Having a big vision for a small town

FBC Waskom pastor sees ‘plenty of people to reach’ in surrounding area

The last town in Texas heading east on Interstate 20 before the Louisiana state line, Waskom counts about 2,000 people in its population. Even so, Ivy Shelton—pastor of First Baptist Church—says “there are plenty of people to reach” as he leads the congregation to share Christ.

“Even though it’s a small town, if you do a demographics study, within a 15-mile radius around our church there are 108,000 people,” Shelton said. “There are pockets of people that are around us in the neighborhoods outside of town.”

First Baptist Waskom is the church where Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Nathan Lorick served as student minister while attending college in nearby Marshall. Lorick said the church is where he first learned about the SBTC. 

“It was in this church that I would fall in love with this family of churches that I have the honor of serving today,” Lorick wrote in the Texan last year. 

The church was established about 120 years ago, and now 150-200 people attend each week. About a year ago, they enlisted the help of a consultant to map out a 12-month evangelism calendar including revival meetings, a marriage conference, student camp, Disciple Now, and children’s activities. 

“Once a month we have people meet at the church for GROW teams,” said Shelton, who has been pastor there since 2017. “We have certain portions of the group that will write cards and letters to people. We have a section that will make phone calls and a section that will go out and make visits.”

“Any community you go to, whether it’s white collar, blue collar, whether it’s affluent or there’s a lot of poverty, the answer is Christ in any of those situations.”

Many residents of Waskom work in Shreveport or Marshall, Shelton said, and the town “has its issues like any small town does. Drug use is probably pretty heavy. There are just people who struggle, and the answer is Christ. Any community you go to, whether it’s white collar, blue collar, whether it’s affluent or there’s a lot of poverty, the answer is Christ in any of those situations.”

To serve the community, First Baptist Waskom partners with other churches for a monthly food distribution serving 80-100 families. 

“For those who need food, they can fill out an application, and they get a monthly food box,” Shelton said. “Twice a year, around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and around Easter, they get an extra food box. There’s also a clothing closet and some assistance for utilities and things like that.”

The church also supports, financially and with volunteers, two pregnancy resource centers, one in Shreveport and one in Marshall. 

First Baptist Waskom recently reworked its vision statement to highlight its purpose: “Glorifying God in our community and around the world.”

“I encourage people to think about our vision in their personal lives with their neighbors—not only invite their neighbors but share the gospel when the opportunity arises and to do that actively, on a one-on-one basis, families reaching families, people reaching people,” Shelton said.

A young man who grew up at First Baptist Waskom, Jason Spurlin, and his wife, Audrey, now serve with the North American Mission Board in Portland, Ore., where he pastors a church. 

“We have been on a mission trip up there, and we support Jason on a monthly basis. He comes back and gives us reports,” Shelton said.

In addition to supporting missions through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, First Baptist Waskom has connected with a couple serving in Malawi.

“They’re planting churches and doing medical care and soccer clubs,” Shelton said. “They’ve shared the gospel with thousands of people there. They’ve been to our church twice, and we support them through the monthly budget. We’re going to take our first team this summer to Malawi so we can put boots on the ground there.”

In his assessment of the kingdom work accomplished through First Baptist Waskom, Shelton said, “It’s been a church in a small place, but I think it has had a grand vision. The Lord has blessed that.” 

Through the daily highs and lows of ministry, Shelton anchors to the fact God has called him to pastor First Baptist Waskom. “When I get up every day, whether I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen that week or I’m discouraged by what I’ve seen that week, I think, ‘God has called me here,’” he said.

Shelton said the church has been greatly supported in working to achieve its mission through its affiliation with the SBTC.

“The SBTC has been a great help,” Shelton said. “Anytime I’ve called and said, ‘I need help,’ the SBTC has always been right there. I have called the SBTC for everything from revitalization to walking through our facilities. I’ve had architects sent to our church. I’ve had sound people sent to our church.

“If I can say anything to pastors who ask, ‘What is the benefit of a convention?’ we have seen it in so many ways. In a small church, we may not be able to afford to go out and get a consultant for this area or that area, but the SBTC provides so much for us, and we’re very, very thankful.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Erin Roach
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