By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BENTON – Michael Permenter, 34, was challenged recently at Cypress Baptist Church in Benton to get off the sidelines and live out true biblical manhood – and he agreed.
His decision to turn his whole life over to Christ helped Permenter better lead his family – as Jesus intended him to do – and also resulted in his baptism Feb. 11.
CONVICTION & OBEDIENCE
Although he had received Christ as a young man and had attended Cypress Baptist for five years, Permenter had not yet been baptized. But after counseling with Cypress Baptist Pastor John Fream, Permenter knew God was calling him to take this next step of faith as a public display of his relationship with Christ.
“God had been laying on my heart for some time that I needed to get my baptism in order,” said Permenter, whose wife, Autumn, was baptized in 2013 at Cypress Baptist. “It took some time to soften my heart. I have no doubt that God led my wife and me here to a community where we didn’t have any roots, but yet had a purpose waiting for us.”
Permenter credits the men’s ministry at Cypress Baptist as a driving force behind his commitment to grow deeper in his spiritual walk. He attends one of six men’s Bible studies that meet throughout the week in homes, the church and other locations in the area.
Sharing life’s struggles with fellow Christian men is essential to surviving in a culture that is constantly growing more hostile toward family values, Permenter said.
“The men are leaders within the church,” Permenter said. “They are called to lead their wives and children. The reality is our community and church have a large number of men who are willing to step up in the way the Lord wants us to lead. It’s one reason the church has been prosperous unto the Lord. To see the men want to step up and be more Christ-like is a testament to what’s going on in the church.”
The commitment by Cypress Baptist men to live boldly for Christ fulfills a dream of Fream when he became pastor of the church in 2008. At the time, the church averaged 402 in Sunday morning worship and 468 in Sunday school, and baptized 14 the year he arrived, according to Annual Church Profile statistics.
As the years passed, more men became involved in small groups and began to lead their families as Christ instructed. By the end of 2017, worship attendance had grown to 1,400, Sunday school attendance reached 1,077, and 95 were baptized that year. The growth resulted in the 2017 opening of a new 2,100-seat worship center and state of the art preschool space.
“When God starts stirring in the men, the excitement trickles down to other areas,” Fream said. “We are unapologetic in telling men they are biblically called to lead, ‘Now step up and lead.’ Their wives are embracing this too, knowing it’s not a lesser role for them but a biblical one.
“By getting men plugged in, we have seen marriages healed and restored because they get on fire for the Lord,” he continued, “and it’s infecting our entire church.”
Though God is working through the men, Fream is quick to emphasize others in the church also are passionate about serving.
Every Sunday, one class will forgo their meeting time so they can serve in the preschool and children’s area. On their respective assigned Sundays, class members show up, as many as 40-50 strong, and wear a shirt that proclaims “Get Your Serve On.”
Members also participate in mission trips worldwide. In 2008, the only trip taken was to India. Today, members serve in as many as 20 cities and countries, including Dallas, Texas, Uganda, Panama, Guatemala and Ukraine.
The congregation also has a passion for ministering to area schools and needy families.
In December, Sunday school classes provide a meal and presents to families in need.
Once a month, the church assembles food kits that are delivered to teachers who identify students who cannot afford meals on the weekends, when school is not in session.
“That’s why we are here – to bring people to the kingdom,” Fream said. “Cypress gets that. It’s not anything I’ve done but what the Lord has done. The members understand they are giving their lives away to someone who needs Christ.”