By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
DUPONT (LBM) – There is new life in First Baptist Church Dupont, which began about 50 years ago as a rural mission church in southern Avoyelles Parish.
The congregation, which was gasping for breath to survive, had dwindled down to a handful of people when the door opened for Brian Johnston to become the pastor.
Now, after many heavenly appeals, there has been such revitalization that Johnston anticipates members will vote on a new identity within the month.
“We plan to change the name because we are a new work. Everything is going great now, and our church has their heart on the Lord. We present ourselves to the community as a new work,” Johnston said.
Moreover, the congregation plans to reconstitute as a mission church as part of its “fresh start.”
God has given church members, who now number about 28, a vision to be relevant to the Dupont community, Johnston said, and there is a newfound fervor for outreach.
Moreover, the pastor believes the church’s “second wind” is the direct result of intentional prayer.
When the church switched their mid-week service to Thursday nights, Johnston said the members began a new focus.
“We had a big, heavy emphasis on prayer,” he said. “Prayer is the lifeblood of the church. If you don’t have prayer, you won’t be connected with God.
Moreover, it is “the tie that binds” everybody together, he said.
“I put a chair in the front of the sanctuary, and if anyone needed prayer, they’d come forward. I might anoint them with oil if they asked, and everyone else would gather around and pray over them,” the pastor said.
After the church body prays over individuals who are actually present in the service, Johnston takes prayer requests “two to three … at a time,” asking someone to pray for those specific needs. “We continue to pray until every request is covered by prayer.”
The pastor, who has served as the full-time pastor at FBC Dupont for the last two and a half years, said there have been many answered prayers, affecting the congregation in a big way.
“We’ve seen some miracles. We’ve had people with cancer be healed. Even some people who don’t normally attend have come and been healed from cancer,” Johnston said. “People have been healed from back pain and pain in their knees. Not everyone is healed, but we are seeing many who are.”
Johnston said there also “is a great sense of unity now – a oneness,” and added that the growing enthusiasm among members has sparked a campaign to raise funds to make renovations and repairs to the facilities.
“The building itself is what it has been, an A-frame building more than 50 years old. There’s rot and missing shingles, termite damage and it needs a new roof,” he said, adding that there is a lack of room, too.
Indeed, he shared that two months ago, because of growth, the congregation started a Sunday school class for children, moving the pastor’s office into a closet so the emptied space could be used as the classroom.
So there are plans to expand the sanctuary, adding about 8 feet on each side, he said.
“Everyone is so enthusiastic. One hundred percent of the folks who come Sunday also come to the mid-week service. That’s a big thing,” Johnston added for emphasis. “They have a great work ethic. The whole church showed up to help on a recent work day.”
For instance, when it came time to clean out his office to make room for the Sunday school class, the pastor said the effort was led by 80-year-old women who were pulling things off the wall that had been hanging in the same place for more than 30 years.
“There wasn’t any arguing about trying to save that old stuff. There was just an overwhelming sense of unity,” Johnston added.
Members want to be a beacon of light, offering hope to the community, the pastor said. Dupont, historically, has been an impoverished community where many have struggled with addictions and alcohol abuse.
Johnston said his work with FBC Dupont has been rewarding, but has kept him busy because he also serves as pastor and worship leader for Big Cane Baptist Church.
On Sunday, FBC Dupont worships at 9 a.m. and the mid-week service is held on Thursday at 6 p.m. Big Cane members, on the other hand, come together at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The two churches are about a 15-minute drive apart.
Johnston said each congregation is strongly supportive of his work with the other, and that the two churches are unified in wanting to reach the lost in the area for Christ.