By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LEESVILLE – One Sunday last year, Morris Goins was deeply grieved while preaching at Canaan Baptist Church.
He saw a visitor open the front door of the church, either looking for someone or seeing no seats available and left. That’s when he knew the congregation needed a bigger space.
“I told them the next Sunday we need to start having our church services in the gym where we have room for everyone who comes,” recalled Goins who was recently honored as Southern Exemplary Bi-vocational and Small Church Pastor of the Year. “Brother Derrell Kay, one of the men of the church said having church in the gym won’t work long, we ought to look at building another building.”
Fast forward to mid-November, when the church broke ground for its future new 296-seat worship center. When complete by a target date of May 2016, the new building will include a nursery, office space, a Sunday school classroom for our elderly ladies, a room to hold a children’s church service and a section in the back of the worship center to house sound equipment.
Goins said his congregation that averages 125 for Sunday morning worship is excited about how God will use the new facility for ministry to the community.
“God is just blessing us at Canaan,” Goins said. “I have been asked many times ‘what are you doing at Canaan?’ I tell them the best I can to stay out of God’s way and let Him do what He is doing.”
God’s movement is evident in several areas of the church in addition to the new building, including 6 consecutive Sundays of baptisms. Since early October, 12 people have been baptized. Goins expects more baptisms to take place before the end of the year.
“After each baptism, Canaan Church displays a great amount of excitement,” Goins said. “You’ll see people applauding and clapping and saying lots of amens. The Bible tells us the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who is repentant. If they are doing that in heaven, I think we ought to practice on earth what’s happening in heaven.” We need to start practicing on Heavenly activities.
On Sept. 4, Goins had to have a triple by-pass surgery and has been blessed that Youth pastor Jason Nolde has been able to do the baptizing of the newly converted while Goins has been recuperating from surgery. What a blessing Jason has been to me, commented Goins during this period of physical “down time.”
About half of those baptized are children and young adults. Youth pastor Jason Nolde said that over the past few months he has enjoyed baptizing 12 of his students, including his two children.
“Canaan is a very special place in so many ways,” he said. “I have such a wonderful group of supporters that make our youth ministry program all about the Lord’s business.
“I have never been part of a church that has such a heart to serve and love others,” he continued. “My mission is to always keep number one as number one, as is said in Exodus 20:3. My saying that I often share with our students is ‘Never try to be like anyone but Christ and never try to be better than anyone but yourself.’ Ain’t God good.”
Goins attributes Nolde as a key part of the growth in the church. When Goins came to Canaan five years ago, the average attendance on Sunday mornings was 30 people, including one teenager as he recalls.
He approached a few people in the church asking that they join him in prayer with the idea of hiring a youth pastor.
“They asked ‘why do we need a youth pastor? We don’t have any youth,’” he said. “I said that’s why we need a youth pastor. They prayed about it and said it sounds like a pretty good idea.”
In the three years Nolde has served as youth pastor, the youth group has grown to more than 20 teenagers, plus a great number of children that are under the teen years. On Wednesday evenings, the church averages more than 75 in attendance from three years old to high school. Nolde also has taken our youth on mission work trips, many varying youth activities involving the youngsters in encounters with others and ministry opportunities.
For the past five years, Goins has served as pastor, including three other churches in Louisiana. He has been pastor of Castor Baptist Church in Leesville for nearly 15 years, Mt Bethel Baptist Church in Leesville for 10 years and McDonald Memorial Baptist Church in Jonesboro for almost five years. But his time at Canaan Baptist has been his most fruitful, Goins said. Goins also serves as Chaplain of the Vernon Correctional Facility and the Vernon Parish Jail.
“These have been some of the best years of my life and my ministry,” said Goins, pastor since December 2010. “I feel like God gave me the icing for the cake for my later years in ministry at the age of 78.”