Black Oak Baptist reaches out to community

Thursday, September 3, 2009
Pictured are, from left: Josh Martin, music minister; Brian Whitlow, youth minister; and Richard Williams, pastor. (Town Crier photo/Samantha Martin)

When Brother Richard Williams first came to Black Oak Baptist Church a year ago, he found a small core of faithful church goers who were praying for God to help their church grow.

Now, a year later, they've had nearly 600% growth and are averaging 60 in worship service. The church has seen over 35 salvations in that short time and numerous rededications and baptisms. And, that type of church growth is exactly what Bro. Williams said he is praying for.

"We want to reach people who are unchurched," said Williams. "We don't want to interfere with people who already have a church home. We want to reach those who don't know Jesus as their Lord and Savior."

Williams said the church's ministry is all about pointing people to the good news of the gospel.

"We're serious about salvation because we want to take people to heaven," Williams said. "It's not the Father's will that anyone should perish."

The church has used a number of outreach events such as Vacation Bible School (VBS) and block party cookouts to extend an invitation to the community around it. They also go door to door to visit with residents to invite them to church and ask them if there's anything they can pray for them about.

"We want to encourage people to come to our church where they will be loved and welcomed," Williams said. "Here at Black Oak Baptist Church we don't care if you come wearing your blue jeans or your suit. We welcome everyone just as they are."

Williams said he hopes visitors will feel comfortable at the church, which has a laid-back atmosphere of friendship and worship.

The church's worship features the old hymns as well as a mixture of contemporary praise and worship songs. Participants can view the words of the song, as well as points from the sermon, on an overhead screen.

The church's new music minister, Josh Martin of Jonesboro, said his goal is to make the church a place where people can come experience Jesus and worship him through song.

The church also has a growing group of youth and children, led by youth pastor Brian Whitlow of Leachville. Whitlow joined the church's staff earlier in the summer.

"We're excited about what God is doing in our church," Williams said. "We want to be a contender for the kingdom of God, and there is power in numbers and in Jesus' name."

Williams said he is excited about not only seeing the church grow, but also about helping young ministers grow as well. He has licensed 17 ministers to preach in his eight years in ministry, including Martin.

"I feel investing in our young preachers is important," Williams said. "They need someone to give them opportunities to preach and help them along the way."

Williams' own calling to ministry began in 2001. He had been working in a bus ministry at Southside Community Church in his hometown of Paragould when he read a book called "Taking Back the Gospel."

"The book reminded me that thousands of people are dying every day without Jesus and are going to a Christless eternity," Williams said. "I thought, I have legs. I have a voice. I knew I should be out telling people about Jesus."

Williams pastored Beech Grove Baptist Church for four and half years and Brookland Baptist Church for three years before joining on at Black Oak as their interim pastor. He was officially hired two months ago.

"I'm excited about being at Black Oak," Williams said. "We want everyone to know they are welcome at our church, and we hope they will come call our church home."

Williams and his wife Jennifer, who live in Paragould, have been married for 22 years. They have two daughters: Laura, who is a senior at Green County Tech High School, and Brittany Rose who attends college at Arkansas State University. Brittany and her husband Shane have one son, Issac, who is two years old.

The church is located at 100 Main Street. Sunday services include Sunday School at 10 a.m., worship at 11 a.m. and evening worship at 5 p.m. Wednesday night services are at 6 p.m.

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