Walk through the doors of Beaverdam Baptist Church on Sunday mornings and you’ll feel the love.
You can’t escape the smiles, the handshakes, the hugs.
Pastor Chuck Cook says that’s why the Commerce, Ga., church is going great guns right now.
Since Cook became pastor less than three years ago, the 200-year-old church in rural Georgia, an hour northeast of Atlanta, has seen a resurgence in attendance, memberships, and baptisms. The sanctuary and parking lot have been filled with an average of about 130 people, forcing Beaverdam’s leadership to start a second Sunday morning service to better accommodate the crowds.
“The congregation has such a welcoming nature about them,” Cook told Index editor Roger Alford in an interview recently. “A high percentage of our first-time visitors come back. They get plugged in. And they invite their friends to come. The excitement is contagious.”
Georgia Baptist Mission Board staffer Andy Childs said the love Cook talks about is necessary if a church is to flourish.
“We can have church growth strategies, outreach programs, all those things, and have the best there is, but if we don’t have love, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, we’re just a clanging cymbal, just a gong,” Childs said. “How is it that Beaverdam is able to create an environment of love and grace? It’s because they know the love and grace of Christ. So, when a new person comes in, that love is evident.”
Childs said Cook is also a gospel-driven preacher, and the Lord is honoring that.
Larry Sparks, a member of Beaverdam since about 1962, credits Cook with creating a sense of excitement among the congregation by getting them actively engaged in ministry in lots of ways. That includes collecting food and clothing for needy families, supporting a nearby pregnancy crisis center, and providing financial support through the Cooperative Program to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, thereby ensuring that the gospel is being shared at home and around the world.
“It’s just a special place,” Cook said of Beaverdam. “People are looking for a refuge, a place of hope, and I think that’s what they find at Beaverdam. They can shut out the world, and it can all be about Jesus.”
Providing people with such a place is an incredible act of love in itself. Cook and the folks at Beaverdam are to be applauded for what they have done.