A Place for Community by Jonathan and Tella
[Shared at our 4th Anniversary Celebration]
Roughly four years ago, 14 people gathered in the White’s living room and covenanted together to form a new church, Winchester Baptist Church. I was privileged to be there that night, and it was totally new for me; I had never seen a church being born before. Tella and I both grew up in larger, established churches, and until college had each only been part of 1 church our whole lives. I witnessed numeric decline, church politics, and a loss of focus on the Gospel in an effort to embrace the latest church growth trends. Tella, in particular, grew up in a church with over 3000 attendees, and her experience emphasized the superficial and did not really involve connecting with anyone.
In college, we attended Guilford Baptist, the precursor to Sterling Park Baptist, which was in the rebuilding phase after years of decline. I arrived when the reborn church was a year old. Tella arrived during year four. That experience gave us the evidence that we had longed to see: that the Gospel is enough. We saw people travel from great distances to hear several Scripture readings and long but excellent expository preaching, and to sing and to pray in a theologically rich way. We were inspired by the power of the Gospel and the role of the local church. In 2008, Tim Fanus and I were getting together frequently for lunch, and he shared his vision of a future church plant somewhere in Western Loudoun or in Winchester, and I caught that vision. As years passed and Tella and I fell in love, we looked towards Winchester as our eventual home, with a church plant still in mind.
In God’s timing, the vision became a reality. In early 2012, Pastor Tim interviewed me about joining the team, which led to me getting to witness the birth of a new church firsthand. Tella joined shortly after. As we look around us today, we see a church that in 8 years has gone from an idea, to a newborn, to a toddler, and now is becoming a little more grown up. In a lot of ways, we, as individuals, have grown up alongside WBC. We have felt very loved in this church, as different ones of you have mentored us, served us, encouraged us, been examples to us, and walked alongside us through all the ups and downs of life. The Whites and Gallops counseled us while we dated; Pastor Tim married us; the ladies of this church provided meals and other support when our children were born. The ladies have been friends, mentors, and encouragers to Tella; the men have encouraged, challenged and taught me, and provided accountability. In all of these ways and more, God has been faithful to us through you.
Winchester Baptist Church is a place for community, and a place to connect and dig deeply into each other’s lives. You have shown us and our children so much love, through both the good times and the hard times. You have been a safe place for us to be real. You have helped us overcome sin in our lives. You keep pointing us to Jesus and His Gospel. So don’t stop! Keep it up! We can’t do the Christian life well without your ongoing support. We all need each other’s help to keep going, and when we love each other sacrificially, the world takes notice and God is glorified.
Recently, we were away from you to witness the launch of another church, Loudoun Valley Baptist Church in Purcellville. With that launch, we saw another piece of the original church planting vision accomplished. Like witnessing a wedding or a birth, there is something exhilarating about it, and it has a way of pointing you back to what’s really important in life. We were encouraged and renewed in the church-planting vision, and reminded why we do this. The Gospel is glorious, and it is best displayed to the world through the living, breathing, glorious, difficult, sometimes messy local church.
God willing, WBC will continue to grow and mature for years to come, and we hope to remain here among you for many years. We look forward to what God will do through all of us to reach this city with the Gospel. May God keep us faithful until Christ returns.
We love you all.