A visit from our founding pastor

Paul and Rowena Martin

Paul and Rowena Martin

This past Sunday, Oct. 18, we did something special for our morning worship service. We had our founding pastor, Paul Martin, come in from McHenry IL to speak to us. Following the worship service, we had a meal together and then did some Q&A with Paul and his wife, Rowena.

Here is some background on how these things came to be. I first came to serve as the pastor of Faith Community Church in 2007. When I did I asked about those who came before me. Bernie Anderson was the man who preceded me. He pastored for thirteen years. However, before Bernie things were vague. Three men served before him, one of whom died. But the founding pastor, they told me, was a man named Paul Martin.

I actually tried to get in touch with him earlier on but was unable. Eventually I succeeded and was delighted to hear the story of how we started. Our conversations led to having Paul come and preach for us this past Sunday. I must say, this was one of the most meaningful and spiritually satisfying Sundays I’ve had in my ministry.

Churches have personalities, memories, and stories, just like people. It is good to know where you come from and have a sense of your history. God places churches in cities, towns for his own good pleasure. He gives churches a charge, a deposit if you will to which they are to remain faithful. To me it seems, this is nothing to overlook nor is this a point on which we should be ignorant.

Faith Community Church has had its own fair shares of struggles recently with needing direction and focus. When I hear stories of what was going on at the beginning of our church I wondered if in some sense, we have gotten derailed. We owned a building at one time! So I asked Paul to come and my purpose in having him come was two-fold: honor Paul and his wife for their labors as well as remind our fellowship of our beginnings.

So Paul gave us the story of the early days and here it is. Paul and Rowena came to Franklin and planted Alliance Bible Church in 1978. They launched with an eight day missions conference! For eight days straight they celebrated the cause of missions worldwide because Paul wanted to communicate clearly what this church was about. Soon after this launch the church was running at least a hundred people. Some time between year one and two the church was running two hundred.

The church was literally exploding. They were doing EE (Evangelism Explosion), running radio adds, and celebrating two core values: the deeper life and the worldwide mission of evangelism. Paul had an expository teaching style which served as the base for pulpit expression.

Soon property was purchased and they began to build a building. That building is on Franklin Road, here is the link. The pic isn’t too clear but the address is 415 Franklin Rd located here in Franklin TN. Paul was in his twenties at the time this project started.

In the midst of all this growth, some internal disagreements formed among the leaders.  The issue was control. Unfortunately, these disagreements brought harm to the church. The church stood behind Paul but most of the people simply left. Eventually, Paul had to make the difficult decision to leave. The church had to choose between paying for a pastor or paying off the loan for the building. Since so many left, the resources were now meager.

So Paul left. The next pastor was Bill Weinberg. He died while serving as pastor. Then the church had Weldon Blackford. Following him came Charles Kleiser. Then came Bernie Anderson. I count Bernie as a good friend. He has been nothing but supportive of me. I appreciate his true heart’s desire to see our church flourish. This is evident in his unceasing support and affirmation.

I’ve often wondered if the church is feeling the discipline of God or if we had done something corporately that is influencing our health today. I wondered if the church had sinned against it’s founding pastor. Paul assured me this was not the case. I do believe there is such a thing as corporate sin and the individuals serving in office, representing the entity, are irrelevant to that corporate weight. They might come and go but the responsibility remains. I don’t think that is at issue in our church.

I do however have a sense that we have not yet regained fully that vision we had in our early days. So it was with keen interest that I heard Paul mention the two things he thought set the Alliance church apart: dependence upon the Holy Spirit for Christian living and the worldwide mission of evangelism.

Paul’s message this past Sunday was about waiting on God. He spoke of the need to abide in the vine, not do things “for God.” This message was at the heart of one of the emphases he brought to the church. It was a very good word because it addresses this fundamental desire within us to “do something” for God, make something, take control. Our job is to remain with the Master and out of this satisfying relationship flows mission and ministry.

Anyway, the Lord came and visited his people Sunday. Oddly enough, we weren’t able to record the message! I couldn’t believe it! I’m enjoying continuing to ruminate and think about the future of our church. We’ve been wandering around for a while, at least under my leadership, but I’m sensing the Lord begin to stir us up for some direction once again. May he glorify his son in his love for our body.

3 replies
  1. Joel Smythe
    Joel Smythe says:

    It really was great to hear from Paul Martin! I am responsible for the lack of audio recording. I thought it was recording only to find out at the end of the service that the recorder was indeed not recording. So Sorry.

    Reply
  2. Dana Walker
    Dana Walker says:

    I happened to be sitting next to my mother’s intensive care hospital bed and thought of them and looked them up on the Internet . How fascinating to seem them featured . I was a teenager when the Alliance Bible church was started . My family was there from the beginning . Many friends were made there. The young medical resident who came to church and that my dad helped him with his taxes would years later deliver my own children . There were many fun times with the Bible Quiz Team and many fun times with the Martins . I always loved Rowena . However, I was disappointed by by your article . There are two sides to the story. My father who is now gone would have been terribly disappointed by what you represented . There was never a power struggle but an ethical dilemma . It is sad that truth was not entirely shared . I had a front line seat to the disintegration of my church. Neither side was innocent . You would think after all these years Paul Martin would own his own role .

    Reply
  3. David Yoder
    David Yoder says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Dana. It was good to talk with you on the phone about this. I regret never getting to speak with your father. Moving forward, we’re seeking God’s blessing on our fellowship and posturing ourselves to that end. Take care.

    Reply

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