Devotion and Diligence Lead to Stewardship Milestone for Virginia Congregation
By Kim Ousley
The best feeling in the world, or at least one of them, is paying off your mortgage and being debt-free. It is especially important to a church that diligently pays toward the mortgage of their church building. With that degree of dedication and faithfulness, Chilhowie First Church of God in Virginia held a mortgage-burning service on a recent Sunday morning. This wasn’t their first mortgage-burning, though.
According to the church’s website, Rev. and Mrs. Graham Chapman had a vision and purchased a small vacant church building in 1954. On the first Sunday, there were 55 congregants present. Fast-forward to 1967 when they decided to purchase land to build a larger church. At the time, it would have capacity to seat 170 people. By 1979, they held their first mortgage burning ceremony on October 7, 1979. Paid in full.
In 2000, according to Mark Roberts, the chairman of the board of stewards, then pastor Bobby Dunn approached the board with a vision to buy new land and build an even larger building to allow room to grow the congregation. Parking had become an issue, among other challenges. They were, once again, outgrowing their location.
“We, as a board, decided to move forward with the decision to buy a five-acre plot of land,” said Roberts. “In 2009 we were able to finish and move into the new location.”
Once open, the amount of the mortgage stood between 4 and 6 million dollars. A 30-year mortgage was eventually paid off in just 14 years. Roberts shared he felt it was a combination of those dedicated to paying toward the mortgage through extra giving, fundraisers, and one couple which, upon the wife passing, gave $200,000, bringing it close to being paid off.
“We decided a long time ago that we would automatically give 10 percent of what is collected to ministries we support both locally and missionaries through the Church of God.” They give it to the local food pantry and schools in need, and with Helping Hands.
Roberts said they also supported Red Cross blood drives, as well. The church members were challenged from time to time to set a goal of, perhaps, $1,000, to be raised to pay toward the mortgage. Eventually, the second building was sold, and that money was also applied to the mortgage. That amount was around $125,000.
Former pastor, Bobby Dunn, is the practicing interim pastor at this time. He was the leader with the original vision of the current facility. Dunn was senior pastor for about 25 years.
“He planned this himself (referring to Pastor Dunn),” said Roberts. “We as a board gave him permission to plan it.” Scripture-sharing and burning of the mortgage papers took place, as well as a reception afterward. He points out the diligence of those in the church to serve and be committed to the church. Without them, this could not have happened.
Roberts said although many of the older members who have been with the church have passed, the next generation has stepped up and proven their faith and belief in God through their own talents and giving. He said that there was a male member who acted as accountant and gave advice about paying more than the monthly payment. At times this would make notable progress toward the goal.
Presently, the church is searching for a new pastor with a bold vision for their future together as a congregation. May the Lord of infinite resources supply!
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.