New River Baptist Church struck me as being a dead church. I would soon find out that I was wrong.
One must first know what a church truly is. Some think it is a building which houses a body of believers, but in reality it is the body of believers themselves. On Sunday morning of our trip to West Virginia, we worshipped with our team and only about 7 people of the New River congregation. The actual membership of the church is only around 15 I think.
There wasn't a lot of evident life in the people we met. They were very friendly and welcoming, but we weren't sure that they understood our spiky haired youth minister or the praise music we sang. (I so wanted to type "minister" instead. Just a little inside joke.) That Sunday morning, New River came to life however, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was definitely felt.
As the week progressed, New River Baptist teemed with life. Sillyness abounded, but so did major spiritual growth and ministry, and the church was living and breathing. While the congregation didn't get us necessarily, I believe Pastor George did, and we left better people because of what God did in our lives there.
Although the small congregation was sluggish, I probably misjudged them as a group as I many times do. If my original thought was correct, the great news is that they opened their building to us and welcomed us to stay there and assist with their ministry. They allowed us free access to whatever we needed. They prayed with us and for us, and they graciously sat through our upbeat praise music and humored our spiky haired youth minister. (Who happens to be one of the most dynamic preachers I've ever heard.) They tolerated our youth, and they provided a place of peace and rest for us that allowed us to minister to others as well as grow as individuals and as a group.
So, New River Baptist Church may only have 8 people this Sunday. (I'm hoping Marlana will be well enough to join Clarence.) They may sing hymns from their hymnals, and Pastor George (who I respect so much as I've mentioned already) will present a message that they will find acceptable. (And he doesn't really have enough hair to spike up.) Members will not refer to him as "Pastor" while making air quotes. I pray they will instead respect his leadership. I also expect that there will be another load of teens with leaders piling in for a stay this week, and the next week, and the next, and they will also be graciously hosted and inspired.
New River Church is teeming with life as we speak, because God is at work there. My prayer is that each mission team that walks through the doors will leave an impression of God's love on that small congregation. I pray that they will leave changed as we did, and that the people that they meet will see Jesus in them. I pray that Clarence and Marlana, who will be the subject of my next blog I'm sure, will be blessed beyond measure and that God will continue to use them. I pray that New River Baptist Church will grow and thrive and reach others for Christ. God, please bless New River Baptist Church and the people of Fayetteville, West Virginia.