I blog today to pay a debt. A debt I’ve owed for some time now … To an institution that is long gone. To people I hardly ever see, but I do get to relate to some of them on Facebook. And I owe this place, as do many of them.
Washington Avenue Christian School was founded some time around 1970. It was borne out of a vision God gave Dan Greer, a wonderful pastor and leader for many years at Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. God burdened Dan with the emptiness of the halls of that church during the week and the vision of Christ-centered education. Dan and the church obeyed and God blessed that ministry.
THOUSANDS of families were touched by that ministry over the next two decades. There are many, many names of faculty members and adults that worked hard to help that vision succeed, but make NO MISTAKES, God’s hand was the reason that vision became reality.
That school was a tremendous part of my life. I look at who I am today and know that school made its mark on me. Teachers at that school helped to mold me. They are partially responsible for the pastor I am today (at least, the good parts). And I thank God for them.
This past spring brought the 25 anniversary of my graduation around. Sadly, there is no longer a school to celebrate, no longer a homecoming to attend. There was a reunion of sorts a few weeks ago, but I was unable to attend because of family obligations.
All of this brings me to my point. The debt, so to speak. There is a story to tell, a story that all of us in the kingdom of God need to hear …
Why did this school close???
The year was 1991. I was an active member of Washington Avenue Baptist Church, and a very active youth worker. My vocation was computer programming, and honestly, I was running from a call to ministry. I also had the privilege that year of being the first WACS alum to serve on the Board of Trustees.
We had a good year. Finances were good and we were even considering starting a retirement fund for the teachers. Everything was clicking on all cylinders when I got a phone call … The school was CLOSING! Even though it took a vote of the church to open the school, the relatively new pastor decided to close it. And did so. And no one stood up. The school was financially in the black, but it was being closed. As a young adult full of passion for that ministry, I went to the pastor (and I use the term very loosely) and asked him why?? He told me, and I quote, “Because we don’t need all those kids walking the halls every week and dirtying up this place! We’ve got to keep this place clean for all the church-shoppers that visit on Sunday!” I could not believe my ears!! (And, it was the first time I’d ever heard the term “church shoppers!”) He ended the meeting by telling us, and again I quote, that missionaries are “nothin but a bunch of preachers that couldn’t control their churches!” At the time, Diana’s aunt and uncle were missionaries in Caracas, Venezeula, so you can imagine how that ripped our hearts out. By the way, I think missionaries are AWESOME and are some of the bravest people I know!!!
Consequently, the church took a real turn at that point. Some people I dearly loved were fired from the staff, (YES, they resigned but were forced) and some people I once respected fell right in line with all of this. I stood up for the first time EVER in a church business meeting when I heard the explanation of all of this as “We are sacrificing the FIVE we might reach right now with the Christian school for the 500 we will reach down the road with the improvements this will bring!” For the first time in my life, the Holy Spirit took control of my mind because I responded with something I am NOT SMART ENOUGH to come up with: I stood up and said “My God is big enough to reach the FIVE AND THE FIVE-HUNDRED.” No one appreciated my statement, except my loving bride.
After that, the pastor started some rumors about Diana and me. We’d already left this church I loved. We had to. I stopped running from God when He got me into this corner and said “I need people like YOU in the ministry.” And the rest is history! Washington Avenue Baptist Church, which was once my home, had a rough time but God has raised up a new pastor and a new culture in that church. It seems to be doing well and I pray for that, because I have never stopped loving it.
So, there is my story. A debt paid. What can we learn from this story?? Think about it.