By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
LEESVILLE, La. (LBM) – An emphasis on “out of the box” evangelism has helped bring about a recent uptick in baptisms and worship attendance at First Baptist Church, Leesville.
“When people walk into our church, there is a level of excitement of what God is going to do,” Pastor Darin Worthington told the Baptist Message. “Our people are excited about what God is doing. Even though we may be a smaller church in size, God is using us to accomplish so many amazing things for Him.”
Since September, the church has celebrated 32 baptisms, compared to eight the previous year; and the most baptisms in any single year for the church, since 2016, when they recorded 19.
Moreover, the church has seen growth in Sunday worship attendance, increasing from 100 in January 2022 (when Worthington became pastor) to 200 in early August.
Charlene Linton, along with her four children, are among those who have celebrated life in Christ through baptism this year. Linton, who previously accepted Christ as a child but never followed through with baptism, was encouraged to pursue baptism after her children accepted Jesus during an in-home visit from Worthington in early April.
Since the baptism, she has held ongoing Bible studies with her children at home, attends Bible study and worship each week and most recently led her three siblings to Christ during a family gathering in Eldorado, Kansas.
“Once I got baptized, my heart was yearning for more and I surrounded myself with others who helped me grow deeper in my faith,” she said. “Now that I have His love, I am on cloud nine and don’t just want others not to go to hell. I want them also to experience the joy that comes with following Jesus.”
In January 2023, the church revamped its Wednesday evening activities for children, adding a meal before children’s choir and Awana mission classes. Attendance increased within 16 weeks for choir (5 to 25) and Awana (15 to 35).
The church also has added pickleball and adult fitness classes that draw 40- 50 participants each week.
Worthington said he is amazed at his church’s commitment to reaching Vernon Parish through those efforts, along with a fall festival, Easter extravaganza, Vacation Bible School and ministry to teachers and students at nearby West Leesville Elementary School.
Kiersten Nolen, children’s minister at FBC Leesville and a teacher at West Leesville Elementary, said the community has responded positively to outreach efforts.
“This year we have chosen to strengthen the relationships with those near us and we have seen more people coming,” she said. “The kids are invited and then the parents come, which allows us to get to know them over a meal or in Bible study they attend while their children are in the other activities, or at some other events we hold outside of church. Even our older adults have embraced this and have really gotten excited about being a part of this new approach to ministry.”
Likewise, middle and high school student ministries have seen substantial growth.
Since November 2022, eight students have been baptized (four after Youth Evangelism Celebration held in November and another four after Centrifuge that took place in June).
Attendance has also increased for youth gatherings, from 5 in August 2022 to 20 a year later. Student Minister Rodney Blackwell said he is thankful for how his youth have embraced their desire to serve Christ and to lead their classmates to a relationship with Him.
“They just heard the message of the Gospel during YEC and have responded,” Blackwell said. “Our students dove into the Word and invited their friends to come to church. They are super committed and many of them show up every week. Right now, they are excited about another school year, and we can’t wait to see what God does through our students.”
FBC Leesville will celebrate its 125th anniversary, Sept. 17, with a breakfast at 9 a.m., worship service at 10 a.m. (featuring a message by Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn) and dinner on the grounds afterward. That evening, the church will kick off a revival that continues through Sept. 20, 7 p.m. nightly. Those scheduled to speak include East Leesville Pastor Tommy Kiker, Sept. 17, Fort Johnson Chaplain Michael Jeffreys, Sept. 18, Louisiana Baptist Children’s Ministry Strategist David Anderson, Sept. 19, and Trinity Baptist (Lake Charles) Student Minister David Doyle.