PIKEVILLE — Thirty-eight years is a long time to pray for something. Many Christians grow tired when the Lord doesn’t answer our prayer after 38 minutes! And yet, for the membership of First Baptist Church in Pikeville, the Lord recently answered a prayer that this congregation has been lifting up for at least 38 years.
In a recent business meeting, the church voted to donate a 7,500-square-foot facility located on a 43.5-acre campus, along with nearly $100,000, to Creekside Church, a new KBC church located just a few miles away. This moment was the culmination of nearly four decades of prayer and ministry efforts in the Island Creek community of Pike County.
In 1981, First Baptist Church first began mission work at Island Creek with the hope of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to this mountain community. Over the ensuing decades, First Baptist members consistently ministered to local children through VBS and backyard Bible clubs. Eventually, members began conducting worship services in the community. God was hearing the prayers of His people!
The Island Creek Baptist Mission (as it was known) had many highs and lows through the years. Many men filled the pulpit, and a few current Kentucky Baptist pastors preached some of their first sermons at Island Creek — including First Baptist Senior Pastor John Lucas and this writer.
At one point, it seemed the congregation was close to constituting as a local autonomous church, but the potential church soon began to decline in both attendance and giving. By 2016, less than 20 people were attending on a weekly basis, and it seemed that there might never be an autonomous Southern Baptist church at Island Creek.
But God was not finished with the Island Creek community. In fact, He was about to show off in some amazing ways.
In the late 1980s, a young boy attended VBS at the Island Creek Baptist Mission. That young man would grow up to become a Southern Baptist pastor of another church in Pike County. As the leadership at First Baptist was considering options at Island Creek, God began to impress the Island Creek community on the heart of that young man — Jason Johnson.
After sharing his burden with First Baptist Senior Pastor John Lucas, both Johnson and Lucas sensed that God may be answering prayers concerning Island Creek after all. A decision was made to cease the work of the Island Creek Baptist Mission in January 2017 and to launch a completely new work several months later with Johnson as the church planter.
After several months of prayer and preparation, Creekside Church held its first worship service on Aug. 20, 2017, with 266 people in attendance. It was a tremendous day, and the clearest sign yet that God was moving in the Island Creek community.
During the next year, Johnson and others representing Creekside proclaimed the gospel throughout the community, resulting in 18 baptisms, second only to First Baptist Church in total baptisms among the churches of the Pike Association during the year.
Just a little more than two years later, Creekside is still going strong. The
church has continued to be an evangelistic congregation. It quickly became financially self-sustaining. More than 100 people attend worship services every week, and more than 60 children participate in evening activities on any given Wednesday.
When the plan for Creekside was shared with the members of First Baptist Church, the goal was that Creekside would become an autonomous church within five years. However, in less than half the original goal, the membership of First Baptist Church voted to give the properties and finances over to Creekside when it constituted as an autonomous church on Nov. 10.
It took 38 years to come to fruition, but God has gloriously answered the prayers of those who saw a need for a church in the Island Creek community. And who knows? Perhaps one of the boys currently attending Creekside may one day plant a church as well. Only time will tell!
Jason Lowe is associational mission strategist for the Pike Association of Southern Baptists.