One of my favorite Old Testament books is the book of Joshua. After 40 years of wandering in the desert because of their hard hearted rebellion, Joshua records God’s blessing upon the children of Israel to inherit the Promised Land that God had promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier. The whole book is God’s encouragement to His people to obey Him with strength and courage and His promises to bless that obedience. In Chapter 3, there is a fascinating test of faith as close to two million people are lined up at the Jordan River to march into the promised land. The Jordan River floods its banks at harvest time and was impassable. Yet God commanded the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant to walk into the Jordan by faith. God promised when their feet touch the water, He’d dry up the river so they could cross and the water would pile up in a heap (Joshua 3:13). It mirrors what God did for the Children of Israel at the Red Sea escaping the pursuit of Pharaoh’s Egyptian army. That previous generation had died so God wanted to demonstrate to this younger, new generation that He would be faithful to them in the same way He had been to their parents and grandparents leaving Egypt. In chapter 4, God commanded that the Children of Israel retrieve 12 stones out of the dry river bed, one for each tribe as they crossed over. He told Joshua to take those stones and stack them up as a memorial to help their children remember what God did. 4:6-7 says when the children ask “What do these stones mean to you?” They were to answer that question: “That the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be a memorial to the Children of Israel forever.” Of course the rest of the story is of their triumphant future in possessing the land God gave them and a record of the battles along the way. Joshua pictures a treasured past and a triumphant future for God’s people.
Over the last several days, I’ve been intently praying for and preparing for some exciting news to share with you in more detail on Sunday evening June 10th at 4:00 p.m. in a special called Church in Conference. In May/June of 2010, we formed a vision team to pray and seek God’s face related to our future ministry here at Calvary. That team met and prayed faithfully for over a year exploring our ministry needs, our facilities and what God wants to do in and through Calvary. After a year of praying, one of our church members in the construction business introduced us to an architect who has had extensive experience working with churches. After that initial meeting and sensing God’s leadership to work with this man, we began a running dialogue with him, our vision team, the trustees and our church council about developing our property with additional parking and space needs to prepare for the next 25 to 30 years of ministry here at Calvary. There have literally been hundreds of man hours from these church committees over the last two years to develop an updated master site plan on this campus the Lord brought us to and gave this church family back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s here on Courtland Place in the heart of Bel Air and Harford County. The church has had a master plan to initially construct our sanctuary and fellowship hall that was dedicated on March 19, 1972. There were even at that time plans to build an education wing which was constructed and dedicated 22 years later in 1994. Here we are 18 years after our education wing was completed examining the next phase of ministry at Calvary.
As I’ve been digging through our church records, reading minutes and history highlights, seeing pictures and reading news accounts of the famous steeple move from Baltimore Pike to our current building, I’m overwhelmed. First I’m overwhelmed by the grace of God to plant a dream in the hearts of several vision minded pastors from our area to see a mission church in the heart of Harford County in the county seat of Bel Air as they met in April 1948. Rev. Walter Burcham and Rev. Finney Bragg played a major leadership role to get the mission work started with services in the Odd Fellows Hall on Sunday afternoons. I am overwhelmed by the grace of God to assemble a group of 66 committed believers who would become charter members of what would become Calvary Baptist Church and for the sacrifices these saints made to make what we enjoy today. The church rapidly outgrew that Odd Fellows Hall and a few weeks before constituting as a church in May of 1949, moved to the Bel Air Theater on Main Street for services. For 63 years, Calvary has been a lighthouse to a lost and dark world around us, sharing the wonderful message that Jesus saves and has been a faithful Gospel preaching and disciple making church family.
As I’ve looked through our archives, I marvel at how the Holy Spirit of God has directed this church to purchase property on Baltimore Pike, erect a fellowship hall basement and construct a worship sanctuary above it in 1952. How they were sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to move the church to our current location, a move that I’m sure did not make sense to some at the time in the 1960’s but looking back, it’s easy to see the Lord’s hand and how His favor has rested upon their obedience. We truly have a treasured past and every time you see our steeple spire pointing to the Heavens, you should thank God for the faithful labors of those who have gone before us.
In dreaming about the future of Calvary and what lay ahead, I am also overwhelmed and in awe of what the Lord wants to do through us. I believe the Lord desires for us to have a triumphant future as we obey His command to continue to make disciples until He returns or calls us home. Joshua challenged that next generation of the Children of Israel to be obedient to the Lord and they did so for many generations. The question before us is will we obey? We must if we desire a triumphant future. It is that simple. As Joshua said in 24:14 “Choose you this day whom will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
I want to invite you to come to our Church in Conference on June 10th, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. We need church approval to present a proposal to the Town and County to approve a concept of how we can continue to build on and develop the property God has given us so we can carry out our God-given mission of making disciples. We are not ready to enter a building campaign by any means. The first step is that we’re merely seeking for approval from the community, the town of Bel Air and Harford County that our concept will meet the requirements in place. Much of the requirements and codes have changed since we began phase one and two on this property in 1970 and 1993. Our work with our architect accounts for these new requirements and we’re excited to share with you the big picture concept. This concept was developed from our architect who has spent hours with our leaders from our various ministry teams and committees as we’ve dialogued about current space utilization and future expansion. Let us all continue to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have us to do to secure a triumphant future of obedient ministry for the glory of God and to expand God’s kingdom. Let us be in prayer that God’s hand of favor will rest upon us in seeking the appropriate approvals from the community, town and county assuming the church gives us permission to move forward. I’m treasuring our past and excited about a triumphant future, from my little corner of the world to yours…
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
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