after the movie, I found my anger turn to praying for Dr. Gosnell and for our nation.