Pandemic-Inspired Gift Cause for Hope
Nearly a year after widespread lockdowns halted in-person services, good news in the church world has been in short supply. Some congregations still aren’t meeting amid pandemic fears, and morale is low in many places.
That’s why I found a recent story about an unusual cross-denominational gift to be so encouraging.
“AG Camp Receives Unexpected Blessing from a Baptist Church” appeared on AG News, the website of the Assemblies of God (full disclosure: I’m a regular contributor to AG News).
It told about an AG camp and retreat center in northern Texas that got walloped by the pandemic. After 289 events with 40,000 people attending in 2019, last year’s numbers sank to 101 and 15,000 participants.
However, an unexpected gift from a Baptist church has given the directors new hope and optimism about the future.
Source of Division
I pause here to explain something to those who aren’t familiar with the divisions that often exist between Pentecostals (like the AG) and Baptists.
One of the key issues separating the two is speaking in tongues—and disagreements over whether that spiritual gift is still in operation.
Like so many things that keep Christians in separate camps, it shouldn’t. Having been part of Southern Baptist and Pentecostal churches over the years, I find this a grievous reality.
I have been in various meetings where, no matter which viewpoint people espouse, they toss verbal brickbats at the other group. More than once I have wanted to say, “Stop! You’re both off-base.”
This issue is not a central point of doctrine. That so many allow it to be enables the devil to keep Christ’s followers divided and thus ineffective.
Given the situation, it’s my hope the connection between Beltway Park Baptist Church and the AG camp will help forge more bridge-building in Christian circles, regardless of denomination.
The two came together a few years ago when Beltway’s annual women’s retreat found itself with no place to gather because the facility where they normally met had double-booked events.
The Baptist women loved the AG camp and decided to return. That is, until the pandemic came along and they had to cancel 2020’s retreat.
Even though Beltway had to close its doors for a while during lockdowns, members kept giving, which enabled the profound gift that followed.
Since some of the church’s regular ministries weren’t able to carry out their mission, that left unused funds. With camps and retreat centers having such a hard year, the church decided to bless the camps as they had blessed Beltway, says communications pastor DeAnna Fields.
When the directors received a phone call that Beltway was sending them a check for $25,000, they wondered if was a deposit or an additional payment for the next year’s event.
No, Fields replied, it was a gift.
“There were tears flowing and we were rejoicing,” says Kim Carpenter, the camp’s director of hospitality. “It was like, ‘Okay, God, we know You are here!”
Such selfless giving is a tangible sign of the kind of love that drives Christ’s followers to take these kinds of unusual steps.
That Beltway Baptist crossed denominational barriers in doing so reminds me of Christ’s words: “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Nor will denominational differences.