By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CUNNINGHAM — David Mackens is well aware there are not many openings for former Pentecostal pastors in Southern Baptist life.
But nearly 12 years ago, there was an opening at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Cumberland Furnace and Mackens was asked to preach one Sunday. Though he was, indeed, a former Pentecostal pastor, they asked him to come back and serve on an interim basis until the church found a pastor.
Mackens agreed, but made it clear the pastor would not be him. He was wrong. In December of 2007, the church called him as pastor and he accepted.
The pastor recalled that during the interim period, God began working in his heart and life. Pentecostals believe that individuals can lose their salvation. He recalled that God used his two daughters to change his thinking with the question, “What can they do to not be your daughters?” “My answer,” Mackens said, was “nothing Lord!”
After coming to grips with that realization and speaking to Baptists in Cumberland Baptist Association including then director of missions Dennis Pulley, Mackens was ordained as a Baptist minister by Lone Oak Baptist.
Mackens acknowledged there were some skeptics who thought he would turn Lone Oak into a Pentecostal church. Well-meaning Pentecostals would “call me and asked what I was going to preach,” he recalled. Mackens’ answer was always the same. “I’m going to preach Jesus.”
Though grateful for his Pentecostal roots (his father and grandfather were both Pentecostal ministers and his grandmother was a strong influencer in his life), Mackens quickly became a Southern Baptist.
Lone Oak has tripled its Cooperative Program giving in the last 10 years and is up to more than 4 percent annually.
Mackens cited the two aspects he loves most about Southern Baptists.
First, Southern Baptists “preach the Bible and they’re okay with it.”
Second, he added, “Southern Baptists want to take the gospel to the world. That’s right down my alley.”
In addition, Mackens has become involved in the life of Cumberland Baptist Association. “David values the CBA and Tennessee Baptist Convention relationships and shows that with participation and engagement,” said Rick Stevens, director of missions for CBA.
“We have grown together as Lone Oak has developed and increased their scope of ministry,” Stevens added, noting that he and Mackens have participated in three mission trips together.
“David is a visionary person, who has not only revitalized a church. He has greatly benefited Cumberland Baptist Association,” Stevens observed.
When Mackens arrived at Lone Oak, located in the southern most part of Montgomery County near the Dickson County Line, the church was averaging around 45 each week.
Since then, the church has grown to about 450 members with an average attendance of about 400 each week. “God has blessed ever since,” Mackens said.
Mackens said many members have told him they were attracted to the church because “it feels like family here.” “That means we are getting it right. We are a loving church.”
As with many rural churches, space (or the lack of it) soon became a problem as the church outgrew its facility.
About eight years ago the church decided to try a second service at 8:30 a.m. with the understanding that if it did not average 50 people within three months, they would end it.
Attendance averaged 70 people each week and the church has not looked back. “In less than a year, the average attendance was the same as the other service,” Mackens recalled. It is now the larger of the two services, he added.
But parking remained an issue. Three years ago, the church began looking for property and God made available 26 acres about a mile from the church in the Cunningham community of Montgomery County.
The church was able to purchase the property out of its “Greater Things Fund,” without incurring debt. “We continue to see how the hand of God led us,” Mackens observed.
The move will enhance the church’s visibility in the community, the pastor said. About 300 cars a day pass the church’s current location on Louise Road. With the move to the property located on Highway 48 (the primary road between Dickson and Clarksville), between 15,000 and 17,000 cars will pass the church daily.
Now, the church is in the midst of constructing a new multi-purpose building on the new property which will serve as the worship center and educational and fellowship space. The new 19,200-square-foot building will double the church’s seating capacity, Mackens said.
He is hopeful that construction on the new building will be completed in the next four to five months. “It’s been amazing to see what God has done so far,” the pastor added.
“The Lord has blessed us,” he affirmed.