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FIRST-PERSON: Small church pastors & the SBC

BERRYVILLE, Va. (BP) — Can a small church pastor benefit the Southern Baptist Convention?

Biblically and historically, the answer is a clear yes.

Berryville is the county seat for Clarke County, the smallest county in Virginia. The latest census indicated that just over 4,000 people live in Berryville. It has a total of three stoplights, and the closest Walmart is 17 miles away. By many standards, Berryville is puny.

In 2010, being led of God, I planted Apple Valley Baptist Church.

Mimicking the apple industry, once the primary industry in Berryville, I tell people that Apple Valley Baptist strives to be their source for spiritual nutrition.

God has blessed. While Apple Valley Baptist has not set any convention growth records, the church has touched lives that were going unnoticed. New Christians are uniting with mature Christians with a hunger to advance the Kingdom. My soul is nourished every Sunday.

Still, I would be less than truthful if I did not admit that at times I wonder if serving in Berryville prevents me from having a role in my convention and in the Kingdom. Is Berryville and those who serve here simply too small, too insignificant, to be of value to the convention?

After all, who has ever heard of Berryville?

God spoke to me on this issue while developing a sermon series on the life of Gideon. Through Judges 6, I was reminded that Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, which the text indicates had dwindled in size compared to the other tribes. Gideon, furthermore, was the youngest in his family, a position that would ensure his limited social standing.

Despite the reasons why Gideon was not the perfect choice, God chose him to free the nation from the grip of its enemies. God saw in Gideon what others, and even Gideon himself, could not: a mighty warrior.

Gideon’s submissive heart to God’s call and his willing obedience to eradicate the sin of idolatry from his own house was pleasing to God.

When the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon (6:34), he became a leader among his people and the instrument God used to oppose evil.

Our convention is full of testimonies of God working through the unexpected to accomplish great things. Long before I was present, Berryville already had an example of how God may work through anyone.

F.H. Kerfoot, a former professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was born in Berryville.

Arguably his greatest contribution to the convention was his editing work on James P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology, a task that largely established the present theological footprint for the convention.

Amazingly, God called and worked through a dairy farmer from Berryville to impact the convention. Who would have thought?

It is exciting to realize that God still uses the least likely from the unexpected places to accomplish His will.

Our convention is made up of a majority of small churches in towns and villages across our nation. Each church has the potential to produce a mighty warrior for the Kingdom.

The lesson is simple. When individual Southern Baptists humble themselves before God and consecrate their lives in holiness, the Spirit of God can work through anyone — a dairy farmer, a small town pastor or whoever He chooses — to have a great impact for the Kingdom.
Van Welton is pastor of Apple Valley Baptist Church in Berryville, Va. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Van Welton