God is in Every Adoption Story

Hope for Churches asked Rev. John Meyer, retired pastor of Belvedere First Baptist,
to record this story of what God is doing one year after the church
affirmed motion to be adopted by Warren Church.

A popular song presently heard on Christian radio is entitled “God is in this story.” That song could very well be the theme song of the recent revitalization of the First Baptist Church of Belvedere, which is now known as Warren Belvedere.

 Located in a bedroom community of North Augusta, South Carolina, First Baptist Church of Belvedere was started in 1922 by a group of residents who began meeting as a Sunday School class under some pine trees on the current property. The Belvedere community experienced great growth from the 1950’s forward with an influx of people moving to the area for work, increasing the worship attendance at FBC before reaching a peak of about 400 people when they began worship in a new sanctuary. However, like many other churches of that era, after building its “dream sanctuary,” the church began a slow downward spiral before plateauing for an extended season and then declining even further as younger families with children transitioned to area churches with a more contemporary worship style.

Rev. John Meyer, retired and cast vision for revival

 In November 2012, Rev. Meyer began a special weekly prayer meeting for revival in the church and nation. A small group of members responded to the call and met every Thursday for nine years, persistently praying for revival while the church engaged the community in a variety of outreach and missional efforts. While persistent and faithful, their attendance continued a slow decline before the Covid pandemic dwindled their attendance further leaving 70 faithful, prayerful congregants gathering in large sanctuary.

 Pastor Meyer realized that if the church was going to survive and thrive, it needed new, younger leadership and a new direction. Thus, he announced his retirement after 24 years as Belvedere’s pastor and the members formed a pastor search team.

 Not long afterwards, a phone call came from Rev. Travis McNeal, a trusted voice who grew up in Belvedere First, suggesting the church consider a partnership with a larger church in the area to help supply resources needed to reach young families in the community. One of the two churches he suggested was his former place of ministry, Warren Baptist, a large church located 11 miles west of Belvedere in Augusta, Georgia. Unbeknownst to all, Dr. David McKinley, pastor of Warren Baptist Church had been petitioning the Lord for three years for an opportunity to expand their ministry into the growing North Augusta area. As the Belvedere Pastor Search Team and Warren leadership prayed about and discussed the idea, God affirmed their vision to pursue this partnership. Mary Head, one of two committee members over the age of 80, was skeptical at first. She said, “I was concerned that the church would lose its 100 year identity. However, after praying, the Lord told me that it was His church, not mine or ours, and He could do what He wanted with it.” She saw His Spirit moving and later in the process encouraged the church to follow the Spirit’s leading as the Lord answered the prayers of the past nine years.

Belvedere First Baptist Church became the newest member of the Warren Church family

 Utilizing a series of meetings with parties from both churches, the group drafted an adoption agreement together and presented it to their respective churches. In October of 2022 both congregations overwhelmingly affirmed the adoption proposal to formally launch Warren Belvedere on January 1, 2022.

 The adoption agreement included Warren Baptist supplying a Pastor, a Worship Leader, and other support staff as needed. They also prepared a group of approximately 60 people to leave their congregation and join the Belvedere campus to give the newly formed body needed manpower for anticipated growth. Stephen Newman, a minister on the Warren Baptist staff, was chosen to become the new Lead Pastor of the Belvedere congregation. He said, “I knew that I would get the opportunity to pastor one day, but I thought I would go out and plant a church somewhere else. I never thought about taking over a multi-generational congregation, but that is what I love about it. Senior adults serving alongside and mentoring younger adults and doing life together.” Some of the Belvedere members decided not to become a part of the new congregation, but a majority of the original 70 remained to faithfully attend and serve.

Belvedere FBC members still worshipping and serving.

Judy Colley, a senior adult member from the original Belvedere congregation said, “I just love all these people. I just love everything that is happening here!” Pastor Meyer, his wife Susan and daughter Allison were not planning to remain in the congregation after retirement because they did not want to be a hindrance to the new incoming pastor. However, after the development of the adoption and encouragement from Dr. McKinley and Pastor Newman, they remained and became weekly volunteers in the children’s ministry.

Growing children and youth ministries

 Church adoption was new to the Augusta/North Augusta area, and no one knew how it would work, especially across state lines. However, the adoption has proven to be a great success! Both churches have continued to minister to their local communities and have maintained their affiliations with their local Baptist Associations and State Conventions, but function together as one large congregation in many missional and outreach efforts. Over the past ten months, the attendance on the Belvedere campus has mushroomed to 375 each week. The youth ministry has grown to approximately 20, while the children’s ministry now serves 10 babies, 20 preschoolers and 30 elementary-aged children weekly. The church had planned to begin two worship services in the Fall, but instead, they had to begin two services earlier on Easter Sunday to accommodate the rapid growth.

“Warren Belvedere has received 71 requests for membership, celebrated 9 professions of faith, and is witnessing more guests in attendance each Sunday than the number of members who voted on the adoption motion October of 2021!

— Year to date additions

Baptisms at Warren Belvedere

 Pastor Newman said, “The biggest challenge is that the church is growing so rapidly that we are not able to develop leaders fast enough.” Although the church is quickly being stretched to its limits, Pastor Newman is confident that all will be fine as they develop new leaders to fill present and future needs. Mary Head, who was skeptical about the adoption at the beginning said, “I am thrilled to see how the Lord is miraculously growing His church. You know it’s from Him because of the fruit that is evident.” Yes indeed! The fruit of God’s miraculous power is evident in the rapid growth taking place at Warren Belvedere, and it is quite evident to those who prayed so many years for revival and revitalization as well as all in both congregations that “God is in this story!”

Every church has a story with chapters yet to be written as God continues to advance His Kingdom in every community. If you are interested in learning more about how adoption and fostering partnerships are strengthing churches and helping them write new chapters to their stories, contact the Church Strategies Group of South Carolina Baptist Convention at hopeforchurces@scbaptist.org.

Read another adoption story: New Hope at Calvary

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