Editor’s Note: This issue of the Baptist and Reflector lists the top churches in the state in baptisms and Cooperative Program giving during the 2012-13 church year. See charts on page 4.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
HENDERSONVILLE — In 2013 Long Hollow Baptist Church became the first church in the Tennessee Baptist Convention to baptize at least 1,000 people in a single church year.
Last year 1,051 were baptized at Long Hollow as a result of their outreach efforts, said Jeff Lovingood, next generation pastor at the church.
What’s more, he added, the church is on target to exceed 1,000 baptisms again in 2014, he added.
Lovingood noted 2013 was a challenging year for the congregation as they watched their pastor (David Landrith) battle cancer.
Yet, even with all that, the church experienced its best year ever in not only baptisms, but giving and attendance as well, Lovingood said.
“You can’t deny the good hand of the Lord being upon you and the Holy Spirit moving,” he observed.
In the midst of a tough situation with their pastor’s health issues, “the Lord used it for His glory,” Lovingood added.
In addition to the main campus, the church has four satellite locations in Springfield, Gallatin, Nashville (near the fairgrounds), and Madison.
Each location has a campus pastor but each congregation hears Landrith’s message. “We try to keep a consistent DNA on our campuses,” Lovingood said.
He estimated that about two-thirds of last year’s baptisms took place at the main campus.
Lovingood believes the surge in baptisms is the result of an intentional effort by the church to reach the next generation with the gospel and stressing the need for their members “just to live life with folks in their neighborhoods, their businesses, and their schools.
“If each person does that, hopefully people will see the difference in your life and you can tell them about what God is doing in your life,” he said.
As to reaching the next generation, he cited statistics noting that most people accept Christ before the age of 15 and that over half of the world’s population is under the age of 20.
“How crucial is that to the children’s, middle school, and high school ministries?” he asked.
With so many people under the age of 20 in the world’s population it makes sense to target them, he noted. “Do you want to fish in a pond with a lot of fish or just a few fish?’
Lovingood said Long Hollow has a strategy to reach children and youth. By reaching children for Christ, they will become young adults who are Christians, he said.
He observed that many churches focus on reaching adults. While there is nothing wrong with that, he is convinced children should be the first target.
“If you can reach the kids, you can reach the parents.”
The strategy apparently worked because he estimated that out of the church’s 1,000-plus baptisms in 2013, 75 percent of them were children and youth.
Lovingood noted that when a youth or child accepts Christ he or she is given a booklet they have to complete with their parents before they are baptized,
That process has had a ripple effect, he said. “It’s amazing how many parents come to know Christ after going through the booklet with their kids,” he said.
Lovingood acknowledged that his church does not have all the answers.
“We make a ton of mistakes,” he admitted.
“But hopefully we’re more fearful of missing an opportunity than fearful of failing.”
The church has made a lot of changes over the years in order to be where it is today. “It’s been a blessing to be part of a church that has allowed us to go after the next generation,” he said.
Despite recent successes in reaching people for Christ, Lovingood is well aware that “there are still a lot of people to reach.
“There is a great opportunity to make an impact on the next generation by reaching them for Christ,” he concluded.
TBC evangelism specialist Steve Pearson noted he was not surprised to see Long Hollow’s historic accomplishment.
“The greatest character trait in an evangelist church is compassion,” Pearson observed, noting that Jude 22 says, “and some having compassion making a difference.”
“Pastor David Landrith’s ministry has always been marked by his heart full of compassion.”