2013 Maguire State Mission Offering
SAN MATEO (FBC)—The remnant members of Dunns Creek Baptist Church wanted to remain Southern Baptist even after back-to-back pastoral controversies, including the teaching of false doctrine, threatened their fellowship.
Having already endured the first public scandal, a faction within the San Mateo congregation attempted to lead the church down a non-denominational road. Tired of the controversies and the new doctrine being taught, people began leaving the church in droves, reported church member Lana Johnson.
But a group of Southern Baptist traditionalists stood firmly on their foundational roots.
Dunns Creek, located south of Palatka, had been planted in 1997 by the historic Peniel Baptist Church, known in evangelical circles for baptizing a young Billy Graham in nearby Silver Lake and ordaining him to the evangelistic ministry in 1939.
“The founders of this church believed we needed a Baptist church in the area to reach people in this community for Christ,” said Johnson. “We wanted to stick to our roots, our foundation and our doctrine.”
When a vote was taken, the Southern Baptist faction prevailed but not without battle scars.
In a settlement, the remaining Dunns Creek members agreed to help the other group plant a separate church by providing their pastor a salary for six months and giving them supplies, furnishings and sound equipment.
In the aftermath of the conflict, the congregation had unraveled from 650 members at its highest to less than 60. But even more painful, families were divided and close friends barely spoke to each other.
Strapped with a commitment to subsidize the new church plant and a $7,000 monthly mortgage on the church’s sanctuary, the congregation could have easily closed its doors.
At the core group’s request, Asa Greear, director of missions for the St. Johns River Baptist Association, who was responsible for amicably negotiating with the other group, contacted the Florida Baptist Convention for help.
Greear had been talking to Ron Moore, retired pastor from Anastasia Baptist Church in St. Augustine, one of the association’s leading churches, asking Moore to pray about helping the Dunns Creek church through the transition process.
Moore “recently had successfully guided First Baptist Church in Bunnell through a transitional process,” Greear said. Transitional pastors intentionally help a congregation heal and prepare for their next pastor.
Revitalization funds from the Maguire State Mission Offering provided five months’ salary for Moore, whose wisdom is nurturing the church to health.
Church member Max Howell said when Moore arrived, the congregation was suffering through “depression. There wasn’t something here you could be proud of. There was no joy.”
Moore agreed, adding that each Sunday when worship was over, the congregation almost stampeded out of the building as he tried to greet members at the door. He knew the church had turned the corner one Sunday when he saw church members lingering during the welcome, visiting with one another.
“The natural love among the members was returning,” he explained. “I had a hard time getting them back to their seats because they were enjoying being together.” Attendance is slowly climbing upwards, with as many as 80 persons coming each Sunday.
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