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Union Baptist Church, Rockford, practices legacy of missions at home, elsewherecomment (0)

June 8, 2006

By Dee Ann Campbell

Any time someone from the church takes on something, it just blooms,” said Jason Gravette, pastor of Union Baptist Church, Rockford, in Central Baptist Association.
It’s a small church, averaging only 30–40 in worship services, but Union Baptist has a history of service that rivals larger congregations. 
From youth missions to church planting to training young men for ministry, at Union, the workers may be few, but the harvest has been plentiful.
Through the years, it has been that harvest that has drawn more than a few church members into ministry, including Gravette.
He grew up in Kellyton, on the other side of the county from Rockford. 
Although Gravette attended church as a youth, he admits that after he became an older teen, his allegiance to the faith waned.
“I was involved in the youth group at a church in Kellyton as a teen,” Gravette said. “But when I hit my late teens and early 20s, I thought that going out and having fun was more important than church.”
His life began to change when he married a Rockford girl and moved to that area. Shortly after their marriage, Gravette and his wife, Alisha, began to search for a church home. 
“We visited all the churches around here, looking for a church to go to,” Gravette said. “When we went to Union, we felt at home.”
To his surprise, Union was under the leadership of the same pastor who had preached at the church in Kellyton where he grew up.
According to Gravette, Forbes was a dynamic, Spirit-led preacher with a missions-oriented approach to ministry. 
“There was a fire about him,” Gravette explained. “He and his wife were in their early 80s but still visited people every week. They were good examples of how to live your faith.”
And according to him, Forbes was a good example of how to effectively lead others to ministry.
“Bro. Mack was very missions-minded,” he said. “He always talked about how important it was to follow your calling and to go wherever God was leading you to go.”
About two years after joining Union, Gravette began to feel led by God in an undeniable way. In May 2003, he accepted the call to ministry.
Two months later, his friend and fellow church member Jeff Hardy also surrendered to the ministry. He is now serving as pastor of Sardis Baptist Church, Rockford, in Central Association, not far from Union.
In addition to encouraging young ministers like Hardy and Gravette, Forbes led his church members toward a missions-mindedness that included support for the Cooperative Program and the local Baptist association. 
He also encouraged them to participate in missions, both at home and elsewhere.
“Our church has always been small, about 62 to 63 on roll. We normally have about half that number in our services,” Gravette said. 
“But we have a dedicated group of folks. When we have associational meetings, almost every one of us goes. Sometimes on Wednesday nights, we have even more in attendance than we do on Sunday mornings,” he said. “Any time someone here gets involved with anything, they run with it.
“We don’t have a lot of money or a lot of people, but we just believe that God will provide a way for us to do whatever needs to be done.”
When Forbes retired from the Union pulpit, the church asked Gravette to fill in on an interim basis. 
But after a few months, the church called him to its pastorate.
Today Gravette is carrying on the missions-minded ministry that was ingrained within him by their former pastor at Union.
As part of that heart for missions, Union’s congregation is getting ready to send a group of its teenagers on a missions trip to Kentucky. 
Although the group has worked on other projects in the past, this will be its first missions trip to another area. 
It will be an effort not only to share the gospel with others but also to allow the youth to learn about God’s work through their own experiences.
“I just believe that you can teach them more by showing them than by preaching to them,” Gravette explained. “They’ve been told they are not going on vacation but to work and glorify the Lord.”
The adults of the church are also getting ready for their own missions trip this summer. 
They will be traveling to Blackshear, Ga., to minister through Vacation Bible School. “And another of our deacons is getting ready to go with the Chilton County Builders to Texas to plant a new church,” Gravette added.
And as for Union, he said he plans to continue to lead the church as the active, missions-minded congregation that it became under Forbes’ leadership. 
After all, Gravette said it’s not  about who’s in the pulpit or the size of the congregation. It’s about allowing the Spirit to lead and being willing to follow.
“It’s just happening,” he explained. “I can’t say there is any one person who’s doing it. It’s just God. “He wants us to do these things and we’re doing it.”

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