Beatrice church, pastor both get second chance at new life

Beatrice church, pastor both get second chance at new life

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Dial the clock back a few years, and J.J. Watson said you would find his church in a bit of a rough patch — rough enough that he thought the day might come that they would have to close the doors for good.

“It was a hard time,” he said.

At that point, he was the only deacon at Beatrice Baptist Church in Pine Barren Baptist Association. About a decade before, a church split had taken a large part of the congregation away, and the group of remaining deacons had slowly dwindled to just Watson.

“I got to realizing that we had an absence of men in our church and that we needed to do something,” he said.
So he got to praying and reaching out.

Watson took an interest in leading the church’s few youth, teaching them to dig into the Bible and apply theology to their lives. He put them to work leading music and doing other tasks in the church.

And they started growing.

Keeping the ministry going

Then Watson started reaching out to young men, discipling them and challenging them to step up and lead their families spiritually. All the while, other members of the church were stepping up to take on roles to keep the church’s ministry going too.

Then in 2016, Beatrice Baptist called a new pastor — Mack Elkin, a former Marine whose life had been radically changed when Christ “got ahold” of him.

For him, the church was a second chance too — he had been called to preach, done an internship at a church and gone to seminary, but his first church to lead as pastor had let him go.

“That can be hard on a pastor,” Elkin said. “Beatrice Baptist Church has been God’s grace on me. It was unexpected, and it’s been a gift.”

Elkin didn’t waste any time — he got straight to preaching the Bible, the thing Watson had told him was most important to the congregation.

The two were on the same page with that.

“There’s no frills here,” Elkin said. “We just preach the Word of God and let ministry happen out of the overflow of loving Him, needing Him and being hungry for Him.”

It seems to be working. Beatrice Baptist has plenty of faithful, pillar-of-the-church ladies to be sure, but for the first time ever, more men are involved in Sunday School than women, Watson said. The youth group is growing too.

The church has baptized three new believers already this year.

“That doesn’t sound like many, but for a church that averages 40 or so, that’s pretty good,” Watson said.

They also recently gained seven new members, most of whom are young couples, he said. “We have seen the older church members stepping up to take on tasks over the years, but now we also see the younger crowd taking initiative to lead.”

It’s building a strong community, Elkin said. Church members are digging into the Word and the studies are rich.

They’ve even seen some reconciliation happening in the places where the rift happened all those years ago.

And they have real fellowship, Elkin said. After services and meetings, people don’t go home — they stick around and talk for a while.

“God is doing something I haven’t seen before,” he said.

The people who were around when he got there — people like Watson — had been carrying a lot of weight, Elkin said.

But God was getting glory from their sacrifice — the church has gotten a fresh start and new life.

“When we get together on Sundays, it’s all eyes on Him — it’s not about us,” Elkin said. “That’s what we want to be about. And through that, in many ways, we’re just finding new life again.”