NASHVILLE (BP) — Dwayne Lewis and members of New Season Baptist Church walked from their temporary meeting place at an elementary school to a vacant church building across the street where the 150 men, women and children laid hands on the building and prayed.
“All of us we went over there and we believed God for that building, but that wasn’t the building,” Lewis told Baptist Press, saying that God “was just testing our faith to see if we’d just step out and do that.”
“God told me you laid hands on the wrong building, but you had the right faith.”
The right building for the Southern Baptist congregation Lewis leads is the 76-year-old Bordeaux Baptist Church in a mostly African American urban community in Nashville where the once-thriving congregation had persevered yet dwindled to about five families unable to cover operating costs.
New Season Baptist Church plans to move into its new home Oct. 1, receiving with joy and thanksgiving the property that Bordeaux Baptist Church is deeding to the congregation that has had three meeting places since its 2009 launch at Grace Nursing Home as a mission of Joelton First Baptist Church in Joelton, Tenn.
“Even now, I have not landed,” Lewis told Baptist Press two weeks after his congregation received the gift. “In other words they talk about being on cloud nine. I’m like on cloud 29 right now and I’ve not landed. It blessed my heart so much.”
Bordeaux’s membership dropped significantly four years ago when its longtime pastor felt a call to a different ministry, even though the church has since been blessed with bivocational pastors and preachers who have not charged a salary, said Bobby Hatfield, a Bordeaux member who has fulfilled the duties of a deacon and trustee.
The 16-member congregation experienced “mixed emotions” in dissolving the church, Hatfield said of their last service Aug. 7 in a joint celebration with New Season and former Bordeaux pastors. Bordeaux members plan to accept Lewis’ invitation to join New Season and continue worshipping in the church Hatfield calls “holy ground.”
“We’re sad because Bordeaux Baptist Church is home for a lot of us,” Hatfield said. “But it’s also joyful in the sense that God’s Kingdom is going to continue to work here. We’re excited about continuing to work with Brother Dwayne and his church.”
The church is coordinating the deeding of the building with the help of Rusty Sumrall, executive director of the Nashville Baptist Association, and is creating a Legacy Fund to benefit Nashville missions in the event the Bordeaux building is ever sold or ceases to exist as a church.
Hatfield joined the church in 1998 but keeps in his Bible a copy of a 1977 church bulletin that includes his name among those baptized after a revival at the church in his childhood neighborhood.
“It’s just been my home church; it always has been,” Hatfield said. “We feel the love of God here, even now that we’re not even having services. You can just feel the Spirit in here when you walk in. It’s holy ground.”
After meeting with Lewis and Sumrall along with Joelton First Baptist pastor David Royalty and other leaders, Hatfield announced the gift during a July 31 worship service on the campus of Joelton First Baptist, where New Season has met the past two months.
Lewis recalls the moment when his congregation realized the news.
“For about 10 or 15 seconds people were in shock,” Lewis said. “About 20 seconds later I get on the mic and I tell them what just happened, and the place just erupted in praise. Our prayers have been answered. We’ve been a mobile ministry for six years.”
In June, the church began worshipping in “the Salt House,” the common name given to the old sanctuary at Joelton First Baptist Church where Royalty recruited Lewis to plant the mission as an intentional outreach to African Americans.
It marked the second time in two years that a mission of Joelton First Baptist Church was deeded a building, Royalty told Baptist Press. Two years ago, a former Methodist congregation deeded a community building in Barron Plains, Tenn., to the Joelton church’s Spanish mission.
That Southern Baptist congregation, the six-year-old Living Stones Baptist Church, is led by Luis Martinez, whom Joelton First Baptist still supports as a missions pastor.
“It has allowed us to sense that missions is something that once you engage in, that God will provide,” Royalty said of the two buildings. “This truly has been God’s provision.”
Bordeaux Baptist Church, valued at between $350,000 and $500,000, seats about 350 in its auditorium and has about 60 parking spaces, Sumrall said.
In deeding the building, Bordeaux included a Legacy Fund clause that stipulates if the building ever ceases to hold a Southern Baptist congregation or is sold for another use, 25 percent of the value of the property will be placed in an interest-bearing fund with the Tennessee Baptist Foundation to support missions of the Nashville Baptist Association. The church’s monies left over after the transfer of the deed is finalized will be used to establish the Bordeaux Baptist Church Legacy Fund, Sumrall said. He has handled such a transfer for five different churches during his tenure, three of which have established legacy funds.
Such funds can greatly benefit missions, Sumrall said, citing a $325,000 legacy fund established in 1982 by then-Brookside Baptist Church that has generated $836,000 in missions support from the interest alone, with the original $325,000 remaining in the fund.
New Season’s new home is in sound physical condition. The congregation will perform minor cosmetic renovations on the building before moving in, Lewis said.
“It means everything to us,” Lewis said of the church building. “It means that our vision can completely come to pass, and that vision is to meet people where they are, and to build them to know that Jesus Christ loves them. That’s our heart. This church means that now we can really do what God calls us to do.”