TRYON, N.C. (BP) – Three years ago, Todd Fletcher took a look at the bone-dry baptistry of Beulah Baptist Church and decided it was time for a renovation.
The only demolition, however, came to perceptions about evangelism and discipleship – spiritual strongholds that whispered a tiny church in a county of less than 20,000 people couldn’t make a difference. The key tool was prayer. The first call, however, went to a plumber.
“It had been four-and-a-half years since the church had recorded a baptism,” said Fletcher, who celebrated his third anniversary at Beulah on Oct. 21. “That first year I didn’t know where to begin.”
He began by telling the deacons to get ready. Water would be flowing in the baptistry soon. Before then, though, Fletcher made it a prayer closet of sorts.
“I went into the sanctuary and walked around, just seeking the Lord’s will,” he said. “I walked to the baptistry, kneeled and prayed. It was the first Monday after I’d been called.”
The journey included evangelism training on Sunday nights and encouraging church members to share their faith.
Last Sunday (Oct. 24) Fletcher celebrated on Twitter how 55 people have been baptized at the church over the last three years. Not that there’s such a thing as “overuse” when it comes to a baptistry, but like an aging athlete thrown back into action, there were some hiccups. On three occasions, Fletcher told BP, repairs had to be made as water kept seeping into classrooms downstairs.
Beulah averaged 25 in attendance three years ago; that number has climbed to 100. It’s Fletcher’s first pastorate, which may be one of the reasons he is quick to deflect any credit for the baptisms.
“I haven’t done this by myself,” he said. “It’s not about me or my ‘wonderful’ preaching. My goal coming in was that, if we were going to see change, it would come out of the realization of what Christ has done for us.”
The move to Polk County didn’t come without a lot of prayer and even angst. Previously, Fletcher served as missions and discipleship pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., about an hour away. More than three times the size of Beulah (currently), it was home to his wife and two teenagers.
Fletcher had filled Beulah’s pulpit one Sunday in the summer of ’18, prompting its pastor search team to contact him. He and his family were in the process of buying a house in Simpsonville, his hometown, and very comfortable.
“At the time, we had no desire to leave, but God all but wrote it in the sky,” he said. “He made it so obvious.”
The Fletchers gathered in their living room on their knees around the ottoman to pray about it. It was a tough discussion on following God’s will versus their own desires. It became a lesson on stages in ministry – specifically, reaping a harvest as opposed to plowing hardened ground.
“I told them that everywhere we had been, we had been a part of great ministries,” he said. “We enjoyed the fruit of someone else’s labor. But we’ve never been a part of what happened to get it there. [At Beulah] we have an opportunity to see God do something many Christians don’t get to see.”
The salvations haven’t been exclusive to Fletcher’s messages and the invitation time. They take place on front doorsteps and after casual conversations.
“It’s an encouragement when you see something like this,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things in church. But seeing this [movement] will wreck you. It’s humbling. Those conversations remind me that this is the power of God at work.”
That power became evident to his family as well. His son has since moved on to college but his daughter, when asked if she wished they had stayed in Simpsonville, says no way. Beulah is where they belong.
Each year on the anniversary of his arrival, Fletcher preaches the sermon he gave his first Sunday. It’s based out of John 4 and centers on the Samaritan woman, who immediately after accepting the living water offered by Christ went and told others about it.
Last Sunday, a man named Duston was the latest to be baptized at Beulah. He went to tell others about the Gospel, among them a friend named Michael. That night Fletcher received a Facebook message from Michael, who said he didn’t think he was saved and asked if Fletcher could help.
The pastor invited him over and then finished preparing the family dinner of chicken and vegetables with potatoes. When Duston and Michael arrived, they joined Fletcher in his home office where he explained the Gospel and his own testimony.
Michael accepted the Christ as well. Duston, one week after his own baptism, will baptize his friend this coming Sunday.
That’s far from the only example of someone saved at Beulah sharing with friends and family. One individual, Fletcher said, began a chain of witnessing that ended up leading to around 25 people entering the waters in Beulah’s baptistry, now sopping wet many weeks.
“Equip the saints and let them go,” he said. “Then watch God show out.”