But that is what’s happening at Bethel Presbyterian Church, which is now sharing its facility with the new Believers Church. While Bethel provides a home for Believers Church as it gets established, Believers Church is helping with building maintenance and other tasks that Bethel’s aging congregation can no longer do.
And for representatives of both churches, the partnership is, quite literally, a match made in heaven.
“God went beyond what we could’ve ever imagined we could’ve had and blessed us with a partnership as great as Bethel Presbyterian. … So we want to do everything we can, as they have been such a blessing to us, to be a blessing back to them in the same way, and I hope that we will be,” said Richard Isaacs, lead pastor at Believers Church.
Believers Church, now only about a month old, was the vision of Gene and Ann Young, who serve as associate pastor and music minister, respectively. The couple sought out Isaacs to be the lead pastor, and the church’s first service was held May 3.
While the pandemic has slowed its recruitment of new members, Isaacs believes attendance will pick up once people feel comfortable attending in-person services again. Hoping to connect with a supportive, overseeing body, the church is in the process of affiliating with the Church of God Prophecy, Isaacs added.
“When you’re new like this, you need some accountability. You need structure, guidance, spiritual leadership, and that’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what we desire to have,” Isaacs said. “We want to do the best we can for the Lord, and we feel like if we have some oversight and leadership that we’ll be much better off.”
Bethel Presbyterian Church has been established in Kingsport since 1939, when its first service was held. Once a rapidly growing church, its growth has slowed in recent years as fewer and fewer young people come to church, a phenomenon many other congregations have experienced.
“We were really concerned about a couple things, but the most important thing was, ‘What does the Lord want us to do at this time and in this position in our church?’ ” said Bill Sade, an elder at Bethel. “We did a lot of homework on some different things and prayed about it and just said, ‘Lord, just give us a sign or give us a direction you would have us to go.’ ”
That’s where the idea for a partnership began. Sade said the church began to look for other groups to share use of its facility to not only help with upkeep, but also to partner with for large events, which would ideally bring in new members.
Bethel’s leadership had recently started searching for a partner church when Isaacs connected with Sade. The two discussed their individual needs and found that everything aligned harmoniously from the start, including its times of worship.
Bethel Presbyterian holds its worship services on Sundays at 9 a.m. and Sunday school at 10:30. Believers Church holds its Sunday school at 9:15 a.m. and worship at 10:30. From 10-10:30, the two congregations will have fellowship together after the pandemic ends.
“It’s just been a blessing to our church, because it’s a good fit on a variety of areas,” Sade said. “The times for church are exactly the opposite. We have a lot of elderly people, but we don’t have a lot of young people, so one thing Richard commented on was he would be glad for his church to help us with some of the maintenance. … It’s just too many things that happened and just fell in place; that doesn’t just happen by our design.”
Sade added that Bethel’s new pastor, Mark Hutton, is supportive of the partnership and is encouraging the churches to work together and expand their outreach efforts.
While their partnership is still new, the arrangement has already been mutually beneficial. Leaders of Believers Church are thankful for the ability to worship in an actual church building, while Bethel leaders are happy to have found a group that shares its fondness and respect for the facility.
Once the pandemic ends, the churches are planning to host joint outdoor activities, musical events and other outreach programs for the community.
“Even though we’re a church in a church and we have two separate congregations, it’s amazing how we’ve become one,” said Sherry Isaacs, the pastor’s wife and a worship leader at Believers Church. “We just have become family already.”
Both congregations are welcoming new members. Believers Church is holding in-person services now, while Bethel Presbyterian’s in-person services will resume June 14.