In 1996, a small group of believers began to meet in the living room of a home in Cookeville, Tennessee. 25 years later, that same core group and others who have joined along the way continue to worship and serve the Lord together through what today is known as Providence Baptist Church.
The story of Providence provides a wonderful reminder of the many, significant advantages that come with being a small, resilient church focused on ministry, community, and generosity.
In the case of Providence, one of these advantages has been the chance to create a worship service that fits who they are as a unique group of believers. As Melissa Royston, the pastor of Providence shared, their church “looks a lot like the New Testament churches” in that they are small, less formal and can be focused on church as a family.
While the service is still centered on the proclamation of scripture, prayer and the music of our faith, the approach of Providence to worship has also led to a weekly focus on missions as a key element of their service and specifically on the work of CBF field personnel.
Nearly every Sunday, the people of Providence learn about or are updated on the work of CBF field personnel.
This element of worship, which appears in the Providence Baptist worship service as the “Missionary Moment,” has become a sacred element of their weekly gathering. Using resources from CBF, each week the members of the church learn the stories of CBF field personnel and then also pray for these same field personnel and any others who are having a birthday over the upcoming week. From this has come numerous visits from field personnel to Providence either in person or through video conferences that have sometimes been incorporated into the service.
What has developed is an amazing sense of relationship where over these 25 years, CBF field personnel feel like members of the Providence family as they, their own families and their work are known and loved so well by their brothers and sisters in Cookeville, Tennessee.
As a result of this intimate knowledge and weekly storytelling amazing generosity naturally developed at Providence too. In turn, a significant portion of the annual budget receipts of the church have been given to missions. As Roysdon said, “the Providence budget has become their testimony” of how important missions is to them as a church.
Further, when it was time to figure out how to mark the 25th anniversary of the church earlier this year, it is not surprising that the leadership and congregation felt that what they should do was give significant monetary gifts to CBF Global Missions, Tennessee CBF and to some of the CBF field personnel that the church has gotten to know best. The gifts of Providence were simply what they naturally wanted to offer and felt excited to share because of the relationships that had been cultivated.
What Providence Baptist so beautifully illustrates is that there is a significant connection between compelling stories and feeling compelled to give. When we really catch a vision for what others are accomplishing for the Kingdom of God, and when we are invited into relationship, we often find ourselves resonating with the life, work, and witness of others. In turn, we naturally want to support the work in tangible ways.
The amazing gift of Providence on their 25th anniversary was the result of 25 years of cultivating relationships. In the end, this is a lesson for other churches to learn as we all seek to live faithfully in our own attempts to grow people who will live generously.