An Alabama pastor is asking his members to pray for the salvation of an arsonist who allegedly set fire to a church building and caused thousands of dollars in destruction.
The arsonist set multiple fires in the building of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., last week, damaging pews and carpet as well as administrative areas.
“By God’s grace, none of them got out of control,” Mark Bethea, pastor of the church, told WSFA television. “Thank goodness our wonderful police department and firefighters came quickly.”
Police this week arrested a woman and charged her with starting the fires.
Bethea encouraged church members to be gracious toward the alleged arsonist. He also noted that the arsonist poured gasoline in the aisle of the sanctuary – but that a wooden cross near the pulpit was not burned.
“The squiggly line of accelerant stops short of the cross – the cross where Jesus took the full weight of our sins,” Bethea wrote on Facebook. “If I believe that Jesus saved a wretched sinner such as myself, then I believe he can save a church arsonist from their sins as well. Would you join me in praying for this person by name? Pray the Lord would open their heart to the transformative power of the Gospel.”
The fire caused the church to move its Sunday worship service to a parking garage. Despite the less-than-appealing surroundings, church members sang hymns, partook in Communion and thanked God for their blessings while worshiping merely a few feet from automobiles, according to WSFA. The church had planned to hold its service in an uncovered parking lot but moved to the garage due to rain.
“The church has never been about pews or walls,” Bethea told the TV station. “It’s been about the people of God doing the mission of God in their life.”
Bethea called it a “beautiful day, despite everything that’s happened.”
In a Facebook post, Bethea added, “what man meant for evil, God is currently using and will use for good.”
Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church Montgomery/Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.