Six-Member Church Near Yellowstone National Park Impacts the World

Britton Gray, Yellowstone National Park’s structural fire chief, responsible for 1,600 buildings, including lodging for 20,000 guests, serves as bivocational pastor of Gardiner Baptist Church near the north entrance to the nation’s oldest park. Here he rests with his near-constant companion, fire dog Magoo.
Photo by Karen Willoughby

Most churches would consider closing their doors if their active membership dipped to six people, but Gardiner Baptist Church is holding steady.

The debt-free church — located near Yellowstone National Park’s north entrance — is raising money for a two-story community building on its two acres to serve as a food pantry, thrift store and medical clinic, with emergency housing upstairs, to the town of 875 people.

Other ministries include supporting the local food bank; providing space to the town’s physical therapy center and counseling center along with community use of its playground; and the GBC House Band (as in Gardiner Baptist Church) — with pastor Britton Gray as lead vocalist — performing once a month in the basement of a local gathering spot and tourist attraction called the Two-Bit Saloon and Grill.

“We’re trying to connect with those who think they’re unworthy to go to church,” said Linda Gray, the pastor’s wife. “We’ve worked really hard at being a place for the down and out.”

Though Gardiner Baptist has both an internet and Facebook presence, the church’s building and its playground on the town’s main thoroughfare — U.S. 89 — often is the first awareness visitors have that Southern Baptists minister year-round to local residents, hundreds of seasonal workers and multiple thousands who venture to Yellowstone each year through the north entrance.

Five to 10 people visit Gardiner Baptist Church each week during the summer months — more when a mission team is in town — so in 2017 the average Sunday worship attendance was 22. Members, mission teams and Yellowstone visitors help the church conduct block parties, outdoor concerts, Bible distribution, five-day kids’ camps and other outreach activities.

“We want to expose people who are lost to the truth of the Gospel, and the only way to expose someone to the truth is by having a relationship with them,” Britton Gray told Baptist Press. “If we’re not out there meeting and greeting people, how are we going to lead people to Christ?”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Karen L. Willoughby