It’s been said that you can die and go to heaven from anywhere, but if you go from the Blue Ridge Mountains, you won’t notice the difference quite so much.
I love the mountains and especially the pastors and churches that are nestled into the coves and valleys that make up the Blue Ridge region. I am also blessed with the privilege of engaging in revitalization cohorts in four counties in this area.
The strategy for revitalization involves gathering each month with small groups of pastors and associational mission strategists to focus on the three phases of church strengthening — the man, the ministry and the mission. Revitalization specialists have led heartfelt discussions on the health of the man and the ministry of the church. I have sought to lead the men in these cohorts to capture a fresh vision of the mission of the church and to implement the six components of the missionary task which is adapted from the International Mission Board’s “Foundations” publication and the process the Strategic Focus Team uses to reach pockets of lostness.
Those components are:
- Entry: Enter the field of the community through building relationships and by meeting desperate needs in the community.
- Evangelism: Sow the seed of the gospel through spiritual conversations.
- Discipleship: New believers need an opportunity to become rooted and grounded in their faith through a discipleship system that is biblical, sequential and easily transferable.
- Healthy church formation: Every new believer needs a healthy, loving, biblically functioning church to be enfolded into like a warm incubator.
- Leadership training: Healthy churches develop biblical leaders. These leaders will grow healthy churches and take responsibility for the missionary task.
- Exit and partnership: This mission emphasis involves engaging hard-to-reach population segments, both locally and globally, in the hope of establishing healthy churches committed to the missionary task.
Churches all across the state are seeing new hope and new life as they restore their faith in the power of the gospel to transform lives.
As the participants of these revitalization cohorts have given themselves to developing and implementing a missional strategy, the results have been remarkable.
Todd Fletcher, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Polk County, has seen baptisms in his church triple through implementing an intentional strategy of evangelism and discipleship. Fletcher takes members of his church door to door to share the gospel, and they find a certain percentage of the people they talk to are open and ready for the gospel.
Timothy Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church in Arden, has patiently and lovingly cared for this congregation in Buncombe County. He has continued a traditional worship service, but has also remodeled the fellowship hall into a coffee shop atmosphere and has added an early modern worship service which is now seeing the same number of people attending as the traditional service.
Ronald Roberts, pastor of Drury Dobbins Baptist Church in Ellenboro, came to his church just over two years ago. The church was averaging around 30 in attendance. Through an intentional implementation of a powerful gospel-centered ministry, the church grew to around 100 in one year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but Roberts didn’t miss a beat. The church set up a flatbed trailer in front of the church building, and the members began coming to a drive-in service. When Roberts hits a crescendo in his sermons, the people sound out their “Amens” by honking their horns. They have now set up a tent, and attendance has grown to around 180.
Keith Ashe, pastor of Coweeta Baptist Church in Macon County, immediately began an outdoor drive-in worship service at the outset of COVID-19. One Sunday morning, a man walking down the street heard Ashe preaching and joined the service. Afterward, he came up to Ashe and asked how to be saved. They bowed down on the doormat just outside the church door and prayed together as this man gave his life to Christ.
Mark Tice, pastor of East Fork Baptist Church in Waynesville, has also hosted an outdoor worship service during the pandemic. One Sunday morning, a man took his 8-year-old son trout fishing on the East Fork River. As they drove around the curve, he heard a noise, looked up and saw Tice preaching to a parking lot full of people in their cars as he stood in the bucket of a front-end loader. To say the least, it made an impression on this man and his son.
Dead bones can live again. Churches all across the state are seeing new hope and new life as they restore their faith in the power of the gospel to transform lives and as they renew their commitment to the missionary task and extend the mission of Christ across the street and around the world.