Usually the question, “What happened here?” comes on the heels of a crisis — a natural disaster, an automobile accident or a puppy left alone for too long in its owner’s kitchen. In this case, it has to do with a Kentucky Baptist church.
Viney Fork Baptist Church of Tates Creek Association, in the Speedwell community near Richmond, recently held a revival and homecoming from Thursday evening through Sunday morning.
Just three years ago, this rural congregation, pastored by Bro. Jason Eades, was down to nine members attending regular services. And yet, their building was filled with young families and older members for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening revival services. The homecoming service on Sunday morning was so well attended that a church with nine people in attendance just three years earlier would have been hard-pressed to fit nine more people into the pews.
What happened here? Several things have happened in the past three years, but here are five that stood out to me:
1. There were nine people who refused to give up: Some say there was talk of closing the church, but there were some among those faithful few who would never have cast that vote. There are certainly times when a congregation cannot survive and may need to prayerfully release their facilities to another church or partner in a merger or replant project. In this case, however, it seems that the dogged determination to hang on was the right decision.
2. They called a Spirit-filled pastor: Jason Eades runs a hardware store in a neighboring town, but his heart, and that of his young family, is to serve Jesus for the entirety of his life. He will be the first to publicly say that he does not know how to turn this church around, but he does know how to love these people and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in service to the church and community. God uses us when we are fully dependent on Him.
3. Some others joined them to help: Jason’s father came from a neighboring church to lead music. Jeremy Anderson and his family also joined to help, as needed. Others have since been infected by the work of God in this congregation and joined in to help as well. The original nine has grown into the 50s and swells beyond that number for special services like the revival and homecoming.
4. They prayed and sought the Lord: One thing that is clear about Viney Fork is that it is a praying church. Leading up to revival, they had prayed for God to moveand move He did. People were saved, others came for baptism, one or two rededicated their lives and at least one other moved their membership during the four-day revival service.
5. They have all worked together: There is a sense of cooperation in the church, not only in how they support missions with their local association and state convention, but in how they make decisions. The decision to install two television monitors for announcements required drilling through the more than one-foot thick 220-year-old walls of the church, and the project went over without a hitch.
What God is doing at Viney Fork is not prescriptive for all churches, but there are some principles that can be applied to other places. When a historic and dying church becomes tired of business as usual and calls a pastor who wants to see what God can do, then it may be that great things are about to happen.
That is the story of Viney Fork. My prayer is that what happened here would be duplicated in other locations across our state. Would you join me in that prayer?