Located about six miles outside of town stands a structure that was built in 1884, around three years before DeSoto County was even founded. With the population of Arcadia at a little over 8,000, Mt. Ephraim Baptist Church is turning some heads and having people wonder how this “rural church” is growing and making disciples.
“Community leaders and neighbors are asking, ‘What’s going on at Mt. Ephraim?’ and I just respond, ‘I’m preaching the truth and getting out of the way’,” says Dana Spurgeon, senior pastor of Mt. Ephraim.
As word of mouth spreads about how God is moving in the church, Spurgeon reminisced about how it hasn’t always been this way. Before Spurgeon and his wife were called to Mt. Ephraim five years ago, the attendance was around 35 and the church was hurting and going through turmoil.“For several weeks I preached through prayer, reconciliation, and forgiveness.” Now running over 160, Spurgeon says that, “God has sustained us [Mt. Ephraim] every step of the way. Now, we are running a core group of people that are hungry for Jesus, willing to apply it to their lives, and desiring to do evangelism. That’s the difference here.”
Over the last five years, Mt. Ephraim has put a priority on prayer by hosting an old-fashioned prayer meeting and fellowship meal on Wednesday nights, launching a children’s program, adding children’s ministry classes and nurseries, fall festivals, and several community outreach events. However, the main priority of Mt. Ephraim is to evangelize and disciple a generation.
“You can preach on evangelism until you are blue in the face,” says Spurgeon. “But we model it. The majority of our members can present the gospel.”
Spurgeon says that his desire is for Mt. Ephraim to be a “training ground” for people to study God’s Word and “go out and begin to fill ministry gaps.” Time after time Spurgeon expressed a burning desire to “take the flock that God has given to me and lead them to do kingdom work.”
After serving in ministry for over 45 years, Spurgeon ended by encouraging other pastors and those in ministry that “it’s never about the numbers, it’s always about being more like Jesus,” says Spurgeon. “Don’t let things that won’t matter a year from now get in the way of what matters for eternity. Remain obedient.”