After fire destroys sanctuary, Florida church finds new vision by linking arms with nearby church

Fire forces members of Morningstar Baptist Church, Fort Myers, Florida, to rethink church after their 2,400-square-foot sanctuary was destroyed. With the shift has come new life after being adopted by a neighboring congregation.
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After fire destroys sanctuary, Florida church finds new vision by linking arms with nearby church

After a blazing fire consumed Morningstar Baptist Church’s 60-year-old sanctuary in February, members of the Fort Myers, Florida, church stood unwavering in their mission to reach the community and watched as God breathed unexpected new life into its vision.

“This burned down building is not Morningstar,” said Dwight Williams, interim pastor at the time. “It’s a building where we used to meet. Morningstar Baptist Church is still alive and will continue to meet to praise God and express our thanksgiving for His mercy and grace.”

Members relocated their worship services to the fellowship hall left untouched by the fire, faithfully proving the local body of believers could continue their mission.

“We are praising God, moving on and haven’t lost any fire or zeal,” Williams said. “In fact, we may have more of both now.”

Maintaining their focus

Just days after the fire, the church reopened its food pantry ministry that serves as a lifeline to hundreds in the community.

“We’re feeding 150 families a month,” he said. “People are still hungry.”

Neighboring congregations came alongside Morningstar, offering prayer, cleanup and assistance.

Members of Crossroads Baptist Church, located only five minutes down the road, jumped in quickly to help. They assisted with debris and parking lot cleanup and helped move items to a safe location on the church property to ensure Morningstar’s food pantry ministry could continue.

Although the church has been consumed with finishing the demolition process and getting wiring in other buildings on their campus to code, the next steps for Morningstar were simple: “Love God and love the community by sharing God’s love with them,” the interim pastor said.

And two months after the fire, God opened a new door for Morningstar that will ensure the church’s vision will continue for years to come — a partnership with the congregation that linked arms with them in their darkest moments.

Crossroads Baptist voted unanimously April 11 to adopt Morningstar Baptist.

“We have always seen Morningstar as a partner in the gospel, along with all the other churches within our association and state,” said David Gold, lead pastor of Crossroads.

God began leading them to partner with Morningstar five years ago when Crossroads started regularly praying and partnering with other churches in their local association and the state for the purpose of expanding the Kingdom, the pastor explained.

“We pray for and seek ways to collaborate and partner with other gospel-centered churches,” he said.

“When Morningstar approached us, it was an answer to many prayers that had been prayed.”

Crossroads now sends a worship team and teaching pastor to help lead weekly worship services on the Morningstar campus, replicating weekly services taking place at the sponsoring congregation.

“Our hope is to work with the Royal Palm Association’s church planting and revitalization team to help lead this process (of church assessment and revitalization),” Gold said.

Crossroads members will come alongside Morningstar in assisting with its vibrant food pantry ministry, cohosting Vacation Bible School in July and repairing and revitalizing a playground as a project for the students’ D-Now weekend.

The adopting church also plans to help develop and implement various outreach opportunities within their shared community and provide volunteers to canvas surrounding neighborhoods to discover prayer needs, physical needs and spiritual needs.

“The vision is to become a church that, if Morningstar ceased to exist, the community would feel the weight of that loss in every sphere of its life,” Gold said.

“Our goal is to see God glorified through this partnership by making disciples and giving every man, woman and child a repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

By Jessica Pigg
Florida Baptist Witness

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by the Florida Baptist Witness.

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