How One Man Saved a Church

About one hundred years ago, a little Baptist church was started at the corner of Erie and Howe Streets, in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The congregation had purchased a church building from another denomination, but to do so they had to go deeply in debt.

For nine years the little congregation struggled along. But then, worn out from trying to pay off their debt, and discouraged because so many people did not seem to care enough to help, the little congregation decided to close their church. The clerk was instructed to grant letters of dismissal to any and all who wished to take their membership elsewhere. Then the doors of the little church were locked. That was in July, 1860.

But there was one member of that little church who refused to quit. Like Nehemiah in the Bible, he had nobody else to consult, so he consulted himself. In that way he secured unanimous consent to hold a one-man prayer meeting on the steps every Wednesday.

Of course this one man missed the warm fellowship he had enjoyed when the church was open, and many people came together to worship. But he soon learned to depend more and more upon having fellowship with God, his heavenly Father.

Now genuine prayer always brings its reward. At first, this church-steps worshiper winged his prayers upward for divine refreshing. Then he began to give legs to his prayers, to carry them out into the neighborhood. Before long, he discovered another church member who was willing to join him on the church steps every Wednesday evening. The two men found two more. The four found another four, and the eight soon grew to sixteen.

Then autumn arrived. The nights were too chilly for church-step meetings. Should the little band stop holding services until warmer weather? No, they needed to worship God even when it was cold, and they did love their fellowship together. Should they go to some home where they might find warmth and welcome? No, this would take the people away from their church with all its sacred memories. So, there was only one thing to do: the little group decided to ask the trustees to reopen the church. And when they saw how earnest the people were, the trustees gladly consented to open the doors again.

Now the church-steppers did not doze off as soon as they were admitted to a comfortable room. The rekindled fires of enthusiasm burned brightly, and soon the building was filled with eager people who decided that the time had come for them to call a pastor. The church property was deeded to one of the deacons, who agreed to pay off the debt. Then he leased the building back to the church.

Another one of the deacons in that old Erie Street church was an excellent Bible teacher. From his Bible class came many of the future leaders of the church.

One Sunday a fourteen-year-old boy came into Deacon Sked's class. Some people in the church said that you could not expect much from this boy, because he was too impractical. But he kept on coming to the class, and the next year he joined the church. At that time, he was earning only $4.50 a week and was boarding himself, but he always gave a part of his earnings to the church. The boy, soon grown to become a man, was a member of that church for seventy-two years, until long after the name of John D. Rockefeller became famous.

After a few years, the church moved to the corner of Euclid Avenue and Huntington (now Eighteenth Street). In 1868, the church was known as the Second Baptist Church, but in 1877, it chose the more meaningful name of Euclid Avenue Baptist Church. Out of that little one-man congregation grew a great church numbering at one time over two thousand members.

The church was a missionary church. It established several mission churches, a German Baptist Church, and the Baptist Home for Old People. It carried on street preaching, meetings for newsboys, a day nursery for children of mothers who had to work, classes and schools for Italians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, and other foreign-born Clevelanders. Several young men from the church became ministers, and four young women were sent as missionaries to India and China.

Perhaps you would like to know the name of this one man who had saved what became such an important Baptist church. That would be interesting to know, but his name has not been preserved in any of the records. Just as we have the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, who represents every person who has given his life for his country, so here we have the church steps of this unknown worshiper who, by his steadfast devotion to God and his church, may represent you and me, if only we will be as loyal.—Asa Zadel Hall

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