I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18, NKJ).
On October 10, 1821, the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church (shown above in a photo taken by Jessie Johnston) was formally organized as a particular congregation of what is now the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). The congregation celebrated the milestone of its 200th anniversary by holding an alumni reunion over the weekend of August 6-8. We were blessed with the participation of all eight living, former pastors of the church as well as many other former members and friends of the congregation. The events of that weekend are summarized in this video made by filmmaker, Eric Filson of Filsonian Motion Pictures.
On the weekend of October 9-10, the congregation held a more intimate celebration in which, among other things, we premiered the documentary film, “Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church: 200 Years of God’s Grace.” In addition to telling the history of the congregation – a history of sacrifice and service enabled by God’s Spirit – the film is particularly noteworthy because it tells the story of how the congregation was revitalized after going through a period of decline over several decades in the 1960s-1980s. At a time when the prevailing mindset was that old, dying churches should be left to die while resources were channeled to new church plants in more favorable locations, the members of this congregation were willing to make themselves uncomfortable to do all that they could, under God, to see their congregation revitalized and brought back to health.
Starting in the late 1980’s, the congregation committed itself to prayer and sacrificial giving as well as to new outreach efforts. They invested in bringing a young seminary graduate to join the ministry team and lead in outreach and evangelism. God blessed these efforts and, by His grace, the church began to grow. Over the next thirty plus years, the congregation has nearly tripled in size and has experienced a significant spiritual renaissance. It is all the work of God, and yet it is clear that He used visionary leadership along with the steadfast labors of the people to make it happen. What was once a congregation heading toward its demise is now a thriving congregation of nearly 200 souls, witnessing effectively to its community and to the nearby university with its tens of thousands of students.
We offer this little history of what God did among us in humble recognition that this is a testimony to His glory and goodness. In sharing this film, we want to affirm that Jesus is still building His church and that He can and does use older congregations in His work. We hope this may be an encouragement to other churches in similar situations. May the Lord continue to work among His people! Soli Deo gloria!