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Moulton-area church marks 150 years with reflections of past, vision for futurecomment (0)

December 7, 2006

By Jason Houston


Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, delivered the message during the second hour.

The crowd enjoyed dinner in the church’s family life center and then enjoyed additional special music and a session during which the current staff members shared their vision for the church’s future.

Tommy Whitlow, minister of music at Pleasant Grove Baptist for 25 years, prepared special music for all the events. There were about 900 in attendance.

"We wanted to celebrate the past and take time to be thankful for what God has done," Meek said. "But statistics show more than half of Lawrence County’s people are unchurched and lost, so there’s plenty more for Pleasant Grove Baptist Church to do. We want to continue to be a Great Commission church."

Associate Pastor Neil Carter, who, like Whitlow, has served for 25 years, said current church missions efforts are especially significant given the church’s history.

"A couple of things stood out to me while we were looking at our history," Carter said. "One thing is the congregation came into existence over the issue of missions. All of our charter members were part of another church and some of the folks wanted to be involved in missions and some didn’t, and the ones that did formed Pleasant Grove.

"That was just after the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention and their initial involvement in missionary efforts."

He said the church’s heyday has been in the last 25 years, during which time he, Shelton and Whitlow all served together.

Shelton has consistently credited a weeklong revival in the fall of 1981 for the Pleasant Grove Baptist’s burst of growth.

"I’ll never forget it," he said of the revival held 11 months into his tenure at the church. "James Hickman, a pastor friend of mine from southern Mississippi, was preaching … and it was all glory and God’s hand. It was the type of revival where before you gave the invitation, people were just waiting to come. Some were even saved before services. It was just the Holy Spirit at work, and it was a real turning point. That was a real work of God."

Shelton said he baptized 59 people the following Sunday night.

More than 75 people were saved, including 35 people who were already members of the church.

Church growth took off from there.

From Dec. 14, 1980, Shelton’s first Sunday, until the end of his tenure, the increases were phenomenal — from 488 members to more than 1,800; from $66,000 in tithes and offerings to a high of $1,102,034 in 2003; and from $13,000 given to missions in 1980 to a high of $212,000 in 2001.

Shelton also led Pleasant Grove Baptist through four major building programs — a family life center in 1987, a $1.3 million worship center in 1995, an office complex built in 1999 and a $1.85 million education building in 2002.

Jimmy Meek said he wanted to use an occasion set aside to honor the past to look to the future — and that’s exactly what he did.

Meek, who recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Wren, in Muscle Shoals Baptist Association, said he learned a lot about his congregation — where it’s been and where it’s going — during the recent celebration of the church’s 150th anniversary.

Pleasant Grove Baptist celebrated its sesquicentennial with a worship extravaganza Oct. 15. Jackie Shelton, who served as pastor for the 24 years prior to Meek’s arrival, spoke during the first hour.

Also during that time, the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission presented a plaque to the church in honor of the occasion and several longtime members were honored. One of those was Irene Shoemaker, who has been a member for 79 years.

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