LAND ISSUES: A tale of two churches

Location, location, location.

Real estate agents tout it, but for Memorial Baptist Church in Spring and University Baptist Church in San Antonio, their locations presented distinct problems. Memorial was surrounded by a changing neighborhood it wasn’t able to reach and University owned acres of land it could neither use nor sell, and the taxman was coming.

What’s a church to do? Stay and try to reach a changing neighborhood, move and risk destroying the church, pay taxes it can’t afford, or sell it all and relocate?

As both churches faced these issues, the Lord stepped in, they say, led them in completely different directions, and advanced the ministries of both churches.

Memorial Baptist Church had been in the same location in suburban Houston since constituting in 1931. The church had been a successful, growing church with an outreach to its community.

But when Pastor Cliff Mayton began his ministry at Memorial in 1999, the church was witnessing the transition of the neighborhood around it.

“The area was 85 percent Hispanic,” Mayton said.

Most were first-generation Hispanics and the language barrier was nearly impossible to overcome. The church tried to minister to the neighborhood, but with little long-term success.

After about 14 months at Memorial, Mayton sensed the Lord leading him to relocate the church. He shared this belief with his wife, Georgianna, and then continued to pray for several months.

Over time, the Lord brought confirmation, he said, through other staff members that they, too, believed it might be time to relocate the church.

“We began to pray first, then plan,” Mayton recalled. He felt led to have one-on-one talks with 127 church members over six months to get their reactions and begin to build consensus. Of the 127 conversations, 124 also believed relocation was God’s will.

Next Mayton took the relocation idea to the church’s steering committee and then to the deacons. Both groups got on board with the idea and in a business meeting 94 percent of the church voted to relocate.

The steering committee formed subcommittees to handle the details of the relocation. Committees were created to find land, sell existing facilities, coordinate transition, supervise construction, facilitate communication, and oversee decoration.

Then in 2001, the church put its property up for sale.

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