The Sun News

Bonaire church might merge with Warner Robins church

BONAIRE -- Isaac Day was one of the original group that organized Bonaire Church of Christ as it gathered together in 1977 in the Boy Scout hut on Azalea Drive.

He said he was one of the members who helped build the church’s facility when it moved to its own two-plus acres on Ga. 247 in 1987.

Now, Day is also one of the longtime members who might see the merger of Bonaire Church of Christ with Westside Church of Christ in Warner Robins.

Jim Love is a leader at the Bonaire church and another member helping to work toward the merger.

“We’re looking at pooling resources,” Love said. “We’re just a few miles away from one another and we’ve thought that if the two come together we can be more organized and help one another evangelize and do the Lord’s work in a better way.”

Love said the merger is not a “done deal,” but is moving ahead with general agreement between the two congregations.

He said the two small churches have already begun meeting together and the biggest issue is deciding what to do with properties the congregations own.

He said the two groups primarily meet now at Westside on Willow Avenue, just off North Houston Road. Westside has the slightly larger congregation. Decisions remain whether to keep the Bonaire or Westside property or to liquidate both and build at a new location.

Love said the third option is the leading one but that a particular new location hasn’t been discussed.

He said while already meeting together, the two churches are in no hurry to decide the matter but that they hope to complete a transition within the next year or two.

Though preaching duties are shared between men of the two congregations, Love said the bulk of it is done by Lee Hyatt, full-time evangelist-preacher at Westside.

Bonaire has no full-time evangelist.

Both Love and Hyatt said the congregations are excited about the prospects of merging to better serve in Middle Georgia.

“If someone wants to study the Bible, this is the place,” Love said. “If they want to be entertained then this may not be what they’re looking for. That may make us seem like a stick-in-the-mud and old fashioned to some people. I was asked by someone if we were having an Easter egg hunt and they looked surprised when I told them no. I told them we were just having church like every Sunday. We meet together to study the Bible, sing, take the Lord’s Supper and encourage one another to live holy and in a way that reflects New Testament Christianity. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Hyatt agreed the merger is promising.

“The holdup is more about the buildings than anything else,” he said. “It’s exciting because we’re two like-minded groups coming together to serve the Lord and advance the Gospel. It’s something we’re doing as long as it’s a blessing to one another and something we think will benefit the cause of Christ in the area. I’m very excited to be able to work with Brother Jim and the other good folks at Bonaire.”

Both men said like other congregations under the name Church of Christ, Bonaire Church of Christ and Westside are independent, autonomous bodies. The two said Churches of Christ are not a denomination and send no money to a denominational headquarters. They said they do fellowship with other like-minded churches.

As the merger progresses, both Love and Hyatt said their focus remains on people and not buildings. They said much of the work of the transition has been delegated to others to explore.

“I’m primarily a teacher,” Hyatt said. “That’s my main role and responsibility. What building we meet in is not as big a concern to me and in my mind, just something that’s more of an expediency to the work of teaching and spreading the Gospel. That’s the most important thing in all this.”