EASTMAN — In Troy Dykes’ pastoral study at Gresston Baptist Church, a white board has a written statement with questions.
There’s a church on every corner. Why us? What makes us different?
When Dykes began his pastoral tenure in January 2013, he expected challenges. What he didn’t expect was church revitalization as revival soon emerged at Gresston, starting with the youth. Following two special events, 11 youth made professions of faith and nine submitted to baptism on one Sunday.
“When that happened, it seemed like the flood gates opened up,” Dykes said. “The revival started in the hearts of our youth group.”
Those results were encouraging to Dykes and the church, but he wasn’t satisfied to keep the good news indoors. He wanted Gresston to be different.
“The church has got to leave the building,” Dykes concluded. “God gave me a passion to get outside the norm.
“We’ve got to break the barrier of the mundane and take the church outside the building. We are extending our campus.”
Church campus extension
A passion for evangelism emerged among Gresston’s members. Now, everything they do is evangelism-based instead of program-based, Dykes said.
“We’re not about another box plan for the church,” Dykes said. “That has transferred into a kingdom mindset.”
Something old – church visitation nights – has become something new at Gresston Baptist. Every other Monday night, they average 30-40 people in their “Taking it to the Streets Outreach.” The volunteers don’t make cold calls. Instead, they make visits to people for whom the church has been praying or with whom they have interacted.
“We are asking our farmers to come out of the field at 6 o’clock and be here for a meal to go out into the community,” Dykes said. “Our guys that work at the Air Force base in Warner Robins, we’re asking them to come spend the evening with us. Sometimes it’s 10 p.m. before some of them get home.”
In June, Gresston Baptist added another ministry initiative they call “Extended Campus Ministries,” which happens on Sunday afternoons.
“We are decimating our Sunday night service to get the Gospel out to the street,” Dykes said. Gresston’s objective is to start Bible studies in apartments and mobile home communities.
Dykes is a long-time World Changers and Mission Serve project coordinator with ministries that mobilize youth to rehab substandard housing. He’s seen the power of community-action projects for advancing the Gospel.
“The church has got to leave the building. God gave me a passion to get outside the norm.”
As he had done in a previous pastorate in Macon, Dykes intends for Gresston Baptist to make a SPLASH (Showing People Love and Serving Him) in Dodge County. An estimated 70-80 people from Gresston Baptist and other Dodge County Baptist Association churches volunteered for a week in mid-June to renovate three homes, build wheelchair ramps, clean yards, and perform other community-service projects.
In the midst of all the church’s mission projects, evangelism remains central.
“If we change the face of Dodge County by doing service projects but we don’t share with someone how Jesus can change their heart, we’ve missed the boat,” Dykes said. “Church growth and seeing Christ show up in someone else’s life is on the direct other side of our obedience.”
Support from GBC
Dykes attended a church revitalization conference in December 2012 at the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) Missions and Ministry Center led by Georgia Baptist missionary Larry Wynn. A month later, he was at Gresston and felt the need for a coach. Wynn volunteered to assist him.
“I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for Larry Wynn,” Dykes said. “He truly loves pastors and he truly loves to help people. He is never too busy to stop and talk to you.”
Dykes values the Cooperative Program (CP), which makes the GBC’s church revitalization services and resources available. In turn, Gresston forwards 12.5% of its undesignated gifts for missions through the CP.
Meanwhile, Gresston Baptist Church continues to enjoy the revitalization.
“Since the beginning of the year we have seen Jesus save 44 and we have baptized 31,” Dykes recently said. “We are maxing out the sanctuary on most Sundays, and Sunday School has been averaging over 100 for several months.”
Those results are what makes Gresston Baptist different.