1983 - 1992
The latest chapter of our church's history is the present one, which began in 1983. Having come through the denomination decision with our commitment to the word of God intact, the next test was whether God would now allow us to turn our attention back to the equipping ministry that had started about a decade before in the early seventies. The next generation, the children of those newly committed young couples of the 1970's, was being well nurtured at home and in Sunday School, but there was an intervening half-generation of young couples and singles to be reached. Roger had been planting the seed with this age group in the youth department in the '70's and we were excited to see them start a new young adult class in the eighties, replicating the previous class and reclassifying them as the "not-so-young adults". Now, after ten additional years, we see yet another half-generation creating a third wave, if you will, of young adults taking its place in the still expanding fellowship. The fellowship among members outside the church walls, studying the word and praying together as peers and as families, has gone through two replications now. The flame has not died back. The Holy Spirit continues to change hearts and lives around us.
Rev. Jim Bachmann, meanwhile, had developed into a much-admired preacher. His sermons would be punctuated with marvelous tales of humbling defeat by the church's softball and basketball teams or with the lyrics of country songs which amplified the vain values of a lost generation.
Dr Long retired in 1986, leaving a church alive with vitality at all age levels, like a multi-layered cake. God had allotted him 22 years, the longest term of any pastor. His greatest contribution may be that he kept the ship together during the restoration of the 70's and the resolve of the eighties. Some say that, because he did keep us together during this time, God gave him a greater accomplishment to be remembered by: as equipper of saints. It is accurate to say that during the Long years our membership did not grow larger; it grew deeper, much deeper, and closer, and greatly blessed. Addenda: In September 2001 the church honored George Long with the first of an annual series of distinguished preachers. The article about George Long presented at that service is included in the appendix of this history.
Pastor Sandy Willson came, but George Long continued to live here in his mountain home and helped Sandy get established during his first years of ministry to us. During Sandy's first six years of pastoring our flock our church has been blessed with continued strengthening of our fellowship and our activities.
We have been a 900-plus member church for decades, but with a far higher pattern of participation than before. In the last three years we have pushed our Sunday School space, our parking space and our Wednesday night dinner space to the limit.
We have just initiated a second period of Sunday School, with both periods running concurrently with the two worship services. This change lets us use most classrooms twice while balancing the worship attendance. This year the session also approved a 2.3 million dollar major remodeling and renovation program, which will begin next month with expanded parking. Combined with the revised schedule, these steps will increase the capacity of our church in all areas very substantially.
Our World Missions budget has doubled in the last six years and we carry on the 50-50 apportionment between benevolence and expense which was first started by Dr. Campbell fifty-two years ago. Our combined budget has reached $1 million.
In 1990 Communism miraculously crumbled in the entire Warsaw Pact nations. The tyrannical Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became separate republics almost overnight. The sweep of God's hand has seldom been so visible. With the atheism of Communism suddenly gone the people immediately were hungry for something to believe in. An unprecedented harvest had been opened to the gospel, and we responded. No one knows how long this door will remain open; there is a great sense of urgency.
In 1991 Jim Bachmann accepted the call to pastor a small new church in his hometown of Nashville. He has learned well; he is prepared to pastor a flock. In early 1992 Frank Hitchings comes to fill Jim's place and we once again tell the "Gulick Story" to describe what we are looking for. How intimidating that must be for budding seminary graduates!
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