HENDERSON -- According to records, Henderson Baptist Church was founded in 1839 by eight area ministers and residents to serve the agricultural community, and in the same year joined the local Rehoboth Baptist Association.
The church sits south of Perry on U.S. 41 right at its intersection with Ga. 26, about a mile west of Interstate 75 exit 126.
Eight months ago, Larry Finley became the small church’s pastor after leaving a much larger church, Northside Baptist Church in Starke, Florida, where he served for 17 years, seeing growth and the expansion of ministries and schools.
“I could have stayed there forever and they would have kept me,” Finley said. “But I just felt it was the Lord’s time for me to go. You can stay at a church past your time and just kill it. It didn’t want to do that, I wanted to keep in God’s will and wanted that for Northside, too.”
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Finley said that since he came to Henderson, the church has seen 25 baptisms and new members join by moving from elsewhere.
“Many of our additions are coming from 30 miles away, from Kathleen and other places outside Henderson,” Finley said. “I can’t really understand it, but that’s what’s happening, though we’re committed to serving our surrounding neighbors.”
Finley said growth has come as it happened in the early New Testament church: one person is saved then other family members come, too. Then other friends bring other friends with one telling another.
“I’m hearing a lot of excitement from folks, and it’s the Lord’s doing,” he said. “People are just expecting somebody to be saved at every service. We had a tent revival, and one night we spontaneously baptized four people right in their clothes that had come to the Lord.”
Finley said there are a number of ministries that will come with time and patience as the church grows, but that one aspect is already well formed.
“This is one of the friendliest, biggest hearted group of folks I’ve seen,” he said. “Anyone who comes isn’t a stranger long. And giving -- the people in this little church are very giving. We just had our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for missions. They gave $1,000 last year and had that as a goal this year. My wife, Laura, encouraged them to set the goal at $1,200. Well, they gave $3,300 without one, single big giver. We had a real celebration after that. The people here are very missions minded, too.”
Finley said the church is planning a summer missions venture to the Appalachians.
He said he’s seeing a mindset change in the church regarding local ministry. He said it’s changed from the pastor being the only minister to seeing everyone as a minister.
“That’s shown in a lot of ways,” he said. “For instance, we have counselors trained now. If someone comes forward during the invitation, there are counselors who come right forward to talk to them, they don’t expect me to talk and pray with everyone. That sort of thinking is important to a growing church.”
Finley said he’s found much evidence to confirm the move from Florida to Georgia was the right one, even though it meant moving from a larger to a smaller church, and even though he had other sizable churches to choose from.
“What we’ve seen God do has been wonderful,” he said. “But there’s something else. I had a heart attack about nine weeks ago. If I had been at any of the other places there wouldn’t have been the hospitals nearby we have. Plus, there’s a heart catheterization nurse in our congregation that told me I could be driven on to the hospital or wait and have to go by ambulance. If I was still at Northside, I would have just kept working until they had to get an ambulance. As it is, I got in, had stints put in and I’m doing great. I missed that weekend but was back preaching the following Wednesday. I feel better than I have in 10 years. I think I’m in the right place.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.