Porterfield Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation, began as a mission church with 27 members in 1954 and was constituted as an autonomous congregation with 179 members in 1959.
Its pastor today, Chris L. Dotson, has been at the church only three months.
“I think God ordained the vision people had to start Porterfield Baptist,” he said. “They had a heart for the area and the church has been a light and a great influence through the years. A family that recently came back to the congregation grew up in Porterfield and remembers back when hundreds of kids came through the neighborhoods to get to church. Porterfield first met in the Porter-Ellis Community Center then bought their first parcel of land here at the corner of Houston and Allen roads. There was a small building on the property they first met in.”
Church records note the structure was affectionately called “The Little Building” and humorously adds “when it rained, the blessings of God poured in on the growing congregation.”
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The vision for a mission in the Porterfield-Allen area first came from the Rev. William Williams, pastor of Mabel White Memorial Baptist Church prior to the Rev. Jimmy Waters. Williams set in motion events leading to a petition with 115 signatures supporting a church in the area and Baptist officials meeting to see what could be done.
The mission took shape and was sponsored by the First Baptist Church in Macon. A new building was built in 1957 with additions added through the years and the church’s present sanctuary completed in 1969.
Though new to Macon-Bibb and Porterfield Baptist, Dotson isn’t new to Georgia or the wider Middle Georgia area. A native of Rome, he said he was raised in church, came to know Christ when he was 7 but didn’t really understand or make the commitment to live as a disciple of Christ until he was 17.
“God just woke me up to realize this life isn’t about me and what I want,” he said. “Shortly after, he called me into ministry and, believe me, I tried to talk my way out of it. I wasn’t a public speaker or anything like the guy who wanted to be in front of the class. I told God I couldn’t, but he told me I could — and you don’t really win arguments with God.”
Dotson’s path to ministry started by leading youth and programs like the Baptist RA program for boys. That led to him being suggested as a part-time youth minister in a local church and then 10 years of youth ministry in various Rome-area churches.
He said because he loved working for youth so much he was surprised when God began leading him to full pastoral ministry. Dotson has been involved in serving church plants and established churches and for the 12 years prior to coming to Porterfield he was lead pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Eastman.
“We weren’t looking to leave Eastman but God opened the door and I couldn’t close it,” he said. “God blessed the ministry in Eastman and more than doubled the church. I believed that’s where we would remain settled but apparently God’s intention was otherwise and we believe he wants to do something similar here at Porterfield.”
Dotson said Porterfield had been without a pastor and dwindling in membership for several years.
“I believe we’re already seeing a real bond between me and my family and the congregation,” he said. “We’re also excited to be seeing new families come in. Our first and foremost objective is to reach the lost and serve the community. To do that we have to change some of our methodology — not our message, but our methodology. But in doing that, in my being a new pastor here, I want it to be a process we don’t rush too fast into. We’ll work together seeking God’s will and ways and move along together. We’ll evaluate all we do but won’t change for change’s sake. I want it to be a gentle and understanding process.”
Dotson, 42, and his wife, Jacki, have six children from 4 to 15 years old. They live on a small farm near Eastman where he said they have about 30 head of cattle, and raise chickens and other animals along with keeping a small, family garden going.
He said he’s looking for similar property local to Porterfield and trusting God that if it’s his will, they’ll find just the right spot.
“We live in the country and raise animals,” Dotson said. “I don’t hunt or fish or play golf. What I enjoy is getting on a tractor, feeding animals and taking care of all that stuff. I find a connection. I find a connection to the things of God and God’s word in that. Plus I’m just the kind of person that can just sit and watch a cow eat. I just like it.”
Another aspect of Dotson’s life is he has suffered from an optic nerve disorder since birth.
“I have a vision deficiency,” he said. “I wear special reading glasses and lenses to drive. It’s not curable, it’s something I was born with, but it is correctable through the glasses and special devices. For my sermon notes, well my notes are pretty big. I use 74 point type to see them. I preach from an overflow, from a wealth of prayer and study and preparation and then from an outline versus reading my notes word for word.”
As far as a new-pastor strategy or one for Porterfield in a new season, he said the plan is simple.
“There’s no 12-point plan,” he said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all idea from some conference. It’s simply a matter of loving people and faithfully honoring God and his word. And its not just loving people but liking them too.”
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
Porterfield Baptist Church
Address: 2910 Allen Rd., Macon, Ga.
Leadership: Chris L. Dotson, pastor
Worship: Sunday Bible study 9:45 a.m., worship 11 a.m., evening worship 6; Wednesday midweek service 6:30 p.m.