Daniel J. Dillard
As we know, the church is the people of God, the body of Christ. This is true whether a local congregation owns a building or not. During the early centuries, the church met in homes, forests, and even catacombs. Thus, the church can exist and function without church buildings.
However, church buildings are a benefit to the church, for they furnish a regular place to meet for worship, fellowship, teaching, and outreach. They help the local congregation establish a visible presence in the community. The building says, "This is where a local congregation of Christ's church meets." Moreover, it is often a matter of wise stewardship for a church to build rather than rent. So, while buildings are not essential to the church, they are beneficial in its ministry and witness.
The OPC Loan Fund exists to help churches finance their building programs. This is the story of how the Loan Fund helped Grace Community Church in Bend, Oregon, with its building needs.
When our church was established in 1936, the town of Bend was small and meeting places were hard to find. We met in the county courthouse and a dance hall before purchasing a storefront building on the edge of town in 1937. We remodeled the building to look like a house of worship. The Lord gave us growth, and the building was enlarged and improved in 1948.
As we continued to grow in the 1990s, we found ourselves near the center of a city of 35,000 people, on a small lot with no room for expansion. There was no place to park on the church's property, and only limited parking nearby. So the congregation decided to sell the building and relocate.
In God's gracious provision, we found a three-acre parcel of land at an excellent price on the east side of town. We acted quickly to obtain financing from a local bank and negotiated with the owners to purchase the property. Just before the closing date, however, the financing fell through.
This is where the Loan Fund entered the picture, as a wonderful help from our heavenly Father. We contacted David Haney, the Loan Fund manager, and explained our situation. We were about to lose not only the opportunity to purchase a choice property, but also the money we had spent to obtain a conditional use permit. Mr. Haney and the Board of Directors carefully reviewed our congregation's financial picture, to see if we could handle a loan, and one was approved.
It is hard to sell an older, downtown building with no parking, but after three years the Lord provided a buyer.
However, after we purchased our new property, the county enacted new zoning regulations, which prohibited churches and schools from building in the area. Although we were "grandfathered in," the clock was running out on our permit. We had to break ground soon or lose the use of the property.
Once again our faithful Lord provided the help we needed, as the OPC Loan Fund again came to our rescue! With funds from the sale of the old building and sacrificial giving by the congregation, we needed to request only a modest loan. It was approved. So this past summer we were able, with a lot of "sweat equity" from the congregation, to erect a simple, yet beautiful, multipurpose facility on our property.
We now have plenty of room and parking space. We can proceed with our plans for growth and greater outreach into central Oregon. We thank Mr. Haney, the Loan Fund's Board of Directors, and those who have purchased notes to provide money for the Fund. We give all praise and glory to God, who provides for all our needs through his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
Reprinted from New Horizons, October 1997.