CHURCHES EXEMPLIFY RACE RELATIONS

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Lonnie Wilkey

Lonnie Wilkey

They stood together at the pulpit of Rialto Baptist Church in Covington on Sunday, Jan. 15 — Thomas Bester, a 63-year-old African-American pastor, and Carl Funderburk, an almost 80-year-old Anglo pastor.

As I watched them I could only imagine the stories they could tell from having witnessed first hand the racial strife of the civil rights movement in the 1960s-70s. On this occasion, however, these two pastors were united under the spirit of the God that both have faithfully served for decades. [Read more…]

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CHURCH DISPLAYS KINGDOM VISION

Forerunner Baptist to open Covington campus at Rialto Baptist

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Participating in a joint worship service of Rialto Baptist Church, Covington, and Forerunner Baptist Church, Ripley, were, from left, Thomas Bester, pastor, Forerunner Baptist; Carl Funderburk, pastor, Rialto Baptist; and Clay Gilbreath, director of missions, Big Hatchie Baptist Association.

Participating in a joint worship service of Rialto Baptist Church, Covington, and Forerunner Baptist Church, Ripley, were, from left, Thomas Bester, pastor, Forerunner Baptist; Carl Funderburk, pastor, Rialto Baptist; and Clay Gilbreath, director of missions, Big Hatchie Baptist Association.

COVINGTON — The handwriting has been on the wall for years at Rialto Baptist Church in Covington.

The almost 100-year-old church once was a vibrant congregation with more than 200 members. But as the community transitioned, many members moved away. Many of those who stayed have since died.

As of Jan. 15, Rialto Baptist had about five members plus pastor Carl Funderburk and his wife Jane. Funderburk, 79, has been pastor of Rialto for 14 years. In 2005 Funderburk led his then congregation of 13 members to make plans should the church eventually have to close its doors. [Read more…]

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REVITALIZATION CAN MEAN ASSIMILATION

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

The staff of the Cumberland Church community campus of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church includes, from left, Ruth Patraw, secretary; Chad Crawford, pastor; and Steven Hoover, worship pastor.

The staff of the Cumberland Church community campus of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church includes, from left, Ruth Patraw, secretary; Chad Crawford, pastor; and Steven Hoover, worship pastor.

KNOXVILLE — Once a strong, vibrant congregation, Cumberland Baptist Church here had fallen into hard times over recent years as attendance had dwindled from nearly 400 in its heyday to between 70-100  people.

Two issues were readily seen — the church had few young families and those who attended no longer reflected the neighborhood.

Bob Brown, church revitalization specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, began working with the congregation about two years ago. Brown was very familiar with the church, having grown up in the congregation. [Read more…]

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CHURCH REVITALIZATION MORE THAN NUMBERS

80-year-old pastor proves age is not a factor in reaching younger families

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Jerry Heflin

Jerry Heflin

SPRINGFIELD – The numbers may not reflect it, but Eastland Heights Baptist Church in Springfield is truly being revitalized, says Pastor Jerry Heflin.

And, what’s more, the church is being revitalized by an 80-year-old pastor who has a knack for connecting with people of all ages.

After Heflin retired in 2006 as associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville, he became pastor at Eastland Heights the following year. [Read more…]

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AVOIDING THE DEADLY SIN OF COMPLACENCY

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

man-head-on-deskThe Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary defines “complacency” as “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.”

Complacency can apply to individuals or organizations, including the church.

I found the word “complacency” in the Bible only once in Proverbs 1:32, HCBS: “For the waywardness of the inexperienced will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” There may be other verses that actually use the word itself, but there are many verses throughout Scripture that refer to the meaning of complacency. [Read more…]

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CHURCHES WANT REVITALIZATION

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Five Objectives 5 ObjectivesBRENTWOOD — This year’s annual Summit, scheduled for Nov. 13-17 at the Sevierville Convention Center, will mark the second anniversary of the adoption of the Five Objectives that were approved by messengers at the 2014 Summit at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood.

The Five Objectives are long-range goals for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. They are: [Read more…]

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CHURCH REVITALIZATION TAKES HARD WORK

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Bob Brown, far right, TBC church revitalization specialist, moderates a panel discussion with leaders of the church revitalization conference. From left, are John Mark Clifton, Tom Cheyney, Steve Holt, and Don Pierson.

Bob Brown, far right, TBC church revitalization specialist, moderates a panel discussion with leaders of the church revitalization conference. From left, are John Mark Clifton, Tom Cheyney, Steve Holt, and Don Pierson.

KNOXVILLE — Revitalizing plateaued and declining churches in America takes hard work and requires a willingness to change, agreed speakers at a church revitalization conference held Sept. 1 at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church.

“Churches don’t like change,” observed Tom Cheyney, executive director of missions for the Greater Orlando (Fla.) Baptist Association and founder of the RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference.

Churches get locked into things that keep them in a rut and keep them from reaching their communities and people who need to know Christ, he said.

As a result there are church behaviors that must be changed in order to reach those communities, Cheyney continued.

“As church revitalizers, we are called to bring change to the church,” he stressed, adding that only 32 percent of churches that are revitalized are done by the present pastor. [Read more…]

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REVITALIZATION DOESN’T HAPPEN AT ONCE

By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

Pastor Robbie Carty of Sunset Village Baptist Church, Bristol, stands beside the church’s Community Prayer Box which has helped connect the church to local residents.

Pastor Robbie Carty of Sunset Village Baptist Church, Bristol, stands beside the church’s Community Prayer Box which has helped connect the church to local residents.

BRISTOL — Robbie Carty is living proof that patience pays off.

When he became pastor of Sunset Village Baptist Church, Bristol, seven years ago he readily admits the congregation “was stuck in a rut.”

Members of Sunset Village did not want to change, he observed. They were content with maintaining the “status quo,” Carty related.

“It took me six years to get them to realize that change is going to happen — not by our accord but by God’s accord,” said Carty, a bivocational pastor. [Read more…]

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CHURCH’S LEGACY LIVES ON THROUGH GIFT

By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector

During the final service of Bordeaux Baptist Church, Bordeaux, which is located in metropolitan Nashville, Bobby Hatfield, left, a leader of the church, acknowledges Dwayne Lewis, who will lead the new church located there, New Season Church.  — Photo by Debbie Hatfield

During the final service of Bordeaux Baptist Church, Bordeaux, which is located in metropolitan Nashville, Bobby Hatfield, left, a leader of the church, acknowledges Dwayne Lewis, who will lead the new church located there, New Season Church.
— Photo by Debbie Hatfield

BORDEAUX — Bobby Hatfield admits he was the “hold out” in the group of the 14 remaining members of Bordeaux Baptist Church here in metropolitan Nashville.

“I’ve been the hold out. I was committed to doing everything we can to keep the church open. …”

“This is home church for us. … It was family,” he explained, noting that he and his family had been active members for 18 years. In fact Hatfield was saved and baptized at Bordeaux Baptist at age 10 after which he was away for some years.

However, recently Hatfield admitted to the rest of the congregation that he too had to consider a change. Amazingly, the next day, he received a call from Rusty Sumrall, director of missions, Nashville Baptist Association, asking if Bordeaux would consider some arrangement to help a black congregation needing some meeting space. Sumrall had been working with Bordeaux Baptist for about five years. [Read more…]

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REVITALIZATION: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

Kevin Minchey
Church Revitalization Strategist, TBC

Kevin Minchey

Kevin Minchey

Church revitalization is about making a “comeback.” The sports world loves a good comeback: George Foreman, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan. The movie industry thrives on comeback stories: Rocky (all of them), The Wrestler, Captain America. The Bible is also known for its comeback stories: In the Old Testament we find Joseph, Moses, even Samson made a comeback of sorts.  In the New Testament we see Peter boldly preaching at Pentecost, Saul of Tarsus comes back as the Apostle Paul. Of course the greatest comeback of all is Jesus resurrected from the dead!  Biblical comeback stories always point us to God and give Him glory.

When a church reverses years of decline or breaks out of a plateau and begins to actively engage its community (in the process defying the predictions of its demise) God gets the glory! That’s why we work, seek, and pray for churches to be revitalized.  Church revitalization is primarily about giving God the glory for the great things He has done! [Read more…]

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