Molino Baptist Church is revitalized after former member is revitalized into its pastor
By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
TAFT — Church revitalization begins one person at a time, believes Joe Self. In this case, it began with him.
The story begins in the 1980s when a rural church near Fayetteville was “a focal point and center of worship” for a small community here, recalled Joe Self.
Self, who was in his 20s, attended that church, Molino (Moh-line-ah) Baptist Church, then.
“It was there that I felt a call to the pastorate,” he recalled.
But he hesitated to respond. For one thing, like a lot of people he didn’t feel worthy, he explained.
“I pretty much ran from God for 30 years,” said Self.
First he “ran” from the call by joining the Air Force. Soon he had relocated far from Molino Baptist and even Tennessee.
Over the years Self and his family attended church off and on because he felt uncomfortable there.
Finally, in 2007, Self “surrendered” to the Lord, he recalled.
Soon Self saw what seemed like God’s response. If he received a promotion in the Tennessee Army National Guard, he would re-enlist and the guard would pay for his seminary education.
Everything worked out within just a few weeks, directed by God, said Self.
A few years later he was invited to preach at Molino Baptist and in another few years, in 2013, Self was called as pastor. He accepted despite the challenges there because God led him to.
Molino Baptist had changed and only about 12 people attended Sunday morning worship services.
One reason Self was encouraged, though, was a service he led as a guest preacher. He didn’t preach because the Sunday School discussion just “spilled over into the morning’s service. Everyone was sharing the burdens on their heart,” he wrote. Also the altar was full at the end of the service.
As he began serving the church, he found members were praying faithfully for the church. His wife, Keran, encouraged him to lead the church to be a praying church, which he did.
“It all begins with prayer … ,” stated Self.
Today, just two years later, Molino Baptist has been revitalized — drawing about 50 people to Sunday morning activities. This year the church baptized eight people and more are scheduled to be baptized. Recently three young boys who visited “gave their lives over to the Lord” and a teen accepted the call to be a youth minister, said Self.
One key to the revitalization is that on Wednesday nights the service has focused on discipleship, he observed.
“We just opened it up and everyone was invited to share so we could learn from each other as we studied God’s Word.” Interestingly, the children provided some of the best and most thought provoking questions and ideas, added Self. Yet he was concerned that the people weren’t really experiencing change when “things just seemed to ignite,” he recalled. A person was baptized and then many children surrendered their lives to Christ and were baptized.
“The kids were asking for Bibles to take to classmates who didn’t have them. Members were boldly going out talking to friends and neighbors about our little church,” wrote Self.
Over the past two years Molino’s members have held Vacation Bible School, Community Easter Outreach, the 55th anniversary celebration, and supported community efforts. Also they have renovated the sanctuary.
The church additionally has a ministry of developing preachers and teachers. Randy Maxwell, director of missions, William Carey Baptist Association, based in Fayetteville, encouraged the church to do this by calling Self, who would be serving his first church. The ministry has continued because Self must be away for guard duty one Sunday a month.
Looking back on everything, Self said, “There is a lot of hurt out there and a lot of hurt people. We want to see them comforted and restored,” he said. “We … welcome everyone into God’s family, to our family. …
“We invite Him (God) to do what He does best and watch Him change lives,” said Self.
Of course, with “growth comes new struggles, but just to watch the Lord work is amazing,” stated Self.