This is a story of generosity, of how Clements Baptist, a church in Athens, magnified its reach and helped a struggling Huntsville church in the process.
Holding his 6-year-old daughter in his arms, Keith Megginson slowly stepped down into the baptistery at Mountain View Baptist Church. When it was time to go under, it wasn’t just the child who was submerged in water.
The father went down, too, baptized in the same instant as his child.
“The preacher said it was the first time he’d baptized a parent and a kid at the same time,” Megginson said, “but since it was my daughter who had brought me to church, it just seemed right.”
The church on McClung Avenue in Huntsville is vital to the history of the Megginson family. His wife Kathy has gone there since it opened in 1963. They were married there. His daughter, now 25, grew up there. They marked so many family milestones at Mountain View Baptist and couldn’t imagine worshipping anywhere else.
But, for a while, it looked like they were going to have to.
Even though the church membership was up to 300 at one time, attendance was down. Way down. Over the years, there had been some disagreements among congregants. A couple of splits, even.
“All we were doing was paying the bills,” Megginson said. “We had no resources for ministry or missions. We were just hanging on.”
The church, built in 1963 to resemble Noah’s Ark, was weathering its most troubling storm.
The debt of their Christian Life Center weighed heavily on the 50 or 60 people who remained devoted to keeping the place open. They had a hard time making payments. There were rumblings of trying to sell the property, but no one really wanted that.
Bro. Jeff Pike, then pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church turned to his friend, Pastor Tim Anderson at Clements Baptist Church in Athens, for advice. He knew Anderson could give him the leadership he was looking for to salvage the church.
Earlier this year, Clements Baptist acquired Poplar Creek Baptist in Athens, whose waning membership likewise put it in danger of closing. Under Anderson’s leadership, Poplar Creek is now alive and well.
Anderson—who had a desire to expand the ministry of Clements into Huntsville—asked if the Mountain View congregation would consider a similar arrangement.
Megginson, who is one of just two deacons left at Mountain View, said of Clements’ offer, “It was an answered prayer…They’ve opened their hearts and—literally—taken us in.
“I know my family would have found another church if we’d had to shut down, but this way, we all get to stay together.”
The plan is for Pastor Tim’s Family Series to begin January 15th by video. Then, by late spring, simulcast will be set up so Clements Church Huntsville will be hearing the same message at the same time as the central campus in Athens.
By keeping Mountain View open, the Huntsville community that utilizes the Christian Life Center won’t have to find new space.
“There’s renewed energy here,” Megginson said. “We see this as our chance to grow…Pastor Tim is the kind of person who attracts people. He’s such a powerful preacher, the kind of person that you can’t wait to hear what his next word is going to be.”
He certainly has had that impact on the original Clements Baptist Church. A year after it was founded in two trailers in 1993, Anderson was brought in as pastor. Membership grew, and a building plan was established. The church grew out of a cotton field, with Carpenters for Christ and church volunteers working to erect the first worship center.
Jimmy Downs, retired GM worker and now church custodian, has been with Clements since it was just an idea. For decades, he and his wife Gina were members of Poplar Creek Baptist—yes, that same Poplar Creek that Clements acquired earlier this year—but they wanted a larger, more active church for their two young sons.
They began attending Emmanuel Baptist Church. They were then recruited to help plant Clements Baptist Mission. On their first Sunday service, 41 people attended.
“If you’d sat me down 20 years ago and told me that this is where we would be, with all of this growth, I don’t think I would have believed you,” Downs said. “But just seeing what God has done, I can’t (wait to) see what else He is going to do.”
Clements Baptist Media Director Daniel Beard said membership is close to 1,200 now. He said there’s no set magic number the church is shooting for: “We just want to reach as many people as possible.” Its foray into Huntsville, with a denser population, can make that happen.
Beard said the Clements congregation embraces the concept of expansion. When they were deciding whether to take on Poplar Creek Baptist, the vote was unanimous, he said. And when they were determining how to move forward with the Mountain View possibility, everyone said yes.
“We trust that God will give us the resources we need to take care of our new churches,” Beard said. “The unknown can cause some natural uneasiness, but if you’ve experienced God’s faithfulness, it’s easier to see it that way.”
So, thanks to the leadership at Clements Baptist, parishioners at Mountain View continue to meet in their home building Sunday mornings, and the Huntsville community still uses the spacious Christian Life Center.
That is community at its best.