Pleasant View Baptist in Clarksville revitalized by missions involvement, baptisms, ministries
By Lonnie Wilkey
CLARKSVILLE — Church revitalization is one of the Five Objectives adopted by Tennessee Baptist messengers at their annual meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood in 2014.
The objective is simple: Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.
Defining church revitalization is not as simple. Some might think that church revitalization is simply an increase in numbers.
Not so, say those who are involved with church revitalization across the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
“Church revitalization is a process,” said Steve Holt, church services director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
The process moves a church that is plateaued or declining “toward a healthier and more sustainable environment in which the following becomes a greater reality: greater evangelistic effectiveness, increased participation in worship and Bible study, a renewed faithfulness in stewardship, and growth in community and mission involvement,” he said.
One of the many Tennessee Baptist churches across the state that is in the process of revitalization is Pleasant View Baptist Church in the Cumberland Heights community of Clarksville.
Pastor Jerry Jeter is quick to point out that when he arrived three-and-a-half years ago, the church was averaging around 150 in attendance. Today, the number is about the same, he noted.
Yet, he is seeing revitalization that goes beyond just a head count.
When he arrived at Pleasant View the median age of the congregation was 70-plus, Jeter noted. Now, the median age is around 42 years, he said. Reasons for the reduction in age vary, but it relates mostly to older members who have died or can no longer attend church while an increased emphasis on evangelism and outreach has brought new, younger families into the congregation.
“There has been a major shift in the age (of the church). That will help us to reach more lost people,” he affirmed.
Also, in the three years before Jeter arrived, Pleasant View averaged 11 baptisms a year. In the past three years the church has averaged 24 baptisms a year.
A former church planter, Jeter had experience in helping revitalize a church in Pulaski before accepting the call to Pleasant View. He has tried to incorporate things he has learned from both experiences including helping the congregation to become immersed in the Bible and prayer along with a greater emphasis on worship, fellowship and evangelism.
There is more to being a Christian than just coming to church, Jeter said. “We should expect believers to grow and to be leaders. Jesus does.”
Jeter has tried to instill in his congregation a missionary mindset.
“That can only happen if we are prayed up and prepared,” he observed.
The Clarksville pastor has seen his members embrace the concept of being on mission.
”We are sending out workers and they have returned home from mission trips excited,” he noted.
Thus far, there have been no shortage of opportunities for Pleasant View members. In addition to those who are serving going on mission trips, three men in the church have begun “supply preaching” in the association.
“Once you raise a person up to be a missionary, God will send them somewhere,” Jeter said.
“We are a church on mission,” Jeter said. “We are the body of Christ living out the mission He gave us.”
The pastor added that those “who have experienced the call of God to participate in the mission He gave us and have said yes to His call are not disappointed. Praise God for His allowing us to be part of His plan.”
Rick Stevens, director of missions for Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville, has witnessed the transformation of Pleasant View Baptist.
“From day one, Pastor Jerry Jeter has been intentional about leading his church to be outwardly focused,” Stevens observed. “They have seen new people recognizing gifts and calling for ministry and they have been intentional about verbal witness and have seen an increase in baptisms,” he continued.
Stevens noted the church has developed new focus on missions, including a Mexico partnership and an outreach to motorcyclists.
“Bro. Jerry is clearly Great Commission focused and has a heart for loving a traditional church, while leading them to make an impact for the Kingdom. On a given Sunday, they have people assisting other congregations with pulpit supply, while also looking after the needs of Pleasant View.
“He has provided a healthy focus on practical discipleship that leads to people who share their faith outside the walls of the church. He has been a blessing to Pleasant View and to our association,” Stevens said. B&R