You might think that the title is a bit weird, but as you read on you will understand. Earlier last week, the buildings that comprised the campus of Fourth Baptist Church from 1918-1997 are in the process of being demolished to make way for a new Minneapolis Public Schools HQ building. Even though Fourth Baptist has not occupied these buildings since they were sold to the Minneapolis Public Schools in 1996, nevertheless, to some these buildings represent some significance in their lives. To some, it was the place where they first heard the Gospel and were converted. To some it was the place where they met and/or married their spouse. To some it was the place where they learned about what it meant to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For our family, our context with Fourth Baptist Church did not start until after their relocation to Plymouth. My wife started working for WCTS AM 1030 in late 1999. I did not come to the Twin Cities permanently in 2002 to attend Central Seminary. My son Joseph has been attending here since shortly after his birth.
When it was announced that the old facilities were going to be torn down, I thought about taking my son to see some of the demolition. For him it was an opportunity to see heavy machinery at work, which is something that he likes. For me it was to witness some historical buildings come to an end. Some of you may know that I am a student of history. I am always trying to learn about things and why they are the way they are. I had never been inside of any of those buildings, but clearly understood the significance of these facilities in the lives of so many people. What did intrigue me was that Fourth Baptist Church at one time was a very large church. The auditorium in the picture on the left was reported to seat at least 2000 people.
When Fourth relocated in 1998 to their new facilities in Plymouth, the church auditorium was built to seat only 1000 people. Also, they left 150 people along with a staff member to plant an inner-city church, Family Baptist.
You may ask, what does all of that have to do with the title. Well, I took my son down to Broadway and Fremont a week ago and he watched the demolition taking place and I was explaining to him what was happening. Then yesterday while we were out, he asked if we could go down again, I obliged and we went yesterday before lunch. They had made a lot of progress and the only building that was still standing was the Christian School building, everything else was pretty much gone. My son was full of questions: Why did they tear the buildings down? How did Family Baptist start? Why did they tear down Clearwaters Chapel? Where is the neon sign?
As we drove around the block, I explained to him that the church is not the building, but the gathering of people. I told him that our church used to meet at this location, but we moved many years ago to where we are now and that the Minneapolis Public Schools owned the property. Then he saw Family Baptist and asked about how that church was started. I explained to him that Family was started when Fourth moved. He asked if we were members of Family? I said, no, that mom and dad were members of Fourth Baptist Church. He wanted to know when he could be a member and I talked with him as we were driving away about in order to be a church member that one had to be saved and baptized by immersion. He wanted to know about baptism and I explained it to him and we talked more about the Gospel. He does understand that he has to trust Christ, but does not totally understand the concept of being a sinner and trusting Christ. He is asking a lot of questions and we are working with him.
As we see the demolition of these buildings, we are reminded of the many great things that took place in these facilities for the glory of God. We must also remember that they are just buildings, brick and mortar, and temporal at best! I never thought that their destruction would be a topic of discussion that would eventually lead into a discussion about the church and the Gospel, but I am thankful it did!