An Unexpected Direction

An Unexpected Direction

By Patti Thornton, Women’s Ministries Director

An Unexpected DirectionLast August, Wilbur and I took a trip to Colorado. We knew, I think, that it would be our last adventure together. Most things we did together, and some he cajoled me to do without him while he stayed back as a cheering and sleeping section.

One day, I decided to take on a short, but challenging hike to a waterfall – and if I held out – a beautiful lake basin. There were other people at different points on this well-known trail, but no one seemed to enter the trailhead the same time I was, so there was no one to follow. Wilbur was proud to see me heading off with the new hiking pole he had purchased for me in one of the mountain sporting goods shops.

I knew from reading about the trail that it would be a fairly steep incline, and I was not disappointed. But the air was crisp and clean, the pine needles smelled glorious, and I was happy to just “be” with Wilbur. I hiked for a while before coming to a narrow creek. At that point, the trail wasn’t obvious, and I could not tell which way looked most travelled. I can tell you that I chose the wrong one. From there on, the incline got almost impassable.

I found myself grabbing roots – anything – to get myself up a muddy hillside without sliding backward. The waterfall was rushing right beside me – gushing with force after several days of rain. It was beautiful – and tall. I realized, eventually, that my choice in paths was actually taking me straight up the waterfall itself!

This can’t be considered an intermediate hike, I thought. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. It was all I could do to work out one foothold at a time, and my thighs were burning madly. I prayed for God to direct me to the right path, because I was sure the one I was climbing was not it. I prayed quite anxiously – and expectantly. Despite the temperatures that cooled even more with each increase in altitude, I had broken out in sweat. NERVOUS sweat.

Finally, I decided that an easy path was not in my immediate future, and I would have to trust, one step at a time, that I would conquer this hill. I thought about the battle my husband was fighting so valiantly without any assurance of the disease’s outcome. He bravely fought one skirmish after another, taking them as they came. I wanted that kind of bravery.

I did eventually make it to the top of the waterfall. I was wonder-struck at the view of God’s creative genius, and I was tired. I sat at the edge of the pooled waters, covered with dirt, sweat, and forest flora and downed a protein bar and some water. Eventually, an older couple came from the other side of the fall, carefully maneuvering across raised stones to cross over to my side. I noted with amazement that they were hardly mussed. She didn’t have a hair out-of-place and his hiking shirt was pristine.

I was intrigued and felt all the more mucky. “Do you mind if I follow you down,” I asked? After a quizzical pause, he answered. “Well, sure, I guess.” He poionted past me to my left and continued, “But my car is in the parking lot just a few hundred yards in that direction.”

I laughed hysterically and they both looked at me like I must have eaten one of the weird mushrooms in the forest. I explained my experience, and politely said that I should probably slither back down the mountain I had climbed. And that’s exactly what I did. By the time I was on the right trail, the back side of my khaki shorts was nothing close to khaki.

Why do I tell you this story? Because in this case, I expected an answer I didn’t get, and if I hadn’t trusted for each notch in the mud on my way up, I may have fallen, tail first, in Indiana Jones mudslide fashion. I had to be obedient to the path that was before me, trusting that the experience would be vital to my growth. It was. Oh – And I was in love with that hiking stick.

Even now my walk with Jesus is taking me places I never would have guessed, and without people I assumed would always be walking beside me. Believe me, the journey feels like an uphill climb most days. I have a visual of Jesus – and Wilbur close by – sitting on the smooth rock at the top of the waterfall reminding me that His wonder is worth a stump-gripping, derriere-dirtying, uphill trek. Even knowing He may answer my prayers with unexpected direction, I hope I will never stop expecting to hear from Him.

Heavenly Highway Church History, Growth, and Vision

By Rev. Phillip Pusey

To God be the glory for the things He has done. The power and presence of the Lord has always been clear at Heavenly Highway.

The history of the Heavenly Highway General Baptist church is one that is rich and changing. Its history dates back to the time of Reverend Albert Russell and his wife, First Lady Louise Russell, in the year 1965. Initially the church started out with a small congregation. The physical structure was that of wooden walls with a thatch roof and small board benches. Rev. Russell lived on the church grounds with his wife. He was a skilled baker who specialized in baking spice buns, ginger bulla and ‘kuup kuup’. These he sold from time to time by a place called Pen Gate in the community. The community people gave him their support.

Heavenly Highway Church buildingHowever, as time passed on, a transition was made and Reverend Lloyd Hall was sent to continue on the foundation that was laid by Rev. Russell. Rev. Hall with the help of his wife, First Lady Donna Hall, Deacon Wendell Ford, sister Gloria Campbell secretary and sister Sonia Mignott treasurer, the church was led into another phase. Mention must also be made of the involvement of the missionaries such as Brother John Hibbs, his wife, and Brother Terry Howser as well as other missionaries from America that were pivotal in further establishing and assisting this denomination here in Jamaica.

The ministry continued to build and grow, and its membership grew from the thirties to the sixties. The church was also re-roofed courtesy of Brother Terry and his team. This was a huge blessing for which the congregants were extremely grateful and appreciative. As time advanced Rev. Hall was called upon to pastor another General Baptist church and so he handed over the reins to Rev. Phillip Pusey.

Rev. Phillip Pusey and First Lady Sis. Pusey were given the mandate to lead Heavenly Highway into the 21st century. Rev. Pusey’s first stint began in the year 2003 as Minister Pusey, when he was under the tutelage of Rev. Hall. Then in the year 2006 he became the pastor of Heavenly Highway General Baptist. They took over when the church was in transition mode from having a pastor of over twenty years and when the world itself was shifting from the nineteenth century into a new dispensation-the 21st century. As they embarked on their new responsibilities they sought to build on the foundation that was laid spiritually, numerically, structurally and socially. Continue reading

Let's Celebrate Advent

Let’s Celebrate Advent

By Franklin R. Dumond, Congregational Ministries Director

Long before Christmas became a commercial event that began appearing in retail outlets alongside Halloween, the church developed an approach to Christmas that made it a season of anticipation and preparation in the weeks before the holiday.

As a young pastor, I remember struggling with how to fit all the favored carols and all the special programs of Christmas into the one Sunday before December 25 traditionally given to Christmas celebrations in my rural home church. Then I stumbled onto Advent and learned not only the joy of anticipation and celebration, but also the beauty of preparing a congregation for that special time of the year.

When Is Advent?

Advent DatesAdvent is the season marked by the four Sundays before December 25, climaxing with Christmas Day and the wonderful good news, “unto you is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

Many churches mark Advent by using an Advent Wreath composed of greenery and five candles. Artificial greenery is much preferred over live greenery, which may present a fire hazard in the later weeks of Advent. Pillar-type candles give the safest use of candles, as only rarely do they drip or spill.

Lighting the candles one each Sunday allows children to excitedly count the Sundays before Christmas as one candle burns on the First Sunday of Advent, two on the Second Sunday of Advent, three on the Third Sunday of Advent, and four on the Fourth Sunday of Advent to remind everyone that Christmas is almost here!

Many churches will use traditional themes of Advent, but I always enjoyed using Advent to tell the Christmas story in small parts. As a Baptist pastor I always found telling the story of Christmas leading up to the birth of Jesus was well-received by the congregation and a special treat for the children who hurried to the Advent Wreath for the Children’s message. Because I used a nativity set with a variety of figurines, the children could help place one or two figures in the scene each week as we explored the Christmas story.

Two special features easily added to the season could be a Hanging of the Greens service on Sunday evening, December 4. While we never used this event to actually decorate the church, we often used it as a song fest we called “Songs of the Season” with both religious and traditional Christmas music and readings. One of the later Advent evenings also lends itself to “Carols, Candles, and Communion.”

Even if you are not using Advent in your church it is worth using the Sundays of Advent to mention some aspect of the Christmas story. The more often Christmas is connected with the church the more often we are able to develop and reinforce a Christian worldview.

Even worship plans and sermon themes that are not related to Advent can be given an Advent flavor by adjusting an illustration or changing a song title. While some church leaders do not believe Christmas deserves 1/12 of the annual emphasis in a church, others who recognize the overwhelming significance of the Incarnation believe that the message of Advent cannot be restricted to just one month of the year.

Go ahead and cancel Christmas this year but don’t forget to celebrate Advent

James and the Giving Bottle

James and the Giving Bottle

By Pattiy Thornton, Women’s Ministries Director

James TurnerThere is usually only one thing that attracts young men to the Women’s Ministries display at Summit. The candy bar. Chocolate, jelly beans, licorice, and more right there for the scooping.

But on the first day of the 2016 Summit, an 11-year-old boy made his way eagerly to the exhibit hall, looking specifically for our booth. Better yet, he was looking even more specifically for a place to put his water bottle.

This wasn’t any old water bottle. And James Turner isn’t any young lad. James attended the Missions & Ministry Summit last year, and several missionaries spent some time there with the children talking about the children in their own lives.

James’ heart was bitten by the missions bug. Women’s Ministries had just started a new campaign, asking people to fill water bottles, a giving bottle, with dimes. A full bottle would mean $100 for ministry. His mom shared with us that he saw our display and thought, “Hey, I can do that!”

Oh, yes he could. He was a radical dime saver. He asked for change in dimes in stores. He asked relatives to empty their purses and pockets of dimes and drop them in his bottle. He scooped up loose dimes between cushions. He even had his mom post a request on Facebook when he doubted his ability to fill the bottle up in time for Summit.

There was an indescribable glint in James’ eyes when he carried that bottle over to Hope and Vicki while they were getting ready to open up shop. His giving bottle was the first in the bucket, and he received the very first thank you gift from Women’s Ministries. He may not have been thrilled about the cool “Be You, Bravely” tote bag, but when Hope threw some extra candy and an empty Tervis cup into the mix, he was happy.

Actually, I don’t think James cared a bit about the gift. He had accomplished his goal – a sacrificial offering that stemmed from a heart of love. Thank you, James, for the example.

Strong Tower

Strong Tower, Lafayette Campus – GO! Project News

By Travis Stephens, Executive Pastor

Two years ago we at Strong Tower Church got really serious about the idea of going multi-site. When you’re in a town of 2,200 people (like our town of Westmoreland, TN), at some point your growth is going to max out. We felt like we were nearing that point. We also had a large group of people who were coming to our church from a town about twenty minutes away from us. It was time to get started.

We started doing as much research as possible about multi-site, but there wasn’t much information about churches our size that were also in a rural community. So, for the most part we just had to wing it.

The biggest question we wrestled with was whether to do video teaching or live. After many months of preparing to do video, we ultimately decided it wasn’t going to work at the level we desired, so we completely changed directions. Now, our lead pastor, David Mitchell, and campus pastor, Jeremy Meador (pictured above), work together each week to prepare a message that will be delivered at each location. Scriptures and main points are the same; then each adds his own personal stories and touch.

We’re only a few months in, but it looks like we made a good decision.

If you’re thinking of taking your small town church multi-site, here are a few things we’ve learned so far.


The success of any type of church launch is largely dependent upon the size of the “launch team.” Churches who launch campuses often have a huge advantage over church plants because the launch team is largely made up of people already attending the central campus. Our launch team was around 80 people who had mostly been attending and serving at the central campus. They already knew our vision, culture, and DNA.


I’ve heard of churches that launch campuses on a shoestring budget, but for us that wasn’t the case. We wanted to do our best to make sure that the experience at the new campus was as close to the experience at the central campus as possible. This meant spending over $100k to make the worship experience the best it could be in a portable facility.


Lots of volunteers. You’re not only filling positions for a new campus, you’re also replacing volunteers who are leaving to go to that campus. We handled this a couple of different ways. We went from offering three services to two services at our central campus. This cut down on the number of positions we needed to fill, and it ensured that we had critical mass in those two services. We also went on a recruiting blitz a few months before launch asking everyone and anyone to step up and volunteer.


Don’t underestimate the amount of work, time, and sacrifice multi-site is going to take. Portable facilities mean arriving early for set up and staying after services for tear down. Most of us will be launching with one service which means volunteers in the kids’ ministry will be missing service so that someone else can experience it. Just remember we sacrifice so someone else can be blessed.
Since we began the Lafayette campus, we’ve seen fifteen people give their lives to Christ and follow through in baptism. In August attendance reached 200+.

We believe no matter how much money it takes, how early we have to get out of bed in the morning, how many services we have to miss because we’re changing diapers, the sacrifice is worth it.

We would like to thank all of our ministry partners who have helped us along the way, especially the GO! Project and General Baptist Ministries.

2017 Mission & Ministry Summit

Take the Land – Mission & Ministry Summit 2017

By Lance Johnson, Host/Moderator

Lance Johnson - Moderator of the 2017 Mission & Ministry SummitWe are already in full swing making plans for the 2017 edition of the Missions & Ministry Summit and I couldn’t be more excited. I want to take this opportunity to invite you to be part of this incredible journey.

Our theme for the 2017 Summit will be “Take the Land.” I believe God has placed your church in just the right location to make an eternal impact on those around you and He is calling you to “Take the Land”. This has been our calling from the very beginning of our movement. We unapologetically proclaim the truth that Jesus tasted death for every man, woman, boy and girl. As General Baptists, we want to do anything we possibly can, while we trust God to do the impossible so we may take the land He has given us by sharing this life changing message.

That’s why I believe the Missions & Ministry Summit is so important for each of our churches. Each year, General Baptists from all across the globe gather together to encourage and strengthen one another. Our focus is always on learning how we can make a greater impact in growing God’s Kingdom. We challenge each other to further develop our respective ministries through meaningful worship, purposeful training, and missional challenges.

At next year’s Summit, we will continue to challenge and encourage one another on July 17th-19th at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Indiana. It is already shaping up to be an incredible event.

We will be offering a wide array of breakout sessions that will help you better impact your community. We will build on the excitement generated by the Go Project at the 2016 Summit and once again have a focus track on children’s ministry development. You will have an opportunity to explore technology in the church with workshops on service planning and volunteer ministry through Planning Center Online, working with presentation software like Pro Presenter, as well as resources for graphics and video editing. Other possible tracks we are discussing involve leadership development in the church, personal enrichment, and much more.

All of our breakout sessions will be designed to equip you to “Take the Land” God has given you. It would be an incredible opportunity for your church to bring staff, leaders, and volunteers to grow in their respective ministries.

There is also an inspiring roster of keynote speakers for the 2017 Summit. We will welcome to the main stage one of our very own difference makers, Gary Baldus. Pastor Gary has been intentional as he planted New Walk Church in Zephyrhills, Florida to “Take the Land” God called him to. New Walk has now grown to become the largest church in General Baptist history.

We will be challenged by Aaron Broyles. Aaron is a Christian author of the book “Do Great Things”, a speaker, and entrepreneur. As a successful businessman and leadership developer, his focus is on discovering purpose, helping people see opportunities that others don’t see, and achieving success in those opportunities.

And finally, we will welcome back to the Summit none other than Alex Himaya. Alex serves as pastor of in Oklahoma and was a special part of the 2015 Missions and Ministry Summit.

This year’s Summit is going to be incredible. As always, you are going to be able to reconnect with old friends and have the opportunity to network with new ones. But even more than that, we will all be equipped and encouraged to make a difference in the world around us. With God leading the way, I believe with all of my heart that you and your church can make that difference. So I am challenging you to prepare yourself for God-sized things in your ministry by inviting you to be part of this amazing event.

Make plans now to attend the 2017 Missions and Ministry Summit on July 17th-19th. For more details and information, visit the Summit website at

Part 3 Mobilize Behind the Scenes

First Steps in Turnaround – Part 3 and 4. MOBILIZE


This is the third part in a series which comes from the 2016 Turnaround 2020 Plan Book. A full version of this plan book is available by download at or by hard copy from Congregational Ministries, 573-785-7746.

A. Prayer Team


A wise pastor once observed “You can have a crowd and still not have a church.” Most church leaders would agree with that sage observation for they have realized from their own experiences that drawing a crowd is secondary to having a church.

Turnaround 2020 exists to equip local churches in best practices of social, religious and spiritual systems to help local churches set the stage for divine moments when the Lord of the Church demonstrates his powerful presence.

Before a church begins any turnaround activity, the first thing that should be done is build an Intercession Team. In fact, we believe so strongly in this that we do not encourage a church to engage in a turnaround project unless the project leaders have mobilized and are communicating regularly with at least 10 people who are covering the entire project in prayer.

B. 10 Steps to Follow in Mobilizing Your Intercession Team


for you as the leader, for your family and for all the various miracles God will have to do if the church is to turnaround to become healthy, vibrant, and growing.


Take the time to sit down and make a list of people who may fit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Who have said they will pray for you?
  • Who calls you and ask for prayer requests?
  • Who asks if you have had any answers to prayers?
  • Who do you know as a person of prayer?
  • Who has received ministry from you, who you really connected with? That is, you liked them, they liked you and “they carry you on their heart” (Phil 1:3-5, 7).


Personally communicate with them about how vital prayer is to your success. Continue reading