NC mountain man returns home to plant new church

January 12, 2021
People say if you live in the North Carolina mountains, they’ll always call you back.
 
For Michael Childers, that’s pretty much what happened. Except it was God who called him back, not the hills, he says.
 
Drive to Brevard over in western North Carolina, and then head out of town toward the nearest highlands. You’ll soon come to See Off Mountain.
 
That’s where Childers grew up. He was actually born in Florida, but his family moved up to See Off Mountain before he was a year old. That was home. Sometimes when he talks, you can hear mountain twang season his words.
 
Like many young people in the mountains, Childers spent a lot of his youth wanting to be somewhere else. But he stayed on.
 
When he was 17, he became an electrical contractor. He and a partner opened a business. Later he married his wife, Cheryl, and she joined him in wanting to leave See Off. As the company prospered, they finally were able to move to another town nearby.
 
Then, just a while back, God called Childers to ministry.
 
That electrical company he had worked so hard to build? He sold it to his partner and walked away.
 
Childers enrolled in Fruitland Baptist Bible College, just a few mountains away in Hendersonville, and soon grew to love and respect the school and its teachers.
 
Childers graduated in September 2020. 
 
Fruitland is owned and operated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and supported through the Cooperative Program giving of North Carolina Baptists.
 
The Childers were members of First Baptist Church of Brevard. Jeff Maynard, their missions-minded pastor, pointed out area communities needing new churches to reach people for Christ.
 
One of those communities was — you guessed it — See Off Mountain.
 
Maynard and others began looking for a place for a new church to be planted. Meanwhile, Maynard and Childers visited lay leaders of Dunn’s Creek Baptist Church, whose very nice building sits near the top of See Off.
 
But it was a church in decline with only about a dozen members remaining.

“We need to love God and love people. If we don’t love the people, we cannot share the gospel.” — Michael Childers

Declining church reborn
Could Maynard and Childers do anything to help the church?
 
That discussion resulted in a major change for the congregation. They decided they would stop being Dunn’s Creek Baptist and begin a second chapter as a new church plant.
 
It would be The Church at See Off. And Michael Childers would be the pastor.
 
The joy the Childers had felt earlier at leaving the mountain became a call to return. Childers says his wife felt it too. 
 
“God did a work in both of us,” he says.
 
The Baptist state convention’s Church Planting team provided financial help and coaching, both possible because N.C. Baptists support missions through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.
 
Once they began to hold services, attendance grew. God used Childers, the former electrician, to spark new life into what had been a declining congregation.
 
Childers put their services and Bible studies online, attracting hundreds of people he says he will not likely reach any other way.
 

A different mountain now

See Off Mountain is not the same place it was 40 years ago, Childers says. The population is growing, and many newcomers are flocking to live in the mountains near Brevard.
 
“It’s a very diverse population,” Childrens says. “Some are rich and some are poor. People have the idea that Brevard is only for retired people, but actually there’s a growing segment of younger families moving into our area.”
 
Few of the newcomers know Christ. In fact, two pockets of lostness are within a few minutes drive from the church. These are areas identified by Baptist state convention leaders as places where there’s a concentration of people who do not know Jesus.
 
Childers calls himself a mountain man by way of background. But he is firmly leading the new church to be open to anyone who wants to follow Jesus. And that means changing some time-honored traditions held by many mountain churches.
 
“We need to love God and love people,” he says simply. “If we don’t love the people, we cannot share the gospel. We must be willing to meet people where they are.” 
 
Childers talks of visiting one nearby community with decidedly un-Christian views and lifestyles. Childers knows he must talk to people like that if he’s going to tell them about Jesus.
 
That’s why Childers has shed the suit and tie preferred by most mountain pastors. Around town and even on Sundays, he is more likely to be seen in jeans and an untucked shirt.
 
“Hey, I like to dress up,” Childers jokes. “I look pretty good in a suit — at least that’s what my wife tells me!”
 
But his voice turns serious when he explains, “It’s hard to reach a 25- to 30-year-old man who works six days a week and is barely scraping by. He may have the idea if he does not wear a suit, he can’t come to church.” 
 
Things like dress-up clothes are barriers that need to be broken down, he says.
 
Childers says attendance dropped after the coronavirus pandemic set in earlier this year. But he is confident The Church at See Off will begin growing again as soon as the pandemic winds down.
 
Childers figures God did not call him back to that mountain to fail, but rather to bring glory to Himself by building a strong new church.
 
It will surely be a mountaintop experience.


by Mike Creswell  /  Contributing Writer

Caraway celebrates 60 years of ministry and memories

North Carolina Baptists joined forces in July 1962 to cultivate a powerful new tool to help churches reach and disciple more people — Camp Caraway. Now, decades later, the camp continues to serve N.C. Baptists and will celebrate its 60th summer this July.  Situated on more than...

How leaders can bridge generational gaps in Asian American churches

Many Asian American churches provide spaces for Asian immigrants to continue worshiping similarly to how they did in their home countries. They offer a familiar community and a home away from home. What can often be overlooked, however, is the cultural gap between immigrant...

On death and dying, as it relates to churches

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, wrote the classic book On Death and Dying. This work, chronicling lessons she learned with terminally ill patients, outlined the five stages that all people go through as they near death. Beginning when they are...

4 symptoms to watch for when assessing pastoral health

In preparation for this article I confess I did Google, “How to know if a pastor is healthy?” The number of articles, blogs and sites addressing the increasing issue of pastoral health did not disappoint. After all, we are hopefully coming out of the most difficult time of...

Fisher retires after 36 years at Caldwell Association

Dale Fisher received quite the surprise on his 70th birthday. Not only did ministry colleagues serenade him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” during the N.C. Associational Missions Conference in early April, they also recognized Fisher for his long tenure of service in leading...

The power of a name: God’s faithfulness in mental health

If I have learned one lesson this year, it’s that there is power in a name. When we give our struggle a name, we are able to better distinguish truth from lie and work toward healing. Naming opens the door to freedom and sheds light on truth that can feel uncomfortable, exposing...

Scholarship to cover tuition for new Fruitland students

New students now have an opportunity to attend Fruitland Baptist Bible College tuition-free this fall. Fruitland recently announced a new scholarship that will cover tuition costs for new, full-time students attending the Hendersonville campus during the fall 2022 quarter. The...

Un pastor de Charlotte planta una segunda iglesia después de pasar meses en el hospital

El otoño pasado Oscar Muñoz por fin regresó al hogar después de pasar ocho meses en un hospital y también en un centro de rehabilitación donde recuperó sus fuerzas luego de batallar con complicaciones por causa del COVID-19.Unas semanas más tarde, alrededor del Día de Acción de...

 

1 Comment

  1. AnDrew McKinney

    Hallelujah, I pray that it goes well I’m pastoring the church at Sapphire and started with only 3 people attending now we have around 10 and that’s all during covid-19 we had 21 once it’s in GODs hands !

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!