Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Really Small Church with a HUGE Impact

Salem Methodist Church near Hilda, SC
This church reminds me of Bethlehem, birthplace of our Savior.  We read in Matthew chapter two,  the story of the wise men looking for the baby Jesus. King Herod, a local ruler (under the thumb of Rome) , heard about this and wanted to destroy this child who he perceived as a threat to his throne.

Beginning in verse 3 we read: When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel. '"

God picked a tiny town in Judea to have a HUGE impact on the world. Salem Methodist Church reminds me of Bethlehem and of God's immense power to impact the world. This church building is located about six miles from Denmark, SC, where I live. I like this church a lot. I have taken many pictures here because this is one of the most encouraging churches I know. Most people drive by without thinking anything about its impact on the world.
Historical Marker at Salem Methodist Church

I never stopped until, quite by accident, I discovered an important bit of history.  Holland McTyeire was born on a farm near Govan, SC, and was brought up in the love and nurture of this church. Holland went into the ministry and became a Methodist bishop in Nashville, TN, where he dreamed of establishing a Methodist university. 

In the wake of the Civil War, there was not much money available for his dream, but in 1873, he got sick and had to go to New York City for treatment where he stayed with his wife's cousin and her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was so impressed with McTyeire, his character and his dream, that he gave him just short of a million dollars (this was in 1873 mind you!)  to establish his dream college. Vanderbilt gave the money under the condition that McTyeire would be President of the Board of Trustees for the rest of his life. McTyeire selected the campus and the faculty for the school which eventually became Vanderbilt University. This university (and its medical school) is known for excellence, and its graduates (including, at last count, EIGHT Noble Prize winners) have impacted the world in immeasurable ways.

This church now only has a handful of members (and I heard was in danger of closing), but its lasting impact on the planet shows how just ONE life impacted for Christ can alter the world. I wonder how many of those saints whose bodies are buried in the church's cemetery taught Holland McTyeire the Bible in Sunday School, and taught him the value of Jesus Christ through their examples.

Why do I like this church so much? It reminds me that each conversation I have with someone could yield eternal results. So small churches take heart! You may not have huge budgets, and massive worship services with spectacular videos, wonderful orchestras,  and amazing praise bands (mind you, God uses those churches, too!), but each life that is influenced by your ministry and witness is powerful in the hands of our amazing Lord and Savior.

I'm glad our Father chose little Bethlehem as the entry point of His Son into our world. I'm glad He gave us the gift of little Salem Methodist Church to impact the world in great ways through the life of Holland McTyeire. And I'm also glad He's giving me opportunities every day to put my tiny, little life in His hands so He can surprise me in Heaven one day, with all the impact I had for His glory and didn't even notice.

Do NOT measure the quality of your life by the standards of the world. Instead remember little Bethlehem and Salem Methodist Church. Remember that we know and serve a loving, powerful Father Who specializes in taking tiny things and using them to accomplish MASSIVE good!!!!

(NOTE: I just submitted a picture of the church to http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/bamberg-county/salem-methodist-church.html which includes a link for more of the history behind it!)

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