FORT VALLEY -- Victory Baptist Church sits between Fort Valley and Byron off Ga. 42 just inside Crawford County.
With members from both towns and its surrounding neighborhoods, the church has taken on a new dedication to seeing its rural community impacted with the gospel and resulting life transformation.
One example of the church’s ongoing outreach is Wednesday’s 7 p.m. showing of “Virtuous,” a dramatic film billed as “empowering women to live righteously while remaining unapologetic in their beliefs.”
Pastor Chet Cooper said Victory Baptist began in 1815 as Society Hill Congregational Church. That was the name of the community at the time. He said there are veterans of the War of 1812 buried in the church cemetery.
However, by the 1990s, Cooper said membership dipped to the 20s and the church experienced what he referred to as “all kinds of problems.” In 2002, hoping for a fresh start, those remaining changed the name to Victory Baptist and searched for ways to revitalize not just numbers but its spiritual life and purpose.
The decision led to asking a missionary to Canada who specialized in helping small churches grow come help them. That call was to Cooper and his family of 11 to return to their native Georgia.
Cooper said he was hesitant, but after much thought and prayer he decided it was what God wanted and returned in 2004 as a supported missionary to Victory Baptist and the surrounding community.
“It’s been encouraging,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen things happen only God can do and he gets the credit.”
He said a few of those things include miraculous provisions to refurbish the church’s dilapidating 1950s brick structure and then build a new, more modern auditorium. Most recently they’ve added a youth and college ministry facility. He said God’s working has included obtaining unobtainable land for the land-locked church and arranging access deals with timber farmers that helped provide funds for growth.
But most important, Cooper said has been the growth he’s seen in people and among a growing number of area young people that has made the move worth it.
“We’ve been sharing Jesus with people,” Cooper said. “Our growth has primarily been through reaching new people, unchurched people, through conversions. We’ve invited people and they’ve come. We’ve knocked on doors and left information again and again within a five-mile radius and reached out in all kinds of ways to serve others and let people know we’re here; let them know about Jesus.”
Even then, Cooper said it has not been the church’s efforts or anything he’s done that’s made a difference in the church. He said it has been a willingness to follow God’s guidance and put Jesus first, even above tradition and denominational characteristics.
He said above all, he sees the church’s revitalization coming from a church-wide commitment to prayer and fasting and God’s faithfulness that’s brought the small church from having only 10 on a Sunday morning at times to a regular attendance of 120-plus and a record 237 attending during a recent homecoming service.
“In 2010 we had a revival,” Cooper said. “Not something we planned but a revival God brought about. I had been impressed to fast and invited our people to join in whatever way they felt they should. In a two-week period, 51 people were saved and 31 new believers were baptized. God has done some unusual things and we want to keep following him what he wants to do. It’s not us. It’s waiting on the Lord and depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe revival is on the rise again and we have a much better future than our past. It’s all about Christ.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.