The congregation began as a network of Bible study groups meeting in homes during the first half of the last century. After building and outgrowing a small chapel, the growing fellowship built and moved into a new facility close by. A strong commitment to teaching and learning the Bible and a heart for sharing Jesus with neighbors and friends were marks of the new church.
Sunday School for all ages and a variety of large and small-group Bible studies have always been important to us. In more recent decades, materials such as the Bethel Bible Study, ALPHA Course, 40 Days of Purpose, Becoming a Contagious Christian and others were used to introduce people to Jesus and help members become more comfortable sharing their faith. In 2004 over $6,500 in special offerings was given during a two-week span to buy out several showings of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ movie so that members could bring family, friends and co-workers to see the film at no charge!
In 2004, many people in our congregation reached the conclusion that we were part of a denomination that no longer reflected the Biblical foundation and evangelical heart of our group. In 2005 several congregational meetings were held with a goal of changing our affiliation to the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC). Ultimately this change was not agreed to by a large enough majority of the members.
A significant portion of the congregation decided to continue the effort to bring a Biblically conservative and truly evangelical protestant church with Lutheran heritage to the Hagerstown area. We contacted the AFLC to request assistance in forming a new congregation. By God's grace the AFLC Home Missions Director at the time, Pastor Paul Nash, was available to come to Hagerstown to meet with us and deliver a message from God's Word at our first worship service scheduled for several weeks later.
Doors continued to open that week and the next as God prepared us to begin a new work in the community. A letter was written and mailed to the members of our church explaining that some of us would be moving on to begin the work of forming a new congregation. All were asked to spend time in prayer discerning whether God's Spirit was calling them to stay, or to become part of the new mission to the community.
The weekend arrived. Pastor Nash and a small planning group had met the night before for prayer and preparation. Pastor Mark Benz, a retired Army chaplain and AFLC pastor from Gaithersburg, Maryland was on hand to help out and to see what role God might have for him in this new work.
On the morning of November 27, 2005 the planning group met early. After setting up the room we hit our knees. We prayed for God's will to be done. We prayed for protection from the Devil. We prayed for Pastor Nash and his message. We prayed for the building, for every seat, for every soul that would gather that day to worship the risen Lord Jesus. The crowd began to gather. In a short time every seat was filled and additional chairs were needed! Many people brought family and friends for the first worship service!
It's still hard to believe all that has taken place. God freed us from the past and from a denomination whose convictions about the authority of Scripture and the need for all people to receive salvation through the shed blood of Jesus no longer matched our own. Our continued prayer is that God will give us tremendous passion for the Great Commission and that He will help us each to "be" part His living church instead of just "doing" church.
We pray for God's blessing as we go about Magnifying Him in worship, Growing Together in fellowship and the knowledge of His Word, and participating in His work by Engaging Lives.
We invite you to join us in the journey!