Fourth of a four-part series, part I part II part III part IV
In September of 1994 Bible Center Church was 51 years old and was without a Senior Pastor for only the second time in its history. Pastor Robert Spradling resigned after 26 fruitful years of ministry, and the church asked Rev. Jimmie Jones, former pastor of Johnston Chapel Baptist Church in Princeton, WV, to fill the pulpit while the church conducted a search for its next Senior Pastor, a ministry he would continue until October 1997. Through his example in life and his preaching of the Word, Pastor Jones was a blessing to the church during the three years without a Senior Pastor. The day to day work of the ministry was carried on through the remaining pastoral staff which included Pastors Peter Faulkner, James McQuerrey, and Mike Reynolds, and Diana Reynolds as Daycare Director.
The pastoral search committee conducted an exhaustive search for potential candidates for pastor of BCC, but this group as well as the congregation as a whole would little have suspected that the next pastor was already ministering at Bible Center Church. Rev. Shawn R. Thornton was raised in Mishawaka, Indiana, and first came to West Virginia to prepare for the ministry at Appalachian Bible College. After graduation and his marriage to Lesli Russell of Laurel, Maryland, he continued his education at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland. After completing his Master of Divinity Degree, he joined the staff at Limerick Chapel in Limerick, Pennsylvania, as Assistant Pastor of Christian Education and Youth. In 1995, the Thorntons returned to serve at Appalachian Bible College where Shawn served as registrar and instructor and Lesli became the Dean of Women.
Pastor Thornton first ministered at Bible Center in the Wednesday evening Bible Institute, which has used instructors from ABC since the early days of ministry in Charleston. He was a last minute replacement for another faculty member who could not teach that session. In January of 1997 he was asked to serve as interim youth pastor, a position he held in addition to his duties at the college. The expectation was to fill this vacancy on an interim basis so the next Senior Pastor would be able to be involved in the call of the next permanent Youth Pastor.
It was during this interim ministry that the search committee and the congregation at large began to sense God's leading, and Pastor Thornton was called as the fourth pastor of Bible Center Church in September of 1997. He began his preaching duties in November of that year. An installation service was held on January 18, 1998, with the Rev. David Childs, Dr. Paul Reiter and Dr. Daniel Peters as special guests. Pastor Donavon Roberson joined the staff as Youth Pastor on the same day as Pastor Thornton's installation. During the next years additions to the pastoral staff included, Mr. Lee Walker as church administrator, Rev. Jesse Waggoner, Pastor Richard Thompson and Rev. David Jones.
In December of 1998 the church once again entered into a ministry of establishing another church in the area. This time a partnership was formed with Peoples Baptist Church, in Teays Valley. Pastor Peter Faulkner would become the interim pastor of the church while a program was instituted to reinvigorate this struggling work. In April of 2002, he left the staff of Bible Center Church when he was called to be the full time pastor of Peoples Baptist Church. Bible Center Continues to support the work of Peoples Baptist Church as a missionary work and will do so until January of 2005.
Pastor Thornton led the leadership of the church to formulate a Mission Statement that continues to give clarity and vision to the total ministry of the church. As his predecessors, Pastor Thornton has maintained a strong emphasis on the expository preaching of God's word and a passionate presentation of the gospel to the lost.
During the last five years a number of new ministries have begun, including: The Bible Center Church website, many adult small groups, new children's ministries, summer prayer fellowships, a media outreach offering TV Life Messages via cable television, the Bible Center Orchestra, a care ministry, the expansion Bible Center Christian School to now include double tracking of grades K-4th, and the addition of a third morning worship service. Support for missions remains strong, with the church supporting nearly 60 missions works around the world. Members of our pastoral staff have been involved in missions trips to various places in the USA as well as Asia, Europe and South America.
In 2001, the church entered into a new construction program called "Embracing the Future," which saw the construction of several classrooms, additional flexible auditorium space and a refurbished auditorium. The total cost for this effort was $1.93 million. This additional space has provided the church room for additional growth. The church saw an all time high attendance on Sunday morning, April 20, 2003 with 1621 persons attending worship services.
On our 60th anniversary Sunday, on April 6, 2003, Pastor Thornton unveiled a vision for the future called, Bible Center 2015. This vision statement offers a snapshot of what we envision this ministry being in the year 2015. We trust this vision will give us direction and focus as we seek to maintain the mission of Bible Center Church, which is: We exist to glorify God by producing mature followers of Jesus Christ.
On our 60th anniversary Sunday Pastor Shawn Thornton shared these words: "We who serve and worship together today follow a 60-year stream of faithful servants. Each era of our church's history is a testimony of God's goodness and grace, and I thank God for the wonderful work of His hand in and through this local assembly of believers known as Bible Center Church. Let us remember the faithful cloud of witnesses that surround us. As we look for the blessed hope and glorious return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, let us remain Bible-centered in all we think, do and say."
© 2002 Bible Center Church
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