Fire destroys collegiate ministries building

Baptist Press
Posted: Sep 04, 2014 5:22 PM
LEBANON, Tenn. -- An early morning fire on Wednesday (Sept. 3) destroyed the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building at Cumberland University.

"There are no accidents with God," said Dave Shelley, director of missions for Wilson County Baptist Association, which owns the BCM building in Lebanon, Tenn. "There will be good that comes out of this."

Evan Owens, BCM director at Cumberland, was notified of the fire at 5:15 a.m. by Tyler Smith, BCM president, and Nick Sackman, BCM vice president. Both Smith and Sackman lived in the BCM residence apartment upstairs.

The two students escaped the building unharmed but lost all their personal possessions, Owens said.

"I'm thankful they were not hurt. It's a blessing. We can replace their stuff," he said.

While the building is not on the Cumberland campus, it is located across the street from the fine arts building. An older house, the facility formerly served as the senior adult center in Lebanon before being purchased by the association in 1997 for the BCM. It has been used by the BCM since 2000.

Cumberland University officials were on hand to offer help and support, along with others from the community including representatives from Wilson County churches who gathered to pray.

"We are thankful for everyone's support," Shelley said.

Fire crews arrived on the scene soon after being notified but the fire spread quickly, Owens said. It took about four hours to extinguish the fire, he noted. The firefighters included at least three former Cumberland BCM members, according to news reports.

Chris Dowell, chief of the Lebanon Fire Department and a member of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, said a lighting strike is believed to be the cause of the fire. Severe storms were reported in the area the night before.

"It looks bleak today," said Darrin Reynolds, student pastor at nearby Immanuel Baptist Church and a member of the association's BCM committee. He also was a member of the BCM when the building first opened.

"But, I know God has great plans for the BCM here," he added. "We will gather, regroup, and see where God takes us."

Shelley said Cumberland University has offered space for the BCM on campus in the interim period. The BCM will meet on campus temporarily until the association decides what to do, he said.

No one will be allowed to enter the building until next week due to safety concerns, Shelley said. The building is insured, he noted.

Owens, the BCM director, said he planned to get the students together to pray and "let them know we are still here."

"We will keep going," he said. "It's just a building. We can keep ministering."

Bill Choate, director of BCM for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the convention is proud of "the work Wilson County Baptist Association does to reach college students at Cumberland University.

"I know that they will rally to continue their ministry on campus," he said.

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

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