ROCHELLE — The devil does his best to destroy God’s work on earth and often sends his troubler of churches on sandaled feet to deal a deathblow to various assemblies of faith.
It has been said that the obituary for Pope City Baptist Church in Little River Baptist Association had been written three different times.
The church was constituted in 1903. There was a time when the area flourished and the church grew. In 1928 a new church building was erected and through the years Sunday School wings were added, then a social hall.
However, by 1997 the church had declined to the extent that only 10-15 senior adults remained. The church had been on life support on several occasions, but with only a handful of members engaged in the life of the church it appeared that the church’s demise was imminent.
When the church reached the precipitous decline of 1997 the senior adults that remained devoted themselves to prayer for the revitalization of the church. Consequently, the history of the church over the last 21 years is a story of remarkable growth and revitalization.
The prayers of the people were answered when Danny Allen, a layman from Tabernacle Baptist Church in Rochelle, was called to serve as pastor.
Ray Coleman, Smyrna Baptist Association director of missions, stated, “Brother Danny didn’t have a formal education, but he loved the Lord, the Bible, and his people. He was open to the guidance from older pastors in the area and set about to work with what he had.”
God continues to lead
The year after Danny started as pastor the attendance climbed to 55. Within three years the membership had grown enough to warrant the need for a new and larger fellowship hall and kitchen. The church continued to grow until they reached 100 in 2003.
Allen stated, “To see a small country church that was thought to be on the verge of closing its doors revived in a way that was unexpected has been such a blessing. I continue to be amazed at how God used my family and me to do His work in our rural community, but we never make a decision without prayer and seeking God’s guidance in His Word. We must never underestimate the prayer power of the saints of God.”
“We focus on bringing people to Jesus Christ by empowering our members to reach out to others; and our policy is to preach and teach God’s Holy Word no matter what it says, because it is the absolute truth and I believe that will be the key to this church continuing to thrive.
Allen, who is the church’s only full-time pastor, testified, “God continues to lead people to Pope City that are gifted in ways that are needed so that our church can effectively minister to the congregation and the community. We have people who drive over 35 miles one way to worship with us and serve God.”
By 2007 the church membership had increased so much that a new worship center and additional Sunday School rooms were added. According to Coleman, the church reported their recent worship attendance at 125; and in a recent conversation with Pastor Allen he indicated that the church registered its highest attendance one Sunday last year when more than 170 worshippers gathered at Pope City Baptist Church.
A church continuing to serve
Coleman added, “If I am not mistaken, the church has baptized 224 people during Allen’s ministry and that has happened in a county that has reported very little growth.”
Four years ago pastor and evangelist Mike Dorough, who grew up in nearby Cordele, preached a revival in the church and Allen indicated that 17 people were saved during the revival
“Pope City has also done a number of special events to reach out to the area; and they have built a fellowship hall/activities building that was larger than their sanctuary and is now their sanctuary. Throughout all this, their Cooperative Program giving has been around 6 to 7 percent. And in 2017 the church sent a 40-person mission team to minister in Jamaica.”
The church history states, “Today, Pope City Baptist Church is all that remains of a once prosperous community. The railroads are gone, the buildings are gone, and most of the once-nearby homes are gone, but the Lord is still here and the church continues to serve Him.”
Coleman concluded, “Pope City didn’t just mushroom for a few years and then fall back to earth; they have shown long-term sustained growth in a plateaued/declining rural area over two decades of ministry.”