Three years ago First Christian Church in Weeping Water, Neb., was deciding whether or not to close. They prayed together for 100 days. Today the church is a center of ministry for the small town in ways they never thought possible.
A few weeks ago the Disciples News Service posted a story about the work of a sister church, First Christian in Louisville, Neb., and mentioned the partnership with the Weeping Water church in addiction counseling and an ecumenical potato patch. Well, Weeping Water has a small-church-big-impact story of its own.
“On my first Sunday as pastor in 2005 we had eight for worship. They had been dying for more than 50 years,” said Rev. Dr. James McReynolds. “There are about 12 churches in the area, some with new buildings. Most are fundamentalist and closed in nature. Nobody who lives in Weeping Water (population 1,000) was a member of the church. When asked, ‘Why not witness in Weeping Water?’ the reply of church leaders was, ‘We don’t know anybody in Weeping Water.’”
McReynolds decided to give it his best with a new vision “to create an atmosphere where joy and miracles happen.” He used that hook of joy when preaching about church. He stressed a missionary model of ministry emphasizing the number of people coming in the door wasn’t as important as how many become life-long disciples.
“It has surely been a miracle,” McReynolds says. “We were just one mission post in the larger Church. When we got out of our self-absorbed ways, we started doing outreach.”
Now the church is involved with nursing homes and campus ministry at the Lincoln community college, opening the facility to support groups for the mentally ill and addictions, distributing food, clothing and teaching financial management and a thriving youth group.
“People started responding to Jesus’ ministry making professions of faith,” McReynolds said. Many are very young, some freed from addictions, and some who have come to forgive churches that had hurt them deeply.
Interim Regional Minister Jim Gordon says, “If God can build a church in Weeping Water, God can build one anywhere.”
McReynolds responds, “Only our Lord knows how we will reflect our missionary responsibility to our town, our state and our denomination. We are just doing what God has done through us.”