After voting in favor of revitalization plan, Lebanon Baptist sees 10 baptisms in nine months
By David Dawson
TALBOTT — Despite some downward trends, pastor Charlie Brewer believed in the congregation at Lebanon Baptist Church. And they likewise believed in their pastor.
So, when Brewer presented the church with an outline of what it would take for the church to once again become visible and vibrant, the members of the congregation rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
“They got behind it full bore,” said Brewer.
Now, roughly nine months later, it is clear that the tide is turning. Spurred by their unified attitude and high-energy work ethic, the church has been able to regain its footing and renew its purpose.
Since January, the church has seen 10 baptisms — which is the exact number that Brewer had on his heart when he set new goals for the church at the start of the year. Chances are, over the next four months, Lebanon Baptist will go well beyond that number.
“It’s just been a blessing to watch,” said Brewer. “There’s a great bunch of servants here. They love the Lord.”
Prior to the recent surge, Lebanon Baptist had been in a period of steady decline for the past two decades. The church, which once averaged about 275 attendees, had dropped to about 120 on Sunday mornings, and far fewer than that on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.
But now, the church is once again “on the grow” and is benefiting from the plan that was formulated after Brewer attended the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s Revitalization Conference last January at Carson Springs.
“Things are kind of snowballing now in a good way,” said Brewer.
The recent wave of baptisms has had a galvanizing effect on the church, said TBMB bivocational ministry specialist John Parrot, who is helping guide Lebanon Baptist through the revitalization process.
“Seeing someone trust Christ when you’re obedient to His Word always brings a new day of excitement to a church,” said Parrot, “and we’ve seen that at Lebanon Baptist.”
Although there have been many components behind the revitalization, the primary driving force was the church’s hunger to be used by the Lord.
“I want to see people come to Christ,” said Brewer, “and I believe — no, actually I know — that the members of Lebanon Baptist want that, too. We have a desire to see the House of God full. We want to see people come so we can get the Word in them.”
Brewer said Lebanon Baptist has always been a very mission-minded church, with generosity shown for “Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and all of those things.” But he said he knew there was more that needed to be done.
“We were missing our community,” he said. “We weren’t reaching out. … The church had internalized. It had become really about Lebanon Baptist Church, and not about the Kingdom of God in a lot of ways. Making the gospel a priority is what we had to do.”
Following the blueprint for successful revitalization, the members at Lebanon Baptist have made a concentrated effort to seek the lost and unchurched. Brewer said the congregation hasn’t had to travel far to locate a harvest field.
“We visited 1,000 houses in our backyard — right here around our church — and we gave out 1,000 invitations to church,” said Brewer. “We also participated in the GoTell Crusade, and gave out another 600 invitations to the crusade. Plus, we’ve started a daily prayer ministry with two schools right here in our community.”
In some instances, churches aren’t willing to make changes, even if the situation looks bleak. Lebanon Baptist, however, did not have that unbending mindset. They wanted to reach the community. They wanted to make a difference. They wanted to make an impact for the kingdom.
“I believe that there were those in the church who realized that restructuring relationships inside the church would lead to changed hearts for those outside the church,” said Parrot.
Brewer noted that church members John and Candy Flemming developed discipleship classes specifically geared to revitalization, yet another example of the “full bore” support the church has shown toward the process.
As for his own role in the revitalization process, Brewer said his job was simply to shepherd his people in the right direction, and then leave the results to the Lord.
“God never sent me here to build Lebanon Baptist Church,” said Brewer. “God sent me here to build His kingdom, and He’ll build His church.”
THE WINDS OF CHANGE
Brewer said he was attending the Nolachucky Association’s Pastors Conference in August of 2018 when he first started to feel the Lord speaking to him about what needed to be done at Lebanon to help the church reach its potential. Brewer soon contacted Parrot and began working with the TBMB’s revitalization team.
“It really all started on Sept. 1, 2018,” said Brewer. “I took the 40 Day Revitalization Prayer Guide. I went through that myself — just me and the Lord. Then I put a team together and we went another 40 days through it.
“Then when I finished with that team, we went another 40 days as a church.”
When all was said and prayed, Brewer had no doubt what the Lord was calling him to do.
“We had 120 days invested in prayer in this,” he said. “Through that, it was just very clear. After that, I attended the Revitalization Conference in January at Carson Springs.”
Shortly after that, Brewer and his team put the wheels in motion, and he said they felt a gust from the Holy Spirit pushing them along.
“It was just like God put His stamp on it,” said Brewer. “This is our direction, this is where we’re going.”
ANSWERING THE CALL
One of the initial steps in the process was compiling numbers, and then comparing where the church had been in the past to where it was now.
“We did an eight-week analysis,” said Brewer. “Bro. David Hawkins got me all the information about our church history, baptisms, church attendance, and such, and we went from there.”
After crunching the numbers, Brewer felt led by the Lord to issue a troubling warning to his congregation.
“I told the church, ‘If we continue on, going in this direction, in about 10 years, it’s going to be turn the lights out — we’re done,’ ” said Brewer.
The foreboding message wasn’t delivered for dramatic purposes. It was a real and honest assessment. The members took the message to heart, and decided to do something about the situation.
“This church is amazing,” said Brewer. “They voted as a church congregation to go into revitalization. It was an overwhelming vote yes. So, the process started. I put together a vision team, and we started meeting on a regular basis, discussing things about the church, and what got us in this shape.”
After the church-wide analysis, the vision team began making changes. Priorities were shifted. Outreach and witnessing became the focal point. Church events — such as the widely-popular Fall Festival — became gospel-sharing opportunities. “We started intentionally trying to turn it,” Brewer said. “Everything that we do, any activity we do, anything that happens at Lebanon Baptist Church, has a gospel presentation. I think that’s what’s been turning us. In fact, I know it is.”
The TBMB revitalization team says it generally takes about 1,000 days for a church to truly experience revitalization. By all indications, Lebanon Baptist is well on its way.
“We’re really less than one year into this process, but it’s been amazing to see what has happened so far,” said Brewer. “God’s really doing some great things.” B&R