From Press Reports
Webster County Baptist Association Director William Carpenter said “if people will commit to this mission, and ever go to Ritchie County, (W. Va.) they will fall in love with the place and its people.”
Missionary Chris Barrow visited First Baptist Church of Eupora and the Webster County Baptist Association in October to garner support for a church-planting project in Ritchie County, W. Va. The Webster County Baptist Association committed to a three-year partnership with Barrow, who is working in conjunction with the North American Mission Board to plant a Southern Baptist Church in this rural West Virginia community.
According to Barrow and NAMB research, few churches and no Southern Baptist churches are in Ritchie County, and few Southern Baptist churches are in the surrounding counties.
Research shows a few Methodist churches, Churches of Christ, some Apostolic/Pentecostal churches, an American Baptist Church and a Fundamental Baptist Church are in Ritchie County.
Carpenter said his passion for this project “stems from a general passion for missions, to a concern about our churches involvement in current Southern Baptist work, to a specific interest in West Virginia.”
“Generally I am passionate about this mission because of the command of our Lord to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20),” Carpenter said. “As Christians, all of us should be passionate about taking the gospel to all who need to hear, whether they live in Eupora, Jackson, West Virginia or China. I could go on about this quite some time, but let it suffice that we must have the passion God has for people all around the world.
“Related to this is my passion for a Baptist commitment to cooperation. We as Baptists have long believed that we are more effective doing things together than by ourselves. Thus in order to see God’s passion for people fulfilled we must work together. This idea of cooperation has led me to be passionate about seeing our churches join together as an association to be a part of reaching the world for Christ.”
Carpenter said he desires to see this project accomplished because he would like to see the churches of Webster County involved in what Southern Baptists are doing within the state, the nation and around the world.
“One of my fears as a pastor and missions director is that our churches will become content with our current involvement in missions,” Carpenter said. “If that should ever be the case we will fall behind in what God is doing through Southern Baptists. At this time NAMB is heavily investing in church planting across North America. To see this vision fulfilled they are asking local churches to partner in this church planting effort. Our churches in Webster County need to be a part of this effort to plant churches and this partnership is one of the means of doing so.”
It was a mission trip to Huntington, W.Va., that sparked Carpenter’s interest in the state and the possibilities of church planting in the area.
“When the possibility of a partnership was mentioned at the convention, I decided to pursue it,” Carpenter said. “Further, I am drawn to Ritchie County because of my heart for rural areas. I have never been drawn to urban areas, but instead am interested in the rural, overlooked areas of the world.
“When I found out about Ritchie County, I realized that it was so similar to Webster County the match would be almost perfect. I realize that some individuals are led more to urban areas, but I believe most of our people in Webster Baptist churches would find a great connection to the rural mountains of Ritchie County. Finally, when I found out that it was the only county with no Southern Baptist work, I was hooked. If there is no Southern Baptists, and little evangelistic activity, then this is an area that we need to go to.”
Carpenter said churches need to remember the advice Mordecai gave to Esther: “If you refuse to be involved then deliverance (the gospel mission) will come from another place, but who knows but that you have been put here for such time as this.”
“Generally Mordecai told her that God would accomplish his work with or without her, but that she has the opportunity to involved and perhaps God has strategically placed her where she was for this purpose,” Carpenter said.
“The same is true for West Virginia. Bro. Chris has indicated his commitment to what God is doing there and that he will pursue this church plant with or without help from partnering churches in Mississippi, but who knows but that this opportunity has presented for just such an occasion as seeing our churches learning to work together to reach the lost. We would be the ones who benefit in the larger kingdom work.”
A group from First Baptist Church of Eupora made a trip to West Virginia to help Barrow as he made plans to hold his first worship service in November.
“(The Barrows) felt the call from God to begin a new work in the Ritchie County area,” said FBC pastor Travis Gray. “Our church is seeking to help them in any way possible to carry out the Great Commission. As I walked the streets of Ritchie County or walk the streets of Webster County, I’m reminded of our responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus. It is my prayer that we as Christians will accept the challenge that makes a difference for eternity.”
Stephen P. Davis, Ph.D., vice president of the Midwest Region for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Barrow has just started to gather his core group for this church plant in Ritchie County — a place where no Southern Baptist witness has been until he started.
“He feels very strongly that God called him there to plant a new church,” Davis said. “The West Virginia Convention has had their eyes on this area for some time to begin a new work.”
According to Davis, the church plant is co-sponsored by the Fairlawn Baptist Church where Greg Varndell, West Virginia Convention president, is pastor and also The Faith Baptist Church in West Union where Pastor Jim Messenger serves.
“Pray for Chris, because it is a state whose spiritual landscape could change dramatically through church planting,” Davis said. “It is also a state in great need of partners in the harvest.”
The Webster County Baptist Association will work to raise funds, provide prayer support for the new church and plan opportunities for volunteer mission teams.
For more information about the Webster County partnership for the church in West Virginia or to make a donation for the church-planting project, contact the Webster County Baptist Association at 258-5611.