RENTZ — If you want a prime example of church revitalization check out what is happening at Baker Baptist Church in Rentz. Actually, the church has a Rentz address, but it is not even in the town limits. It is in rural Georgia and about two miles from U.S. Highway 319/441.
Joey Diers, a delightful and affable man with a sure ‘nough country persona, is the pastor of this growing fellowship.
Diers accepted the call to Baker Baptist 13 years ago. There were 17 people present on that first Sunday. Today the church averages 450 in worship and had a high attendance last Easter of 725. The church has baptized 400 new converts in the last 48 months.
To meet the needs of the growing congregation Diers led the church to construct a new worship center in 2010. The new facility, which was paid for shortly after being constructed, will accommodate 700 worshippers. The worship center has been enlarged since the construction of the auditorium five years ago and the church owes less than $100,000 on that addition.
Last month the church hosted a wild game dinner and 1,250 men gathered to eat a variety of carnivorous foods that most restaurants would never put on their menu. The wild game dinner has become one of the church’s most effective outreach ministries and the pathway to salvation for many.
In reflecting on his life, Diers testified, “I grew up in church until I was 10 years old, but then my folks quit going to church and I didn’t have much Christian training after that. As an adult I got married to Candi, got an education, a good job, we had two children (Will and Kaylee), and I thought I had everything I needed to be happy.”
“I knew my values were not in keeping with what I knew in my heart was right and on Christmas Eve 1999 I was out partying and drinking. When I got home, my wife, who was a believer, was not happy with me,” Diers admitted.
“I suddenly came face to face with my sins. I got on my knees and said to the Lord, ‘My life ain’t much, but I’m giving it to you.’
“When I told my wife, Candi, I had been saved, she didn’t know whether to believe it or not. She had often prayed, ‘Lord, I wish I could hear Joey pray like some of these other men.’
“But the Sunday after I got saved I went to Mount Carmel Baptist Church near Dexter and Rentz and made a public profession of faith. I don’t know how to explain it, but I asked the pastor if I could sing ‘Amazing Grace’ there at the altar and he agreed. I guess that was the way I gave evidence that something miraculous had happened in my life.”
Diers immediately became involved in the life of Mount Carmel, sang in the choir, started a men’s ministry, and became a deacon.
He remarked, “Two years after I got saved, God told me I needed to be preaching the Gospel. I was licensed to preach at Mount Carmel and in February 2002 I started preaching at Baker Baptist Church. Candi wasn’t sure I was cut out to be a preacher and she prayed, ‘God let Joey be anything but a preacher.’
“I guess God didn’t answer her prayers, because Baker called me to be the pastor and I have been there 13 years.”
Although the church has grown to become one of the larger congregations in the area, Diers is still a bi-vocational pastor. He is contracted to work on cellular towers for various communications companies. He earned a degree in electrical engineering at Middle Georgia College in Cochran.
Although Diers has no formal pastoral training, he explained, “I have probably been to the Cove, Billy Graham’s Retreat Center in Ashville, 40 times; and I have a lot of on-the-job experience.”
The 4 Ps
Diers has fostered an atmosphere at Baker that is cordial and welcoming. He commented, “Jesus loves sinners and made them feel welcome, but He also told them the truth. At Baker we focus on the four ‘Ps’: the Problem, the Penalty, the Provision, and the Promise. We use those four words to share the Gospel.
“We also make sure that everyone who comes to our church feels welcome. We will do anything to make people feel comfortable in our fellowship; and we do whatever is necessary to get our people involved in some facet of our ministry as quickly as possible.
“For example, we have small group ministry teams including those who assist with the Laurens County Baptist Ministry Center, those who provide the Celebrate Recovery meals at First Baptist Church in Dublin, those who serve at the Sheriffs Boy’s Home in Nunez, those who facilitate the church’s archery tournament, those who prepare for and host the Wild Game Dinner, and those who do home repairs and make wheelchair ramps as well as many others.
“We have people who are not ashamed of the Gospel. We had one man who presented the ‘Four Ps’ Gospel tract with a 92-year-old mother and she got saved. We want our people involved in serving and sharing their faith. We just don’t want people to think you go to church, sit down, and do nothing.”
Baker Baptist Church’s influence is not limited to Laurens County. Several years ago Diers found out about the Lacandon people, a Mayan tribe who live in the jungles of the Mexican state of Chiapas near the southern border of Guatemala. Diers discovered that a missionary couple, Phil and Mary Baer, who worked with the Wycliffe Bible translators, had translated the Bible into the language of the Lacandon people but that the translation had never been delivered.
Diers led his church to raise the money to have the first Bibles purchased and delivered in the language of the Lacandon people and he and a team of missionaries from Baker Baptist delivered the first copies to the chief and tribal leaders last August. There were 400 people who live in this first village Diers visited with his team. In September, a joint mission team from Baker Baptist and Laurens Baptist Association returned to the village of Naha, fed the village, showed the “Jesus” film, preached the Gospel, and the chief and several of the elders got saved.
People get saved through the Baker church’s ministry and Joey puts them to work in areas they are able to handle and moves them into more responsible roles of ministry…
There are three Lacandon villages with a total of 1,250 people. Baker Baptist and Laurens Baptist Association are working with all three villages and planning another trip in April. They are hoping to baptize the chief and others who have professed their faith in Christ. Baker Baptist has ongoing mission work in the countries of Honduras and Malawi, Africa as well.
Stacy Dyers, GBC missionary in church revitalization, commented, “It is a joy to see a pastor like Joey Diers lead his people with the ‘as you go’ discipleship process Jesus used. People get saved through the Baker church’s ministry and Joey puts them to work in areas they are able to handle and moves them into more responsible roles of ministry as they prove themselves faithful. It is a simple approach to discipleship, but it works.”
Although it is a misquote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, it has been said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor the world will make a beaten path to his door though he lives in the midst of a forest.”
Joey Diers and Baker Baptist Church must be doing something right, because hundreds of folks are making a beaten path to their doors.