Bagdad—In the past five years, among all Kentucky Baptist churches in the Central Region that reported on the Annual Church Profile, seven broke the 60 barrier in average worship attendance. Five years ago they averaged below 60, but today they are averaging over 60 in worship.
One of those churches is Indian Fork Baptist Church, located two miles from Bagdad. When Pastor Josh Rucker was asked how the church achieved this mark, he was quick to give glory and credit to God.
When Rucker came for his first Sunday, 22 people were present. Fifteen members voted on him to become their pastor, with a 100 percent vote. Today the church averages 70 in worship attendance.
Rucker accepted the pastorate as a bi-vocational pastor. He also has a full-time job with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the Division of Equipment.
The following things are what God led Rucker and the Indian Fork congregation to focus on:
Shifting of priorities. In his first year Rucker led the church to focus on kingdom growth and spiritual growth of the people. He sought to prioritize the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, and it translated into people being reached.
During his first year, they witnessed 17 people come to faith in Christ and be baptized. This was more than in the previous 10 years combined. They have witnessed 40 baptisms since May 2012. Their priorities have been to make and multiply disciples.
Evangelistic outreach to the community. The congregation saw the need to move beyond their four walls. Rucker quoted the late Adrian Rodgers who said, “Churches are often like stores with goods to sell, but often they lock the store and try to sell them to the people within.”
Rucker believes in boldly proclaiming the gospel. He doesn’t just teach about evangelism, he leads the way with his personal lifestyle. Knocking on doors in the community and having gospel conversations is a common practice for Rucker and his people.
The church conducted a community survey asking people what they thought were the greatest needs in the community. They visited more than 500 homes. Information gathered helped them understand their community and where people were spiritually.
The church established a relationship with a local school. They provided appreciation gifts to each teacher. Rucker is now a board member on the resource center with the local elementary school.
The church is planning an Operation Inasmuch initiative involving home repairs, food services, wellness checks and free haircuts. They are also making plans to join Florence Baptist Church in sending a team to serve in Haiti. This will be the first international mission trip in Indian Fork’s 209-year history.
Priority of proclamation. Rucker places a high priority on faithfully and passionately proclaiming the word of God through expository preaching and teaching. He preaches and teaches on average six times per week.
“God’s word has the power to change people’s lives,” Rucker said. He preaches verse by verse through books of the Bible, recently focusing on Colossians, Jonah, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, Proverbs and Acts. He is preparing to preach through the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
Evaluation of space and facilities. As the church grew in worship attendance, space became an issue. They worked with their KBC regional consultant to conduct a space and facilities study to determine options for addressing their most limiting factors for growth. They prayerfully evaluated options and determined to build an addition to their facility. Plans are to add on to their sanctuary, build more classrooms and a fellowship hall, and transform the old fellowship hall into classrooms.
Their space study also revealed that their parking lot was too small. So, they provided 28 more spaces and paved their lot.
Priority of prayer. “Anything we do has to be bathed in prayer, not only individually, but also corporately,” said Rucker. The church has a prayer service each Sunday before Sunday School. Recently he taught a 12-week series on prayer.
Pastor the people. Rucker believes you have to be a shepherd to the people. “We must preach, but we can’t separate preaching and people,” Rucker said. He places a high priority on being with people in their struggles and celebrations.
The intentionality of the church could be summed up in a comment made by member Rachael Hymer: “We don’t just talk about things. We put a plan in place and do it.”
Indian Fork is a testimony of how rural churches can grow. “The Lord can use you no matter what your context,” Rucker said. (WR)