Pastor urges: ‘Just go’

by Diana Chandler, a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship in New Orleans.

It’s informally known as “the church that buys gas for people.” The moniker is a result of community outreach spurred when Pastor Jeff McMain plainly told members of First Baptist Church in Clay, Ky., to “just go.”

“We were just getting fat by taking in and taking in, and not giving out,” said McMain, who three months ago bluntly told those in the early morning service, frequented mostly by young adults, to go out into the community and serve as God encourages them.

Members blanketed the small town of 1,000 residents, raking and cleaning yards and, most visibly, lining up at the town’s two convenience stores to randomly buy gas for customers in need. People took notice.

“Do you belong to the church that buys gas for people?” was one customer’s reply, McMain recalls.

First Baptist Clay encourages a spirit of giving that last year resulted in sending 16 percent of its undesignated offerings to reach people through the Cooperative Program. CP combines contributions from the convention’s nearly 45,000 churches for missions and ministries in their states as well as nationally and globally, encouraging churches to give at least 10 percent of their undesignated gifts to the cause.

“Our slogan is making a great commotion of the Great Commission,” McMain said. “We are focusing a lot on local missions. We do a lot of community projects. People will see we’re not just asking you for something, we’re willing to give.”

The pastor tells of a lady laid off from her job at Dollar General, a few years shy of Social Security and only able to secure employment one day a week as a domestic worker. McMain passed her house on the way to church each day and felt led by the Holy Spirit to approach her.

“She’s just a lady in the community. I went up to her door and said, ‘I just feel like I’m supposed to ask you if you need some help,'” McMain said. The lady was greatly in need, and the congregation subsequently painted her house and installed a new roof, the cost of which one church family covered.

“She said, ‘I had given up on people. You’ve renewed my hope in people,'” McMain said.

McMain recently organized an Acts 1:8 Group at First Baptist, concentrating on local missions its first year, and state and foreign outreach, respectively, in its second and third years.

“We want to involve as many people in missions as we can. We want every member to have a ministry to be involved in what God’s doing,” McMain said.

The church sent a mission team to New Orleans last year to engage in recovery work still continuing after Hurricane Katrina through Baptists’ Operation NOAH Rebuild and several members are involved in missions, including 16-year-old Ashley Townsend, who has traveled to Haiti, Romania and the Honduras.

“God just opened a lot of doors, a lot of opportunities for her to go,” McMain said of Townsend.

The church is active with the sports camp at Freida Harris Baptist Center in Lookout, KY, and a Bible school in Fleming-Neon, Ky.

McMain is particularly excited about the church’s outreach to youth, recalling a recent block party that drew people from as far as 35 miles away and opened ministry opportunities to 16 new families.

“We’ve had a lot of success with kids,” he said.

“I say just find out what God’s doing and just join Him in what He’s doing,” McMain said of the mission emphasis at First Baptist. “To me, it’s the most exciting time to live in. There are people who are hurting and we have the answer.”
This story first appeared on October 22, 2009 on Baptist Press On-Line edition and is used with permission.