Fruits of a Jamaican Church Plant

What happens when followers of Jesus grow like Jesus? The church grows for Jesus.

Allow me to share an example …

Last weekend I went on a business trip to Jamaica. I know, it’s a tough life, but somebody had to do it, right? I got this call from a client who wanted me to shadow a film crew doing a commercial with track star Usain Bolt. I would spend a few days in and around Kingston, including a 15-minute interview with Bolt, and then write a series of stories about it for the product’s US website (Enertor.com).

photo credit: jamaica-march-2013-007 via photopin (license)
photo credit: jamaica-march-2013-007 via photopin (license)

Audrey was able to take a little time off from work to go with me, and she entertained herself while I was working. When we travel over a weekend, we try to visit a local church. One, we believe in the value of regular corporate worship with other followers of Jesus. Two, we enjoy and learn from experiencing worship and teaching in settings that are very different from our home church.

One of the options Audrey found online was Bethel Baptist Church, so we asked the hotel staff about it. When the front desk clerk seemed clueless, a waiter stepped in and confirmed that it was close – a short cab ride – and a very good option.  So off we went.

The worship center seats about 200 people, and the church holds three services each Sunday. In other words, it’s Jamaica’s version of a megachurch. There’s no air conditioning, but the side walls are all open windows so the breeze can flow through and large fans are mounted around the room. We found a seat near one, and settled in for the next two hours (this ain’t America, folks!).

We enjoyed the message – Rev. Burchell Taylor taught on 1 John 5:1-5 and how faith is our victory – but the other thing that jumped out at me was the life of this church.

Charles McCullough, a pastor from America, helped launch the church in 1954 with 20 members, and then moved back to the States three years later. In other words, he planted, many others watered, and the church began to grow, grow, grow.

On the day we visited, Taylor was celebrating 46 years as the pastor, but there were no signs that he or the church had lost their focus on growth. Their timeline – past and present – is full of partnerships with other churches and organizations, church plants and evangelism around the island, and social and spiritual ministries to the people of Kingston.

Bethel clearly has a focus on growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man – for each person and as a church body. It’s Luke 2:52 in action.

The visit reminded me that growth never happens unless something is planted and nurtured. We all play a role in that, for ourselves and for those around us. When we grow like Jesus, His church grows in ways that impact our community and the world around us. And who knows what fruit that growth might produce in the decades and decades to come, even long after we’re gone?

Note: Planting seeds is sometimes dangerous work. When we returned home, we read about the deaths of Harold Nichols and Randy Hentzel, two missionaries who had been working in Jamaica since 2002 with TEAMS for Medical Missions. “I don’t ever want anything portrayed that Jamaica is a terrible place,” Nichols’ wife Teri told a CNN affiliate. “I know this is a tragedy, but tragedies happen everywhere. They’ve been really good to us.”


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