After 20 years in ministry, the members of the Monroe, N.C., Church can look back and recognize that God has led them from the beginning. He had a plan.
It all began in 1999, in a place far away from Monroe, N.C. The General Conference leaders developed a plan they called “Total Employment,” intended to persuade young graduates from Adventist colleges to move to places where there were no Adventist churches. The General Conference approached the Carolina Conference president, Kenneth Coonley, and asked if he would like to try this plan in the Carolinas. He said, “Absolutely! Why not start in Monroe, the largest city in the Carolinas with no Adventist church?”
Graduating seniors at Southern Adventist University were asked if they would like to move to Monroe in Union County, and four young couples responded. Although they visited, they never took the call. But, the Lord was ready with another solution!
Several Adventist families were already living in Union County, and were very interested in this new church-planting plan. When the graduates turned down the offer to be “tentmakers,” one of the local members, Becky Mills (Carpenter), told her friends from Nashville, Tenn., Scott and Mindi Guptill, about the opportunity, and they decided to join the church plant. The Guptills persuaded their friends from Orlando, Fla., Mark and Mary Jane Thomas, to come, too. A Bible worker, Cheryl Martin, brought some student literature evangelists to work in Charlotte, N.C., and Monroe that summer. Coonley invited Martin to join the church plant as a Bible worker, and she soon began Bible studies with several people in the area. About the same time, the group found out that, a few years earlier, $40,000 had been donated to the Carolina Conference for work in Monroe. That money was now available to help plant their church.
During the summer and fall, dozens of organizational meetings were held by the 28 members of the original core group to plan the mission of this new church, and the first Sabbath service for the Monroe Church was held September 18, 1999.
The Lord was in charge of the whole mission, and He brought together a friendly, evangelistically-minded, and hard-working group of people. There were challenges to overcome, purchases to be made, compromises to be had, and plenty of jobs to be filled. They had no pastor for the first 3 1/2 years, so the elders had to divide up the Sabbath speaking responsibilities. But, the Lord provided everything that was needed, and there was a wonderful spirit of unity in the group.
All worship services were to be evangelistic and visitor-friendly. To this day, a vegetarian buffet has been served every Sabbath as a way to get to know their guests and make friends with them. They soon became involved in outreach activities, and the church has become known in the community for their participation.
Coonley organized the Monroe group as a company in February of 2000, and in September 2001, the company officially became a church in the Carolina Conference.
Articles about this unique new church were printed in the Adventist Review, the Southern Tidings, the ASI magazine, and others. Several times the Three Angels Broadcasting Network presented the story on their network, telling the amazing way God had led in planting this church.
After several years of praying, searching, and raising funds, the Lord led them to a church building for sale in a very good area of Union County. More than 80 church members moved into the new facility in August of 2004.
Today, they have a beautiful, multicultural church family of more than 120 members with continuous growth. They have nothing to fear for the future, except as they forget how the Lord has led them in the past. Great things are expected to come because the Lord is still leading. He has given this church a big challenge, to evangelize Union County, and to share the message of the Gospel and the soon coming of Jesus.
Carolina | November 2019