By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SMYRNA — Missions work is never easy but Parkway Baptist Church here is ready for challenges, said Pastor Dan Parker recently.
In fact, Parkway Baptist sees God work the most when it accepts the greatest or most unusual challenges, he explained.
“It’s crazy,” said Parker.
So when he learned that a church in nearby Shelbyville needed to be revitalized, he prayed about it and soon a new ministry team of Parkway — the Macedonia Team — was organized to help revitalize El Bethel Baptist Church.
And, just like a lot of occurrences at Parkway, which are “crazy,” the Sunday morning attendance has doubled from about 35 people to about 80 and one person has been baptized. El Bethel didn’t have a pastor until recently when it called an interim pastor.
Parkway Baptist is not investing any money in El Bethel. Instead they are sending leaders, mainly to preach (before it had an interim pastor), lead worship, and teach Sunday School. The two congregations have held one joint event. Early on in the relationship, Parker preached there on a Sunday morning.
Mainly “we’re prayer partners with El Bethel,” said Parker.
To help, Tim Key, director of missions, New Duck River Baptist Association, based in Shelbyville, offered discipleship courses for members of El Bethel. About nine members are participating, he reported.
“You can already see the change in that church,” said Key. “Right now it’s (the revitalization effort) working well.”
Key and Parker talk often, which has been important, they both agreed, and helped result in the initial success of the revitalization efforts.
Also, just three weeks prior to a contact by Parker about the need at El Bethel, Key had conducted a community survey one Sunday morning within a three-mile radius of El Bethel. He counts residences and the number of cars to estimate the number of unchurched residents.
In just a few weeks Parker responded to the need by leading about 35 Parkway members to start helping El Bethel. The church is used to doing missions work, though it is usually in another state or country, said Parker. This year Parkway members served in Ohio and Texas in missions efforts. Parkway Baptist draws about 450 people to Sunday morning activities.
It’s a church where “everybody’s doing something. Everybody is serving the Lord.”
To represent that, when a person becomes a church member they receive a small towel bearing the church logo and are asked to serve on one of the 38 ministry teams of Parkway rather than on committees.
Parker learned about the need of El Bethel while on a Harvest Field Vision Tour led by Gary Rickman of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff in May. While on the tour, he heard Key speak about his association.
Though El Bethel and Parkway are different in many ways — El Bethel has more church facility than Parkway — they are the same in one important way — they both must be open to change, said Parker.
Churches must be “flexible and changing and doing ministry different every year,” said Parker.
For instance, Parkway developed a garden on its 20 acres of land which benefits local ministries and families who can use some of the land to grow their own food. The church has seen people join Parkway and become Christians because of the garden, noted Parker.
“This church can die if we decide we’re not going to do outreach ministry anymore,” stated Parker.
Parkway leaders don’t often knock on doors to reach people, he said. Instead, “if we minister to them, meet their needs, it’s amazing what God can do.”