Small Oneonta church sells parsonage, gives money to IMB to reach Asia

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Two decades ago Brent Baty put his skills to work building a parsonage for his church. He dug out the basement, put in the footings and with the help of others poured the concrete slab and built the four-bedroom house brick by brick.

At the time the people of Easley Baptist Church, Oneonta, in Friendship Baptist Association, couldn’t see all the plans God had for that house. They still can’t.

But one thing they know — it’s got a broader purpose than they ever dreamed.

“We paid for it in four years and we’ve had some pastors who have lived in it,” Brent Baty said. “But we just didn’t need it anymore.”

The church had gotten small in recent years and their pastor is bivocational and has his own home, said Lois Baty, Brent’s mother.

‘Like a family’

“We’re a small church. We may have five in Sunday School and 15 to 25 for the service, but we’re like a family and our pastor is the best,” she said. “It’s just a joy to go to church on Sunday. We know everybody really well and have a good relationship.”

But they knew they were past the need for a parsonage so at a recent business meeting Brent Baty recommended that they sell it.

And before the church had even voted they knew where the money would go.

“We decided the money should go toward missions,” he said. “I told them in the meeting that I’d hate for Jesus to come back and us have money in the bank when it can be sown doing Kingdom work.”

Everyone agreed, including Pastor Toby Hollingsworth.

“We could have used it for some practical needs around the church, but we really felt that what we had was ‘barns of grain’ that were just sitting there. We wanted to give those resources back to God for Kingdom use,” Hollingsworth said. “We said, ‘Let’s just sow every bit we can back into the Kingdom and have faith God will sow back into us and take care of what we need.’”

So they called the International Mission Board (IMB). Doug Medlin, an IMB stewardship adviser, came to visit them and explained some different ways their money could be used.

And Easley Baptist decided to put the entire sale of the house — $134,000 — toward reaching the unreached peoples of Asia.

“Now their loving work is going to support others half way around the world,” Medlin said. “Gifts like these that come (through) the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are vital to us reaching the lost and discipling the church that is growing in the hard and difficult places.”

The entire church, they’re “just phenomenal people,” Medlin said. And Hollingsworth agreed — he said God’s work at Easley Baptist through the generous members has encouraged and challenged him ever since he got there.

He’s watched as older members have tithed their social security checks, living in faith that God would take care of them. And he’s watched other members continue to give faithfully even after they’re gone.

Estate giving

He mentioned one couple who were founding members of the church who set up their estate as a trust and even now that they’ve passed away the church gets a check from their estate every month.

“Even from the other side of the veil this sweet couple honors God,” Hollingsworth said. “That’s been such an example to me. That little church is so full of gracious givers.”

And the spirit of the church has gotten even sweeter since the sale of the parsonage, he said.

“The atmosphere, the spirit of the church has noticeably changed,” he said. Everyone’s level of sacrificial giving and sacrificial service seems to have stepped up to an even greater level. And new people have started attending Easley Baptist.

“It’s really just changed the whole church,” Hollingsworth said.