Temple Baptist: A Community Pillar

Temple Baptist in Ruston, Louisiana, is a strong multigenerational church, says Executive Pastor Jason Walsworth. “We are proud that there is something for everyone.”

Having Grambling State and Louisiana Tech practically in their backyard, the church offers a full-time college ministry that attracts hundreds of college students weekly. 

“We invest in and train up the next generation,” says Walsworth.

Temple Baptist reports that post-COVID-19, people were attending less frequently; however, today the church has eclipsed its pre-pandemic attendance numbers. Ironically, some of that growth is a result of the lockdown.

“When everyone was forced to be online, it gave people a chance to look around, and some of them found us,” says Walsworth. 

Of course, just stumbling upon a service online isn’t enough; there’s got to be engagement in order for folks to want to stay. So, once people were able to safely gather again, the church brainstormed ways to get people connected.

“When they weren’t able to go out, they yearned for a sense of community, so we ramped up an atmosphere of connection,” says Walsworth. One way they did so was by offering men’s and women’s weekend retreats at which participants could share personal testimonies about how the Lord had worked in their life.

“It’s a safe place to let your guard down,” says Walsworth. “When you are willing to be vulnerable, confess your sins and trust the Lord, it encourages others to do the same.”

Even the staff was surprised by how well received the retreats were—and how profoundly the events changed lives. 

“We saw salvations,” says Walsworth. “It was almost a revival-type of atmosphere.”

Out of the retreats came several discipleship groups, which have really taken off.

“It’s nothing fancy. It’s just reading God’s Word, a chapter a day, and meeting to hold one another accountable,” says Walsworth, who has been at Temple for two decades. He’s following in the footsteps of his colleagues, including the senior pastor who has served for 40 years, and two others who led at Temple for more than 20 years.

“They say you grow where you are planted, and I have come to appreciate that more than ever,” he says. “I’ve learned the value of longevity.” 

Over the last 10 or so years, Temple has partnered with the North American Mission Board to send teams out to work during the summer with church plants all over the country—from Boston to Miami to Los Angeles. Temple also offers financial support.

“We work alongside the pastors and their churches as they’re getting started,” Walsworth explains “It has been encouraging to us to have these long-term partnerships.”

Some of these pastors have visited Temple Baptist to preach and share their vision of what is happening in their cities. It has been a wonderful way to glean new ideas for how to reach the community, Walsworth says.

“Our church is 97 years old. It would be easy for us to be big, fat and happy, but we need to continue to work to reach our community no matter our size,” he says. 

Temple Baptist has hired a full-time position for minister of community engagement who helps people serve in different capacities with various ministries in the community.

“That community piece is not as much of a method as it is a mindset,” says Walsworth. “We are doing everything we can to evangelize, make disciples and reach people.” 

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Christy Heitger-Ewinghttp://christyheitger-ewing.com/

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine. In addition, Christy pens the “Now & Then” column in Cabin Life magazine. She also writes regularly for Christian publications such as Encounter, Insight, and the Lookout. She is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat.