As long as there are unchurched people in Arkansas, there will be a need for new churches. The church planting team of the ABSC works hard to build up new church planters to start congregations all around our state. In 2019, 20 new churches have been planted so far in Arkansas, and there are 10 more “in the works” that should be ready by the end of the year. These 20 active churches have led a combined 659 people to Christ.
Numbers can be impressive, but there’s nothing like a good story. At the recent Church Planting Celebration Dinner at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Tim Wicker and Dave McClung from the church planting team shared some incredible testimonies of how God is moving in our state. Here are a few of those stories:
Maple Grove Baptist Church
Shane Fore is a church planter at the Trumann campus of Maple Grove Baptist Church. Years ago, he was heavily involved with drugs and alcohol and even did some jail time. He attended an evangelistic event during that time and was saved, and brought his wife back to the same event the next night and she was saved. By all accounts, they were completely transformed, to the point that he eventually became a church planter. The church in Trumann has seen huge growth, and when Dave McClung visited recently, Shane pointed out a man sitting in the back of the church. “This is his second week to visit. A long time ago, that’s the man who taught me to make meth.” The story of redemption in Shane’s life has been truly remarkable—he is a former drug user ministering to his former drug dealer. They meet weekly to read Scripture together.
At Oasis Central, church planters Jordan Bowen and Kent Liles have a heart for internationals. They refer to their church as “In the City, For the Nations.” They have emphasized outreach to internationals from the start, and they now have 7 different nationalities represented in their congregation. One of their members is a woman from India who has been away from her husband for many months. He is back home in India unable to get a visa to come to the U.S. to be with his wife. After many weeks of sharing the gospel with this woman and praying with her for her husband’s visa, Jordan let us know that she accepted Christ and the very next day her husband’s visa was approved. He will relocate to Arkansas later this year. She is a big believer in the power of prayer.
The Bridge Church
The Bridge Church in Wynne sits in the middle of town, right on the railroad tracks that separate the historically black part of town from the historically white part. The mission of the church and their pastors, Dustin Clegg and Kirk Owens, is to be a bridge between these parts of town and heal the racial divide in their town. The Bridge Church has seen enormous growth lately and they have been baptizing new believers almost every Sunday.
A woman in their church recently filled out a response card asking to meet with someone to talk about salvation. Dustin and Kirk met with her, explained the gospel, and she accepted Christ as her savior. Leaving the meeting, Dustin checked his phone and had a text message from a church member. She told him that she was at a restaurant and she had just shared the gospel with a friend of hers and her friend had just been saved.
The last piece of this story came from a small group leader in their church. It turns out the woman who accepted Christ at the restaurant went home and told her whole family about her decision. Her daughter responded by saying that she needed to do the same thing. Their neighbor is a small group leader at The Bridge and he came over to walk the daughter through the plan of salvation, and she became a Christian that day too. Three people came to Christ in a single day.
God is at work in Arkansas and He is making His presence known through church plants. The work of a church planter is hard, but it’s also vitally important. If you know a church planter, figure out how you can best support them, and if you get the chance to ask them about what God is doing, get ready to hear some amazing stories.