By Gwen Sisson
Mantee Baptist Church pastor 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.”
A team from Webster County will be traveling to West Virginia on Saturday-June-28 to help grow the church plant it helped start in 2012.
Last fall, missionary Chris Barrow of Dawn’s Light Baptist Church made a return visit to First Baptist Church of Eupora and the Webster County Baptist Association to garner continued support and updates 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, Ritchie County has few churches and no Southern Baptist churches. Few Southern Baptist churches are in the surrounding counties. Research shows a few Methodist, 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 … 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.”
Similar to Webster County
It was a mission trip to Huntington, W.Va., that sparked Carpenter’s interest in that 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 are 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.”
Martin Jacks, missions director for the Webster Baptist Association, said this trip entails three things: the support of a church plant in an area with few Southern Baptist churches, the fellowship of church members as they work together and obedience to Jesus’ Great Commission.
“Our church members who have participated in the trips to West Virginia can testify to the need for the church plant, and to how they have been drawn closer to members of the other churches in our association as they work together, and to the joy of being a part of Jesus’ loving work,” Jacks said. “This is the three-fold blessings of ministry.”
In the fall of 2012, 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.
“(The Barrows) felt the call from God to begin a new work in the Ritchie County area,” said FBC Eupora 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 there has been no Southern Baptist witness 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 mission project, contact the Webster County Baptist Association at 258-5611.