Historic East Texas church is experiencing growth through evangelism, community connections

Mulberry Springs Baptist Church, about 15 miles northeast of Longview, doesn’t see a lot of traffic on a typical day. Yet the rural congregation—founded in 1892—is building a new worship space to seat nearly 800 people.

“We’re in a community of houses. We’ve got a little country store that just opened, but that’s it,” Pastor Danny Warbington said. “You’re not coming out here unless you live here, or maybe you’re going to make your way to Lake O’ the Pines, which is a beautiful place to camp and fish. Otherwise, we’re kind of in no man’s land.”

Before Warbington got to the church 18 years ago, attendance was a little over 100 and the discouraged congregation had moved back to its older, smaller meeting space. Things began to look up when the interim who preceded Warbington—an evangelist—started preaching the gospel and seeing people get saved.

“We began to implement the things that I know work—preaching the gospel, visitation,” Warbington said, noting he wanted to lead the church to build on those first signs of renewal. “I do believe people still want to know that you care.”

“We want them to know we want them to be a part of something great God is doing in the country.”

After taking gift bags to the homes of visitors and getting involved in the community, including winning best float in a local parade, Mulberry Springs began to average 30 baptisms per year. 

“We began to prosper and see God move mightily,” Warbington said. “About three or four years ago, we were number one in baptisms for churches our size in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It’s evangelism, evangelism, evangelism.”

The church now fills its 425-seat auditorium, and Warbington said the number of baptisms is a sign of health the church can continue to build on—literally.

“About seven years ago, we decided the Lord was calling us to build a new sanctuary because the house of the Lord was packed,” Warbington said. “We built a balcony and filled it up. We decided to turn our existing sanctuary back into what it was intended to be—a multipurpose gymnasium.”

The new worship space also will include six offices, five nursery rooms, and an upstairs mezzanine for children’s church. 

“Our church is not rich. We have great givers, great tithers, but we’re just blue-collar people,” he said. “We prayed about a God-sized vision that only God can do.”

A congregation that dwindled to 100 now packs its 425-seat worship space even in a rural community in East Texas. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The church grows through children, Warbington said, noting that Mulberry Springs has a mother’s day out program twice a week with about 70 children and a homeschool co-op that meets Fridays with about 100 students. 

A particular blessing to the pastor is that senior adults have told him that seeing people come to know Jesus has outweighed some of the changes the church has experienced, such as a new worship style.

“That adds to the growth of the church, because those who have been here so long are willing to give up the ground that is necessary,” Warbington said. “They’ve been so excited seeing new families and new faces. To see people saved and baptized, they’re going to rejoice no matter what.”

Danny Warbington, pastor of Mulberry Springs Baptist Church, says a commitment to preaching the gospel and getting the church more involved in the community has been used by God to grow the rural congregation. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Each year, Mulberry Springs hosts an Engage conference where it displays the ministries of the church and encourages everyone to sign up to serve. 

“We only have a few committees, and we have lots of ministries from missions to outreach to children,” Warbington said. “We constantly put before people that God has called them to serve and they need to find a place.”

The children’s director has a pool of about 45 people to draw from as workers, he said, and the church is known for a high-quality Vacation Bible School. The gospel is preached at VBS, and seldom are fewer than 10-12 children saved, he noted. 

“Our people love VBS,” he said. “We go all out and the kids have the time of their lives.”

Something unique about Mulberry Springs is that every Sunday morning after the first song, men and their sons are called to the front to pray and ask God to anoint them to lead their families. Warbington said the church has been doing that for four decades.

Hallsville, the nearest community to Mulberry Springs, has an exemplary school system, which is attractive to parents working in nearby Longview, Warbington said. 

“There are hundreds of homes. They’re going up everywhere. The number of people to reach is why we built the sanctuary. We’re talking about within 10 miles there are huge housing additions going up,” he said. “I really believe that we may have built too small. The potential is there.”

Mulberry Springs averages six to eight visitors per week, the pastor said.

“These are people searching for a church, and we visit them if they want. We want them to know we want them to be a part of something great God is doing in the country,” Warbington said. “Make evangelism and discipleship a priority. When you see people saved and the waters stirred, a lot of problems that people are focused on go away.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Erin Roach
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