For the past twenty-six years, I have been privileged to pastor the South Haven Baptist Church in Springfield, Tennessee. What God has done at South Haven is nothing short of miraculous.
In August 1986, my wife Laurie and I, along with our four children, moved to Springfield, Tennessee, anticipating how God would use us. With the members that remained from a previous church ministry, we felt God was leading us to begin a new ministry. In October 1986, with 156 charter members, the South Haven Baptist Church was established. Twenty-six years later, South Haven Baptist Church is still a thriving, New Testament, Bible-believing, soulwinning ministry!
The church has gone through many physical changes in the last twenty-six years. The main auditorium was built in 1989 and now houses the South Haven Spanish Ministry. In 1995, the high school and gymnasium were built, followed by the elementary school, daycare, and cafeteria building, built in 2004. Besides their ordinary functions, the facilities are also used for Sunday school classrooms, Bible Institute classes, Reformers Unanimous, and other ministries throughout the week. Due to the increasing need for auditorium space, in January 2011, the gymnasium also became our meeting place for Wednesday and Sunday services. Plans have been drawn for a new auditorium, complete with Sunday school classrooms and a bookstore.
God has allowed our ministry to grow in ways that seem impossible to man. From our humble beginnings with 156 charter members, our present membership exceeds 2,000, and in 2012 our weekly average attendance was over 2,300! In twenty-six years, thousands of people have been reached with the gospel, and multitudes have been helped through our various ministries. From the growing bus ministry to our hundredplus missionaries, South Haven Baptist Church truly has an outreach not only in Robertson County and the surrounding area, but literally around the world. South Haven Baptist Church has not wavered from its purpose—to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My wife and I have also been blessed these years as we have served the Lord together. Our family has grown—seven children and twelve grandchildren! And the Lord has seen fit to allow several of our children and their families to work in the ministry here at South Haven. God has not only blessed our church and my family, but also allowed me to learn some important lessons along the way. Jesus Christ has increased His church as we have tried to keep these three principles constantly before us.
Preach the Word
Preaching of the Word of God has been central for us. The Bible reminds us in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” God has chosen to change lives through the preaching of His Word. God uses His Word to build the lives of His people. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
God’s Word gets right to the heart, and that is where all the issues of life begin. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). As a preacher of the Word of God for over thirty-two years, I have seen God’s Word in action. I have seen the preaching and teaching of His Word change the lives of people. The Word of God is powerful! Preachers need to keep preaching the Word!
Spread the Gospel
Jesus commands us “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).
The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Gimmicks and promotions— although I am not opposed to them—do not build the lives of people, nor do they change the lives of people.
I have learned that the ministry of the South Haven Baptist Church is not the work of a man but the work of God! That is why it is still going forward. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
He is the Master Builder, and we, the Lord’s people, are the tools that He uses to fashion His church. Through soulwinning and discipleship, we have been able to see thousands of people saved and many saints strengthened in the faith through the years. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). We have seen many people remain who are now faithfully serving the Lord.
One man, whom I led to the Lord many years ago, is now serving alongside me as one of our deacons. We have several men who were saved and discipled through the ministry of South Haven who are now serving as pastors, assistant pastors, and missionaries on the foreign field. This is all a result of the Great Commission. As we go forth with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, many will be saved, baptized, and discipled. The Great Commission is the plan that Christ initiated and that He still uses to build His church.
Through the years, I have learned it is worth it not to quit when the circumstances dictate that you should! Our God is sovereign. He goes before us and with us, and He often is the voice behind us, encouraging us to keep on serving Him. “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
The success of the South Haven Baptist Church has not been without its battles. There have been trials, testings, and temptations over the past twenty-six years, but the Lord has enabled us to overcome and to go on, despite the temptation of discouragement that comes when people you have ministered to fall by the wayside.
Through it all, God is good and faithful. Should the Lord tarry His coming, South Haven Baptist Church will continue to go forward in reaching people with and building lives upon the Word of God. It is my prayer that God will continue to have His hand upon the ministry here, and that He will give us many more years to serve Him for His glory!