Church Re-unites 24 Years After Split

Church splits are common news. But congregations re-uniting after a full split? That’s a God story.

In 1993, First Baptist Church of Ellisville, near St. Louis, Missouri, divided in two: 400 members left to start a new church, and 400 stayed behind. The new church, West County Community Church, built a building five miles down the road from their former church. For the next 23 years, both churches carried on separately. In 2016, the Community church got a new pastor, who learned of the history and thought about reconciliation: “The gospel is seeing broken pieces put back together. That’s the redemptive story.”

Then leaders of both congregations realized that the other church had resources they lacked, and they began to consider a merger. The original church had a graying membership and an aging building in need of costly repairs; the new church had a beautiful structure but insufficient funds to maintain it, and insufficient numbers to fill it. Not everyone was in favor of a merger, especially those members who were still hurt by the split. But many saw this as an answer to prayer, and in 2017 the leaders of both churches started merging the two congregations that had once been one.

They acknowledge they made some mistakes as they merged the two church cultures, and they lost some members, but apparently the re-united church is now thriving, with a new name, Fellowship of Wildwood. The congregation worships in the newer building; the proceeds from sale of the original building paid off the mortgage for the newer one.

I would be interested to hear more specifically what they did to heal the wounds from the church split. Contrary to the saying, time does not heal all wounds, and conflicts present unique opportunities to experience the power of the gospel. But this is a hopeful story in a time when we long to see signs that God is at work among us.

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