Stewardship Celebrated: Debt Payoff Positions Ohio Church for Greater Impact

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes

By Carl Stagner

In faith, they pursued the goal. They believed God had big plans for them and the surrounding community. Investing in their present and future, they embraced what they could only see in part, and what only God could accomplish. Several million dollars later, BridgeWater Church in Hamilton, Ohio, is celebrating numerous wins for the kingdom of God—not the least of which is retiring their debt and positioning themselves for even greater impact.

Drew Wilkerson has served as lead pastor of BridgeWater Church since 2010. Though previous seasons of ministry had led to steps of faith for the future, practical next steps hadn’t been established. So, by 2014, BridgeWater Church launched a three-year stewardship campaign to help paydown or pay off the debt, called “Go Run the Race.” While initially helpful, the three-year campaign resulted in a lingering sense of “debt exhaustion.”

Pieces of the mortgage distributed to the congregation in recognition of their investment.

“Therefore, a different path needed to be created to retire the debt,” Pastor Drew explains. “As good stewards of all the resources that God had entrusted to BWC, the decision was made to develop and sell excess property that would add value to our community and retire our debt.”

Fervent, focused prayer and prudent planning yielded the sale of about 5 acres over a period of three years. In December 2022, BridgeWater Church paid off almost 2.46 million dollars; almost 3 million has been paid of over the past 12 years. As reported by the church, this debt included the church facility built in 2000 and the children’s area added on in 2006.

“It is a huge relief to be debt-free and pursue the vision that God has given to BridgeWater Church,” Pastor Drew reflects. “Currently, the BWC family is seeking new pastoral leadership to empower our ministry to reach more people for Christ. The sale of an additional four acres of property will allow for the update of our aging facilities, making room for new friends and families. This debt-free celebration was also be marked with special gift of $5,000 given to global and local ministries.”

After the pieces were distributed, the reverse side contained a painting representing Jesus’ presence along their journey..

That’s precisely the kind of ministerial flexibility that leads to greater impact. With enthusiastic optimism for the future of the church, BridgeWater held a “Freedom Sunday” on the first Sunday of March. The normal two-service split was blended into one opportunity for everyone to “celebrate our financial freedom and the freedom that God alone can give to anyone who puts his or her trust in Christ.”

Looking back on their journey, Pastor Drew speaks on behalf of the congregation when he expresses tremendous gratitude for God’s charting of the course. “The pandemic brought a great deal of chaos to many churches,” he explains. “This left the BridgeWater Church family with a sense of loss, but God is always faithful! We’ve held tight to the promise found in Isaiah 43:18–19: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ God is doing a new thing in the lives of the people who attend BWC. There’s a new excitement, and we are reaching so many young people, new families, and energetic children. Our fastest-growing group at BWC are our toddlers! Childlike faith is resulting in a fresh wind of excitement each week, and we give God all the praise.”

Learn more about the Church of God movement at

Feature (top) photo: Streamers fly through the auditorium in celebration of their debt payoff.

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