Harvest Church of Calhoun has a new place to call home.
On Sept. 28, Will Troutman, one of the church’s pastors, announced through a video on the church’s Facebook page that Harvest would be changing locations — now having services at 2275 State Route 140 in West Calhoun.
The new center, a 45’ x 90’ pole barn, began hosting services this past Sunday, Oct. 3.
“It’s wide open,” Troutman said. “We’re looking to (simplify).”
Troutman said that the church used to meet in a building on First Street, across from the Lighthouse Restaurant.
“When we first started the church, we bounced around to a few different locations, and we finally settled there … up until the pandemic started at the beginning of 2020,” Troutman said. “With social distancing restrictions and stuff, our space wasn’t large enough for us to continue to gather there.”
Troutman and the church got creative on making sure to meet the needs of their members by meeting in homes and having live stream services, before contacting Keith Sage, the pastor at Calhoun Christian Church, about using their facility, which offered enough space that social distancing was possible.
Troutman found the collaboration to bring more than a new meeting place.
“We’ve been there for a little over a year at this point,” Troutman said. “We just struck up a friendship with Calhoun Christian Church. (We) really found a like-minded church that we enjoy doing ministry with for about a year. Keith and I have become really good friends.
“If it wasn’t for Calhoun Christian Church’s help, I don’t know where Harvest would be.”
But with the pandemic and restrictions settling down, Troutman said it was time for Harvest to find its own space again.
Troutman notes that he didn’t need to find a location that was too complex, but wanted something that still kept up with the organization’s mission.
“Harvest is a really simple church,” Troutman said. “We don’t do many things, and the few things we do, we try to do them with excellence. Our guiding principle is making disciples by being disciples; we call that our mission. We take that to mean that ‘disciple’ just means follower — so we want to be followers of Jesus, and we know the best way to make other disciples, which is part of the Great Commission, is to just to be obedient to Jesus’ commands; to love one another, love our neighbor as ourselves, to proclaim the good news of Jesus to our community, and to do so not only with our words, but with our actions.”
The new location is an event center that belongs to a church member’s property. Troutman said its fits Harvest “perfect.”
However, questions have been raised about the sudden change of Harvest’s meeting place.
In 2018, Pleasant Valley Community Church, on behalf of Harvest, purchased the former Calhoun IGA building on W. Second St. for $125,000.
The plan for the 7,500-square-foot building was to create a new worship center in the prominent downtown area of McLean County, with a seating capacity of 250, along with a children’s space and a space for fellowship.
Like many things affected by COVID-19, Troutman said those plans were put on hold as quickly as they started.
“In December of 2019, we had blueprints drawn, (and) we submitted them to the state (in) February of 2020,” Troutman said. “We were working on getting a permit for temporary occupancy so we could throw up a wall and start meeting in a portion of the building while we renovated the rest of it. And then the pandemic happened.”
The concerns of starting construction on spaces for “large gatherings” delayed the process at the state level, as the former IGA building falls under the state’s construction codes and surveillance due to it exceeding 6,000 square feet.
“During the pandemic, all of that was very slow, very cautious,” Troutman said. “Understandably so.”
Troutman said it took a year before hearing any updates on whether renovations could begin.
But Troutman admitted that the landscape of American culture has been changing, with a Gallup study finding that church membership has fallen below the majority for the first time in the United States; where membership hovered around 70% from 1937 to 2000 before dropping to 47%.
“For the first time since they have been tracking this metric, it’s below the majority,” Troutman said. “What’s most shocking about it is is that it’s happened in the last 20 years. Christianity ..., in my perspective, is becoming less of a cultural religion.”
Troutman said the people attending and participating in church now are people who truly believe what the Bible says.
“They’re the actual people that want to live by Jesus’ words,” Troutman said. “This is a shift, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives the church an opportunity to be ‘weird’ again.”
Troutman said that the appeal of Christianity is based on it’s counterculture and that the church is not supposed to look and think like the world, which made him and Harvest rethink how they do church and services moving forward — looking to how services were ran in the 1st Century and being more simplified.
“I think if the church is going to survive, if the American church is going to thrive — we need to rethink how we’re going to do ministry,” Troutman said. “We’re going to have to focus on what makes a church a church, because that’s the thing that the world needs from the church. We need to be kingdom communities …
“Lean, mean, simple-focused. Those are the types of churches that are gonna thrive in the new cultural landscape that we find ourselves in. The way that the church is going to have to operate to thrive is going to have to change, and that doesn’t mean having to build large community centers in town where churches try to do everything.”
Troutman said that services will continue at the new location in West Calhoun for the foreseeable future, but that the organization still has ownership of the former IGA building. Plans regarding the space will be announced in the coming weeks.
Freddie Bourne, firstname.lastname@example.org