BROWNSVILLE — Rather than simply praying for the pastors in the Stanton area, Ben Cowell felt called to become one.
In the spring of 2022, Cowell read a story in the Baptist and Reflector about the potential impact that BlueOval City — the massive Ford Motor plant being built in West Tennessee — could have on the city of Stanton and the surrounding communities. The article not only piqued Cowell’s interest, but also tugged at his heart.
Cowell said he soon found himself thinking about the enormous challenges — and enormous opportunities — for the pastors in that area. He wondered who would help them. And he began asking this question: “Why not me?”
Cowell, who was then serving as student pastor at Germantown Baptist Church, started praying for the Lord’s direction regarding this decision. Weeks later, he was called as senior pastor at Brownsville Baptist Church, located about 20 miles from the BlueOval campus.
“I knew then, as I know now, that there are exciting ministry opportunities ahead,” said Cowell.
Located in Haywood County, roughly 40 miles east of Memphis, BlueOval City is expected to bring approximately 90,000 people to Haywood County over the next 10 years. The plant will eventually cover approximately 4,100 acres and will ultimately employ about 10,000 workers.
The evangelistic opprotunties are essentially endless, and Cowell is energized about the prospects.
“To be on the frontlines of this golden moment is beyond thrilling,” said Cowell.
Cowell’s church, along with several other congregations in the Stanton area, have joined together to form the BlueOval Coalition. The group is carrying the torch for Tennessee Baptists in terms of helping them be intentional and assertive about making an impact for Christ in BlueOval City.
“Pastor Ben is an example of what the Lord is doing among many of our pastors in relation to BlueOval,” said Danny Sinquefield, Harvest Field One team leader for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “For some of our pastors and churches, it is a ‘breath of fresh air’ that people are coming to the region and it offers an opportunity to be part of a great harvest of souls.”
Despite the exhilarating elements of being part of the groundswell in Stanton, Cowell said making the move from Germantown to Brownsville was an emotional time for him and his family.
“The decision was equally difficult as it was exciting,” he said. “Having served at Germantown Baptist since November of 2014, my family had deep relationships, and the fellow pastors on staff at GBC were my best friends. My family had to say a lot of hard goodbyes.”
But Cowell said it was clear that the Lord was calling him to BlueOval City — a mission-field-in-the-making.
He has since jumped in with both feet, developing evangelistic events for the construction workers who are building the sprawling complex.
“God’s people at Brownsville Baptist Church are more than excited about this opportunity and have adopted an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality,” he said. “The atmosphere is beyond electric.”
Cowell noted that the church is planning to host a few “block parties” this summer to further engage the Walbridge workers (the construction company that is building BlueOval) at various RV parks around Haywood.
Last month, Brownsville Baptist was among the churches that sent volunteers to a luncheon in which 1,000-plus BlueOval construction workers were fed. The event was hosted by more than a dozen Baptist churches and was supported by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief.
Sinquefield said he believes that event was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
“My heart is beating fast for our churches — and especially our pastors in that area as the Lord opens up this great door of opportunity,” he said.
Cowell said his prayer is the Lord will keep his eyes open for each and every ministry opportunity during the next few years.
“Really, the only pressure felt is that of not meeting this moment with the careful intentionality that this opportunity deserves,” he said. “We want to remain faithful and diligent to the task that is before us.”
BlueOval City, named in reference to the iconic Ford logo, is expected to ultimately cost $5.6 billion, which would make it the most expensive single investment in Tennessee history. The members of the BlueOval Coalition are hoping to make investments of their own — spiritual investments.
Cowell said the feeling is palpable among his congregation.
“There is a level of expectation among the people of Brownsville Baptist Church that is just contagious,” he said. “It really is amazing to see other believers’ faith increase as we pray and believe the Lord of the Harvest to increase our gospel reach. Our members are so excited when they share testimonies of engagement with these Walbridge workers.”
Sinquefield said he hopes Cowell’s story will serve as an inspiration for others to “catch the vision” for the potential harvest that can take place at BlueOval City.
“I am always blessed by the obedience of God’s servants,” said Sinquefield. “Pastor Ben represents one of many who are already seeing themselves as pastors and missionaries in a vast field of opportunity. It is my prayer that others will follow this beautiful example of hearing God’s call and being willing to say ‘yes’ to the Lord in this exciting season!” B&R