Clements Baptist Church, Athens, had been familiar with the city’s Poplar Creek Baptist Church for quite some time. After all, the churches are located just five miles apart from each other. But it wasn’t until the Poplar Creek Baptist congregation started to wane significantly that the churches decided it was time to partner.
“The Poplar Creek congregation has been declining for several years and they were down to just seven people last fall – all senior adults,” said Tim Anderson, who has served as Clements Baptist’s pastor since it was planted 21 years ago. “I knew of their struggles and approached them about the possibility of us taking the church over and they were more than ready to do so” since they’d been without a pastor for eight months.
Not only did Anderson feel the church needed support from Clements Baptist’s congregation (which has an average of 750 each Sunday), he and his church also felt the Poplar Creek building needed to be renovated. Clements Baptist purchased the church building and financed its renovation work and Anderson became pastor in August 2015.
They also renamed the church Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek to maintain the church’s history (Poplar Creek dates back to the 1800s) but also create a distinct link between the two congregations.
Photo taken from clementsbaptist.org/poplarcreek/
In need of renovations
“The church was in need of major repairs and now they have been made,” Anderson said, noting that renovations began in October 2015. “The entire church now has a more modern look and has been brought up to speed as far as its facilities and interior look and design.”
Clements Baptist then turned their attention to other ways to support the growth of the new campus.
The church identified 60 members who would be missionaries at the Poplar Creek campus for one year. While the missionary program was officially kicked off on Easter, a “trial run” took place March 13. The trial run gave members a chance to “celebrate the opportunity to be a part of keeping a church open,” Anderson said.
“The 60 Clements Baptist missionaries are all people that felt the leadership of the Lord to move over to the Poplar Creek campus when I first cast vision of this project,” Anderson said. “Those 60 people consist of pre-school teachers, children’s teachers, adult life group leaders, praise team, greeting team and more.”
Brian Murphy, education and campus minister at Clements Baptist, said one thing that’s been especially interesting throughout the process has been uncovering the strong ties that already existed between the two congregations.
“We were shocked at the number of people who are members of Clements who at one point were members of Poplar Creek,” Murphy said. “They were baptized there, married there, their parents were members there. We’re hearing things like, ‘I left my home church but now my home church has come back to me.’”
For now, Anderson will lead both church campuses as pastor, since the buildings are so close to one another. He will preach first at Clements and then deliver a sermon at the Poplar Creek service. The future plan is to place a pastor at Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek to be dedicated to that campus.
“The entire process has been a real joy and a sweet process over the last six months,” Anderson said. “Our people have been absolutely wonderful and the community was buzzing to see the church reopen March 27. Poplar Creek’s seven members have been very involved during the project, and they are simply thrilled to see the church remain open and once again become a vital church in the community.”
On April 10, Clements Baptist Church at Poplar Creek will host a service of dedication.
Murphy said, “During that service we’ll dedicate the building, reflect back on its long history and look forward to a new day. It’s been great to see how our community has really stepped up to the plate to help with this project. Everyone was so excited to see life at this church again.”
Anderson emphasized his excitement in getting to be involved in this true community effort to help revitalize a church that has been such an important part of their community for so long.
“I have such respect for Poplar Creek and see this as an incredible opportunity for us to partner with the community,” he said. “I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this revitalization process.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist at thealabamabaptist.org, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Anna Keller is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)