Lulu Baptist Church: Small churches mustn’t think small

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LULU—Lulu Baptist Church in North Florida has proven that even small churches can touch lives in its community if members have a commitment to go beyond the walls of the church.

Throughout the year, the church with about 45 in weekly attendance hosts numerous events designed to engage their rural neighbors with the gospel.

“The main thing is the fellowship,” said Rick Wake who has served as pastor of the congregation since 2015. “When people come in that normally don’t come, we make sure we talk to them and spend time fellowshipping with them. That will reach people who often would never sit through a church service.”

Lulu Baptist Church, FireworksTake for instance its annual New Year’s Eve Celebration. The church ushers in the new year like many people do – gathering for great food, fellowship and fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. This year’s celebration drew more than 80 residents from the community located southeast of Lake City.

But while other revelers wait until late in the evening to ring in the coming year, Lulu members don’t wait around for the fun to begin.

No, this event starts about 6 p.m. with a chili supper, and then it’s followed by the fireworks display outside. The New Year is celebrated early, and everyone is home well before the clock strikes midnight. That plan suits the small town with a population of less than 500.

“It’s a good safe place to come and watch fireworks,” said Pastor Wake. “Everybody gets home about 10 or 10:30. For our little church to have about 80 on New Year’s Eve is wonderful.”

By adding the chili supper and the early start and finish of the fireworks display, Lulu Baptist has created a unique event that has proven popular with its members and the surrounding community.

Members sign up to bring chili, a side dish or dessert, which makes for a great spread. Wake said they typically have a variety of chili including chicken, hamburger, or venison versions. The church pays for the fireworks, which the pastor gets at a reduced price using both his veteran and church discounts.

The event is free and open to the public.

The New Year’s Eve gathering is just one of many the church plans throughout the year designed to engage people in the surrounding community. Wake loves to brag on his congregation who help plan and coordinate the events.

There’s the fall men’s event that includes skeet shooting, a Christmas cantata, an Easter play, regular concerts and more. Next year they want to expand their Christmas event and host a Walk-Through Nativity and bonfire.

Wake said the church holds its business meetings the third Sunday of each month and that is when members offer ideas for new events and projects. He said it’s important for churches to host a variety of events to reach more people.

And he has some advice for small churches like his.

“Just because you’re a small church, you can’t think small,” he said. “God tells us to think outside the box.  Look for different ways to approach people. I look at how Jesus met with people – he met with them at the temple, and on the hillsides and on a boat. He found Zacchaeus in a Sycamore tree. That’s the way we need to be thinking.”

But no matter what type of event the church hosts, Wake says the gospel will always be presented. During the New Year’s Eve event, he likes to present the gospel right after the meal, before heading outside for the fireworks.

“I believe in providing opportunities for people to come in – whether it’s a concert or whatever – but in God’s house they’re going to hear the gospel,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be long. It’s not like sitting through a sermon. Every person you reach with the gospel, it makes it worthwhile.”

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