CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (BP)--A potluck Thanksgiving meal and service has become a tradition among seven Kentucky Baptist churches since it began in 1998.
About 300 people from churches in Taylor County in south-central Kentucky gathered at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Campbellsville Nov. 21 for food, fellowship and a sermon by Kyle Franklin, pastor of Mount Roberts Baptist Church in the same town.
Also participating were Saloma Baptist Church, Good Hope Baptist Church, Mount Gilboa Baptist Church, Salem Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church.
The seven churches are members of the Taylor County Baptist Association, the leading Baptist association in Kentucky in terms of Cooperative Program giving. The churches also have various ties to Campbellsville University, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
"It's a wonderful experience," James Jones, Pleasant Hill's pastor, said of the Thanksgiving gathering. "We always go to our individual churches, and it's good for people to get together from other churches.
"You realize you are not alone, and that there are other people out there."
Only a few churches are large enough to accommodate the event, which Pleasant Hill has hosted the past two years. At the first celebration 12 years ago, 120 people attended.
"The meal and service are a wonderful fellowship," Jones said. "Our church really looks forward to it. It's also good for the pastors to come together.... We have good camaraderie among the other pastors and churches."
John Chowning, pastor of Saloma Baptist Church, said, "The people of the different congregations have a lot in common in terms of heritage, general location in the northern part of Taylor County and ongoing contacts.
"The service has become a means of fostering fellowship, unity of our Baptist family, expression of Thanksgiving and praise to God in all times and circumstances of life, and facilitating cooperation."
Chowning said the evening's offering, which goes to the Taylor County Food Pantry, is "another way of expressing thanks to God for what He has done for us as well as helping provide for those who are in need."
Michael Goodwin, pastor of Salem Baptist Church who chairs the Food Pantry, told the gathering that the ministry needs $1,000 to feed an average of 67 families per week.
Al Hardy, pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church, said it is a "wonderful feeling to see and get to know many Christians in other churches. All year it is nice to see folks from those churches who will stop you and say how much they enjoy the gatherings and look forward to it each year."
The pastor delivering the message rotates each year. Five of the seven churches are pastored by Campbellsville University employees and one pastor is the husband of a university employee.
Franklin, who preached during the service, used Acts 3 as his message of Thanksgiving. He told of the lame man who could not walk and was befriended by Peter and John.
The beggar stood at the gate of the temple called Beautiful, and Peter and John told him they had no money but they raised him up and he could walk. The man, who now was healed, was praising God and running and walking.
Jesus changed the man's life, Franklin said, and He can do the same for anyone.
"Don't forget to help people," Franklin said. "Don't forget to help the crippled, the hurting, those who have fallen, and those without hope and who are desperate to hear the message of Jesus Christ."
Franklin urged the attendees to thank those men and women who have helped them in their lives. "Who in your life has helped you along your journey?" he asked.
People sometimes forget how "awesome it is to be a believer," he said. "Be joyful about having Jesus Christ in your heart. If you've got Jesus, you've got enough.
"What better time than Thanksgiving to give thanks to Jesus, who helped me to be truly thankful for what He's done for me?" Franklin said.
Saying he became a believer at the age of 15, Franklin noted, "I will never be the same. My prayer is to not be the same as I used to be. Jesus has changed my life."
Joan C. McKinney is news and publications coordinator at Campbellsville University.
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