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Vance church follows example of Old Testament king to finance new facilitiescomment (0)

July 14, 2005

By June Mathews

On June 26, Evergreen Baptist Church celebrated its first Sunday in its new facilities on state Highway 11. Located in fast-growing Vance, near Tuscaloosa, Evergreen Baptist was established in 1914 about a mile away on Evergreen Church Road. 
“It was a great time of dedication,” Pastor Jack Clary said. “We had 300 seats in the new auditorium, and we had to bring in more. We ran out of time, so I didn’t even preach.
“But they’ve heard me preach for 25 years, so that was probably OK,” he said with a laugh. 
The celebration was the culmination of a process that began in October 1994, when a committee was elected to find land for a new church, Clary said. 
A suitable site was eventually found, and in February 1997, the church purchased it. 
But instead of kicking off a pledge drive or stewardship campaign to fund the building project, the congregation decided to go another route.
“We wanted to do it debt free,” Clary explained. “I didn’t want us saying, ‘Look what we’ve done.’ I wanted everybody to look at this building and say, ‘Look what God has done.’”
Several thousand dollars for the building project, said Clary, came from the placement of two “Joash boxes” near the exit of the old church building. He said the Joash boxes refer to the collection method King Joash of the Old Testament used for funding temple repairs. As people left services, they dropped in money that quickly added up.
“I had heard about another church using this, and I thought it sounded like something the Lord might want us to do,” Clary said.
In addition to church members’ gifts, donations came from nonmembers who wanted to help when they learned about the project. And although progress was sometimes slow, it was always sure.
Construction began in December 2002, when the slab for the building was poured. Six months later, a group of 70 Carpenters for Christ came from Lindsay Lane Baptist Church, Athens, and First Baptist Church, Decatur, to help frame the building. 
Over the following months, volunteers installed plumbing and wiring; built and installed cabinetry; put up Sheetrock; and painted and installed doors, floors, windows and ceilings. In addition to helping with the labor, Clary said, the women of the church often prepared food.
“There were so many people involved, but they were doing it for the Lord, not for their own glory,” he said. “These are the most giving people I’ve ever known.”
Breaks in construction occurred whenever funds ran low or while critical decisions were being made. Toward the end, however, the pace grew frenzied as church members worked to ready the new sanctuary for the June 25 wedding of their minister of youth, Justin Barnett, and his bride, Sara Smith. But they made it.
“Everybody rallied behind them, laying grass and whatever else needed to be done,” Clary said.
In addition to the sanctuary, the new facilities include a gym, 16 Sunday School rooms and more educational space that will be finished at a later time.
The only debt incurred to date is a $100,000 line of credit for finishing the parking lot. But so far, Clary said, only $50,000 has been used, and he wants to keep it that way.
And through it all, Evergreen has grown. During the construction phase, five new deacons were ordained, an AWANA program was started, 115 people were baptized and more than $135,000 was given to missions causes. Membership grew from 456 in 2001 to 530 in 2005. Now with the new facilities, further growth appears to be imminent.
“We’ve spent over a million dollars on this building, and where it all came from, I haven’t got a clue,” Clary said. “But I do know if God guides, He’ll provide. God has blessed us from when we began until now. I’m not sure how to put it into words except that God has something good for us to do.”

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