By Brian Blackwell, Message staff writer
MONROE, La. (LBM) – Matthew Hurst was a long-time skeptic of Christianity with little desire to follow the ways of the Lord when he met his roommate, Jonathan Jenkins, in August.
Soon afterward, the two University of Louisiana-Monroe students developed a friendship that God used to soften Hurst’s heart to the Gospel. Through a series of spiritual conversations, Jenkins, a member of the Well Church in Monroe, answered Hurst’s questions about Jesus, causing Hurst to become a fully devoted follower of Christ.
Hurst, along with three other new converts, shared about their transformations during a special baptism/one-year anniversary service attended by 51 people at the Well Church Jan. 3.
“Seeing Jonathan’s passion, strength and faith in Christ along with answering all the questions reopened my eyes,” Hurst told the Baptist Message. “It lit a fire in me, and I started reading the Bible every morning and became motivated to learn who God truly is.
“It was actually a little nerve racking to be baptized because of everybody watching, but easy at the same time because they were all excited for me,” Hurst said. “All glory goes to God in that moment of going in the water and coming out.”
The Well Church started with a core group of 17 on Jan. 5, 2020, and a month later had increased to 45. Throughout COVID-19, the church remained close knit. The newly formed congregation continued to meet for Bible study through Zoom, and, Pastor Larrese Rollins shared Sunday morning messages online.
Rollins said that because they had formed a culture of unity before their first meeting, worship attendance did not dramatically decrease when the new congregation resumed in-person meetings on June 14 with 33 people.
Attendance has increased even more, reaching a high of 66 in November, but averaging 50 for most Sunday morning worship services.
He noted that the baptisms reflected a spirit of discipleship that his members have embraced.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a church to raise a Christian,” Rollins said. “We collectively work to disciple one another and we encourage inviting others into the orbit of your life. Our church sees a lot of each other, sometimes up to four days here a week, and that helps to cultivate the reality of discipleship.”
In addition to discipleship, members have developed a passion for evangelism.
As an outreach initiative, “Operation 7-11,” the congregation has pledged to share the Gospel with the 7,000 people who live within a mile radius of the church during the next eleven months of 2021. Following Sunday morning services, a group of four members rotate each week and venture into the community for door-to-door evangelism.
While COVID-19 limited their efforts to 112 Gospel conversations in 2020, Rollins believes members are primed for a great spiritual harvest in 2021.
“The neighborhood we are serving is plagued by gun violence and we want to see that community restored spiritually, emotionally, economically and socially,” Rollins said. “We start with the Gospel because it speaks to every part of the human condition.”
Looking ahead to the next 11 months, Rollins is excited about meeting two goals set for the members: addressing the systemic needs of the community and equipping his members to do the work of holistic ministry.
“Churches can get in a slump by just allowing the professionals to do work of the church,” he said. “However, we want to sacrifice professionalism for faithfulness. We need disciples of Jesus being faithful in the work Christ has called us to and that requires them to be equipped.”