More Than Talk: Ohio Church Lives Out Unity, Offers Meeting Space for Sister Church
By Carl Stagner
Pastor Aaron Holman was in the midst of a sermon series on the distinguishing doctrines of the Church of God movement when it happened. Earlier this fall, the chance to put what they preach into practice was clearly laid out before the Church of God congregation in Eaton, Ohio. Leading up to the special opportunity, Pastor Aaron’s community connections had resulted in a friendship with the pastor of local church plant, which opened doors for partnership in local projects. When the owners of the building the church plant was meeting in announced the building would be sold, the pastor of the plant turned to the Church of God, which he’d come to find out liked to preach and teach unity.
“How could I preach about the spiritual reality of the unity of the church while ignoring the need of a local congregation?” Pastor Aaron asks. “I love any opportunity to go beyond talking about an issue and put our faith into practice. Extending the hand of fellowship to every blood-washed one shouldn’t just be something we sing, but also something we live.”
In casual conversations about faith, life, and their common conviction to love their community well, the subject of unity came up. Pastor Aaron and the pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church, Ben Meyers, enjoyed fellowship first as leaders that would ultimately pave the way for a healthy congregational connection. The building the Baptist church plant had rented was no longer an option, and the local elementary school building space didn’t have the necessary storage and office space. “He said he knew that we would be willing to help,” Pastor Aaron said. He was right; after all, this was the Church of God movement we’re talking about! We preach and teach unity. More importantly, Eaton First Church of God was willing to live it out.
“[Unity beyond the local church] doesn’t happen on its own,” Aaron explains, “and has involved consistent effort over time to develop relationships with other pastors. In my experience, this trust has naturally led to joint efforts.”
Pastor Ben and Gospel Light Baptist Church enjoy the use of one of Eaton First Church of God’s unused classroom and storage space without charge. That’s right, totally free. The Church of God congregation hasn’t been careless; an agreement was drawn up at the beginning of the formal relationship between the two groups, and a review is built in every six months. At the time of writing, the Baptist church hopes to only need to share the space until the spring, as a new building is being constructed down the road. In the meantime, cross-congregational cooperation is ongoing, and the fellowship and service don’t have to end when the share of the facility does.
“Beyond the usage of a building,” Pastor Aaron reflects, “I’m most eager about the community-wide cooperation in ministry we are seeing. In this coming year, we will team up with several other local churches to launch a new way of doing crisis assistance with the support of the local food bank. Last year, Pastor Ben led the start of a gospel-centered after school club called Lifewise at the local elementary school. They have more than a hundred students participating, with volunteers and financial support from multiple community churches. This spring we are even teaming up with every local church to paint all 500 city fire hydrants!”
Learn more about the doctrines of the Church of God at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/our-beliefs/.
Feature (top) photo: Pastors Ben Meyers (left) and Aaron Holman (right).