An OPC congregation in Reedsburg, WI, has an opportunity to purchase a building and radically repurpose it. After changing worship locations about every three years in its less than twenty years of existence, Grace Reformed Church hopes to put down permanent roots in a former Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. More than that, the church may be able to purchase the building without taking out a mortgage.
Pastor Christian McShaffrey says, “Would it not be just like our God to displace an anti-christian cult with a confessionally reformed church without even the need for financing?”
Grace Reformed has met for worship in a variety of venues over the years, most recently in the Reedsburg Town Hall. While this facility was adequate, the congregation realized it was only temporary and was searching for a long-term solution. When the church inquired about the Kingdom Hall building in August of 2018, the nearly $500,000 purchase price seemed too steep for serious consideration.
But in January of 2019, a committee from the Presbytery of the Midwest made its regularly scheduled visit to Reedsburg. Committee members accompanied Grace’s elders to view the property and offered wise counsel to the church leaders.
In February, Grace Reformed Church elders decided to pursue the building purchase and initiated a fund-raising campaign called “Putting Down Roots in Reedsburg.” While the church qualifies for a mortgage, it wants to give God the opportunity to provide through the generosity of his people.
Many church members are making personal sacrifices. Some have committed to donating tax refunds or work bonuses to the building fund. A couple of students will forego extra-curricular activities to free family funds. Another family is postponing a major purchase for a year in order to contribute to the building fund now. One member donated hundreds of dollars worth of promotional materials. As the congregation creatively explores ways individual members can help, it is also spreading the word in person and via appeal letters.
A big boost may come from the Presbytery of Midwest’s 37 churches. Grace Reformed Church anticipates being approved as the recipient of the 2019 “King’s Men” offering. This annual offering helps congregations within the Presbytery obtain worship facilities.
Grace church’s website facilitates financial assistance from outside the congregation. A featured page explains the project (https://reedsburgchurch.org/roots) and requests prayer, mail donations, or online giving via PayPal or GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/reedsburg). The building’s asking price is $475,000. The local capital campaign amount is $125,000, and the fundraising goal is $200,000. Grace Reformed needs to raise a minimum of $35,000 to move forward with the building purchase.
The 5,620 square-foot brick building, constructed in 2012, is like new. The property includes a parking lot with 82 spaces and a separate garage for storage. It is located at 850 Clark Street, which is in a residential area near a major highway. Reedsburg lies between La Crosse and Milwaukee and southwest of the Wisconsin Dells.
While things seem to be moving quickly toward this purchase, the church has looked forward to a permanent home for nearly twenty years. Elder Matt Kirkham says, “It has been a long journey so far, but the legacy of reformed polity and practice is an inheritance for our children’s children that justifies the slow pace of progress.”
Pastor McShaffrey adds, “When compared to evangelical models of church planting, the reformed model is clearly the most biblical in that it involves many in the work of planting and watering while God gives the increase. We did not start this good work alone and we will certainly not finish it alone.”
Church leaders share their excitement about this opportunity from a desire to encourage congregations still waiting on the Lord’s timing. “Never give up hope,” Pastor McShaffrey says. “Church planters and the core group of every mission work need to focus on where they will be in a couple decades rather than on present set-backs or occasional seasons of slow growth.”
While waiting for a church building, the important thing is to remain faithful. Mr. Kirkham says, “Many churches can make the claim, as Hollywood does, that they are ‘Based on a true story.’ Reformed believers know that for a church to fulfill its mandate it must be much more than just based on the Bible; it must contain and incorporate the whole counsel of God. In a world of mass marketing it can be difficult to hold out in humble circumstances while we wait on the Lord. We seek a permanent residence because we believe in the permanency of the Reformed Faith.”
Checks for the building fund may be sent to:
Grace Reformed Church
c/o Peter Sweeney
524 Charles St.
Reedsburg, WI 53959
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the March 29, 2019, issue of Christian Renewal. Since this article was written, the church purchased the building and began holding worship services there.