Where were we? Where are we?

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilledmaster builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10–11 

                Have you seen the gallery of former Eastern Hills pastors located in the hall behind the sanctuary? I periodically just stop and admire the great men who came before me. I like the reminder that what we are doing today at the church is an extension of the work that was done before us. Bill Dodson helped start the work on this hill 64 years ago, in 1956, when he established a congregation of believers that met in a tent here in the Forest Hills neighborhood. Three years later, in 1959, Harper Shannon continued to lead Eastern Hills in reaching Montgomery for Christ. After that, Drew Gunnels pastored Eastern Hills for 10 years from 1962 to 1972. In the 16 years that comprised the first three pastorates of this church the Lord did miraculous work. The church completed 4 successful building campaigns and grew membership from 0 to 2,000 people. Of course, God’s work did not stop with those three pastors. We are all grateful for James Jones, Dewey Corder, Kevin McCallon, and Rick Marshall who pastored Eastern Hills faithfully for years to follow, but it is God’s work through those first three pastors that I would like to impress upon you. For them, the groundwork of ministry had not yet been laid on this hill. They had to walk forward into new territory, solving problems and stepping out on faith as they went. When the first tent was erected, there was no guarantee that people would continue to fill it. When Bill Dodson moved to Montgomery as the first pastor, there was no guarantee that the newly founded Eastern Hills Chapel would become sustainable as Eastern Hills Baptist Church. After only three years of existence, there was no guarantee to Harper Shannon that Eastern Hills would be a surviving ministry. This church was built on faith, faith that Christ would multiply the meager efforts of men and women who were dedicated to growing His kingdom. This faith is what led Drew Gunnels to say he “realized God was writing ‘OPPORTUNITY’ in large letters over this area of Montgomery.”

                I want to remind you all today that God has not erased those large letters. This area of Montgomery still screams “OPPORTUNITY” for God’s kingdom. There are 8,151 people living within a one-mile radius of Eastern Hills. Of that number, 4,157 people are unchurched. If we reached only 10% of those unchurched people for Christ, we would be changing 416 lives forever for the glory of God! What an amazing opportunity indeed! This kind of work, however, will not happen without faith. If we walk merely by sight, our hearts will be blinded to our God-given opportunity.

Moving forward, we will continue to build on the foundation of Christ, laid by pastors and other faithful men and women before us at Eastern Hills, but the road ahead is no more certain to us today than it was for them. We must walk forward in faith as they walked forward in faith. We must step into uncertain territory. We must give in sacrificial ways. We must make decisions based on God’s future for Eastern Hills. Wherever God leads we must go, and we must walk by faith, not by sight. We must and we will allow God to direct our steps even when we cannot see the ground below. We will do all and give all for God’s kingdom, God’s power, God’s glory. We will continue do the work of His church on this hill in Montgomery.

Pastor Josh