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Church ‘in the middle’ of growing W.Va. region spreads Gospel

EDITORS’ NOTE: Baptist Press will release a feature story on each church on the itinerary of the national bus tour of Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch.

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. (BP)–The congregation cried when K.L. Tucker prayed before the offering was taken one recent Sunday at Good Shepherd Southern Baptist Church.

“We had a man in our congregation injured in an industrial accident,” Ken Stidham, Good Shepherd’s pastor the last 10 years, recounted. “He was unconscious for 35 days.

“Our church rallied around; we had groups go to the hospital and pray. The hospital even allowed our deacons to go into intensive care as a group and pray. Our people fasted on designated days –- it was in their heart to do so….

“We’d circle up in the church and pray,” the pastor continued. “And then, God did the incredible thing only He can do: God raised him up, when the doctors had given the family very little hope.

“A couple of weeks ago [the man] led the prayer for the offering,” Stidham said. “For him to be able to walk up there and take the microphone in his hand and thank God, we just cried.”

The connection Good Shepherd members feel for each other is mirrored in the connection of the church to its town and its two big city neighbors, Huntington and Charleston, each about 20 miles from Scott Depot. Good Shepherd was stop No. 5 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour to kick off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” -– setting forth a goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” by SBC churches in one year.

At Good Shepherd, about 200 people gather for worship on Sundays –- and when they’re not in church, they’re often involved in ministry in their community.

They might be giving soft drinks, light bulbs or car washes to stir people’s interest in the Gospel. There’s a food pantry ministry –- donated canned goods supplemented by purchased meat, bread and milk. And members purchase toys for an associational toy store, where parents can buy for their children at 10 cents on the dollar.

“We’re looking for any way we can to demonstrate the love of God in a practical way and give validity to the Gospel we preach,” Stidham said. “So often when you think of evangelism you think of a Gospel presentation, but sometimes you have to win the right to share with people.”

The FAITH strategy for Sunday School evangelism is in its eighth semester at Good Shepherd church; at least two dozen signed up for the fall term.

Eighteen people have been baptized at the church so far this year, and 27 youngsters made first-time professions of faith during Vacation Bible School. They’ll go through the “Survival Kit for New Christians” produced by LifeWay Christian Resources before being baptized.

Among those recently baptized were several longtime attendees who eventually saw the need for baptism and church membership along with two men in their late 60s who had family members involved with Good Shepherd.

The church meets in a building constructed in 2000-01 in part by Southern Baptists from South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, the pastor said.

“Many volunteers helped us build our building,” Stidham said. “We had team after team for two years, along with our own people. Because of their efforts, today we have a $1 million facility that cost us less than half that.”

It won’t be long before more space will be needed, the pastor said. Scott Depot is a growing bedroom community for both Huntington and Charleston.

“The two cities are growing together, and we’re right in the middle of it,” Stidham said. “That’s both an opportunity and a challenge.”

Good Shepherd gives 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program (CP) Missions channel for national and international outreach, another 5 percent to its association and 2.5 percent to local missions.

“We’ve seen the benefit of the Cooperative Program ourselves,” Stidham said. “West Virginia is considered a pioneer missions state for Southern Baptists. We still have less than 200 churches in the state.”

The volunteers who helped build their church inspired the congregation to pass on the blessing, the pastor noted. Several have been trained in the SBC’s Disaster Relief chainsaw and mud-out ministries. Mission teams from the church have worked in several cities across the country and in international short-term mission projects.

They also take good care of their pastor, Stidham said. For his 10th anniversary they gave him a month sabbatical as well as a four-week vacation, plus a celebration that included presentation of a book of letters and photos.

“It was so overwhelming,” Stidham said. “I looked through that book and read those letters and realized, wow, it’s all worthwhile. You stop and realize: God is really at work.”