The Pike Association of Southern Baptists in Eastern Kentucky saw several professions of faith during “LoveLoud,” an annual initiative in which several of the association’s churches work together to complete projects around the community with a focus on servant evangelism.
Jason Lowe, associational mission strategist for the Pike Association, said the focus for the more than 100 volunteers was tangibly showing the love of Jesus to the community.
“Our theme verse is 1 John 3:18, which says: ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth,’” Lowe said. “We not only want to tell people that Jesus loves them, we want to show them that love. Our goal is to meet physical needs so that we can open the door to help them understand the spiritual need that we all have.”
Lowe said volunteers saw spiritual needs being met even on the event’s first day.
While handing out free donuts on the first morning of the week, one of the mission teams encountered a group of restaurant employees. After a few of them gladly accepted donuts, the employees asked why the mission team was there.
After the team explained that the free food was a tangible way to show the free salvation offered through Jesus Christ, three of the restaurant employees prayed to receive Christ. Another young girl gave her life to Christ at a block party later in the week.
Lowe said the association has seen God work in the community since the event began in 2015 and that it has created a positive view of Southern Baptist churches in the area.
“The community knows us, and when they see our red shirts in the community they know what we’re about,” Lowe said.
“When we first did this, we had to go looking for opportunities to serve, and that’s not the case anymore. Now the community comes to us and says, ‘Can you help us with this?’ Our churches are seen as someone who wants to really be a positive contributor in the community and really wants to see the community thrive.”
The needs in the community, both spiritual and physical, are great, Lowe said. He estimates 92% of the residents are unchurched.
Activities during the “LoveLoud” week designed to meet these needs fell into three distinct categories – construction (such as roofing a house), community service (such as offering free car washes) or outreach (such as giving away free items or hosting block parties).
Lowe said the needs and requests from the Pike County community were so great this year that the association enlisted the help of another mission team from North Carolina.
The extra demand was paired with extra excitement from volunteers, who were anxious to serve after last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19.
“This year there was just such a level of excitement among our coordinators and volunteers, and you could sense throughout the week that folks were so excited to be able to serve in this way,” Lowe said. “People were anticipating it for weeks beforehand.”
In addition to meeting needs, Lowe said another goal of the event is to “promote cooperation in the gospel and not competition between churches.”
He explained that volunteers are divided up throughout the week so that each team consists of members from multiple churches in the association, rather than each individual church having its own separate team.
Lowe said he believes this is what Baptist associations are designed for in fulfilling the Great Commission and serving their neighbors.
“I think every association is in their community for a reason,” he said. “What an association is, is local churches partnering together to do more than they can do by themselves to advance the Kingdom. God has given us the primary responsibility for reaching our neighbors in Pike County. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you see a need, you meet the need.”
Lowe’s advice to other local Baptist associations is to see the needs in their local contexts and to be intentional about servant evangelism.
“LoveLoud is not just a five-day event, but it is a 365-day lifestyle,” Lowe said. “The encouragement to volunteers and churches is to keep doing this in your local church and your individual lives.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)