Sumiton church pares down to Great Commission

Sumiton church pares down to Great Commission

When Grace Baptist Church, Sumiton, reached out to Andy Frazier a few years ago, they were in new territory. They had been a church for more than 40 years, and they had never had to have a pastor search committee before.

The church’s founding pastor, Doug Tate, had recently resigned because of health issues.

“During his time there, the church had experienced wonderful growth in an awesome facility in a great location,” Frazier said. For decades, the Sumiton area was steady if not growing, and the church was a vibrant part of the community.

But more than a decade ago, Grace Baptist faced some conflict and other things that brought on a decline. And in 2015 the church that used to run nearly 400 had around 30 members keeping up a large building with six figures’ worth of debt.

They were starting to ask big questions about their future, Frazier said.

So after some conversations that started with “What now?” and ended with “I’ll pray about it,” Frazier accepted the call to be Grace Baptist’s pastor. He told them he wouldn’t take a salary, at least for a while, while the church was working on its debt. And together they would look at what they needed to do to turn things around.

“We’ve got to make some changes, and who knows if it’s going to work,” he told them.

But now, three years later, they’re debt free and running 150 on Sunday mornings. They’re growing as disciples and personally making other disciples.

“We’re a healthy congregation,” Frazier said. “The only thing we’re doing is emphasizing the Great Commission to make disciples. We’re just doing things slow and steady and trying to do it right so it sticks.”

Daniel Edmonds, director of the office of Sunday School and discipleship of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), called Grace a “wonderful story of church revitalization.”

“Andy is highly regarded by pastors that know him as a Kingdom disciple and disciple maker,” Edmonds said. “He has put a strong emphasis on reaching families and discipling parents to disciple their children as well as other adults. He is a genuine, lead-by-example follower of Christ.”

Frazier said he feels God prepared him for his time at Grace Baptist by putting him in some revitalization positions in smaller churches over the years. And he enjoys getting his hands dirty — with work and with the mission. In his “other” job, he’s a farrier, shoeing horses and interacting with their owners.

“I enjoy getting to be around a lot of people who are unchurched and lost, people I wouldn’t normally get to be around,” he said. “I get some deep ministry opportunities from my job, and it has allowed us to be able to serve at the church and not burden them with paying my salary.”

For churches who might need a turnaround, Frazier said he suggests taking some time to evaluate everything you do.
“Anything that isn’t mission critical, don’t do it,” he said.

It’s amazing what God can do when things are tough, Frazier said. “We feel so honored to be a part of what He is doing. The great things that are happening can only be explained by God blessing our feeble efforts.”