Dying Church Experiences ‘a Lazarus Story’ After Being Revitalized

Powdersville First Baptist Church Pastor Brad Atkins, center, prays with fellow pastors after the June shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine worshippers were killed. With him are Summerville, S.C. pastor Edward Johnson, left, and Charleston pastor Frank Seigneous. Submitted photo
Powdersville First Baptist Church Pastor Brad Atkins, center, prays with fellow pastors after the June shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine worshippers were killed. With him are Summerville, S.C. pastor Edward Johnson, left, and Charleston pastor Frank Seigneous.
Submitted photo

When its copier was repossessed, Powdersville First Baptist Church believed the end was near.

The remaining members drew up papers turning the church’s property over to the next-door neighbors. Former members heard the news and started returning, praying for God’s direction. That was nine years ago.

“It’s a Lazarus story,” Pastor Brad Atkins told Baptist Press. “The Cooperative Program had a lot to do with it.”

As the once-vibrant church that started in 1983 withered by January 2006 in the wake of a church scandal, its missions giving shriveled to zero in order to keep the lights on and mortgage paid. Atkins, 16 years in fulltime ministry and leading a worship center overflow class at a large church, accepted a call to the troubled congregation in Easley, S.C. It’s his first senior pastor role.

“The first thing I told them was that we had to start investing in the Kingdom,” Atkins said. “We started off with 5 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and 5 percent to Piedmont Baptist Association, because the director of missions had supply-preached and his wife played the piano to help keep the church afloat.

“In the years following, we started increasing and today we’re giving 10 percent to missions through CP, 3 percent to the association, and 3.5 percent to the church’s four church plants and other ministries.”

Church attendance has rebounded to an average of 350 in Sunday worship services today, from an average low of 30 in January 2006. The Cooperative Program gives the church a global impact, Atkins tells his congregation.

“We can’t send out 5,000 international missionaries ourselves, but through the Cooperative Program, we’re part of that,” the pastor continued. “The Cooperative Program allows our church to be globally minded. We’re having an impact for the Kingdom!”

Powdersville First Baptist Church has draped the walls of its worship center with flags from all the states and nations the church has ministered in on mission trips over the last nine years.

“It’s just a visual reminder that when you put your offering in the plate, it doesn’t stay in Easley,” Atkins said. “It goes all over the world.”

Church plants, local ministries and national and international mission trips illustrate the church’s commitment to actively participate in missions while giving financially. One of its church plants is five minutes away in Easley. Others are in Xenia, Ill., Baltimore, Md., and one is ministering to cowboys in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Next year, Powdersville First Baptist plans to plant a church in Chesnee, S.C., an hour away.

In addition to its home state of South Carolina, the church has taken mission trips to Florida, New Mexico, Utah and Virginia, and has ministered abroad in Haiti, Israel and Romania.

A mission trip to Anchorage, Alaska, is planned for 2016, as well as a “mystery mission trip” with a destination unknown to those who sign up.

 

“If the Lord is calling, it doesn’t matter where it is,” Atkins said. “We wanted to show our members that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the calling.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Karen l. Willoughby

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