Abundant Life Baptist Church celebrated its 20th anniversary as a constituted church last Sunday, stirring up memories of the past, and fortifying hopes for the future.
Abundant life church goes back to 1991; originally it was a bible study group planted because the Baptist churches in the Troy area had a vision of establishing a new ministry in between Troy and Winfield.
The group started as the Ridge Road Mission, and they met in several donated mobile homes until a church building was completed in 1994.
In those beginning years, the mission placed a heavy emphasis on helping local families struggling financially as they maintained a food pantry and clothes closet. Through the years, mission membership went up and down, and the organization still relied heavily on Troy First Baptist – its mother church – for help with finances and leadership.
However, in February 1999, Abundant Life hired its first pastor, Mark Self, and on June 6, the mission became a legally constituted church: then named Ridge Road Baptist Church.
Under Self’s leadership, the church became financially independent and chose to give money towards supporting missionaries and local Baptist colleges through the Baptist convention.
“We ministered more to the spiritual needs of people,” Self said. “There were children’s ministries, vacation bible school, music ministries. We built the education building, paved the parking lot, installed a new sign and did a lot of renovations to make it a ministry for the community.”
Self thinks that the most important thing a church can do is provide spiritual help, however that in turn will always have a tangible effect on the community.
“Churches provide spiritual help to the community so people come there and find salvation, and find a place where they feel a part of,” Self said. “And then each individual person goes out into the community, and how do you measure that? They go out and they get involved in different ministries to the community, so that’s really the focus of most churches…is try to focus on spiritual needs of people and equipping them to go back out into the community themselves.”
Self spent six years with the church, and when he left, attendance had grown to around 140 people every Sunday.
He said he believed the church has certainly met its mission of reaching the people who lived between Troy and Winfield, as he recalled baptizing 73 people in his time there, and he knows at least 200 different people attended throughout the years.
Since its official start in 1999, the church has had five different pastors and three interim pastors – not to mention the Ridge Road Church underwent a name change, to Abundant Life Baptist Church in 2012.
From 2012-2015, the church ran the Abundant Life Christian Academy, and a local homeschool group used the facilities from 2015-2017.
Kirk Mellen is the current pastor and has been leading since January 2016. He came while the church was in a tough spot after losing their previous pastor to a heart attack. He said recent years have been more focused on stabilizing the church, but with membership back up, he hopes to see how the church can reach back out to the community.
“We have wonderful facilities here that have been built, and that just really gives this church so much opportunity to minister and have an impact on our community,” Mellen said.
Abundant Life has several events in the next few months, open to whoever wants to come.
They will host a VBS July 29-Aug. 2 from 9 a.m.-noon and Aug. 13 will be First Responder Sunday, with a tribute to those who serve the community through police, fire and ambulance departments.
In September, the Coffey Evangalistic Team will be in town from Sept. 8-13, with nightly meetings and worship performances at the church.
“I would like to see us as a church get serious about understanding our responsibility to this section of Troy specifically, you know, how can we minister to the people here, how we can be a lighthouse to them,” Mellen said.
“How can we be a place where they’re searching for spiritual insight and answers, or say ‘hey there’s a place where we feel welcome, a place that is here to serve us and try to introduce us to what they know about their God and how a relationship with God can be a benefit.’”