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April-May 2017

Partners in
the Gospel


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Happy Birthday to CELF

By John Gibbs


Thirty-five years ago, Free Will Baptist Home Missions encountered a pressing problem that had to be addressed. Mission churches needed money to construct a building or purchase much-needed property. In most cases, if they located a property, they had no money to buy or equity to borrow funds. Director Roy Thomas shared this burden with Trymon Messer and me. As we crisscrossed the country in our van, traveling thousands of miles to promote Home Missions, we discussed plans and visions for the ministry.

Roy asked me to research other ministries to see how they dealt with the challenge. During my research, I discovered a sister denomination in Missouri that had established a very successful plan for their home missions projects. During one of our trips through southern Missouri, we stopped in Poplar Bluff at the General Baptist national office. I made the necessary appointments with their leadership, and we enjoyed a great time of fellowship as we shared ideas and discussed needs. They assured us we were welcome to take their plan and adapt it to our particular needs.

The plan was simple: create a loan fund with investors from within the denomination that would lend money to mission churches at an affordable rate of interest while providing investors a fair return. I must say, we continued on our way with a fresh excitement in the van.
Once home, I immediately went to work writing and designing the necessary brochures. We spent hours in the office with an experienced attorney who advised us how the new plan should be written and presented. From the beginning, we were intent on making sure the plan would be legal and safe, both for Home Missions and for investors.

The new loan fund was a fresh approach to the existing CELF—Church Extension Loan Fund. The staff and Board of Home Missions were pleased with the concept, and we all trusted God to bless our efforts and vision. He did, and the rest is history.

Today, the loan fund has grown to an amazing amount and continues to help church planters construct buildings, purchase property, or remodel existing facilities across the country.

As Brother Trymon used to say…God did it!

About the Writer: John Gibbs was the first director of development for the Home Missions Department. He currently resides in Gastonia, North Carolina.



More About CELF

The Church Extension Loan Fund is a fund from which Free Will Baptist churches can borrow money to build a church or buy land.

The investment program is an important way to provide the financial base. You can invest any amount over $500. In return, you will receive a good rate of interest on your investment.

The money is then loaned to Free Will Baptist churches. The church repays the loan at a fair market rate of interest. The repaid principal is never spent but loaned to another new church.
The CELF investment program affords you an opportunity to help a church get a much-needed loan while earning interest on your investment.

For more information, visit and click on the CELF icon. You may also call the North American Ministries office: 615-760-6137.






©2017 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists