Shrinking congregations sell buildings
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The East Frayser Church of Christ on the north side of Memphis, Tenn., shut its doors at the end of 2021. For Donald and Ann Green, it marked the end of more than 60 years of ministry in various forms with the congregation.
But to them, the East Frayser church was never about a building, anyway.
The Greens had seen the congregation grow from the time they joined in 1960, just two years after its inception, to nearly 1,000 members in a massive building with a gym and a Christian school.
Then they saw the congregation shrink as members moved out of the inner city and began attending some of the congregations that sprung up around the Memphis area — some of which the Greens and the East Frayser church helped plant.
As the numbers for East Frayser dwindled, the church sold its building and began to share space with a Presbyterian church across the street. Then it met in a strip mall.
Meanwhile, East Frayser used the money from the building sale to support the work of the church around the world. Daniel Green, 45, one of Donald and Ann’s three children, told The Christian Chronicle the congregation was supporting 13 mission works when it closed — while having only a couple dozen members.
The Greens were part of a lot of those missions, too. They were involved in decades of mission work in Southeast Asia, Ukraine, Hungary and most recently — about four years ago — in Southeast Africa.
Though Donald, now 85, was East Frayser’s preaching minister for the last 20 years, it was sharing the Gospel outside the building that was most important to him.
“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature — that’s not just something we teach in the Church of Christ,” he said. “It’s something we do personally because we’re commanded to do it.”
And while Ann, now 83, didn’t have an interest in mission work initially, she was fully supportive of her husband and came to be passionate about the work herself. “Thinking about lost souls and what we could do to help,” she said, was what motivated the couple through all those years.
Daniel — who preaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Selmer, Tenn. — noted his father’s Christ-like attitude.
“He’s a visionary and a very optimistic person,” Daniel said. “If you’ve been around church life at all, you realize that the characteristics and traits of a preacher can rub off on the congregation, and that’s the way it was with my dad.
“If everyone was like my dad, there would be little to no division in the Churches of Christ.”
Now, the Greens are visiting other congregations around Memphis. Donald estimated there are now about 60 Churches of Christ in the area. They’ll eventually settle down with one, but they’re in no rush.
“We enjoy visiting with them and getting acquainted with people that we never had the opportunity to before,” he said.
But while the East Frayser church may have closed its doors, it’s still supporting mission work. It’s still serving the needs of Christians in Memphis and beyond — Donald said members had taken food to the family of an elder who passed away recently.
Yes, the East Frayser Church of Christ is still living and active. And its impact on the body of Christ in the Memphis area and around the world is lasting.
It was never about a building.
As for the Greens, they still have no intention of retiring from the Lord’s work. Asked if he has plans to do more mission work, Donald responded emphatically, “Yes, I sure do — if my health holds up and if the opportunity presents itself.”
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