On a Sunday afternoon in January, 2009, about 80 people gathered in Asheboro, NC, to officially constitute Providence Baptist Church. The culmination of more than four years of labor and prayer, the time had come, and a host of attenders and friends joined to celebrate the joyous occasion.
In a real sense, Providence Baptist began with Beacon Baptist, which itself was officially born on a similar occasion in 1973. Over the years, Beacon has grown numerically and doctrinally into the church we are today. Along the way, people began attending from locations beyond Alamance County. Drawn to the expository pulpit and reformed theology, some have driven regularly up to ninety miles one way to worship with us on the Lord’s Day.
Several folks came from Asheboro, about forty-five miles south of Burlington, becoming faithful members for several years in spite of the long commute. However, it is difficult to participate fully from such a distance, and how do you invite family and friends to join you when you travel forty-five to fifty minutes to church?
So it was, that three families approached us in 2004 seeking assistance and oversight to start a Beacon-like church in Asheboro. A plan was formulated, and Sunday Evening services began with a rotating schedule of Beacon preachers and members driving down on Sunday nights. The Asheboro folks continued to attend Beacon Sunday mornings. In this way, a group of about twenty-five to thirty prospects was gradually solidified. In 2006, it was time to put a man on the field, and God provided the right man in Eric Johnson, an experienced pastor and church planter whom we have known for years, a solid man who embraced the same doctrine and philosophy of ministry as Beacon. Eric and Melody and their two children moved to Asheboro, and Providence began a full schedule of services on the Lord’s Day and mid-week. The hand of God was upon these efforts, and Pastor Johnson was God’s man for the job. His shepherding drew new people, and he skillfully guided a fledgling fellowship into a church. Did I mention the church building with more than four acres on Highway 64 freely given to Providence Baptist Church? This was but one of many encouraging tokens of God’s blessing.
Why Another Church?
Didn’t Asheboro already have many Baptist churches of multiple varieties? Early on, we received an email from the pastor of an established Baptist Church, questioning our judgment for planting a new Baptist church there. Yes, there are many churches in Asheboro, but not of the type we believe is needed. The people driving to Burlington every Sunday believed there was a need. So did the new people who joined them in the early days in Asheboro. So what, exactly, is this need?
Beacon Baptist Church was established upon the clear, expository preaching of God’s Word, and Providence Baptist Church is committed to the same. There is a famine of God’s Word in the land. There are plenty of churches, but few committed to expounding the Bible. Many seem to have lost confidence in the Bible to accomplish God’s work. Too many pastors have forgotten that their primary task is to proclaim “thus saith the Lord.” As long as there is such a dearth, serious-minded and spiritually thirsty Christians will search for pulpits where the Bible is clearly proclaimed. They are looking for a church that will give them God’s Word, no more, no less. They hunger for the Word, all of it, without compromise or soft-peddling. Not programs, gimmicks, stories, or entertainment, but a steady diet of God’s Word is the need of the hour. Thank God there is now such a church in Asheboro. There may be others, and I pray that there will be many. But we can testify that, by God’s grace, there is at least one. Providence Baptist Church is a place where God’s Word is declared.
Of course, it’s one thing to preach the Bible, but it’s quite another to practice it. We must not be hearers only, but also doers of God’s Word. This applies to every area of life, but is especially important in the operation of the church. A truth that has fallen upon hard times today is a Biblical understanding of church membership. It’s no wonder the world has little concept of what genuine Christianity is supposed to look like when so many churches have lost sight of this as well. All too often there is no meaningful distinction between member and non-member. It’s harder to join the Elks Club or the Moose Lodge than the average church. If you just show up a few times you’re in, no questions asked, no testimony rendered, no commitment required. Is there a connection between neglected membership and powerless churches? We believe there is. At Providence Baptist, there will be no inactive members. Members who become inactive through negligence and fail to respond to gracious appeals, will be removed by congregational vote. Biblical Christianity requires a serious approach. All born again believers who practice New Testament Christianity are active, accountable, committed members of a local church.
America needs churches that are God-centered, not man-centered, where God is big, and man is small. A visitor to Beacon told one of our pastors, “God seems bigger in this place.” Although this will never be true to the extent that it should, I pray that visitors will always recognize a difference. Beacon, as well as Providence, is committed to exalting God. Nowhere is this more needed than in recognizing the sovereignty of God in salvation. Most churches say they believe God is sovereign everywhere except salvation. We believe God is sovereign everywhere including salvation. Someone said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” How true. It should also be said, “If God is not sovereign in salvation, He is not sovereign at all.” That’s why we embrace the Doctrines of Grace sometimes called Reformed Theology. That’s why we are not ashamed to be called Calvinists, often a term of derision to many. Call it what you may, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign in salvation. God the Father chose a people for Himself before the foundation of the World and gave those people to the Son, who shed His blood to redeem them to God. There is a revival of these ancient truths in American today, but the need remains for more churches to clearly and unapologetically own them. Some say they believe these things but are unwilling to proclaim them openly. We preach them humbly, openly, lovingly, because they are a part of the Gospel, and because they give all the glory to God.
That’s why God raised up Beacon in Burlington, North Carolina, and that’s why God raised up Providence in Asheboro, North Carolina. May He raise up hundreds, yes thousands more across our land and around the World!
This article, written in 2009, needs an update. I am happy to report that Providence Baptist Church is still going strong. It has weathered some major challenges, including a serious health issue with their pastor, and today it is more deeply rooted as a result. Pastor Eric Johnson has been joined by Co-pastor Bob Boyd. Together, they shepherd Christ’s sheep who have been drawn into the green pastures of a serious-minded, Bible believing congregation. As for Beacon, we also are continuing strong by the grace of God. Please remember these two churches in prayer, as we seek to honor Christ by exalting the centrality of God’s Word.
Originally published, February, 2009. Revised and re-printed, August, 2018.
G. N. Barkman received his BA and MA from BJU and later founded Beacon Baptist Church in Burlington, NC where has pastored for over 40 years. In addition, Pastor Barkman broadcasts over several radio stations in NC, VA, TN, and the island of Granada and conducts annual pastors’ training seminars in Zimbabwe, Africa. He and his wife, Marti have been blessed with four daughters and six grandchildren.