Known for its praying, church uses technology to maximize ministry

SULPHUR SPRINGS?Time was running out for the members of Peerless Baptist Church as they waited on the wind to die down so they could put a roof on their new 12,000-square-foot metal building. Two months earlier the slab had been poured, and then the steel girders were set in place. Only a week remained before 70 volunteers would arrive to complete the framing.

The congregation knew exactly what to do, Pastor Doyle Hayes said. The word went out to gather for prayer to ask God to calm the wind.

“For four and a half days there wasn’t any wind,” Hayes recalled.

When the Volunteer Christian Builders arrived, all of the preparations had been made for them to frame out the building to provide a gym, fellowship hall, kitchen, and Sunday School classrooms.

“I went fishing the next day and couldn’t get my boat to move on the lake,” explained member Tony Harry. “That’s how calm it was. I count that as an answer to prayer.”

It’s not the only time Harry has seen God work through the prayers of the members of the Sulphur Springs church. After his father suffered a stroke, Harry’s brother asked the church to make that a matter of prayer. At the time, Harry had nothing to do with the church, he said.

“It’s hard to understand this when you’re going through the trial, but after the fact, you realize all of the things that happened in that year,” Harry added. “My dad came to know Jesus as his savior and then he witnessed to me. All of that came about because people at the church prayed for healing for my dad.” Despite his father’s death, Harry said, “Now I understand the healing that he got.”

He responded to an invitation to visit again after the funeral was held at Peerless Baptist Church.

“The pastor knew we didn’t go to church, but after hearing the Word and hearing the truth, it just changed our lives. It took me a year until I finally surrendered and asked Jesus to be my savior,” Harry said. “My family saw the changes and it’s just amazing as I look back on it, remembering where I was at one time and the way I did things. It’s just kind of amazing.”

Hayes’ wife, Brenda, praised God for the reputation Peerless Baptist has as a praying church. She’s seen new families become a part of the church as a result of how prayer influenced their lives.

“Everybody knows this church will pray because that reputation has spread. The hospital folks are always amazed how quickly everyone knows of a need and within 10 minutes the whole church is down there,” she added.

Using an automated phone messaging system, member Jack Schwen can distribute prayer requests to 82 homes in less than an hour. Several years ago a friend from another church recommended one of numerous companies that charge a monthly subscription fee to distribute messages to a block of phone numbers.

Peerless Baptist pays One Call Now about $40 a month to access the 1-800 number and record a message of up to 45 seconds in length that is passed along to church members.

Schwen acts as the administrator, verifying prayer requests with family members and deciding whether to send the information to a smaller group such as the deacons, a women’s Bible study group or the church at large.

Though Schwen travels frequently in his sales job, he can make the recording from any phone in the United States.

“Doyle called with a request when I was at a trade show in Atlanta and I place one call to the toll-free number to our entire church family from my cell phone.”

The church has also used the system to relate when services are cancelled due to weather, provide details of funeral arrangements and remind members of upcoming events.

“I think it causes our attendance to go up for our monthly fellowship meal because a reminder goes out the day before,” Schwen said. “Sometimes you forget about a once-a-month activity and this helps them get started cooking.”

Schwen said the system may also be used to poll members to learn their preferences for holding a meeting on a particular day or some other query. He also specifies that calls be delivered after 8 a.m. and before 8 p.m. unless a critical need necessitates a late-night advisory.

“In the last two years it’s saved me from making over 10,000 phone calls,” Schwen said, preferring the automated system over old-fashioned phone banks. “If one person falls down on the job, the message doesn’t get out, or you’d have to sit down and make 82 calls. This way you can put out one message and usually all 82 numbers are dialed in less than an hour.”

No equipment is needed, he added, describing the initial entering of names and numbers as the biggest part of the work. While there is no limit to the number of times calls can go out, when possible, Schwen combines several requests and typically sends two to three per week. With no additional charge for long-distance calls, members who live in different area codes receive the calls as well as those who are located near the church.

Prior to implementing the phone system, Schwen heard of people feeling left out when they didn’t receive information that others were told.

“I’ve had some people who don’t get to come very often say they really appreciate being kept informed. It alerts people to pray for requests in the church family and allows them to know when and
where to minister,” he said.

“We have seen God literally do miracles,” Schwen said, recalling the restoration of health to a young girl who spent 53 days in an intensive care unit and to a man diagnosed with cancer. “It’s all in God’s hands?whatever he deems best. While we’ve prayed for healing, whether we receive it here or in Heaven, that’s God’s choice,” he added.

“I’ve always believed prayer is number one. That’s where it all begins.”

Prayer ultimately led Hayes and his wife to accept the call to Sulphur Springs. After 14 years pastoring East Hope Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, Hayes said, “We really were not looking to move.” Then the search committee called for a third time and he thought there might be a reason for their persistence.

In a community of about 16,000 residents, Hayes described the church’s determination to expand their facilities “a vision for growth.” With new homes being built along nearby Cooper Lake, members of Peerless Baptist plan to reach new families for Christ.

Recalling their own decision to relocate in 2006, Hayes added, “Both of us knew this was the place God wanted us.”

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