Pump Springs Baptist Church in Harrogate, Tennessee, has a mission field that is less than five minutes from the church — Lincoln Memorial University, a four-year, private liberal arts university.
While LMU is not a large university — an undergraduate enrollment of 1,560 students in the fall of 2022, according to U.S. News & World Report — on any given semester, the university has students from about 35 countries, said Will Deavours, associate pastor at Pump Springs.
Though the church has no official ties with the school, the church has members who work at LMU.
For a number of years prior to COVID-19, the church would “sponsor” a basketball night at the university. They would buy tickets and have them available at the church for people in the community who wanted to attend the game at no cost. The university recognized the church on its scoreboard.
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After the COVID-19 pandemic, the church stopped sponsoring a night at LMU, but decided to begin again this year, but they wanted to be more intentional, Deavours said.
Deavours and another member contacted LMU and asked if the church could not only sponsor a night but also have a table and pass out literature about Pump Springs in addition to giving away tickets.
LMU was receptive to the idea and even allowed Deavours to say a few words and pray before both the women’s and men’s games on Jan. 17. In addition, church member Jean Roark sang the national anthem before both games. “The university was so open to us,” Deavours said.
In addition, some of the church’s youth helped sweep the gym floor between games. Approximately 60 members from Pump Springs assisted with the event.
The church advertised the event and people were able to pick up free tickets at the church prior to the game. The remaining tickets were distributed to those who came to the game and did not have tickets. The church provided 200 tickets to the game, Deavours said.
Deavours, who works with college students and young adults, said it is important for the church to be involved with its community.
Deavours has trained many LMU students at Pump Springs who are active in two Christian organizations at the university — Baptist Collegiate Ministry and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “These students are able to be missional at their school,” he noted.
Because the university has students from all over the world, “we have an opportunity to reach the nations from a little town like Harrogate,” he said.
Members of Pump Springs were excited to once again sponsor a night at LMU, Deavours said. “We hope to do it again next year,” he added.