Walker Association 5-year plan shows power of associational cooperation

By Lanell Downs Smith
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

Walker Baptist Association (WBA) began a new chapter in their story on April 16, 2016, as they embarked on a five-year plan to reach their county for Christ. 

The network of northwest Alabama churches adopted the motto “Many Campuses … One Church” as part of a long-range plan designed to help churches become more than just a part of the same association, said David Miller, WBA director of missions.

The plan launched with a one-year prayer commitment, joining churches to worship together, visit each other and enjoy fellowship. 

Game changer

In the second year the association’s seven districts began to pray for the churches within their district. And in the third year WBA took 164 participants to Black Mountain, North Carolina, where they helped revitalize a local church, visiting more than 600 homes in four nights in door-to-door evangelism. For many volunteers, the trip was a game changer.

On that trip Zak McCullar of First Baptist Church, Carbon Hill, was inspired to propose adding a Children’s Ministry Day to the Southern Baptist Convention calendar, a motion approved and implemented in 2019.

Burden for the lost

Pastors participating in that trip felt a burden for the lost in their community, Miller said, and asked one another, “Why can’t we do this at home?” A bivocational pastors’ group was formed and pastors joined forces to develop a monthly visitation program.

Each month volunteers gather at one church, going out in the name of that church to share the gospel and invite neighbors to attend worship. Each visitation effort can reach 200 homes in one day and to date WBA volunteers have visited more than 3,300 homes, Miller said.

“God has done something in every church where we have gone visiting,” said Dave Sexton, pastor of Lupton First Baptist Church in Nauvoo. “One church has doubled in size. We’ve seen people saved in the streets.”

The fourth year of the plan has seen the start of district revival services. Sammy Gilbreath, evangelism strategist for North Alabama for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), delivered a unified message of reaching the lost at each district meeting. More than 1,500 people attended and heard that message, Miller said.

“More important than the number of people who attended, I watched the Lord break the hearts of our folks over lost people,” Miller said. “Every night the altars were full of people praying for lost people by name.”

Miller noted that planning and teamwork were crucial for the plan’s success. 

“It cannot be done by one person. It has to be done by an association. It would be impossible without the help of our pastors,” he said. 

Leading strategically and working with others toward revitalization within the association are the major responsibilities of the associational missions director, said Rick Barnhart, director of SBOM’s office of associational missions and church planting.

The association, he said, “is designed to meet the churches’ needs” and Barnhart said his office offers resources to help in that mission.

Areawide crusade

As WBA anticipates the fifth year of the strategic plan the association is working on an areawide crusade scheduled for April 25–26 at Jasper High School. Evangelist Ted Traylor from Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, will lead the crusade. Volunteers will work in teams to pray, visit, counsel, usher and provide parking and medical assistance.

District prayer meetings will culminate in a countywide prayer meeting and blitz. Miller said churches are praying for their neighbors who need Christ.

“We are expecting the Lord to do mighty things through the crusade,” Miller said. “We are expecting hundreds to come to faith. At revival our people wept over lost people. It’s going to be an exciting time to see what the Lord does.”