Left to right: Greg Varndell, North Pulaski Baptist Association; Chanson Newborn, Arkansas Baptist State Convention; Pastor Maurice Brister; Pastor Rex Pilcher
Bethany Baptist Church in North Little Rock has dissolved and transferred its property to Unity Bible Baptist Church.
North Pulaski Associational Missional Strategist Greg Varndell said part of his job is to identify churches that would potentially need to be either replanted or revitalized. In collaboration with the Baptist associations of Faulkner, Pulaski and Central, Varndell said they created a church planting strategy with a goal of planting or replanting 50 churches amongst the four associations by the year 2030.
One of Varndell’s early visits after joining the North Pulaski Baptist Association in 2020 was Bethany Baptist Church.
“They were a church in decline in a community that had changed over the years, but still had a core group of people who were faithfully meeting there, serving there,” Varndell said. “A year or so ago, we had the conversation about potentially what it would look like one day to replant there. And so, building a relationship with the church and Pastor Rex Pilcher ultimately led to us having the opportunity to replant.”
Varndell said they tried about a year ago with a different planter. For several reasons, he said it just didn’t work out. But they were not deterred. Varndell said they continued working with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planting team, which led them to Unity Bible Baptist Church and a congregation that had a desire to relocate and start over.
“So, through conversations with their pastor, Maurice Brister, and Bethany’s pastor, Rex, we began to have conversations about what that would look like, and how that could come to be,” Varndell said.
Discussions became more serious and clearer in fall 2022 with the idea that Unity Bible Baptist Church would begin 2023 at the new location. Unity met there for the first time on Jan. 1.
“The very next Sunday, Bethany agreed unanimously to transfer the buildings and all the contents to Unity Bible,” he said.
On Jan. 8, they held a dedication and celebration.
“We’re excited. We’re very thankful for Bethany. We’re grateful for their love, and their passion, and their heart for the community that made this replant possible. We came together, we wanted to celebrate what God had done in the past with Bethany and at the same time celebrate what God is going to do in the future through Unity. None of that would have been possible if Bethany and Pastor Rex had not been willing to see and want to be a part of this replant.”
“I think it’s a great picture of what partnership looks like on the local level, the association level and the state level,” Varndell added. “It has been a great transition and partnership and we’re excited to see God reclaim the glory in these churches that have declined, but yet have a passion to see the work continue on.”