Bluegrass Pike Baptist experiencing 'miracle of growth'

December 24, 2004|HERB BROCK

The Rev. Tim Russ's dream of pastoring his own church came true in a tent in a cow pasture. Now it is being further realized in an ever-expanding new building - and an ever-growing list of members and baptisms.

And Christmas Eve is an appropriate time for Russ to celebrate not only the birth of Christ but also the continuing growth of a virtual newborn congregation. Five years ago, there was no room in the tent. Today, there is hardly any room in the church.

The story of Russ's church, Bluegrass Pike Baptist Church, is short but action-packed. It begins with the birth of his dream when he was serving as youth pastor at a Baptist church in Evansville, Ind., his first pastoral post after graduating from a Bible college in Indiana in 1993.

"I loved what I was doing, serving not only as youth pastor but also as principal of our church's school," said Russ. "But I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a pastor and have my own ministry one day."


The thought in his heart became a full-fledged dream in his sixth year at the Evansville church.

"I guess I was getting too comfortable where I was. The Lord stirred in my heart a desire to move on, to realize my wish to become a pastor of my own church," Russ said.

He started serving as an evangelist at various church revivals and he also embarked on "candidating," going to different churches that had openings for pastors and essentially auditioning.

In the meantime, Russ had a chat with an old friend, the Rev. Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clays Mill Baptist Church in Lexington.

"I told him I was looking to become a pastor of my own church and what I was doing about it, and Jeff asked me if I would be interested in starting my own church," he said.

Fugate suggested he scout the Danville area

Fugate suggested that Russ scout the Danville area because it was growing and there should be available properties. Russ, who had never been to Danville, eventually heard about farmland off of Bluegrass Pike whose owner, Harold Horn, was interested in selling for use as a church site.

"I came down and saw the property," he said. "It was a cow pasture. Frankly, I had in my mind a building on Main Street, smalltown, U.S.A."

Russ said he prayed about the possibility of starting a church in the cow pasture and, despite his image of where his first church would be and what it would like, he said, "All arrows point to Danville and the cow pasture."

"My wife (Marty) and I had just built a log home in Henderson (Ky.), and it was our dream home," he said. "But there was no doubt in hearts that we needed to go to Danville."

In August 1999, the Russes, whose children are Andrew and Jared, made the trip, and Russ hit the ground - that is, cow pasture - running toward his goal of starting a brand new, independent Baptist congregation.

"I created and disseminated 5,000 fliers announcing our grand opening in September of that year," he said. "A week before the grand opening, we finally found a tent. We truly were operating on faith."

Russ furnished the huge blue and white revival tent with comfortable chairs, carpet and a pulpit.

"I didn't want those people who came to think it was a temporary situation, like a one-week revival," he said. 'I want the place look more permanent."

Sixty-three showed up for first Sunday

Grand opening Sunday arrived and 63 people showed up.

"I was shocked that that many people came to our first service," said Russ. "We decided to hold a Sunday night service and 42 people came. We were off and running."

Attendance continued to build from one Sunday to the next and, after five weeks in the tent, Russ had a portable building placed in the pasture.

"The building only had seating for 70 but we had 106 people stuff themselves inside of it," he said. 'We also had 10 adults accept Christ."

Russ said he and leaders among his growing flock decided they need to start planning a permanent building but realized that task would be daunting.

"We were new, so a bank would not touch his," he said. "We decided to start a building fund. We put up a big sign on the property, and we also got the word out through word of mouth."

On a Sunday in January 2000, a charter service was held during which Bluegrass Pike Baptist formally became a church,

"Some 74 people signed the charter, and we started our building fund that day," said Russ.

Douglas oversaw the construction

Donations steadily came in, and they spent as fast they were put in the bank as construction began not long after the fund-raising drive was started, he said. The project was overseen, at least in part, by a builder named Gary Douglas, who eventually became a member, he said.

The Easter service was held at the still-unfinished building, and 178 people attended, said Russ.

As work on the building was completed, more and more people attended, he said.

"Attendance during our first year was phenomenal, and even more importantly, we were performing more and more baptisms," said Russ. "In our first year we had 65 converts, and 60 of those were adults.

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