By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SMITHVILLE — Nathan Thomason wanted to be pastor of an evangelistic church here. So he started one.
Just nine months later, Outreach Baptist Church, which Thomason planted, has baptized 99 people.
All 99 people were baptized outside in the courtyard of the horseshoe-shaped strip mall which serves as the church’s facility. Thomason uses a portable baptistry.
One evening the courtyard “was full” as 21 adults, teens, and children were baptized, recalled Thomason.
“It was neat. People driving by on the highway could see what God was doing — baptizing right there in the middle of town,” said Thomason.
Smithville residents are familiar with the strip mall where Outreach Baptist meets, he added. It also houses a tax preparation office, cable business, and a nail salon.
Thankfully, the weather recently was still warm so baptisms could continue because another nine people were scheduled to be baptized and people were coming to the Lord every Sunday, said the church planter.
“We’re very excited about what God’s doing. … I want all the glory to go to God.”
He is surprised by all of this, he said. He thought at this stage in starting a new church in Smithville it would draw about 40-50. Smithville only has about 4,000 residents, he noted.
Yet, the congregation overflows the facility each Sunday morning with about 210 people. During a revival meeting one night Outreach Baptist drew a crowd of 293. Parking has become an issue.
Thomason said one factor in the growth of Outreach Baptist is that he grew up here and so many people know him, he said. He also has been a Dekalb County deputy sheriff and assistant coach for the high school football team where he played.
Additionally, people know him as the son and grandson of Tennessee Baptist pastors — B.J. Thomason, his father, is pastor of New Middleton Baptist Church, Gordonsville, and his grandfather is Bobby Thomason, pastor, Covenant Baptist Church, Smithville. Both churches are located nearby.
People here also know some bad things about him, admitted Thomason. “I didn’t always live for Christ … .” Thankfully, he rededicated his life to Christ at age 22 and at that time accepted God’s call to pastor. Since then he has been a supply preacher, a revival preacher, and pastor of a church in Lebanon for three years.
But he was drawn by God back to Dekalb County, he said.
“Dekalb County is a very dark place,” he reported, adding that he has arrested a lot of folks here. The county has very high suicide rates per capita, many folks taking and addicted to methamphetamine, and many children in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services.
“It looks like Mayberry on the outside, but when you get on the inside, you understand there’s a lot of spiritual darkness here.”
Another factor which drives him is the fact that from the 2010 census, he found that of the 18,000 residents of the county, over 9,000 reported they had no religious affiliation.
“We want Smithville to have revival and we don’t care where it starts and hopefully it spreads to our state and our nation.”
To carry out the evangelistic vision of the church, Outreach has a children’s ministry during every service including AWANA and a bus ministry. Church leaders also visit people in their homes.
The church holds worship three times a week. It doesn’t have Sunday School yet because of the facility but it does hold discipleship training.
Just recently, Outreach Baptist started looking at property to buy.
Besides God, many have been pivotal in making Outreach Baptist what it is, said Thomason. His dad, B.J., is his mentor. Another mentor has been Glenn Denton, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Lebanon. Hillcrest Baptist agreed to serve as the mother church of Outreach Baptist.
His family, including his wife Ashlee, and the core group of three families who sacrificed to start the church have been used by God, he said. The landlord of the strip mall, a believer, and Lewis McMullen of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff helped.
A group from a closed church sold church equipment and furniture to Outreach at an amazing price.
The owner of some property, six acres located across the road from their current facility which Outreach hopes to buy, is making it available only to the church.
Finally, the members of Outreach are amazing, “sold out to God” and “unified,” added Thomason.
“We’re just enjoying what the Lord’s doing,” concluded Thomason.