Pillar and Ground Independent Baptist Church opens in Gibson City

GIBSON CITY — Not long after Wisconsin native Jeremy Baier arrived at Gibson City’s Prairie Baptist Church, the small congregation began to fall apart.

“What we saw after we got here was struggle and tension — power struggles over who wants to be in charge,” the 42-year-old pastor recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Really, God? Is this where you called me to?’

“Boy, it was really tough.”

Just three years later, Prairie Baptist Church is no more. The church, whose membership consisted of 10 families when Baier began serving as its pastor in 2014, eventually lost all of its members, prompting Baier to shut it down several weeks ago.

“There was literally nobody left in the church, just my family and I,” Baier said.

On Sunday, the church at 628 E. 12th St. re-opened as the Pillar and Ground Independent Baptist Church. Following Sunday’s “grand opening” 10:30 a.m. service, Baier is now building the church from the ground up — much like its name implies.

It marks a fresh start for Baier, who prays that things will go smoother than they did in the past three years of him leading Prairie Baptist.

Baier said he was met with resistance from Prairie Baptist’s members after he arrived there three years ago and tried to implement policies. Baier said there had been a couple of incidents involving “people who work with children” in the church, and he wanted to make sure there were policies in place to prevent such things from happening again. Unlike most churches, Prairie Baptist didn’t have any policies, Baier said, so he began the process of setting some.

“We tried to implement things that would keep us safe and above board,” Baier said.

“But as soon as I started saying, ‘We need to install policies for what a church member is and what they can do, and we’re going to start asking questions,’ that’s when everybody’s tails went between their legs, and they’re like, ‘No, no, no.’ And that’s when a lot of tension started,” Baier said.

A “gossip chain” within the church’s membership then got going, which “stirred everybody up against us,” Baier said.

The church’s members eventually all left, prompting Baier to close the church, which had been in operation for 23 years when he first arrived.

“It was just what happened,” Baier said. “We didn’t provoke it; we didn’t bring it upon ourselves.”

Baier said he hopes his church — his new church — can regain its membership numbers in due time.

“I still love the people who stabbed us in the back. I still love the people who lied to us. I still love the people who lied about us,” Baier said. “But it’s one of those things; it’s like, ‘Man, I’m just trying to help you and this is how you treat me?’ So we look back and we say, ‘That’s going to have to be in the past.’

“We’re going to go forward and say, ‘Boy, I don’t know how many people we’re going to have here, but it doesn’t matter.’ If we get one or two other families (as members) and their lives can be changed for the right, I think God will at least say, ‘Well, you’ve been a good and faithful servant.’ What we don’t want to do is start out by creating an atmosphere where everybody gets to be in charge. That’s where Prairie Baptist has to be buried.

“We’re trying to start it from the ground up to do it the way we believe that God would have it done,” Baier said. “So we’re not going to be fighting with people when we say, ‘Well, this is what a member is — this is what they can do; this is what they’re allowed to do; this is what they’re not allowed to do.’”

Pillar and Ground Independent Baptist Church holds three services a week — at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, 5 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Thursday. The services feature familiar hymns and the kind of straight Bible preaching that “made America great,” Baier said.

“We’re not going to be a philosophy center,” Baier said, noting that “a lot of churches have gone away from just what does the Bible say and gone to philosophy.”

“So when people come to our church, nobody’s going to walk away and say, ‘I wonder what the pastor meant by that?’

“We just read the Bible. We’re not smart enough to correct it or to say what a better translation would be. We’re going to say, ‘Here’s what it says,’ because that’s what changed my life. I was on a path that was not healthy, and God saved me and delivered me from that and put me on the path of Christ.”

Before arriving at Prairie Baptist Church, Baier served for five years as a layman/church worker/deacon at Wilde Wood Baptist Church in his native Osh Kosh, Wis. Previously, he had served as an assistant pastor for a year in Port Huron, Mich.

Baier and his wife of 11 years, Kellie, decided upon the Gibson City church from among several other options. He said he wanted to remain within an easy driving distance of Osh Kosh, where his father still lives, and Gibson City fit that bill. The church’s pastor for the previous 10 years had moved to Indiana.

Baier and his wife, 41, a native of Nebraska, have four daughters: Lavinia, 8; Havilah, 6; Rosalia, 2; and Marilla, 16 months.

They met while he was studying for his degree in pastoral theology at Fairhaven Baptist College in Chesterton, Ind. She had attended the same college 10 years earlier, earning a degree in secondary education, before she began teaching in Tennessee, Indiana and Washington.

For more information about Pillar and Ground Independent Baptist Church, people can call 217-784-8800 or visit www.pillarandgroundgibson.com.

Categories (3):News, Living, Religion

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