Lois Flowers
Special to the Gardner News
After years of planning and months of construction, Fellowship Bible Church will celebrate Easter in a new sanctuary.
Exciting days are ahead for the church, at 16900 S. Waverly Road in Gardner. Now that the new 400-seat sanctuary is open, the former worship center will be remodeled into a 6,000-square-foot children’s wing designed to serve the growing number of young families who attend FBC.
A time to build
FBC began meeting in September 2003 as a second campus of Olathe Bible Church. The new church steadily outgrew its original space—a collection of 15 modular buildings donated by Sprint Corp. that were joined to form a single facility. In the fall of 2009, the now-autonomous church began a fundraising program called “Building Fellowship” to raise funds for an expansion.
Conducting a building campaign in the midst of what some have called “The Great Recession” was a leap of faith, but one that FBC was willing to take.
“I told the church that there was a reason we were experiencing the growth we were experiencing in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our generation,” Pastory Ty Cross said. “This was no coincidence; we could move forward and exercise faith, or we could play it safe and just sort of see what happened. The church couldn’t deny the growth.So  we took it as God’s timing and decided to trust Him.”
It was the need for more children’s space that drove the project, rather than the need for a bigger sanctuary, Cross said.
Church members decided to build  much-needed preschool and elementary rooms and then build a modest and functional multi-purpose room for worship assemblies.
To save money, church leaders took an  unconventional approach to the construction process.
Rather than hire a construction company for the project, FBC served as its own general contractor. The church employed a superintendent to supervise the actual construction,  with help from members of the building committee.
“There are two men in our church with a wealth of experience and expertise in commercial building who were only too willing to use their backgrounds to help us ’self-perform’ the construction of our facility,” Cross said.
Cost wise, the project is under  budget of original estimates.
“It comes down to the fact that God put the right people at the right place at the right time,” said Phil Boan, building committee chairman and president of Boan Masonry of Spring Hill.
A time to mourn
As FBC was gearing up to build, the church also was entering an intense season of testing.
There was the global economic crises as well as personal, individual crises within the church, Cross explained.
“There were job losses and stagnating salaries. But then we saw some in our church body lose more than jobs, and our perspective was adjusted to eternally significant matters,” he said.
Lisa Cross, church administrator and Ty’s wife,  had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year after FBC began.. Then, in August 2009, just as the church was preparing to kick off the Building Fellowship fundraising campaign, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She responded well to treatment for that, but in late 2010, her health began to deteriorate. After several weeks of in-home/hospice care, she died on Feb. 16, 2011.
As excavation work was getting under way at the construction site, the church was hit hard by the death of Andrew Hurd, a junior at Gardner Edgerton High School whose family is active at FBC.
Given these and other tragedies that have touched lives at FBC, Easter services in the new building will be especially poignant for many at the church.
“I think it will be a tangible, visual reminder that resurrection power is still at work in Christ’s church,” Cross said.
A time to heal
Cross admits that it is sometimes difficult to anticipate the future in the new sanctuary without his wife of 29 years by his side.
“Lisa was there during every significant stage of the building process: staking out the dimensions of the building, pouring the footings, putting up the walls, etc.,” he said. “It’s a bit sad that she’s not here for the finished product.
“The honest truth is that I’m excited and I’m sad. I’m just sad and feeling a little incomplete without her. But that’s the soil of spiritual growth. When we are weak, God is strong.”
Cross believes that loss actually helps people sharpen their hope for the future.
“All we’re doing here is pointing to something beyond the here and now,” he explained. “It’s like what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19: if it’s only for this life we have hope, we are the most pitiful people on earth! We don’t want people to be impressed with a new building, but if a new building draws someone to us who is looking for more from this life than merely existing, that’s exciting.”
Fellowship Bible Church holds two identical worship services each Sunday at 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Children’s programs, including a fully staffed nursery and preschool department, are available during each service. For more information, visit the church website at www.gardnerfbc.org or call the church office at (913)856-8454.