FBC Hollister reflects, looks for God to lead
By Allen Palmeri
April 4, 2006
HOLLISTER – First Baptist Church, Hollister is getting back to basics these days.
“Pray for God’s direction for us in ministry,” said the church’s pastor, Danny Hartwell.
God has allowed the church building to be burned to the ground. The church is acknowledging that God was—and is—sovereign in the burning.
“We have realized that God, for some reason, was through with that building,” said Hartwell, who served as Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) ministry evangelism consultant from 2001-2003.
Jim Wells, director of missions, Tri-County Baptist Association, suggested to Hartwell that the congregation begin meeting in the Baptist Student Union at nearby College of the Ozarks in Branson. The congregation took him up on his offer March 26.
“We had a real good service,” Hartwell said. “Sunday night we had a time of reflection and memory sharing. I was pleased that most of the comments that were made were not about the building, but were about the congregation.
“Several pastors came to the site when it was still smoldering. I received phone calls from countless pastors. Jim Wells has been a tremendous support. He has offered a lot of personal support, too, to my wife (Janie) and me.”
It was around 12:20 a.m. March 19 in Taney County when Hartwell got a phone call informing him that the church was burning.
“When I got about two blocks away, I saw that gold glow,” he said. “That wasn’t good.”
When The Pathway contacted Hartwell March 20, he asked Missouri Baptists to pray for “a certain young man who is in the hospital with burns.” Prayers for that young man are still in order, the pastor said. Hartwell has visited with the young man a couple of times since the burning and shared the Gospel with him.
“He’s scared but very receptive,” the pastor said. “We’ve had some good visits. In the congregation, I have sensed very little anger toward him. The realization is, this is a young man who needs Christ. That’s their attitude. They’re praying for that. I have encouraged them to pray for him whenever they pray. He’s our top priority on our prayer list right now.”
Hartwell asked Missouri Baptists to keep praying for the young man “first and foremost,” above the needs of the First Hollister congregation.
“As of now the police do not consider him a suspect and (he) will not be until the investigation leads that way,” the pastor said.
Hartwell said he has gotten over the initial shock of God allowing his church building to be burned to the ground. Since then, he said the congregation of about 65 has been together a couple of times and come to the realization that “the building was a tool. We didn’t lose anything that belonged to us.
“We’ve gone to prayer, asking God to show us what our ministry is, what He wants us to do. Then, we will build back a building that can reflect that ministry—that can be used for that ministry. I have absolutely no idea (how long that might take). Right now we’re waiting on the insurance company.”