MADISON–When The Bridge hosted its opening celebration service in January, Pastor Charles Matlock was excited about the opportunities to reach the community with the gospel of Christ and to hold its first baptisms in the church’s new baptistry.
As part of the remodeling of the worship center, the church’s baptistry was also updated to include an accent wall made of pieces from the hundreds of wooden pallets the church received full of food, water, diapers and other supplies they distributed to residents impacted by Hurricane Idalia back in the fall.
“When I look at that wall, what I see is God’s provision,” Matlock said. “Our small group had been studying in John about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and how it multiplied. Through the whole two weeks after the storm, we kept coming back to that and how everything we provided to our community just kept multiplying. Once we got past the need of filling bellies, then we got pallets of cleaning supplies and all the rest. God just kept providing the resources we needed to minister to our community. That’s what we see in the accent wall in the baptistry – God’s provision.”
The church plant in Madison had only started meeting as a small group in June, but when Hurricane Idalia hit in August, Matlock and church members sprang into action to help their community. First, they began providing hot meals, thanks to church member Timmy Dyke, who has experience in feeding large groups of people. As they began doing that, other state agencies contacted Matlock, wanting to partner with the church in providing much needed resources.
“I knew we had to do something and make ourselves available. We couldn’t wait for people to come to us; we needed to be proactive,” Matlock said. “We could do what we knew how to do and see where God takes it.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families contacted the church and provided volunteers and supplies. They also brought along other agencies including Hope Florida, the state Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Motor Vehicles, which provided replacement drivers licenses and state identification cards for those who lost them in the storm.
No one really welcomes a storm like Idalia, but the storm helped the church to become known by the community as it loved on and provided for its residents.
God planted us in this neighborhood and in this community for a reason.
“Our church needs to be in the community,” he said. “God planted us in this neighborhood and in this community for a reason.”
Celebration Baptist Church in Tallahassee is the sponsoring church for this church plant. Matlock said Celebration Baptist has provided an abundance of resources and volunteers to the church plant, including all the supplies and labor for painting the church both inside and outside.
Matlock said he and his wife, Christian, were inspired in naming the church The Bridge by Colossians 3:11 – “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
“We love that passage. One of the things God was showing us is that we serve a very diverse community,” he said. “We’ve got to bridge the different ethnic, economic and cultural aspects of the community and make this church for everyone.”
Its core group of members began holding Sunday morning services in October and looked forward to the opening celebration service on Jan. 7. Members have already done several prayer walks in the neighborhood, but they have more things planned in January.
A team from Northwest Baptist in Arkansas, where Matlock received training, arrived in early January to help with the launch, including a prayer walk, a laundromat ministry, coffee shop and restaurant conversations, street evangelism and a block party on the downtown square.
God is going to do some amazing things, and He never disappoints.
“We are very excited about what God is going to do in and through us,” Matlock said. “His hand has been all over everything from the very beginning, from us hearing about this opportunity to us moving here and the way the community has embraced us and welcomed us. God is going to do some amazing things, and He never disappoints.”