Conecuh church sees great growth, revivalcomment (0)
July 21, 2005
By Sondra Washington
Attendance at Bermuda Baptist Church, Repton, had dwindled to less than 15 on Sundays, and church and community members alike thought the church was dying. But everything changed a few months ago when several younger families joined the church and attendance more than doubled.
Julia Matthews, wife of Pastor Dean Matthews, attributes the church’s growth to God answering the prayers of the church.
“We’ve been kind of stagnant for the last few years,” she said. “We have a very loving, affectionate church. The Lord is working in the church and in that community.”
Dean Matthews said church members are reaching out to the community through home visitation and partnerships with other churches. A 70-year-old bivocational pastor with a paper route and landscaping business, he feels sharing love and the Word of God is paying off.
“There was an aura of pessimism and now there is optimism,” he said. “They (the members) remember what God did when they were young. Now they are seeing a revival again and they are thrilled.”
Cleveland Brown, director of missions for Conecuh Baptist Association, is also excited about Bermuda Baptist’s growth. “We hope it might indicate what can take place in the other churches in the association,” Brown said.
He added that his office plans to offer small membership church growth training this summer to the association’s 25 churches to help them “evaluate their programs, see that they are doing some positive things already and help them see that there are some other things we can do,” Brown said.
Similarly Dean Matthews hopes Bermuda’s growth will encourage other ministers to consider leading smaller churches.
“So many (ministers) see a church that has only a handful of members and think it is a dead end,” he said. “When God called you, He called you to a work, and it should never be thought of as a stepping stone.”
He remembered a conversation he had with a religion professor at Howard College (now Samford University) about decreasing membership in rural churches.
“Dr. Chapman said if a man will do what God has called him to do and dedicate himself to that purpose, God will take care of the rest and that’s what happened at Bermuda,” Dean Matthews said. “I am humbled and blessed so wonderfully by knowing the people. It’s a wonderful time to be alive and to be pastor of Bermuda Baptist Church.”