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Building a New Work

      In the early 1950's Carlisle was a small town in South-Central Pennsylvania.   Mainline denominations had a commanding influence on the religious life of the community.

      Ernest C. Reisinger had a small construction business.   He was a member of one of the Presbyterian churches and preached regularly at that church's Letort Mission.   His boldness to witness to the unconverted put him in touch with like-minded believers in other congregations.

      Ernie was gifted by the Lord with a combination of outstanding zeal for the Lord and winsome ways.   He was skilled at communicating to others both his love for the Lord Jesus and his deep concern for the lost.   Perhaps it was his own experience of being in a 'far-distant country', away from the Lord, which provoked his unusual degree of compassion for the lost.   

      Many were touched with this evident desire to bring people (especially men) to Christ and to strengthen them in the faith after conversion.   Thus, when others prevailed on Ernest Reisinger to join them in founding a church that would be loyal to the Word of God, he brought not only himself, his wife Jane and his son Don to this group, but he had young men and women to bring along whom God was pleased to convert under his witness.

      When Grace Chapel first got under way, none of the men in the congregation, including Ernie, had a well-formed understanding of doctrine.   John Reisinger, Ernie's younger brother, was pastor of a church in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.   There, an older and wiser Christian attached himself to John.   He was I. C. Herendeen, a seller of Christian books through his Bible Truth Depot in Swengel, Pennsylvania.

      Through persistent effort Mr. Herendeen showed John Reisinger the doctrines of grace.   Then Mr. Herendeen and John began to give books to the leaders of the young Grace Chapel in Carlisle.   Ernie was not the first of the Carlisle group to understand or agree with these old Protestant teachings that were new to Grace Chapel.   While others had their hearts enriched and warmed by these awesome truths, Reisinger for a while fought them in his mind.

      Yet when God opened Ernie's eyes to the Biblical teachings of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners, his zeal to spread these teachings and his desire to study theology more deeply were unsurpassed in the congregation.   With a deep and healthy respect for the creeds of Christendom and for the great theologians of the days gone by, Ernie plunged into dogged personal study of classic Christian literature.   But he also dispensed the literature to others just as quickly as he devoured it personally.   There spread a great excitement for the treasure-trove of the writings of the reformers and the Puritans.   

      It was Ernie who led the way among Baptists in working through the implications of our newly-discovered Reformed doctrine.   By 1959 the church had become Grace Baptist Church, Subscribing to the London Confession of Faith of 1689.   Ernie spent a great deal of time studying and teaching the biblical message and methods of evangelism.   This in turn led to a new analysis of proper biblical missions.

      The years of doctrinal study and refinement of understanding of Scripture did not make Grace Baptist Church ingrown or less active.   Through these very same years Ernie and other leaders at Grace Baptist intensified their evangelistic labors with college students at Dickinson College in Carlisle.   Ernie spent countless hours having students in his home for Bible studies or taking a student or two to dinner or lunch during the week - always with gifts of well-chosen books.   Such discipline in personal work and generosity in distributing literature deeply influenced the Dickinson chapter of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

      Ernie seemed to be tireless in writing letters, giving out books and taking young people to lunch to talk about what they read or to give counsel and guidance in Christian living.   One looks back in awe at this remarkable activity.   From it have come missionaries, gospel ministers and strong pillars in numerous churches - all of whom have had in their hearts a fire of zeal for Christ ignited by his personal attention and ministry.   None would have libraries without some of the greatest books ever written inscribed as gifts from Ernie.

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