Small East Tennessee congregation, Pastor Dwight Torbett featured on Reaching app
By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MADISONVILLE — Westside Baptist Church, Madisonville, is making waves in its community, which is why its pastor, Dwight Torbett, is featured on the new “Reaching” app of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, explained David Evans, TBC evangelism specialist.
Evans said he is thrilled at the response to the app. About 1,000 people have downloaded it in just two months. The free app features daily devotions, interviews, an evangelism blog, and evangelism tools.
Torbett is interviewed in the video section of the app. He is included partly because his small church, which draws about 110 people on Sunday mornings, has baptized 34 people in the first five months of 2016, explained Evans. This occurrence is not an anomaly. Since 2011 Westside Baptist has baptized an average of 26 people each year with a high of 42 in 2015.
Torbett told the Baptist and Reflector that he has been pastor of Westside Baptist for seven years and initially the church drew about 25 people on Sunday morning.
One reason for its growth, he explained, is that the congregation is constantly investing in people in its community. The church provides a food pantry and jail ministry, and conducts a visitation program. Members pick up people including trustees from the jail to transport them to church in its van. They provide assistance to individuals with light bills and medications. They build handicapped ramps. As a result, Westside Baptist often doesn’t have a lot of savings.
Members do some of this outreach without him since he is a bivocational pastor, explained the pastor. Torbett also works full-time at Kimberly-Clark Papermill in Madisonville and serves as volunteer chaplain for the local Sheriff’s Department.
“You can sit around and wait for them to come in the back doors and you’re just going to be sitting and waiting because they’re not. You’ve got to go get them, and we try our very best to go wherever it is and get them. …
“To me to be evangelistic is to show the world the joy of my salvation. … It’s not about what I know … it’s about Who I know and … [He] can make all the difference in the world to everybody I meet if they’ll know Him the way I know Him. …
“I’m privileged now where I work to have the time to pray with a lot of people who come by my way.”
He sees his ministry as not tied to the growth of his congregation, Torbett added.
“You are not baptizing into your church; you are baptizing into His church. Now wherever they decide to put their name on the roll book or wherever they decide to work, that’s up to them.”
He also has tried to lead his church to allow the Holy Spirit to work by challenging the church members to “stay out of a box” and to keep Jesus “out of a box.”
He referred to praise and worship music, drama, and youth skits. “Some people say there is no place for those things in worship. I disagree and unless they can show me biblically that it is wrong, I will continue to support them.”
On one of the app videos Torbett also discussed his leadership as pastor.
“The first thing you always have to do is remember where you came from. The greatest miracle I could ever imagine is when Jesus Christ saved me. … It’s one thing to stand and to preach it but it does no good unless you’re willing to live it.
“To have the position as a pastor and to leave off the purpose, you’ve just changed it into a job. It’s not a job. It’s not a job. I can go to work and produce paper tomorrow, [but I] can’t save souls, only Jesus can do that. And … to preach without purpose, you turn it into something it’s not supposed to be. It’s not about us; it’s all about Him. …
“So it’s just me making sure I stay grounded and keep everything in order, and God’s blessed me.”
One key to his personal ministry is joy despite personal challenges, the pastor shared on the app. Two of his three children have muscular dystrophy and his wife, Kelly, has Lyme disease. Since the interviews for the app Torbett has developed some health problems of his own, he told the B&R.
“It’s just the devil. We can’t expect Him to do nothing. Who do we expect him to attack? The only fight we’re definitely going to lose is the fight we choose not to fight. The battle’s already won so why not fight?” asked the pastor.
To download the app in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or the Windows Marketplace, search for “The Reaching App.”