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These have been busy—and we trust fruitful—months of serving our Lord. Thank you for your support in prayers, encouragement, cooperation, and giving that makes it possible.

In addition to the primary responsibility of serving all of our Haywood Baptist Association churches, I have served as interim pastor of Woodland so far this year. At this point, it seems the church is nearing the completion of its search for a new pastor. Would you pray for God’s will to be done? One of the ministries I offered them was training their Search Committee. I might add that as Pastor Chris Wilmoth concludes his ministry at Antioch that I have also met with their Search Committee to assist them in that process. More recently, I have resumed my teaching at Fruitland Baptist Bible College on Tuesday mornings. I teach Biblical Counseling in the Spring and Summer Semesters. Both of these responsibilities are not detached from my labor as your Mission Strategist. Helping our churches during the challenging time of finding a pastor undergirds our associational labor. Being at Fruitland, exposes me to candidates for ministry positions here in our churches. Along with teaching at Fruitland, I supervise the ministry of Pastor Ben Heise, who followed me as pastor of Pole Creek. He is working on his Master’s Degree. It is a blessing to mentor young men in ministry. For years now, I have had a passion for this. Should you find that to be an intriguing help to your ministry, pastor, let’s talk about it!

Most Mondays find me participating in the Pastors’ Conference that meets at our office at 10 AM, and after that time of worship, having fellowship with pastors who have the time and interest in sitting around the lunch table, edifying one another. Another time of fellowship among fellow AMS leaders took place at Buncombe Baptist Resource Center. It is a privilege to have this mutual time of encouragement.

In January, I traveled to the State Convention Offices for Conflict Resolution Training. Since this, I have led this conflict resolution process in two of our churches, and am available to help your congregation.

I have now concluded deacon training with Clyde First Baptist Church. It was a joy to meet with these servants and to hopefully add fuel to the movement they are seeing there. Would this be helpful for your deacons? Let me know!

Tuesday afternoons find me at Meadowbrook Elementary School, assisting one of our pastors, Jason Miller, in the after-school Bible Club. Sharing the Word of God with these children is a privilege.

We hosted a Senior Adult Leadership Meeting at the HBA office in January. Although the attendance was small, the instruction was excellent. If you were not able to participate but would like more information, I will be happy to share it. This is a wide-open door for ministry and outreach we dare not miss!

The last Sunday of the month brought our churches together for a Sanctity of Human Life Service. Kristi Brown of Mountain Area Pregnancy Services—now with a location in Waynesville—helped us organize this effort. John Swanger, Pastor of Calvary Road, brought us a stirring message from Scripture. Woodland Baptist Church hosted the gathering and provided the music, led by their associate pastor Ethan Conners and the praise team.

The end of January and beginning of February found me boarding a plane bound for a mission/vision trip to the Dominican Republic. The trip was brief but eye-opening. Should you desire to get involved with this work, please contact The Orchard’s Mission Pastor, Josh Frazier, who can help you and your church to connect with that effort.

Many pastors do not have a pastor, and so I try as I can to fill that role for our men. I attended the funeral visitation for the mother of one of our retired pastors, Darrell Webb. Later, I would visit with Darrell’s wife and family at Mission Hospital as he had emergency surgery. We are glad to report he is home and continuing to recover. Please pray for him. Also, Calvary Baptist’s Pastor Paul Murdock had a family crisis as his sweet wife Lila was hospitalized and is in therapy. They need our intercession and encouragement. It seems Lila is making progress and we are thankful.

I had several meetings with leaders from our churches. Some were looking for ministry opportunities, while others were seeking counsel about struggles in their church. Others were disheartened by the strains of church work and needed a sounding board.

In mid-February, a team of my wife, Pastor Mark Tice and his wife Bethany, and Kayla Mashburn, our Administrative Assistant, worked at the office—painting and renovating our lobby. There is more work to do, but it certainly is a facelift. We thank them for their help!

My last year as Chairman of the Nominating Committee for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina takes me to Cary, NC for some meetings. It is an important duty, however, and I try to represent you well—making sure that Baptist Churches in these mountains are not overlooked.

Several of our pastors attended the Replant Lab in Atlanta, Georgia with me. This is going to be a huge part of Associational ministry in days to come. Stephen Buys, Mark Tice, John Swanger, Nick Smith, and Jason Miller were present. Along, with Dan Page, who accompanied us last year, I intend for this to be our Haywood Revitalization and Replanting Team. There are churches that are struggling and may be ready for revitalization, we will be glad to come alongside you and support you in recovering your passion and vision. Some churches, sadly, have come to the point of severe decline and approaching death. Replanting should be considered. That is a church fostering or adoption effort. The legacy church can open its doors to a healthy congregation coming in and starting a new work. We have seen this already in Richland Baptist Church. That church has not met for over two years. I presided over them turning over their facilities to a new plant, Gateway. I am grateful for the heart of these few remaining members who did not want the building to sit empty and decay, or be sold for commercial purposes. Pray that the light of the Gospel will shine brightly in Frog Level with Pastor Brody Medford and Gateway Church! Some may wonder about another church building that was East Waynesville Baptist Church. We have a lawyer working on the dissolution of that church and its assets coming to Haywood Baptist Association. My prayer is that a strong, thriving church will be replanted there.

With the aid of our capable Media Director, Roarke Mabe, we filmed an introductory video for our Associational Website. Here is a link to the video:

By the way, Roarke would be glad to contract with you to develop your website at your church. You can contact him through our office. If you do not have a presence on the internet and social media, you are not going to be as effective in outreach as you could be!

In March, my wife, Marilyn, and I were able to visit Pleasant Balsam Baptist Church for the first time. The saints there were so welcoming and Pastor Brandon Mendez brought a faithful exposition of the Word of God. I also was able to attend the Associational Bible Drill at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Those young folks did a great job in finding key texts. Why don’t you get your children and teens involved in this? My wife and I also attended a Gideon Banquet at Waynesville First Baptist Church. It was inspirational! Thank God for the work of the Gideons! We hosted a Gideon speaker at Woodland the next day. Have you partnered with them? Speaking of eating—I helped with a fundraiser for Crestview Baptist Youth by buying BBQ. It was a win/win! Holy Week services were held at Riverside. Marilyn and I joined them as Pastor Nick Smith of Lake Junaluska First Baptist took us to the cross!

We hosted a Youth Pastors Networking Meeting at the HBA offices, led by Youth for Christ. One of our Pastors—Steve Frazier of Riverside—has a daughter, Hanna, who is working for YFC and we are looking at the possibility of having a youth outreach for Haywood. We also had breakfast with our State Executive Director/Treasurer, Todd Unzicker, who spoke to some of our pastors.

I was able to read and review two excellent books written by a couple of our pastors. Stephen Buys of the Orchard Church has written, “The Doorway of Prayer,” and Court Greene of Canton First Baptist has published a children’s book, “The Week We Saw Jesus.” Here are links to those books:

The Doorway of Prayer: A Practical Guide to Knowing God and His Will

The Week We Saw Jesus

Thanks for the privilege of serving Christ by serving Haywood Baptists!

For His Glory,

Dennis Thurman, Mission Strategist

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