Early church services were held in homes or small chapels where the members felt openness and were secure in their sense of community. Fellow church members were like part of the family but as churches grew by size and into larger spaces that feeling of home risked falling away. For some, church began to feel like an organized meeting space instead of someplace where you are welcomed with open arms.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25
At Big Creek Baptist Church, just off of Highway 7 in Pleasant Hill, MO, that feeling of home never left. In fact it is clear that it flourishes here. Families wave hello to each other as they exit their cars in the parking lot. Grandparents enter with grandchildren bounding beside them; reminding me so much of going to church with my own grandparents.
Here you realize this isn’t the type of church where pew-sitters are only consumers of the word but instead a vibrant community of contributors. Church members don’t come to be only served but to also serve their community. With these clear opportunities to contribute, the feeling of home grows stronger.
“Big Creek Baptist Church has been my home church since I was in the 5th grade. My family were founding members and were active in the church all throughout my childhood.” A young women from Big Creek tells me about her experience of her church. “We sang hymns, met in tiny classrooms, had frequent potlucks, and nearly every Sunday morning, as she read the announcements, my mom would remind us ‘You know, I just LOVE Big Creek Baptist church!’.”
Big Creek Baptist Church has learned a main component to feeling like a community is through finding exciting ways to connect children to Christ. From an early age they teach children the path to Christ, what having a relationship with God means and how they can put the bible’s teachings to use in their own lives. Sunday school for children begins at 9:30 am and is broken up by age groups from birth to high school. The seeds of community are sown; creating a bouquet of believers through songs, bible verses and love.
While the children are learning their foundational lessons, the adults have their own Sunday school. They discuss how the Bible enriches their lives and where they are on their path with Jesus. Lively communication can be heard from outside the classrooms as bible verses are discussed and fellowship is had. Hope is also offered here to those who need it since it is in times of need when community becomes so important.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”James 1:2-4
At 10:30 am, the whole church rejoins each other for coffee, donuts and fellowship. This is a time for families to come together to catch up; children excited tell their parents what they learned from their Sunday school teacher. The conversation winds down after a while and they begin to make their way into the sanctuary for weekly church service which begins at 11:00 am. Some take their children to the nursery while others drop them off at children’s church so the little ones can be engaged in the word on their level.
Senior Pastor Robert Harnden leads his community in a warm manner. He knows they have a heart for Jesus. He offers them a home where they feel welcomed, growing in Christ; a place where families come together and children are nurtured. Although he is relatively new to Big Creek Baptist Church, they are excited to have him and appreciate the new ideas he has brought. Some ideas are small such as a new logo and and updated website; the wall close to the entrance was painted to showcase the welcome area, making it easier for guests to find. They are excited to continue to grow their community, bringing others into the fold.
Big Creek Baptist Church is lucky to have Pastor Robert at its pulpit. He will lead his congregation in a way that will inspire them to build their faith and to be fully alive in the glory of God. They will continue to grow in service of Jesus and teach their children to do the same.
The young women from Big Creek sums it up, “Through Big Creek, the Lord has tremendously blessed my personal and spiritual growth over the years. The cool part to me is how He allowed things to come full circle by bringing me back to serve my church as an adult. Big Creek has shown me what it looks like for a church to patiently and personally invest in their young people, new members, and new believers. They have been a huge blessing to me and so many others. I know in the years to come that such a loving and genuine body of believers will continue to reap a bountiful harvest.”