By Riley Manning
A fire burned in the sanctuary of Harrisburg Baptist Church on Sunday, as one of the largest churches in Northeast Mississippi celebrated paying the final bill on its facilities by burning the note in an urn during morning worship.
“I usually preach very practical messages,” said the Rev. Forrest Sheffield. “But today I’m going to give a purely devotional one. I’m going to use this time to brag on Jesus.”
Harrisburg’s expansive campus began construction 11 years ago, but according to 50-year member Buddy Miller, the vision and planning of the project began even earlier. In his address to the congregation Sunday, he commended members for their faithfulness to the effort.
“This congregation has always been able to come together in a time of need,” he said. “How else could we pay off over $20 million in 13 years?”
As of Oct. 27, Harrisburg still owed $326,000, but Smokey Young, chairman of the New Building Committee, envisioned being debt-free before the year was out. Sure enough, the church made its final payment on Dec. 18, and now stands over $147,000 in the black.
Not only has the congregation paid off their building, but while doing so, continued to lead the Lee County Baptist Association in baptisms and giving to local and international missions.
Members of the Lee County Baptist Association, the International Mission Board, and Mississippi Baptist Convention Board lauded Harrisburg via video for these accomplishments.
“You are a testimony of being good stewards and a blessing to all of us,” said Marc Howard, director of the LCBA. “While paying your debt off, you never lost focus on the mission of the church.”
Jim Futral, executive director and treasurer of the MBCB, agreed and said the occasion was a great time for Harrisburg to look back as well as forward.
“Over the last 10 years, Harrisburg has given over $5.3 million to reach the world for Jesus,” he said. “But the greatest days are yet to come at Harrisburg. Let’s burn the note and face the future together in Christ.”
The four building and finance committee members gathered over the urn, finally lit the note.
And with a drum roll and a flourish from the praise band, it was gone.