First Palmetto: Unleashing missionaries for service

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PALMETTO–Adopting and serving a struggling church in their area; being “hands and feet” for a woman needing assistance for a new wheelchair-friendly vehicle for her son; providing partial funds for mission trip volunteers; dedicating multiple times a year to loving and unleashing church members to serve their community.

For First Baptist Church in Palmetto, these aren’t just programs or events, it is a culture that has been cultivated within their congregation.

“The ministries of our church stay true to the mission of our church,” said David Shenning, executive pastor of First Palmetto. “Before we implement any ministry program or event, we ask the question: does this accomplish our mission?”

Phillip Hamm, First Palmetto’s senior pastor since 2011, has worked to develop an atmosphere and mission that his people have fully adopted and embraced–to develop missionaries.

The primary mission of First Palmetto is “to develop missionaries who will share Christ’s love with their community and beyond,” the pastor said.

“The mission and vision of the church is gospel-centric, it’s who we are daily,” said Hamm. “It’s the culture of the church.”

To accomplish their mission of developing missionaries, First Palmetto has put into practice a three-tiered approach: to encounter God in worship, to equip the church through Bible study and to engage the world for the sake of the gospel.

“We are constantly encouraging our people to serve and engage the world,” said Hamm. “We don’t want sharing the gospel to be a program, we want people to see that they are a missionary today; to view their world as a mission field…it’s a daily life thing.”

First Palmetto’s mission to “develop missionaries who will share Christ’s love with their community and beyond” is not just a catchy phrase. The congregation allots much of its time, energy, man-power, budget and resources to “Serve Saturday.” Occurring several times a year, Serve Saturday encourages members to be unleashed in their community by helping beautify and clean up community buildings; providing quarters and assistance to laundromat customers; assisting crisis pregnancy centers; helping senior adults; and more.

“Serve Saturday allows us to go out of our way to partner with organizations inside our community in order to share Christ’s love with our community and beyond,” the pastor said.

Over the past several years, First Palmetto has seen their congregation grow exponentially from 250 in attendance to as many as 1,650 in attendence when winter residents arrive.

With an overflowing church parking lot and an increase in the number of people getting plugged into weekly small group classes, there is no doubt that First Palmetto is reaping the fruits of their labor. Despite some early challenges and growth pains, Hamm attributes the church’s growth and desire to serve others to having a “clarity of one mission” and a desire to “intentionally reach people.”

When asked what the future of First Palmetto looks like Hamm responded with enthusiasm and excitement.

“The vision doesn’t change. We are going to continue to develop missionaries who will share Christ’s love with their community and beyond…we are just going to continually figure out how to do it better.”

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