Church's vision becoming reality before their very eyes

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BARBOURVILLE, Ky. (KT) – First Baptist Church in Barbourville’s new vision has turned into an eye-opening experience.


Late in 2020, the church put forth a vision to baptize 25 in the coming year. It may not seem like a lot, but it was about eight times more than they had been baptizing before Pastor Tyler Shields accepted the call to be the pastor about seven months ago.


Shields took the vision and ran with it and a suddenly enthused membership followed him. Four months into the new year, they have already baptized 21 and workers are popping up everywhere, the pastor said.


“They’ve not had a vision for 20 years,” Shields said. “It wasn’t just me coming up with a number. They thought 25 baptisms would be a good goal for this year.”


With new ways of outreach and a revived youth group, FBC Barbourville has become a happening place in the community. They completed the Gospel to Every Home a few weeks ago, delivering more than 1,000 packages throughout the area. That was a springboard to more intentional outreach and finding ways to serve a community that like many in southeastern Kentucky have been ravaged by drugs and poverty.


On Friday, they were giving away food boxes to residents and beds to residents. And Shields had plenty of help. “Right now, I’m looking around and we have people all over the place serving people. It’s like a bunch of ants. For a lot of them, they’ve never seen anything like this. The church was just something you do every week. It’s not been exciting.”


That has changed for members old and young, he said.


“One lady who has been here for a long time, she’s close to 90 (years old), been part of the church her entire life” he said. “She said, ‘For 50 years we’ve been in the desert and now we’re out!’ This lady is excited. If she is excited, everybody is excited.”


The youth in the church have been revived too, he said. “I told our church there’s a revival happening in our youth with a lot of youth getting saved,” he said. “It’s consuming the entire church family.”


As for the message it sends him, Shields said it was simple.


“It reminds me that coming here was the Lord’s will, it kind of confirms that when you see fruit,” he said. “I’m doing what God has called me to do.”


Shields’ congregation at FBC Barbourville isn’t his only “church family.” He also serves as a chaplain for the Kentucky National Guard and 250 soldiers. He meets with them two or three days a month but many also consider him their pastor, too. “I’m on 24-hour call with them,” he said.


As for FBC Barbourville, he said the church just got in and “got our hands dirty.”


“We started a food ministry and we’re taking it out, going door-to-door (evangelism), we did the Gospel to Every Home,” Shields said. “We’re getting into the community every way we can. Here is what’s crazy, most pastors think people don’t want to do that. But we have people excited and have all kinds of stuff going on.”


The kindness is spreading along with the gospel message. And the church is nearing its baptism total with eight months left in the year.


It’s no coincidence either, Shields said.


“All I know is we’re going to have to start looking at changing that baptism goal,” he said. “It doesn’t stop at 25. We have to keep it going.”

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