CROSSVILLE — Last year Lantana Road Baptist Church here planted its first church in an unusual way. The church accepted the facility of a church about to close, closed it for about nine months to allow for preparation, and then planted a new congregation there.
Lantana Road did all of this though it only draws about 350 to Sunday morning activities.
On Nov. 24 the first worship service of the new church — Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission, Pleasant Hill — was held and drew about 90 people. Currently Pleasant Hill Baptist draws about 60 people each week.
“God has showed off,” reported Adam Strayer, church plant minister. “All I can say is ‘Look how God provided, look how God provided.’ ”
Several years ago First Baptist Church, Pleasant Hill, contacted Lantana Road Baptist and asked for help to revitalize the congregation. Lantana Road responded by offering to help if the church would close to allow for a church plant. In 2013 First Baptist and Lantana Road agreed to proceed.
Following the agreements Scott Johnson, pastor of Lantana Road, thought of Adam Strayer, a member of Lantana Road who had shared with him recently that he was called by God to the ministry and specifically to church planting.
Though Johnson knew of Strayer’s commitments, this was news to most members of Lantana Road Baptist, Strayer explained. He had only told a couple of people of his spiritual callings.
His background is not that of most ministers, he added. Neither he nor his wife Michelle attended church regularly as children or teenagers. Just 12 years ago when he was 22 years old he was led to the Lord by Michelle. Then the couple became the first Southern Baptists in their immediate families.
About a year ago Strayer began feeling a burden for church planting as he visited family in Rhode Island. The first Southern Baptist church to be established in the United States is First Baptist Church, Providence, R.I. However when he visits family in the state he can’t find a Baptist church to attend in their community, said Strayer.
He is amazed that he was called as a minister and church planter by Lantana Road Baptist since he doesn’t have any experience, he said. But God was leading, he noted.
Lantana Road Baptist
Last year after Lantana Road Baptist committed to start the church in Pleasant Hill and called Strayer as full-time church plant minister, 10 members of Lantana Road committed two years of service as members of the church plant core group. That included some key leaders of Lantana Road including Frank Lewis, evangelism director, reported Strayer.
The church also spent about $35,000 on repair and renovations of the Pleasant Hill facility. Many members of the church did the work, which was led by about 15 retired members of the church who served for about seven months.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention gave funds to help with the church plant including $5,000 to help with the renovation of the facility.
One part of the renovation that was completed was the addition of a baptismal to the 60-year-old building, explained Strayer, who added that it was practical and symbolic. “We don’t want to play church,” he noted. Instead he and other leaders want to communicate “a high regard for evangelism. Our purpose for being on earth is to share Christ.”
On the needed leadership for the church plant, Strayer said the opportunities were communicated but people were not recruited. That often leads people to find it easier to question their choice when the work becomes difficult, said Strayer.
“We knew God was leading it and He would send who He wanted.
“On every front it’s been a sacrifice for Lantana Road,” explained Strayer.
One of the most difficult decisions made was the new name of the church, said Strayer. A leadership group of Lantana Road made up of staff members and leaders of the church met for many months to make that decision and others. The group was sure they needed to keep Baptist in the name because Pleasant Hill is a community which is predominantly Church of Christ.
Strayer said he and the core group was helped by Fred Davis of the TBC staff who leads a Boot Camp for church planters which Strayer participated in. He said Davis continues to mentor him.
Also helping in the effort was Kirk Casey, director of missions, Cumberland Plateau Baptist Association, based in Crossville. Casey, who is a member of Lantana Road Baptist, encouraged the church to take on the challenge, advised them, and recruited fellow churches in the association to pray for the effort.
Pleasant Hill Baptist is enjoying its birth, which is key to its success, explained Strayer.
“We were starting a new church. We wanted it to be clear in everyone’s minds in the community that it’s a brand new church family.”
On Dec. 22 the first event besides the weekly Sunday morning worship services was held by the congregation. A luncheon held following the service drew about 70 people.
Strayer explained that he and the other leaders of Pleasant Hill Baptist are moving slowly and taking their cues from the people coming. For instance, the church uses projected lyrics and other visuals and a blended worship style.
To help with the launch, core group leaders developed a new church logo, a brochure on the new church, a Facebook page which Strayer and other core group members manage and is a place where members and visitors can converse, and a website for the new church.
Finally, Scott Johnson, pastor, and Strayer said that members of Lantana Road also will be assisting members of Pleasant Hill Baptist in visiting people door-to-door to pass on the zeal for door-to-door evangelism of Lantana Road to Pleasant Hill Baptist.
On the overall effort, Johnson noted, “Through this church plant, we are excited about the opportunity to reach out further in our county with the gospel and see a 60-year-old ministry rejuvenated in the process.”
Fred Davis, church planting strategist, TBC, said, “This is an example of an existing church that is targeting their community to better reach their community with the gospel of Christ.
“Everyone in every community will not attend the churches that are in a community. This provides the opportunity to build bridges to many cultural groups in a given community,” added Davis.