20 June, 2024

Batesville, Ind., Congregation Helps Metamora Church Close with Dignity

by | 28 May, 2024 | 4 comments

METAMORA CHURCH OF CHRIST (FROM A 2016 FACEBOOK POST)

By Chris Moon 

One year ago, Metamora Church of Christ decided to shut its doors. 

The church had seen its congregation dwindle to just a handful of members in its rural Indiana town of about 200 residents.  

The church didn’t have the resources to cover the cost of its building. It was a stretch to pay the insurance and to keep the propane tank full. And the lawn still needed to be mowed. 

Founded in 1841, time finally had run out on Metamora Church of Christ. 

“It was kind of a realization that it probably had run its course,” said Jeff Stone, lead minister of nearby Batesville Christian Church

But what to do? What is the best way for a church to close? 

That’s when the leaders of Metamora Church of Christ approached Stone and the elders in Batesville. Would they help the church sell its building and make sure something good came out of a difficult situation? 

The answer, of course, was “yes.” Something good could come out of a difficult situation. 

“It’s time to repurpose those funds,” Stone told Christian Standard. 

CLOSING ITS DOORS 

Metamora Church of Christ held its last church service on Mother’s Day in 2023. 

Metamora is about 20 minutes from Batesville, and members of the Metamora congregation had some connections in the church there.  

Batesville Christian church averages 250 to 300 in attendance. 

The elders in Batesville found it easy to offer their help. 

“Generally, it has been met (in the Batesville congregation) with ‘Sure, why wouldn’t we help this smaller sister church that’s had some struggles?’” Stone said. “It’s the right thing to do.” 

Metamora Church of Christ deeded its building to Batesville Christian Church. 

A real estate agent who is a Batesville member helped complete the sale of the building to the local county government. The agent didn’t charge a real estate commission. 

The building and 1.3 acres of land sold for $250,000. The county will renovate the structure for use as a health center in Metamora. 

FIRST PRIORITIES 

Batesville Christian Church invested the proceeds from the sale on a short-term basis while it considered how to use the money. 

The first response was to consider the recommendations of the members of Metamora Church of Christ. 

Their top priority was to help their local church camp—Mahoning Valley Christian Service Camp. That is the same church camp Batesville Christian Church supports.  

So, Batesville sent $50,000 of the Metamora proceeds to help with a pool project at the camp. 

Metamora’s members also wanted a significant amount of money to be spent planting churches—to help grow new churches out of Metamora’s closure. 

So, Batesville sent $25,000 to support church-planting efforts with the Renew Movement

And Metamora’s members wanted to spread the work of Jack Cottrell, a longtime theology professor at Cincinnati Christian University who once served as a weekend preacher at Metamora. The idea was to help finance the translation of some of Cottrell’s books into other languages.  

Ten thousand dollars went to that effort.  

Charlie McGee, an elder at Batesville Christian Church, worked with Metamora’s members as they prioritized projects to receive funds. 

“It’s been very encouraging,” said McGee, who is a former pastor and church planter himself. “That kingdom focus is just so important. I wish it were something that we saw all the time. Sadly, it’s not.” 

‘WORTHY CAUSES’ 

With those priorities in place, Batesville’s elders sought input from their own members on ways to use the proceeds from the Metamora sale. 

JEFF STONE

“We just opened it up,” Stone said.  

Batesville Christian Church members suggested a variety of uses for the funds. Stone said the elders were prayerful about what to support, and they were sure to keep the former Metamora Church of Christ members aware of their plans. 

Batesville Christian Church distributed the first portion of the money in March—sending $141,000 to a variety of causes.  

That included the funds that went to the church camp and toward church planting and the translation of Cottrell’s books.  

Other money went to Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo., Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn., and to multiple missions and Christian education projects.  

“It’s been nice to be able to share and give out those gifts and bless those worthy causes,” Stone said. 

One suggestion was to support families in the Batesville school system that are struggling financially.  

Two women from the Metamora church work in the school district and are organizing that effort, which is supported with $5,000 from the Metamora Church of Christ closure.  

“It’s just coming out of the hearts of these two ladies,” Stone said. 

‘BEING FAITHFUL STEWARDS’ 

Stone expects the remaining funds to be distributed in the next 6 to 12 months, after more ideas are brought to the table and after the church’s elders have been able to consider them. 

At this time, Batesville Christian Church hasn’t directly retained any of the funds from the Metamora closure. 

“We’re trying to be above reproach on that,” Stone said. “If we can give it all away, we probably will. That’s the spirit of the church.” 

The Batesville-Metamora partnership shows church closures don’t have to be viewed negatively, Batesville’s leaders said. 

McGee said church closures sometimes are inevitable. McGee’s father was Tom McGee, who served as president of St. Louis Christian College in the 1980s and 1990s.  

“Dad and I used to have discussions about the fact that sometimes, when the community is shrinking, it becomes untenable for a church to remain in existence,” McGee said. “If a church becomes financially unviable, what do you do?” 

Stone said the goal should be to ensure that the accumulated resources of a closing church are spent wisely for the kingdom of God. 

“Rather than wring our hands and view it as a defeat, which is how a lot of churches see it, it can really be a blessing to the kingdom,” Stone said. 

In Metamora’s case, the church left behind significant resources for the kingdom of God. 

“Here’s a chance for the Metamora church to finish strongly with a significant kingdom impact,” Stone said. “It’s not a failure. It’s not a defeat. . . . This is just being faithful stewards, expanding the original efforts begun in 1841.” 

Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado. 

4 Comments

  1. Bob Stacy

    What a thrilling report! I’ve known of the Metamora church since I was a student at The Cincinnati Bible Seminary in the 1950s. I first heard of Metamora from Professor Wilkie Winter. Perhaps he was from Metamora, or perhaps he preached there back in those days. That I do not remember. This present situation and the solution present an example of how a church closure can be a blessing to Christian people and Christian works engaged in proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world. I thank God for the leadership of the Batesville church and for those of the Metamora church, both of whom sought to glorify Christ even in a church closure. May others who are forced to face the same situation be challenged by this example.

  2. Jon Weatherly

    Bravo, Metamora and Batesville!

  3. Phil Marley

    Excellent! I hope other churches do the same “blessing Kingdom Projects” as they “partner with another area church.

    We have moved far away from horse & buggy and needing churches within 10 miles apart.

  4. Michael Bratten

    I love it! Thanks for the story. It helps others consider what they ought to be doing to wisely invest in the kingdom, “for the times, they are a-changing”. Transportation used to be more difficult, so the churches were closer together, etc. And I love the word “repurpose”. What a great way to think of kingdom funds and assets. The kingdom must continue reaching the lost!

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