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Church stays ‘traditional’ amid gated communities

ARRINGTON, Tenn. (BP) — “We have a choir. We have an organ and piano,” pastor Reed Buntin said. “We’re just your traditional Southern Baptist church.”

For Triune Baptist Church, “traditional” also includes a missions mindset rooted in the Cooperative Program and discipleship rooted in Sunday School.

Located amid rolling hills and gated communities 30 miles southeast of Nashville, Triune Baptist has found a niche in a region where many Baptist churches worship with contemporary or blended music.

Founded just 26 years ago, the church’s worship center was designed to look “established” when it was built in 1997.

“The way we do things reminds [the congregation] of when they grew up,” Buntin said. “I made a promise when they approached me that the church would remain the same throughout my pastorate here.”

Triune Baptist gives the Cooperative Program “a lot of publicity,” the pastor said, in helping its members understand Southern Baptists’ channel of support for state, national and international missions and ministry.

“We talk about what we have and how we’ve been blessed and how we need to bless others. The church budget is three times the size it was when I came here as pastor. There’s none of us who haven’t been blessed and probably funded by the Cooperative Program.

“Things like our mission studies, our curriculum, our chance to go and do missions somewhere else with the IMB [International Mission Board] or NAMB [North American Mission Board] — the Cooperative Program is our way of connecting and being connected back to,” Buntin said.

“We’re reaching little boys and little girls for Christ, and we’re helping start churches to reach people where we as our church can’t go, but we can send others who are called to do that,” he said. “We’re asked as individuals to give 10 percent back to God, and we felt the least amount we could give through the church was 10 percent, but we wanted to do more, so we give 11 percent.”

With the pastor’s background as a minister of education, Buntin said the church knows “you grow your church through Sunday School. You grow your Sunday School through new classes. We’re pretty much saturated, to the point where we’ve got to have new space to continue to grow.” A second education building is in the fundraising stage.

About 250 people gather each week for worship. Discipleship also takes place in video-based classes and through the church’s deacon family ministry.

“They each have so many family members they minister to and disciple,” Buntin said. “Our deacon body is strictly ministry.”

Locally Triune Baptist collects canned goods four times a year — and have done so for eight years — to donate to a nearby Methodist church, which has a long-established food pantry.

“There’s no reason to compete,” Buntin said.

Every year for the last eight years, Triune Baptist members go on mission to Vonore, Tenn., a rural hamlet in the Appalachian Mountains where they host a children’s camp. For the last two years, Triune youngsters have joined in the camp near the North Carolina border.

Locally, the church seeks to connect to the people who live in gated communities through such events as a “dinner on the grounds” with hamburgers and homemade ice cream.

“Vacation Bible School is a large community event in our area,” Buntin added. “We’re the only Baptist church in 10 miles. We have a lot of communities [subdivisions] around here that have built up, but we don’t have community.

“We’re trying to build community,” he continued. “We can’t get in the gated communities, but we do prayerwalks. And we do direct mailings, though they haven’t done what I hoped they’d do.”

Sunday, July 14, will mark the conclusion of this year’s VBS. There will be a late-afternoon community-wide cookout and two 50-by-100-foot water slides.

Triune Baptist hasn’t taken a team on an international mission trip yet, but Buntin has led two groups to Israel — one of 18 people; the other, 25.

“It’s a lot of walking, but it’s worth it,” he said. “I can speak on a certain subject when I’m preaching, and we’ve been there — like Simon the tanner’s house — so those who went got a lot of history and background about both the Old and New Testaments. It makes your Bible come alive.”

In addition to the Cooperative Program, Triune Baptist supports Southern Baptists’ seasonal missions offerings: Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions; Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.

Each offering is collected on its designated day. Members go on a “Missions Walk” to the front of the worship center where they place their offering in a wooden box.

“Since the inception of this church, we have met or exceeded every one of our [mission offering] goals,” Buntin said. “This year our goal for the Annie Armstrong Offering was $7,000, and we raised over $14,000.”

Triune Baptist uses the children of church members to take up the offering each Sunday.

“It’s a time to worship together by giving,” Buntin said. “The children learn about being good stewards, they feel a part of the service — a very important part — and it means so much, too, to the many who are adults.”

Some people in the community might not appreciate Triune Baptist’s traditional ways, but other people would be drawn to the church because of them, Buntin said.

“If it was a perfect church I wouldn’t be the pastor, but we’re striving,” he said. “We’re moving forward. We’re reaching outside our church to reach people in our community. We’re stepping outside our comfort zone in some areas, but that’s all right. We’re trying to do things to gain access to the people.”