BURNSVILLE — Burnsville Christian Church sat empty the other day as elder Eddie Nay walked through the place with a smile as wide as the church pews.
He said he recalls some of the talk at the ministry just a few short years ago — talk that maybe the church was as dead as the surrounding cemetery and should close its doors permanently as its attendance dwindled in the rural area near the Decatur County line.
“I told them firmly, ‘Not on my watch,'” Nay said.
Although Sunday worship numbers still hover in the vicinity of 25 people, the country church is seeing signs of resurrection from an unlikely source — a joint revival with four other small churches, two of which are attracting the same level of attendance.
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A number of churches in Bartholomew County and the surrounding area still stage revivals. But rarely do churches join forces for more than a single service.
This revival that begins at 9:45 a.m. Sunday at Burnsville with Grammy-nominated and nationally touring Southern gospel singer Donnie Sumner runs through Wednesday with East Columbus Christian Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Bear Creek Baptist Church and also Mt. Pleasant Christian Union Church in a supportive role.
The Burnsville building seats about 300 people. Nay would love to see the place overflowing with God’s blessings — and people.
“We’ve got a few chairs we could put in the hallway if we had to,” said Nay, who recalls Nazarene revivals from his childhood. “And every one of our classrooms have speakers (connected to the sanctuary).”
The Rev. Kendall Wildey, principal of Columbus Christian School and a member of East Columbus Christian Church, sees the revival as especially significant. He will preach at Wednesday’s closing service.
“I think this is important just from the concept of building community,” Wildey said. “As Christians, we really need to unite more. I think that, over time, many of our churches may have inadvertently built up walls and done their own thing.
“But the truth is, even though we may have a few little minor doctrinal differences, they’re not important in the big picture and we need to break down barriers.”
The Rev. J.D. Hopkins, Burnsville Christian’s young, part-time pastor, hatched the idea of reaching out to other churches. One, Shiloh Baptist, sits less than three miles away on Indiana 46.
“We’re all one family,” Hopkins said. “That’s what the heart of this is. And this is simply extending our family out into the community.”
Hopkins said he’s never seen teamwork quite like this. He also mentioned that when he reads of the early Christian church in the Bible’s Book of Acts, he sees a unity without denominational or other barriers.
“God simply wants us to love all our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Hopkins said. “Burnsville may be just one little pin on the map. But I’ve noticed that the surrounding community is pretty huge.”
Organizers say the point of the revival is not the attendance, although they appreciate the fact that there can be strength in numbers — that is, numbers of believers unified for a cause.
“And even if one person makes a commitment to follow Christ, this is worth it,” Nay said. “This is about furthering the kingdom.”
Nay and others said they believe the revival is the beginning of a series of shared events. Already, leaders and organizers are discussing other possibilities.
“This just a first step,” Hopkins said. “But I believe it’s the beginning of a great relationship.”
A revival using the theme “A Community on the Word of God” will be at 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday at Burnsville Christian Church, 2891 S. County Road 900E.
J.D. Hopkins of Burnsville Christian will speak Sunday, with the music of One Way Gospel 4.
Ancel Harden of Shiloh Baptist Church will speak Monday, with music from Shiloh’s Judy Jones.
Marcus Speer of Jennings Church of Christ will speak Tuesday, with music from East Columbus Christian’s Ron Bridgewater.
Kendall Wildey of East Columbus Christian will speak Wednesday with communion, with more music from Bridgewater. Refreshments will follow service.
All offerings will support local missions.