Kettering Legacy Center: “Paid in Full”

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By Madison Wells-James

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — As the usher opened the door to the sanctuary, the boisterous sound of Kettering Baptist Church’s mass choir permeated throughout the room. With their hands lifted high, the choir led the congregation in joyous worship to the Lord. The church’s attendees were decked out in their Sunday best with leather-bound bibles alongside their pocketbooks.

Kettering Baptist Church members sing and praise God at the mortgage burning service. (Photo by Madison Wells-James)

However, this wasn’t any ordinary Sunday. Kettering was celebrating a milestone. With God’s grace, a seemingly impossible task finally came to fruition. The church’s $17.5 million building project known as the “Legacy Center” had retired its debt after seven years.

Seven, the biblical number symbolizing completion, fullness and divine perfection. Just as the Lord brought the walls of Jericho down after seven days, God removed the burden of debt from Kettering after only seven years.

“It’s not normal for churches. It’s not normal for businesses. It’s not normal for anyone, even on their home, to pay their home off in seven years. So this is really a God-sized thing. I know it is definitely all God,” said Lead Pastor Bucas Sterling, lll.

In 2000, Pastor Sterling was appointed to lead the church under a new vision called “Ministry In the Spirit of Excellence.” This structure rests on four principles called WIFE: worship, Instruction, Fellowship, and Evangelism. Pastor Sterling also established the church’s first missions-focused ministry to support national and international missionaries. Under his leadership, membership increased astronomically, creating a need for a space that could accommodate the growing congregation.

God answered this prayer when he gave Pastor Sterling a vision of a grand building which he drew on a napkin and presented to some architects. With pooled resources and available land, the church launched this ambitious building project.

Pastor Bucas Sterling III smiles during the mortgage burning service at Kettering Baptist Church Legacy Center. (Photo by Madison Wells-James)

There were obstacles during the construction process, including failed inspections due to poor steel fabrication, soil treatments, and replacements, amounting to an extra $3 million. However, with God’s grace and provision, He took that small napkin drawing and turned it into the 47,741-square-foot Legacy Center that currently sits on nearly 27 acres of land.

“It’s not that this building is our legacy. No, this building is for building legacies for the Kingdom of God. Here’s where people come and get equipped. Here’s where people come and get saved. Here’s where lives are changed for eternity,” said Pastor Sterling.

Pastor Sterling preached a sermon in alignment with the celebratory occasion titled ‘Paid In Full,’ teaching from 1 Chronicles 12. In the chapter, King David expresses his desire to build a holy temple for the Lord and collects offerings from those who give willingly. The word says in verse 12, “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

The Lord is the author of all things. Through Him we have all we need. God gave His people their riches of gold, silver, bronze and iron. They saw His providence and earnestly gave towards the construction of the temple. Similarly, the Lord provided His faithful servants at Kettering with financial resources to give as an offering towards building another house of God.

Pastor Sterling dangled a mock mortgage document stamped with giant red letters reading, “Paid In Full” over the small fire pit. (Photo by Madison Wells-James)

Following the sermon, Pastor Sterling presented awards to dedicated church members who contributed to expanding Kettering’s ministry. Then came the long-awaited moment of anticipation.

Pastor Sterling dangled a mock mortgage document stamped with giant red letters reading, “Paid In Full” over the small fire pit. The congregation erupted with cheers and praises. As he dropped the paper into the fire, the white sheet burned quickly until only ashes remained. The mortgage burning not only marked a new chapter for Kettering but served as a reminder of God’s steadfastness to His people.

“I believe that what God has been doing here is really pouring into people’s lives, investing in people’s lives, expanding the ministry beyond the borders of the building,” said Pastor Sterling. “What’s next is to continue to do ministry in excellence, continue to be a great commission church that is fulfilling the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to continue doing it in a way that God will be pleased.”

Deacon James Sylvester holds up the church mortgage, preparing to give it to Pastor Bucas Sterling to burn. ((Photo by Madison Wells-James) 

Madison Wells-James is a freelance writer and production assistant for Fox News in DC.