Shall we move to a new location? This is the question that has arisen often before an Assembly of Christians in recent years. But first, what causes such a question to arise? Several years ago at Central Gospel Hall in Detroit, this question came up and required an answer.
There were several reasons for this question, one of which was the movement of most of the Christians further out in the city to more desirable locations. But of primary consideration, was the apparent indication that the Sunday School could no longer effectively contribute to the growth of the Assembly as it did in the very early days. Since the Assembly is in large measure dependent upon the Sunday School for continued growth, it would follow that the Assembly numbers could gradually grow less, and perhaps it would eventually close. Thus the importance of the Sunday School in the Assembly was brought sharply into focus at a very early point in the question of a move.
The neighbourhood where Central Gospel Hall was located had changed. Being close to downtown Detroit, it became transient in character to some extent. Many times children moved with their parents to a better neighbourhood and were, therefore, lost to the Sunday School. Economic differences developed between those who lived in the neighbourhood and those who were in the Assembly. Those who were in the neighbourhood preferred to attach themselves to a local “church” made up of their friends and neighbours.
And so the question did come to Central Gospel Hall, and was subjected to much waiting upon the Lord and to many discussions in the Assembly. The result was that all appeared to be of “one mind” that a move should be made, and that it appeared to be the leading of God Himself.
Where shall we move? Naturally there were many important factors to consider; one of which was the cost of such a move. But the more important question was “where?” Again the significance of the Sunday School in the Assembly was clearly emphasized. The new neighbourhood should primarily be a place where there were lots of young children who would come to our Sunday School, and after salvation be baptized, and eventually become a part of the Assembly. Many districts were surveyed and again there was much waiting upon the Lord, many discussions in the Assembly, and a great deal of interest and effort by the Christians in the Assembly.
Out of all this the district where Curtis Gospel Chapel is now located seemed to possess the characteristics that were so necessary. The neighbourhood appeared to have many young children. There was an old building on the lot which had been in use as a Baptist Sunday School, and had the promise of a small nucleus of children with which to start a new school. The costs involved appeared to be within the limitations of the Assembly. It was centrally located for most of the Christians. In addition, the Central Gospel Hall building had been sold, answering the question of “when.” In the absence of undesirable factors, it appeared the Lord had clearly led to this district.
Now the Sunday School again was to see itself in a major role, as the question of how to make the move came to the forefront. There was a building on the premises at the new location which had been, and could now be used as a Sunday school. While architectural plans were laid, there would be a period of time the building would be vacant. Should we start Sunday School on a temporary basis; discontinue it during construction of the building, and then resume it in the new building? And what about the Sunday School at Central Gospel Hall? Would we just walk away from the children we had learned to love and who had been under our teaching for so long? Again there was the necessity to wait upon the Lord, and again the leading came which seemed so clear and which proved to be so correct.
It seemed reasonable that, since there was a building upon the lot and several months of use available, we should go ahead and start a new Sunday School with the thought that even if the children did not return when the new building was finished, we at least could tell them about the Lord Jesus. It just seemed unreasonable not to take advantage of this opportunity. So the neighbourhood was carefully surveyed and laid out in sections. Leaders were appointed for each section. Invitations were printed, and a large number of the Christians turned out to pray and to pass out the invitations in the new neighbourhood. The Lord blessed this effort, and many children came, and the Sunday School work got off to a nice start.
The matter of having two Sunday Schools at the same time was handled by having two separate organizations, each with a superintendent and teachers. The necessity of extra teachers was met very nicely by Christians volunteering to meet the need.
Next, we faced the problem of the Sunday School at Central, and it was basically only a Sunday School problem. Once the adults moved with the Assembly, there would be no adults left behind. But this was not so with the children from the neighbourhood. This matter was resolved by the group that purchased the old Central Gospel Hall. They were fundamental in character and, while the children were invited to the new Sunday School, at the same time, we invited them to continue to come to the same location so they at least would hear the Gospel. The final Sunday School program was held in December 1956, and we said farewell to the majority of the children at that location. The Lord had provided a means which reduced our fears and our concern for the children.
The next concern was with the new Sunday School in the new building. Obviously, the Christians would automatically come to the new place, but what about the children who had come to our temporary Sunday School? Would they come back? Once again this was a matter which was mainly peculiar to the Sunday School workers. Again the distribution and visitation took place in the district, and again it was with much prayer and much help from all the Christians in the Assembly. Finally the day arrived, and then the hour, and our new little friends from the temporary Sunday School began filing in the door and taking their places with us in the new Sunday School. With thankful hearts we could look back and see the hand of the Lord in guiding us throughout the move from the one location to the other. Today, the text at the front of the Chapel says, “Let The Lord Be Magnified.”
Like graduation ceremonies at our regular schools, however, this was really a commencement exercise and represented the beginning of our work in a new location. This is actually what takes place in “going into all the world to preach the Gospel.” It is the location of an Assembly in an area to preach the Gospel and reach the unsaved, while at the same time practising the principles of a New Testament Church gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus.
In looking back, two facts were dramatically brought to our attention. One was the highly important part the Sunday School plays in the Christian Assembly. The other one was the definite direction provided by God Himself in answer to prayer.
It has been said that the Sunday School is the largest gathering of the unsaved to hear the Gospel, and surely this is true in most instances today. Many of the denominations put such emphasis on the teaching of children that they develop their educational systems at great expense. This should impress the Sunday School workers in our Assemblies of their importance in the Lord’s work. It should also impress the leaders of our Assemblies with the necessity of providing godly leadership in Sunday School work.
This experience should also impress us with the fact that God can and does provide leading and guiding in a definite and unmistakable manner—“Let The Lord Be Magnified.”