Williams Memorial Baptist Church Ravenna, Kentucky, was down to nine members following COVID–19’s devastating surge. The doors weren’t yet closed, but the sound of creaking hinges could almost be heard.
“We had to face the reality that God is calling us to evangelism,” said pastor Chris Winkler. “We had to not be content with being in the building. I put a challenge out to those eight or nine people — this was our 100th anniversary and if we want it to thrive, we need to evangelize.”
And the remaining members rallied to the call.
“They accepted that and have more energy than I give them credit for,” Winkler said.
The pastor, who had retired after 32 years in public education, noted God was leading and working through the church members. They canvassed neighborhoods, invited people to church and let the community know their doors were open and they were going to stay that way.
Winkler said Kentucky Baptist Convention North Central Region Consultant Andy McDonald and several pastors began a group (or cohort) that helped him grow as a pastor. And Larry Braswell became associational mission strategist for Boone’s Creek Baptist Association, giving Winkler another lifeline by providing a preaching class once a month.
Meanwhile, the church began to get back on its feet and today is nearing 50 members and growing.
Pastor Winkler noted he was growing right along with them through resources KBC made available through McDonald and Braswell.
Braswell enlisted a group from Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, to help Williams Memorial with some cleanup and canvassing, another piece of the puzzle toward getting the church back on its feet. Winkler was realizing he wasn’t alone in the revitalization.
The regional cohort includes pastors from the area, and their encouragement and advice have been valuable.
“We help each other because we’re all going through a lot of the same issues,” Winkler said.
Never giving up
The COVID-19 lockdown was a struggle and membership dwindled. But Winkler never gave up, and knew evangelism was the key to survival.
The community now knows the church is alive and well because members walk the neighborhoods and tell them about Jesus.
“For 10 years Pastor [Winkler] has faithfully preached the Word and loved his people well,” McDonald said. “Though they are relatively small in number, the Lord has blessed them with a renewed enthusiasm for getting the gospel to their neighbors, and the church has started to grow.”
Winkler wouldn’t have it any other way.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Mark Maynard. It was edited for brevity, length and was originally published by Kentucky Today.