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Pickens County church effects change in self to reach communitycomment (0)

August 24, 2006

By Sondra Washington

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Gordo, in Pickens Baptist Association may be located on a dead-end street, but there is nothing dead about the congregation, which has nearly doubled in size over the past three years.

After longtime bivocational pastor Hershel Owen retired in 2001, the congregation called its first full-time pastor, Glenn Sandifer, to lead it into the next phase of ministry.

“Bro. Hershel had done a great job building a foundation here, and the people were willing to grow and follow the pastor’s lead,” Sandifer said.

This is the first church he has served as pastor, having served as a bivocational youth pastor at Clayridge Baptist Church, Clay, in Birmingham Baptist Association before coming to Mount Pleasant Baptist.

Sandifer remembers his first sermon in which he told the congregation that the church’s future had more to do with them than his preaching. “I told them that I made a commitment to preach the Word but what they did with the Word was going to make the difference, and they have taken the Word and applied it to their personal lives, church and missions outside of the church,” he said. “I believe we are growing because the people are being obedient to God’s command.”

As Sunday morning attendance increased from 90 to about 170, Mount Pleasant’s budget more than doubled, and the church has built a new family life center to accommodate the larger congregation.
This summer, there were 106 children involved with Vacation Bible School, a record number for the church, and about 100 church volunteers.

Two years ago, Mount Pleasant changed its Wednesday night services to meetings in which members pray specifically for each other, people in their community and the church. “Wednesday night was our prayer meeting night, but we really weren’t serious about prayer,” Sandifer said. “We would take 15 to 20 minutes worth of prayer requests and spend maybe two minutes in prayer. God just laid it on my heart to use Wednesday night as a real prayer service.”

Now the congregation spends 15 to 20 minutes giving prayer requests and praises and testimonies of answered prayers before splitting up into groups of three or four in the sanctuary to pray for those prayer requests. The groups follow an outline called a prayer C.U.R.F.E.W.

Participants first confess their sins privately and then pray for the unsaved, restoration of the church members, fellowship, encouragement for church leaders and Sunday worship service.

“I can tell you of answered prayers and people being healed and things that have happened in church; you just see God’s hand in movement through the prayer service,” Sandifer said. “Not only am I seeing new people come into our church but I’m seeing members who have been lifelong members grow spiritually and do things they have never done before in the life of the church.”

This summer, Mount Pleasant did a three-day missions project in community housing projects, ministering to about 20 children. One day, the mothers came and the church members were able to reach out to them, too.

Gary Farley, director of missions for Pickens Association, said Mount Pleasant was basically a “country church” that redefined its dream when a new pastor was elected and the highway near the church was changed to a four-lane road.

“They were at a point where there was enough change taking place around them that they (had to) make a decision,” Farley noted. “They looked at what was happening around them and decided they could be what they have always been or they could change to reach a new set of people moving into the area. Glenn understood the rural church but also had the experience of working in the Trussville area. He was the ideal person for leading that church through that change.”

Sandifer is happy that the community is responding to Mount Pleasant’s outreach efforts.

“We want people to be a part of what God is doing there,” he said. “People know us as a praying church and people who come and visit will tell us that it is a place where when they walk in the door, they feel welcome and feel like we want them to be there. It’s an exciting place to be.”

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