By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE – Sherwood Baptist Church was at a crossroads only a year after renovating facilities that had been damaged heavily by the historic flood of August 2016. The multi-ethnic congregation was well-positioned with regard to location, space and amenities to minister to the surrounding neighborhood, but membership had dropped.
After months of seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction, Pastor Bruce Worrell was introduced in September to Josh Causey, pastor of Living Hope Fellowship, a predominately Anglo congregation, in Baton Rouge.
Following multiple meetings to facilitate a merger, the two churches became one congregation February 25, creating a strong and dynamic body focused on reaching a community ripe for harvest.
“Both congregations voted 100 percent to come together and that’s what I call a miracle,” Worrell said. “Before we came together, the group I was left with was a group that, first of all, loved the Lord and they loved the people of this community regardless of an individual’s background or economic status. They wanted to see this lighthouse continue to shine.
“They were willing to step out of their comfort zone and move forward with some new ideas and some new concepts and some new music,” he said. “What I think it says about our folks and also Josh’s folks is this we are willing to do some new things for the cause of Christ. Our hearts and their hearts were in the right place as we sought what God wanted.”
A GODLY FUSION
Worrell became interim pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in 2015, and the church was starting to recover from a downward trend in attendance. Before several feet of water poured inside its worship center in August 2016, the church had tripled in size from 30 to 100. But by the time they recompleted repairs 11 months later, membership had decreased to 55.
“After we rebuilt and started again, we found that about 60 percent of our members had either sold their homes or relocated to another area of town or city,” Worrell said. “At that point we began to pray and I began to seek God’s leadership on what we needed to do. We had a brand new building with a core group of people who loved the Lord and were willing to stay here and commit to reaching this community.”
Several churches had approached the Sherwood Baptist congregation with proposals to merge, but Worrell said none were the right fit. Then, in November, Worrell and Causey struck up a conversation about where their two churches wanted to go, moving forward.
Since becoming a church plant of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge in 2006, Living Hope Fellowship had moved three times and was seeking a more permanent location. Causey was excited about the possibility Worrell presented.
After additional meetings, the churches voted to fuse together.
“We become one fellowship,” Worrell said. “We have senior adults and young adults meeting together for worship. We are still moving forward and every day is a new adventure. But God will use this fusion to not only change our lives but also to change our community and to win people for Christ and to disciple believers to go into the world.”
The two former congregations suit each other well for ministry, Causey said, adding that the different ministries that were in place in each congregation before the merger stayed intact, such as ministering in nursing homes, serving breakfast to the impoverished downtown and meeting for Bible study in small group settings.
“The general plan was us merging together doesn’t cancel anything out,” Causey said. “We said let’s keep everything going. We’re in a stage now where we are still transitioning and getting to know each other, but we are looking at the opportunity around us.
“For a while Sherwood was really making a tremendous impact, but they lost a lot of manpower because of the flood,” he said. “We are starting to look at the fall semester and future. Now we have more foot soldiers and are seeking ways this facility can bless the community.”