Cedarburg, Wis.-Years ago, Heritage Christian Center in Cedarburg, Wis., was a healthy fellowship of 140 believers with a Christian school of 120 students. But Satan gained an advantage and started to separate the people. Then the pastor died unexpectedly.
Though his widow tried to hold the work together-even loaning money to pay the mortgage-the church dwindled to seven people who met weekly to listen to taped messages of their former pastor.
Stories like this are not unusual. About 3,700 churches close in the United States every year, according to David T. Olson, author of The American Church in Crisis. But this particular story will have a happier ending!
After the pastor’s wife started teaching at the Christian school at Calvary Baptist Church, Menomonee Falls, Wis., she began to discuss “rescue operations” with Pastor James Maxwell. He immediately thought of Dr. Ed Fuller, state representative for the Wisconsin Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Retired after 43 years of pastoral ministry, Fuller had moved to Racine, Wis., with his wife, Diane, only to be recruited back into full-time ministry.
So in February 2007, the Fullers started meeting on Sunday mornings with about 15 interested people. The Cedarburg church building has an auditorium that seats 100, two levels of classrooms, a kitchen, and a nice banquet area-all fully furnished. The second building, which had been the school, has three floors with many rooms on the lower and first levels. There are three parking areas. Mortgages on the property, located in an upper middle class residential area, amounted to a little over $300,000.
Pastor Fuller led the congregation to a unified view of the New Testament church by taking them through a study of Ephesians. Soon the church started studying a pattern doctrinal statement for a New Testament Baptist church, and within six months the church agreed on a constitution and doctrinal statement. By this time the church was averaging 15-30 in attendance, and Heritage Baptist Church was launched.
Support for the church rescue came from several sources: Calvary Baptist (the sponsoring church), Baptist Builders Club (a $15,000 grant), and the WARBC ($2,000 monthly support from the church planting fund). Still on mission status, the church was received into the GARBC at the 2008 GARBC Conference.
“From the beginning there has been strong evidence that God’s hand is on this work,” Fuller said. “God provided a capable adult Sunday School teacher, a youth worker who is a graduate of Faith Baptist College in Ankeny, Iowa, and people hungry for God’s Word.”
The church has recently installed Pastor Mark Brooks as full-time pastor. Having previously ministered as the assistant pastor of the sponsoring church, Calvary Baptist in Menomonee Falls, Pastor Brooks had just returned from a year of active-duty chaplaincy overseas with the National Guard. He and his wife, Melissa, who have four children, are now leading the 70-member congregation and are confidently trusting the Lord for a growing future. Souls have been saved, and people from the community who are looking for a traditional Bible preaching church are becoming a part of this testimony.