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Church’s unity includes Cooperative Program giving

KILGORE, Texas (BP) — Forest Home Baptist Church, with up to 800 worshippers on Sundays, reaches another 1,200 viewers worldwide from its 60-acre campus in East Texas.

The church has a unity “that comes from loving each other,” pastor Earl “Buddy” Duggins said. It’s a unity that encompasses Forest Home’s media outreach — and its commitment to Cooperative Program missions and ministry in the U.S. and abroad.

“We’ve been doing that for years,” Duggins said of Forest Home’s allocation of sending 15 percent of its undesignated offerings to Cooperative Program outreach, “and it’s been a blessing for the church.”

“We’ve never lacked. We’ve been able to give because God has blessed us,” Duggins said. “The Cooperative Program helps us carry out the Great Commission. We have the blessing of giving; it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The longevity of its vocational staff has helped the church flourish, Duggins told Baptist Press. He began leading the church in 1989 just a year after Pat Monk began serving as minister of education and four years before Mark Fried became music minister.

“The key to that is that we love each other,” Duggins said. “We let God be God, and we have never had a cross word with each other; that’s God’s truth. They’re very kind and do what I ask them to do. They trust me and I trust them.”

Forest Home was a “country church” near Kilgore, Texas, when Duggins arrived as pastor, he said. Then the city built a high-traffic loop that passed in front of the church. When the church built a $5.5 million worship center seven years ago and began televising its Sunday worship, attendance nearly doubled.

“Currently we have people accessing our services through our website in 52 countries,” Fried said, referencing audiences in China, France, Canada, the Netherlands and Romania. “On a weekly basis, we have about 1,200 people who access our service.”

Fried manages the church’s internet presence anchored by its website: fhbckilgore.com, and has added a YouTube channel to expand the church’s reach.

Mentoring the next generation of church leaders is an important component of its total ministry vision, Duggins said.

“We have several that through the years have surrendered to the ministry,” Duggins said. “Part of the glory of God is seeing young people go out and make disciples.” Four of its members attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s L.R. Scarborough College.

The church has expanded its campus to include a $1.5 million youth building, gives a monthly scholarship gift to East Texas Baptist University, and financially supports the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at the two-year Kilgore College.

Ministry that guides “the next generation” starts with more than 50 preschoolers in a Mothers’ Day Out program twice a week. Missions education programming includes Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors.

Forest Home’s Woman’s Missionary Union, through its Women on Ministry groups, makes lap quilts for homebound residents, conduct cooking and sewing demonstrations, study the Bible and missions at monthly meetings, host birthday parties at nursing homes and prepare lunch for Kilgore College’s BCM.

A nursing home ministry includes weekly facility visits to share the Gospel through songs and testimonies.

Annual activities at Forest Home Baptist include an Easter cantata, a patriotic July 4th service, a Thanksgiving banquet and an expansive drive-through living nativity that drew 4,000 people over three nights at Christmas 2017. The living nativity tells the Bible story from Genesis through Jesus’ resurrection, involving at least 100 cast, crew and hospitality workers.

“Always we want to reach more people,” Duggins said. “We need just the Spirit of God to keep blessing. We need the leadership, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve got enough sense to know that.”

Monk leads the men and youth in various community initiatives including disaster relief, lawn care and house cleaning for the elderly. The church has housed up to 100 Gulf Coast storm evacuees and has helped reconstruction efforts in hurricane-stricken areas.

“Any need comes to the church office,” Duggins said. “They come to me and I make a call and get it done. The deacons are very active…. We’re blessed to have a strong, loving church. They’ll do anything to help anyone.”

Among the church’s many mission trips are recent travels to Houston, New York City and Guatemala. Locally, members participate in the Helping Hands of Kilgore community-based ministry. Duggins, known for a resonant voice, has joined Fried in leading over 100 revivals, most in Texas.

Every Sunday, Duggins encourages his congregation to love the Lord, keep the Lord’s commandments, and bring the Lord’s tithes and offerings to the church.

“Staying true to the Gospel is important to us,” Duggins said. “We’re Bible believers.”