REACHing Kentucky: Palen

Reaching the lost in Smith Mills

By Todd Gray

Published: July 24, 2018

Where is Smith Mills and what does it mean to reach the lost? Smith Mills is a rural community in Henderson County, Ky. with a population of around 218 people. The town's population changed recently when Pastor Zach Palen accepted the call to be pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and moved into the rural farm community along with his wife Renea and their three children. But what does it mean to reach the lost?

Reaching the lost means to intentionally lead a church to follow Jesus, who said that He Himself came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Pastor Zach is leading Mount Pleasant Baptist Church to train and develop followers of Jesus who will reach others for Christ.

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Smith Mills.

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church has been in decline for the past several years. According to their Annual Church Profile the Sunday morning worship attendance dropped from 149 people in 2008 to an average of 45 Sunday morning worshippers in 2017.

When Palen arrived as pastor in late September of 2017, he discovered a committed group of hard working believers who wanted to see their church move forward into its best days of ministry. He said, "The church had been without a pastor for a few months. There were thirty or so regular attendees who were very faithful. The people who were there were highly committed to seeing the church thrive once again. The church was hungry for God's word and evangelistic leadership."

In the past 10 months the congregation has witnessed more than 30 people coming to faith in Christ and following Him in believers' baptism. They have watched as attendance has grown from as low as 30 people in Sunday morning attendance to as high as 200 worshipers.

Currently summer attendance is averaging close to 125, which is an exponential increase over a few months ago. I recently talked to Pastor Zach and asked what he felt had happened that God has used to make such a dramatic difference in the number of people being saved and attending the church services. He mentioned three things:

A Wednesday night youth ministry gathering at Mount Pleasant.

They are making disciples who will make disciples. Palen is a catalytic leader. Whether he is gathering dozens of community kids into his home for a Bible study or reaching orphans in Cambodia and India, both of which he has been actively engaged in, the Lord uses Palen to reach people. However, the work at Mount Pleasant is not being done entirely by the pastor, but also by the people. Palen is teaching church members the basics of the Christians faith and then challenging them to go and teach others, which they are doing.

Pastor Zach says most of the disciple-making and ultimately conversion growth is happening outside of the church building with members out looking for people to reach and disciple. This spiritual multiplication practice came straight out of the New Testament as evidenced in the life of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 and Paul the Apostle in 2 Timothy 2:2.

They are leaving the church building and going where the people are. Palen has led the church into a practice that he calls "going deep." This is a time, usually on Sunday evenings, when the church will go and partner with area ministries to serve people who need Christ. They also go door-to-door sharing the gospel.

While most churches have become inward in their focus, seeking to minister primarily to their members, Mount Pleasant is seeking to reverse this trend and minister to people who need the gospel. Again, they are following Christ who came to be a Physician to the sick. The result of this outward focus is that they are quickly becoming a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-racial congregation.

They are being intentional and sticking with the fundamentals. Pastor Zach likes to say he is a simple person. He says, "I think in this day and age there is such a focus on the lights and the fog and the machines and the bells and whistles, but Mount Pleasant is growing because of simple obedience to the Great Commission. We are going door-to-door, we are training those we reach, we are going on mission trips. It's just the basics. Stick to the fundamentals."

Ministry is not complicated for Pastor Zach and the growing membership of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Smith Mills. Get back to following Jesus and do what Jesus did.

The result of this simple, biblical ministry in Smith Mills is that Mount Pleasant Baptist Church has seen a reversal of the decline and an increase in souls added to the Kingdom of God. May the Lord multiply this ministry model of returning to the basics of the great commission across the state of Kentucky.

If we at the Kentucky Baptist Convention Evangelism, Church Planting, and Campus Ministry team can help you in any way please do not hesitate to call (270) 889-4276 or email todd.gray@kybaptist.org.