Meet Will George

Will George is one of my little buddies. In the church I serve I have a whole bunch of little buddies across both of our campuses. We fist bump. We laugh. They hit me up for gum balls out of my gum ball machine. They threaten me with bodily harm. I growl. They run. On occasion, one will need to talk or ask advice or need to pray with me.

A few days ago, Will George came to my office and wanted to tell me about his newest endeavor. Will George (he’s a two namer) had a God given idea to start an after school meeting for his fellow 3rd graders called “Church After School” (C.A.S. for short). Here is the letter to his principal seeking permission that he wrote all by himself:

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If you can’t make that out, here’s the transcription, word for word:

Dear Mr. Edwards,
I’m a fellow beleiver in christ and I would like to start a bible study. I’m wanting to teach people about Jesus. The name of the study will in my expectation be C.A.S. (Church After School). You may be thinking, “why ask me?” But here’s why. I don’t have anywhere to teach them so I ask for permission to use you’r school. Please trust me to teach the gospel to the students of this school. There are kids that don’t know about christ and I want to teach them! You’r and my question is, will you let me? If you’ve got the answer, yes or no, I’m in Ms. Lackey’s home room class and I would love to here the answer. The whole thing has been planned. I am a patien kid and give you all the time you need to figure out the answer so wait as long as you want. I will be okay if the answer is no so do whatever you want. Contact me at any time.

Sincerly,
Will George

Third grade, people!!!

After a few meetings and some minor plan revisions, Will George had it all together. Today was the very first meeting of C.A.S. at Johnson Elementary School. Take a sneak peek:

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I have preached a few sermons and taught a few classes where I wished I had that many people for the first meeting. I am so proud of my little buddy! It fills my heart to know that his father and mother, Rob and Julie, have poured into this kid and loved him to the Lord! I weep when I think of Ms. Jeralyn, Ms. Cyrena, and Ms. Lyndy and all of the Sunday School teachers, VBS teachers, Awana and TeamKid leaders who have invested in him and others just like him.

It makes me eager to step behind the pulpit each Sunday with the honor and privilege to preach the Word of God and know that it NEVER RETURNS VOID!

Will George, I love you, buddy! Come by the office for your free gum ball!!!

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Pardon Me While I Praise The Lord!

LogoMany might read what I am about to write and walk away thinking it is self-serving, prideful, boastful or any number of other things. If you feel that is the case, I would say that you don’t know me very well and, furthermore, it might be best if you stop reading now and go back to whatever you were doing.

Church is more than numbers. A whole lot more. However, like it or not, numbers can serve as a measurement of the spiritual health of a church in several ways.  When Indian Springs Baptist merged with Glenwood Baptist in June of 2011, Glenwood had a regular attendance of about 45 people. That number dropped into the 30’s as the people who were allergic to change left to go find that magical place where nothing ever changes. There were no children or youth…PERIOD. Honestly, there was no one under the age of 50 in sight with most of our folks being well north of retirement age.  Before I go on, I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for our wonderful, original Glenwood members (now ISBC members) who have stayed the course, rolled up their sleeves and jumped into the fray with the rest of us. We have some great, Godly people!

As we set out to launch the Glenwood Campus of ISBC, there were a handful of families who caught the vision and wanted to be a part of something special– an awesome mission field opportunity. When you added all the kids in the families that felt that call along with mine, we had  about 18 children. That was 22 months ago. Since we began, God has been faithful to add key components to our numbers along the way. He has also helped us begin to multiply. Here are just a few markers that I can only attribute to the providential hand of God:

  • Palm Sunday, we had 98 children and workers over the course of our 3 hours of services in the morning.
  • Our Wednesday night children’s activity – TeamKID – has hit 66 (plus 6 workers)
  • We had 212 folks in two worship services on Palm Sunday, 298 on Easter and we are averaging around 200 on normal Sundays
  • We had a high of 133 in Sunday School yesterday
  • We have baptized 34 people in those 22 months
  • We have launched a community partnership with Jefferson Elementary school and will begin tutoring students this week
  • We have launched a Food Pantry to provide needed food to many in our community
  • We continue a radio broadcast called “Good News from Glenwood” every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on WKPT Radio heard on FM 94.3 in the Kingsport, Tennessee area, FM 97.7 in Johnson City, Tennessee and FM 97.9 in the Bristol, Tennessee & Virginia area, as well as, AM 1400, 1490, and 1590.
  • We stream every service LIVE online and have all our services archived so they can be watched 24 hours a day 7 days a week. (www.isbc.tv)

None of this would be possible without God being at work in our midst. Secondly, this would not be possible apart from the fact that Indian Springs Baptist operates as one church in two locations. The leadership and financial stability that our Hill Road campus provides is of utmost importance.  Very few new church starts or church plants could have afforded to invest $500,000 into infrastructure upgrades and renovations! There are many benefits to the church model that we are developing. I am grateful for a senior pastor, Dr. Roc Collins, who continues to seek God’s will and cast a vision for our church, as well as, a deep support staff with whom we work hand in glove to cultivate eternal relationships.

God has plenty more in store for us! If you are looking for a church home where the Gospel is strongly preached and people are lovingly reached, please visit either campus of Indian Springs Baptist Church.

 

And so it begins… Indian Springs Baptist Church- Glenwood Campus

This Sunday at 10 a.m., we celebrate the beginning of our new work at our Glenwood campus. Both the Hill Road (our original campus) and the Glenwood folks will combine for one service. You are cordially invited to attend. Come early for coffee and doughnuts under the tent on the lawn. The address is 2601 East Center Street, between Eastman Road and Memorial Boulevard. We will be acknowledging God’s leading as we salute Rev. Charles Roberts, Glenwood Baptist’s outgoing pastor. We will also hear from Bill Northcott, representing the Tennessee Baptist Convention. A combined choir from both campuses and a number of ISBC instrumentalists will be leading in worship led by longtime ISBC Minister of Music, Mike Morgan and the new Interim Minister of Music of our Glenwood campus, Tom Elam.  Our senior pastor, Dr. Roc Collins, will be bringing the message. As the new campus pastor, I will be around too, probably two-fisting doughnuts and praising the Lord! It will be a great day of worship and celebration for all that God has done.

In a sense, however, this will be, as we call it in the retail business, a “soft” opening. Over the next several weeks, work will commence to upgrade and revitalize the facilities in preparation for our late summer / early fall “grand opening” (notice I am not pinning it down…yet.) We will still be conducting regular services at the Glenwood campus on Sundays and Wednesdays over the next couple of months, with a few special days of combined services thrown in. Ultimately, however, we will settle on two morning services. One will be more traditional in nature featuring piano and organ music with our choir and the occasional instrumentalist. I will be preaching in that service. Our second service will be led by a live, contemporary praise band and the message will be a live, simulcast of the preaching of Dr. Collins, life-size on the big screen! It will be something completely different for most and, potentially, life-changing for many.

In the meantime, I will be getting to know my new Glenwood family and gearing up for a Vacation Bible School at the end of July. We will have loads of opportunities for service in the coming weeks. If you want in on it, feel free to shoot me an email at tiger@isbc.org. I am always willing to explain, as best I can, what God is leading us to do to reach Highland, the greater Kingsport community and the uttermost parts of the world with gospel of Jesus Christ.

Stay tuned.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Life’s Seismic Shifts: A Memorial Weekend I Will Remember

There are multiple times in life when we experience major changes. Birth of children, death of loved ones, graduations, and marriage are a few biggies that come to mind. Career or vocational changes also belong somewhere on that list. In 2000, I experienced this in a big way as I stepped away from operations at Tom Brooks Exxon and, after a brief stint as a landman, surrendered to God’s call to ministry.

Yesterday, my church, Indian Springs Baptist, officially voted me in to become the campus pastor of our new Glenwood campus. After 18 years of ministry to children and students (11 full-time and 7 as a part-time volunteer), I will be moving into a new ministerial role. You could say that this qualifies as another seismic shift for the list. Anyone reading this outside of my church and family may be thinking – like Ricky Ricardo used to say – “You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!”  I would be delighted to take a few moments and brag on what God has been up to.

In 1955, a thriving Glenwood Baptist Church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, with then Pastor Freeman Wright and a host of faithful servants, was led to plant a church on the outskirts of Kingsport in the Indian Springs community . The years allowed both congregations to touch thousands of lives. In recent years, however, for reasons too numerous and complex to spell out in this post, Glenwood’s membership numbers began to wane. Over the past couple of years, the faithful leadership of Glenwood sought the Lord for guidance and a path forward. In the fall of 2010, that path led back to the church she had planted 55 years earlier.

Discussions and prayer led both churches to arrive at the proposal which would dissolve Glenwood Baptist and assimilate the membership into Indian Springs Baptist with ISBC becoming one church with two Kingsport campuses – the original Hill Road campus and the Glenwood campus at 2601 East Center Street.  I am humbled when I think of the selfless sacrifice the wonderful members of Glenwood had to make so as to insure the continued ministry outreach to this community and beyond from their tradition-rich location in central Kingsport which has seen ministry ongoing since 1887. I am also proud to be a part of a body of believers less interested in building their own earthly kingdom and keenly interested in stepping out in faith for the Kingdom of God. In a day and age when the notable church news usually consists of moral failure and/or church splits, this is a story worth sharing.

When this proposal began to take shape, God began to move my heart. There we were, my family and I, blissfully content with where we were and unction of the Holy Spirit starts in on us. I love being a student minister, discipling and developing the church one life at a time. My wife and child love the programs in which they are involved and are happy with the friends they have made.  But I would find myself driving through Highland thinking about all the possibilities and what it would take to reach the unreached.  After a few prayer drives, it began to make sense to me that God would bring this Kingsport kid back into town – to the church where his parents were once members, a mile from the house in which he was born and three blocks away from his beloved high school. It was a call that I could not get away from regardless of how uncomfortable it might be. It seemed to also make sense to the leadership and congregation of ISBC. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next weekend, Sunday, June 5, all of ISBC will converge on Glenwood campus for one, combined service at 10am. Our senior pastor, Dr. Roc Collins, will be preaching as we ALL embark on God’s great new adventure. Though my pastorate begins immediately and I will be preaching at Glenwood in the weeks to come, we will be starting some upgrades and revitalization of the Glenwood campus in short order and we will be shooting for an August date (subject to change) to “officially” launch two services – one traditional and one contemporary. Please stay tuned for more news updates.

In the meantime, if you are a Kingsport resident looking for a church home or if you would like to know more about the God I serve and the adventuresome life to which He calls us, I would love to chat with you.

Yes. Memorial Day will forever have a deeper meaning for us.

Grace and Peace!