100 years. That’s a long time. 100 years ago God established this church in this community to proclaim Jesus as the hope of every man, woman, boy, and girl. For 100 years Britton Christian Church has been in this neighborhood proclaiming the grace, mercy, and compassion of Almighty God. 100 years! Day-in and day-out. The Good News of our King has been shared in a myriad of ways by preachers and plumbers, homemakers, hairstylists, and hamburger flippers, roofers and restaurateurs, car salesman and cashiers, doctors, dishwashers, and debutantes, athletes and attorneys, teachers, tutors, and tax collectors, soldiers and students, musicians, mechanics, and moms. For 100 years God has used Britton Christian Church to feed the hungry, cloth the threadbare, teach the Word of God, comfort the grieving, celebrate with those who are rejoicing, visit those in prison, help with homework, and much, much more. 100 years! That’s a long time! So much has happened during the past 100 years. Just to give you a little perspective, in 1909, things were quite different than they are today.
Less than two years prior to the founding of this church, Oklahoma became a state on November 16, 1907. Oklahoma was added as the 46th state.
* In 1909, only 14% of homes had bathrooms.
* Only 8% of homes had telephones.
* Only 6% of Americans had graduated from high school.
* There were 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads in America.
* Average worker made $12.98/week for 59 hours of work.
* W.E.B. DuBois formed the NAACP and began his work to ensure equal treatment for all people.
* Life expectancy in U.S. 47.3 female, 46.3 male – 33.0 blacks.
No one had ever heard of an iPod. The only surfing that took place was on a board and not on a laptop. The Wright brothers had just sold their first airplane and the first television set was still 20 years away. Boy, have things changed in the last 100 years! With all of the changes that have taken place during the past 100 years there is one thing that has remained a constant–Britton Christian Church has been in this neighborhood proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ for all people. The Word of God, and its message of God’s Truth, has never changed. God was changing lives in 1909 and He is still changing lives in 2009!
God has used so many different people throughout these past 100 years to make Britton Christian Church the Lighthouse of Hope that it is today. I was reading a pamphlet that the members of this church put out on their 50th anniversary this past week. Listen to this:
- On Sunday, July 25, 1909, forty-seven New Testament believers met in an upstairs hall, over Dr. Robinson’s Drugstore, that was existent just west of the interurban tracks on Classen Boulevard and Britton Avenue to covenant with God and one another in the organization of Britton Christian Church. On this hot July day when air conditioning was unheard of, plans were made for a church home and during the fall and winter the frame building was erected on the corner of 90th and Olie Streets. It was formally dedicated on March 10, 1910. Needless to say much of the work was done by the members, but it was necessary to borrow $800.00 from the Board of Church Extension, which loan took eleven years to pay back with interest.
I don’t know any of the people who were present at the founding of the church, but when I arrived here nineteen years ago I met a lady named Margaret Basey, Helen Basey’s sister-in-law and Gary Basey’s aunt. I wish you could have known Margaret. She was passionate about the Lord. She was willing to serve in any way that was needed and her father, Orville Lewis, was a charter member of Britton Christian Church. You may have heard the bell ringing when you came into church this morning. That bell was the original bell at the Britton Fire Station. Orville and his brother, H.H. Lewis, bought the bell from the fire station and donated it to Britton Christian Church in 1934 in honor of their parents.
During the past 19 years I’ve been blessed to know some of those folks that go way back in the history of this church. I’ve spoken at the funeral of Ewing Martin, who lived to be over 100 years of age. Ewing joined Britton Christian Church in 1921. I spoke at his sister, Jewell’s, funeral. She joined the church in 1920. There were twin sisters that I got to know for a short while before they died, Leona and Leola. They came to Britton Christian Church in 1926. Arlene Meier’s dad and mom, Kenneth and Lillian McWethy joined the church in 1927.
There are other folks who were not charter members, but who were used by God in powerful ways to build upon what the founding members had started. You know Ann Brown, but most of you probably never had the opportunity to meet her dad and mom, Burl and JoAnn Holmes. Burl was the Chairman of the Board and JoAnn taught the 4 yr. old Sunday school class for 13 years. Burl was the Chairman of Building Committee when this sanctuary was built in 1955. Burl was there again when the church decided to build our Education Building in July of 1961.
Burl wasn’t alone in providing leadership for the building of the church that we all enjoy. Most of you know Jan Birsner, but it was Jan’s parents, Harry and Daphne Myers, who came to the church in 1943 and went to work serving the Lord. Harry worked with Burl Holmes and others on the building of the sanctuary and the education building. Harry also served as the Chairman of the Board, Treasurer, Elder, Deacon, and any other position of leadership possible. It was Harry Myers who first drove to Plano, Texas and convinced me that it was God’s will for my family to move to Oklahoma City and go to work.
In 1968, the leaders of the church decided that they needed a Fellowship Hall and Youth Center for the church. I have a copy of the promotional materials they used to build enthusiasm for the project and I recognize so many of the names who provided leadership. Burl Holmes and Harry Myers were the Chairmen, but there are many names listed by Burl’s. Names like John and Helen Anderson, Bill Clark, Jewel Mitchell, and Margaret Liles.
Ruth Ross, who is with us this morning, came to Britton Christian Church with her husband, Howard, in 1946. That was before any of the present buildings were built. They were having worship in the original frame building. Ruth says that they bought an old army barracks for $900 and her husband, Howard, plastered the walls of the barracks to give it a facelift. Ruth and Howard raised their five daughters here at Britton Church. Ruth has been an Elder, she taught the Builder’s Sunday School class for years, and served as the President of the Christian Women’s Fellowship. Ruth will celebrate her 92nd birthday next month and, after having been at Britton Christian Church for over 60 years, she says, “These are the most exciting days for the church that I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
It is so easy for us to walk into church, enjoy the music and fellowship, study the Word of God, and bow our heads in prayer and never consider that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. This church didn’t appear out of thin air. God loves this community, He was working long before any of us ever arrived, and He has brought each of us to Britton Christian Church to stand alongside of those who have gone before us in proclaiming His Word and loving our neighbors.
I wanted to share some of the beautiful story with you this morning so that you would have a better sense of how we got to where we are today. For those of you who sometimes wonder if God really does have a plan or if we are just merely ambling randomly through this life, let me share something with you. Forty-one years ago, when the leaders of this church were getting ready to try to raise the funds necessary to build the Fellowship Hall and Gym they put out a booklet called, “Sixty Years of Progress.” In the booklet you can read about the history of the church and the overall plan of the leaders for the future. There is one page that is titled, “Parking.” Here is how it reads. Now, remember that this was over forty years ago.
- Parking is a critical problem at Britton Christian and one that will not be easy to solve. A number of solutions have been offered, none of which have been regarded as practical or feasible. It would seem now that additional property must be acquired to provide this needed additional parking. This can be accomplished only when property is available and when it can be acquired at a satisfactory price. This phase of the program may prove to be the most difficult of all to complete. However, it is certain that sooner or later property will be available at a satisfactory price. Because the future growth of the church is so directly tied to the parking, the total program can never be regarded as complete until this phase is complete.
Forty-one years ago those who were sitting right here where we are right now knew that parking was a problem that had to be addressed. Just this month we acquired the final piece of property needed to expand our parking! Most of those who were here forty-one years ago were never able to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given them, but God is faithful and He is fulfilling His plan for this church. God’s plan has stretched throughout the 100 years of this church and His plan continues today.
God has been so faithful. Throughout the history of this church God’s faithfulness has been so obvious through the good times and the difficult days. Nineteen years ago, when my family first arrived here at Britton Christian Church, the church was going through some very lean years and many wondered if we’d survive. Those faithful few began to come together to pray and study God’s Word asking, “Lord, what are You doing in this community?” We stopped asking if we were going to make it or not and we started asking, “How can we be a blessing to this community?” God has been faithful and His faithfulness will go before us as we continue to seek to be a blessing to this community.
For all of you who are here today, my prayer is that you will forever look back on this day, July 26, 2009 as a pivotal day in your life. For some of you, today may be the day that your eyes are opened for the very first time to your need for Jesus in your life. For others, today may be the day that you make a decision to get off the fence and get in the game. I’ve been praying that today you will sense God calling you to get involved and use the gifts and abilities that He has given you to be a blessing to those around you. For others, maybe today will be the day that you see for the first time, through hearing about the history of this church, God’s faithfulness. I pray that God’s faithfulness, exhibited through His work here at Britton Christian Church through the past 100 years, will strengthen you in the years ahead through every experience of life.
It is my prayer that Britton Christian Church will be a living memorial to you of the faithfulness of God. A “marker” if you will, in your life, that you can always look upon and be reminded of God’s great faithfulness. Throughout the years God has called His people to set up “memorial stones,” “markers,” to remind them of who He is and what He has done. I want to give you an example of what I am talking about from Joshua 4.
Let me set the context for you. God led His people out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt and He promised them that He would lead them to a land all their own–the Promised Land. When they got to the Jordan River, the boundary of the Promised Land, it was impassable. God held back the waters of the Jordan River so that His people would have a way to get into the new land and begin their new life. When they got ready to cross over the Jordan, God spoke to His people and said,
- 5 “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7 NIV)
“These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” No matter what happens in the future, no matter how dire the circumstances may look, look back to the memorial stones and remember. Again, in Joshua 4:21-24 we read,
- 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24 NIV)
The stones were to serve the people in years to come. They were to be a reminder of God’s faithfulness and a tool to teach their children about the mighty acts of God done on behalf of His people.
Look back at Joshua 4:7. God said, “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” The word, “memorial,” is the Hebrew word, “zikrown,” and it means, “memorial” or “remembrance.” Before we leave here today, I want all of us to think back over the time that we have been a part of this church. What “memorial stones” have you set in place? What has taken place in your life that has marked you? In what way has God showered you with His grace? What “valley” has He carried you through? What door of opportunity has He opened for you that you knew He alone could have opened? Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
Most of you don’t know Ron and Jan Mirikitani. Their son, Jason and his family, Jill and Abbey, called BCC home for some time until they were in a car accident. Jill was killed in the accident and Jason suffered a severe head injury, Abbey was unharmed. It was a terrible time for us as a church. For Ron and Jan, their lives basically stopped while they took care of Jason and tried to help him recover. I got a note from Jan this week. Jan writes,
As BCC celebrates their 100th anniversary, we wanted to send along this message: Ron and I will always be grateful for the servant hearts at Britton Christian Church who ministered to each of us in countless ways, mundane to some, but so extraordinary to us. I can name each name and what they did to bless us, from cleaning out the refrigerator after the accident, to cutting Jason’s grass while we were in Beaumont and St. Louis, to caring for Abby when Jason returned to live in OKC, to giving Jason rides before he could drive at night, to buying the car seat that saved Abby’s life in Beaumont, TX, to giving Jason grief counseling after Jill’s death, to fixing Jason’s car so we could make the drive back to St. Louis, to helping us find the right doctors in OKC to assist with his recovery when he was on his own. There were so many gracious, generous, unselfish acts of servanthood. When I think of Britton Christian Church, I think of the body of Christ and prayer warriors.
God has placed a “memorial stone” in the lives of Ron and Jan Mirikani through your love, support, and service to them during the most difficult times of their lives. They will forever be reminded of God’s faithfulness as they look back and remember. Do you have a “memorial stone” to remind you of God’s mighty faithfulness in your life?
The other purpose of the “memorial stones” Joshua and the people set in place was to teach their children about God’s faithfulness. If we don’t tell them they won’t know. Tell them the stories of God’s faithfulness in your life, in the life of our church, and let them know that just as God has been faithful to us as a church and to you as an individual, so He will be faithful to them.
To mark the faithfulness of God over the past 100 years the leaders of this church have set up a “memorial stone” right outside of the door of our Education Building. Written on the front of the stone are these words:
July 25, 1909
“…from that day to this he has been faithful.” In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them. (Joshua 4:6-7 NIV)
On the back of the stone are written these words:
This memorial stone has been set in place as a witness to the faithfulness of our God. One hundred years ago God called us together and established us as a church in this community. We have sought to be faithful to His call to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. His mercy and grace have carried us from that day to this. His grace continues.
We’ve set this “memorial stone” in place not only as a reminder to us, but so that generations to come will know that our God is faithful. If you have ever been to Washington D.C. then you have seen the many memorials that dot the landscape. It is a powerful experience to say the least. Whether it be a memorial stone at Britton Christian Church or one of the many memorials at our nation’s capital, there is but one thing more powerful that a memorial and that is you and me. God has called us to be living memorials of His grace, mercy, and salvation. Jesus said,
- 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
“You are the light of the world.” Let His light shine! We come to this place to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, but we are to leave here and be living testimonies of God’s glorious grace. Let the love and faithfulness of God radiate from this place and through our lives for generations to come.
For 100 years the invitation has gone out from this pulpit. All that has happened and all that will ever happen begins by surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. If you are here this morning and you have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life then won’t you accept the greatest gift that you will ever be offered in your life? God loves you and me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to give His life for us. He died so that we might live. He paid a debt that all of us owed, but could never pay. Won’t you pray with me to ask Jesus to come into your heart and breath His new life into you?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 26, 2009
Britton Christian Church: A Living Memorial