News Articles

Life is hard but God is good, Indiana pastor says

Oakhill Baptist Church's food pantry helps around 200 individuals each month. Submitted photo

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (BP) – An emphasis on missional living has grown and strengthened Oakhill Baptist Church, where Alan Scott has been pastor for 17 years, and where more than 500 people of different generations participate in Sunday morning worship.

Scott credits his predecessor, Glen Flowers, who served for 21 years and who remains a member of Oakhill Baptist, with showing him the benefit of long-term pastorates.

Oakhill Baptist is entering its 15th year of hosting Upward Basketball, which reaches dozens of kids in the community. Submitted photo

“Planting yourself in a local church for the long term produces good fruit in your life and in the life of the church,” Scott told Baptist Press. “No church is perfect, and for sure no pastor is perfect. But if we can stick together and keep our eyes on Jesus, we can build a legacy of faith together.”

A steady infilling of the Word of God, the pastor said, has led Oakhill Baptist to be deeply involved in several local ministries, as well as nationally and internationally with Southern Baptists.

A major ministry is the church’s long-standing, full-service, weekly food pantry that has grown to serve more than 200 individuals a month. When the ministry outgrew the church garage, it was moved in 2010 to the former home of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, when it merged with Oakhill Baptist in 2010. A 1,200-square foot building provides storage space for the food, hygiene items as well as diapers and other donations.

“We get to sit down and talk with clients, build relationships, ask for prayer, and we try to get to Gospel conversations,” Bryan Gotcher told Baptist Press. He is the associate, children’s and missions pastor. “Each food box is custom-made for the size of the family.”

Oakhill Baptist has used Awana for at least 20 years as its midweek children’s ministry, which averages about 70 youngsters from a nearby mobile home park and around the community. The church is starting its 15th year of Upward Basketball and Upward Cheerleaders, which together draw about 200 youngsters each week. And the church is an active partner with schools in its community.

The church sends mission teams throughout the year on service projects in the community such as lawn clean-up, building repairs and the like. When it became aware of a need, it started an Hispanic congregation.

“When we pulled census data about four years ago, we learned there were many Spanish-speaking people in our community,” Gotcher said. Oakhill Baptist then called Leonid Marsan Rodriguez to pastor a Hispanic congregation, which has grown to about 50 people onsite and another 20 online, including friends and family members living in a dozen nations. 

Iglesia Bautista de Oakhill plans to plant another congregation this fall in Bloomington, about two hours northeast of Evansville. Rodriguez is to pastor both congregations.

Oakhill Baptist has partnered with church planters in SBC Send Cities primarily in the Upper Midwest, such as Indianapolis, Detroit and Chicago for many years,though last year they went to westernKentucky, which had endured multiple tornadoes over a short period of time.

“We send missions teams throughout the year to do construction, assist church planters, set up block parties or whatever is needed,” Gotcher said. “Sometimes they’re adult only, other times students too.” The teams range between eight and 20 volunteers, depending on the project and the plan.

“We try to have partnerships for a few years each so we can see the work and the progress as it goes along,” Gotcher said. “We pray during our services for God to move in the name of the city we’re partnering with.” 

World Hunger bread banks, Missions Club for people wanting to give throughout the year for seasonal offerings, as well as budget giving for North American and international missions and ministries are among ways Oakhill Baptist members support the SBC’s global missions strategies. Strongly committed to supporting the collective work of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program, its association and state convention, Oakhill Baptist sees financial support as just one part of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

“I personally benefitted from the Cooperative Program in my education and have a son serving in Tokyo with the IMB,”Scott explained. “The mutual cooperation of Southern Baptists doing all we do together is possible because of the Cooperative Program. Knowing we’re part of something bigger than we are, which allows our church to participate in a global strategy for God’s kingdom work, that’s gratifying. More than that, it’s a blessing.”

Oakhill Baptist’s mission statement is “to make disciples by seeing people’ lives changed radically by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to continue the life-long process as they behold (participate in weekly worship), belong (join a Life Group), become (a disciple that makes disciples) and go beyond (missions, evangelism and service) together for God’s glory,” according to its website: oakhillbc.org.

“Our church is very centered on the Word of God,” Scott said. “We do not come up with our own ministry ideas, but as God moves, we move. We follow in obedience to what God is doing.

“The world desperately needs the Gospel and we need to be more evangelistic,” said the pastor who is preaching through Psalm 119. “We need to make sure we are moved to share with those in need. Life is hard, but God is good.”

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press