The Alabama Baptist recently published a story about Imago Dei Church at the 45, a new church being planted in Lowndes County.
One of the quiet forces behind that effort is Benton Baptist Church, a church that didn’t hesitate to send out some of its best, even if it cost them.
According to Pastor Lee Tate, the 185-year-old church has been on a revitalization journey in recent years. Its 46-member body decreased by four on a recent Sunday night when it commissioned its first-ever missionaries — Davey and Amber Lyon and Terry and Melanie Sharpless. Davey Lyon will serve as pastor of Imago Dei, and the others will serve alongside him.
“It’s been wonderful. We’re thrilled,” Tate said. “But at the same time, it’s sad, and you could say inconvenient.”
All of them have been integral to Benton Baptist’s ministry. Melanie Sharpless has served as the church’s pianist.
‘Send out your best’
“When you plant a church, I’ve always heard that you send out your best, and that’s the way this is,” Tate said. “We are so proud of these four and thankful to God for allowing our local church body the privilege of sending them out.”
It’s been a whole-church effort, he said. “All of us have gotten behind this to help with food distribution or door-to-door ministry, buying things, helping with block parties.”
Tate said Benton Baptist has gotten in the habit of saying, “God can do a lot with a dot.” They may be a small church, he said, but they gave more than $40,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2020, and more than half of their members have served in international missions. The church goes on about four international trips a year, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they shifted that energy into helping with ministry in Lowndes County.
And now they’re sending out their first four missionaries to plant the church there.
“God had been preparing our hearts for this work,” Tate said. “It’s a wonderful thing to watch and see how He orchestrates it all.”
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