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New Hope gives way to Good Samaritan
Foundation uses assets from closing churches to open new ones
Ed Worth, left, Pastor of Good Samaritan Church, church member Thomas Murawski, center, and Charles Gabriel, trustee of the former New Hope Baptist Church talk in front of the New Hope Church that will now be home to the Good Samaritan Church.

Lights, especially burning flames, holds a special place of significance throughout the Bible.

In Matthew 5:16, readers are encouraged to: "Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works."

Charles Gabriel takes that charge to heart, so when he saw the flame flickering in his church home at New Hope Baptist Church on Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville, he became worried.

"Being a child of God and a Christian, your light has to shine brighter and brighter all the time," said Gabriel, a former trustee of the church.

"I’m afraid some of the lights had gotten dim.

"Our membership had dwindled and dwindled. People had moved away. Some members lost interest and there really wasn’t the Lord’s work going on."

Instead of letting the church’s embers extinguish, Gabriel sought a way to keep things going through the Chattahoochee Baptist Association’s New Work Foundation.

Passing the torch

"I didn’t want us to sell it," Gabriel said. "With all of the souls that had been saved here, all of the prayers that had been sent up and all of the work and tears that were put into this building, it wasn’t meant for one person to profit from it being sold.

"I thought the church should be given for missions or for further work for the kingdom of our Lord and Savior."

After seeking guidance from officials with the association, Gabriel recommended to the rest of the remaining officers that they donate the church’s assets — bricks to bank accounts — to the association to be used by the New Work Foundation, which helps new churches establish their roots.

After much discussion, the group voted to transfer its assets.

"We had our last service here in September," Gabriel said. "It was sad to the extent that it was the last blessing I’d receive worshipping here, but it was a burden lifted because I knew that everything was still in God’s hands."

The association, a network of more than 70 churches in Hall and surrounding counties, started the foundation in 2007. Sometimes it offers upstart churches financial assistance; other times, it’s just a resource for words of wisdom.

"When a new church is getting started, they have all kinds of needs. We do what we can to let them know they are not out there all alone. Knowing that makes a big difference," said Jojo Thomas, director of missions for the association.

Helping new churches blossom in their individual communities also helps the association’s goal to reach new people.

"New congregations tend to reach a higher percentage of folks who don’t have a relationship with the Lord," Thomas said.

"Since starting the foundation, we have helped 21 churches and we’ve seen 600 folks be baptized through those churches. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people."

Bringing people to the Lord was just the thing Gabriel hoped was a part of God’s plan for New Hope when the church closed Sept. 25.

Sunday his hopes will become a reality.

Fanning the flames

"We had our first service here last Sunday. I was sitting in the front pew, looking up at the baptism (pool) and wondered how long it would be before we could use it," said Ed Worth, senior pastor of Good Samaritan Baptist Church, which now meets in the New Hope building.

"After service we had a meal in the dining hall and a young lady sat in front of me. Of all the people in the dining room, God put her in front of me. This Sunday, she’s being baptized.

"I love when God shows up and shows off."

Worth says God doesn’t always make his presence obvious.

"I was at the Chattahoochee Baptist Association Convention when (New Hope) turned their church over, but I had no idea I was watching my future pass in front of my eyes," Worth said.

Before they became the newest residents in the Browns Bridge church, Worth’s congregation was used to more humble accommodations.

"We started out meeting in the food pantry behind the Chattahoochee association office on McEver Road," Worth said.

"When the summer came last year, the heat got so bad that they let us come up to the front offices for our meetings."

Though they regularly met among shelves of canned goods and other nonperishables, that didn’t put a damper on their passion.

"There was a three-month period last year where we baptized 21 people," Worth said. "The Lord has been in this ever since we have been working together."

For the last 14 months, Worth’s congregation has been focused not on getting a more permanent home, but on community outreach. The group regularly sets up barbecue grills and picnic tables in parking lots to pass out refreshments to passers-by. It’s a tradition they plan to continue in their own parking lot.

In addition to the grills is a "Curbside Prayer" sign.

"You’d be surprised how many people would pull over and all they wanted was to be prayed with," Worth said.

"It’s some hurting people out there that need a little encouragement."

Blue-collar outreach

Some of those injured souls belong to the working-class that Worth is determined to reach.

"If I’m remembered as the blue collar minister, then I’ll take that as a compliment," Worth said.

"I’m after the working-class folks. Whether that’s the waitress that my wife and some of the other ladies invited to church, or the mechanic pulling wrenches and getting grease under his fingernails.

"That’s where my heart is. That’s the target a lot of churches are missing."

In an effort to reach that audience, the Good Samaritan church will move its regular service to Saturday nights Feb. 18 and use Sunday morning services for Bible study.

"We all have someone in our family, or maybe it’s us, that has dealt with issues with drugs or alcohol. They’re programmed to doing something on Saturday night. We’re giving them an alternative to Joe’s bar," Worth said.

"Instead of going to the bar to hear music, they can come be with us and we’ll share the Lord with you. Our music is going to be a kind of blues gospel. It’s going to be up-tempo, but the words will be clear and pointed at Jesus.

"We’ll use Saturday as a promotion to get people to come back on Sunday, where we’ll really get into the word," Worth said. "They surrender to Jesus on Saturday, but on Sunday, we finish the whole thing out. It’s the second punch in this plan to make disciples out of them for Jesus. That’s what it’s really all about."

Although their plans may be considered unorthodox by some, there are other folks who are excited about the congregation’s enthusiasm.

"Our congregation had gotten small and some of the lights were dim; but these people are coming in fresh and their lights are shining bright," Gabriel said.

"They’re on fire. That’s the way it’s supposed to be."