The 27 churches that make up the Central Louisiana Baptist Association are filled with the spirit – the Holy Spirit for sure – but something more – the spirit of cooperation.
PINEVILLE –The 27 churches that make up the Central Louisiana Baptist Association are filled with the spirit – the Holy Spirit for sure – but something more – the spirit of cooperation.
Without both, it’s doubtful the association would ever be able to accomplish all that it has.
“We have a unique combination of churches in this Association,” Director of Missions Herb Dickerson said. “We have five or six of the region’s largest – Calvary Baptist [the flagship], Emmanuel Alexandria, Horseshoe Drive, Parkview, and Baptist Temple – but the rest are mainly rural, small churches.”
With limited budgets, small to single-man staffs of which 48 percent have a bi-vocational pastor, the smaller churches have learned how to compensate for their shortcomings through partnering.
“While a church the size of a Calvary or an Emmanuel can do just about anything it wants, our smaller churches such as Cloverdale, First Lecompte, Sharp, or Cedar Grove have to partner together with each other or with the association to have enough resources to do what they want to do,” Dickerson said.
Using this concept, churches in the association, which stretch from Alexandria to Lecompte, Poland to Gardner and several points south of Red River, have been busy with backyard Bible studies, VBS workshops, mission fairs, police chaplaincy, and numerous training programs.
“Without the partnerships, and the financial assistance from the largest churches, the smaller ones couldn’t do much of this,” Dickerson said. “We push, strive, and sometimes struggle, but in the end we always seem to come together to have a successful event – one which honors God.”
Case in point was last year’s Cross Over Alexandria in which the churches in all three of Dickerson’s three associations – Central Louisiana, North Rapides and Big Creek – came together to pull off a tremendously successful evangelistic event despite some untimely rain.
“I can’t even begin to tell how much time and effort went into Cross Over,” Dickerson said. “In trying to make an impact on Alexandria, we spent $50,000 on the block parties and other events. But it was the volunteers that were really unbelievable. We put on Cross Over pretty much with our own people. Not that we needed it, but we had very little outside help.
“And, even though, we had two of the block parties rained out, others went on. I thought everyone involved just did a great job. The rain hurt, but we were still able to reach people,” Dickerson said. “We still got the Word out to a number of lost souls.
“We were able to cross inter-denominational and inter-racial lines as well,” Dickerson said. “Two of our block parties targeted the inner city, and we had quite a bit of success with both of them.”
Subsequently, the association has continued to build on the relationships forged during last year’s Cross Over, and are beginning to work more with African American churches in a variety of efforts. Pastor Emile Jones and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church has led the way.
“We are very proud to have Emile and Mt. Zion join us,” Dickerson said. “And we are proudly working with two other African American churches as well on several different projects.”
Besides the projects that will hopefully impact large numbers, Dickerson also stresses education for his bivocational pastors and lay people, which is something near and dear to his heart.
“With so many bivocationals and lay people, I, the association, try to have as many clinics as possible,” Dickerson said. “We had two VBS workshops in late spring, an evangelism workshop, and several clinics to provide them all with the most current information and training available.
“I work through United Baptist Theological Seminary, which has a satellite here and Monroe, but I also work with a junior college that provides local training programs. I know the courses have helped different people and a lot of churches over the years. I know there are a lot of lay people working for these churches that have benefited from being able to attend.
“The additional classes have also helped complete the training of several pastors here,” Dickerson said.
They also learn how to partner.