‘Obedient’ pastor finds niche in resurrecting churches

Pastor Rick Catron and wife Diana are leading at Branham Grove Missionary Baptist Church in southeastern Kentucky. (Submitted photos)

BURKESVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Rick Catron says being the pastor of a mega-church probably isn’t in his future and that’s OK with him.

The 51-year-old Kentucky Baptist’s ministry has been one more of church saving, as in pumping life back into dying churches. He’s comfortable with his own assignments from the Lord even if it doesn’t include preaching in front of hundreds.

His latest project has been Branham Grove Missionary Baptist in southeastern Kentucky, where he started with eight members and has watched it grow to more than 40 in only two years. He has baptized 14, including his granddaughter and son-in-law, during the past 24 months.

Catron said he heard a statement years ago that fits his M.O. “God doesn’t call you to churches to be successful. God calls you to churches to be obedient,” he said. “That isn’t original, it’s something I heard, but it concreted me to where I need to be.”

The pastor said he will be obedient to God’s call on his life.

Branham Grove Missionary Baptist was in a desperate situation two years ago when Catron, a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, was called to be the pastor.

“They hadn’t had a baptism in several years,” he said. “To date, we’ve done 14 or 15 baptisms and added another 14 through other additions by move of membership. It’s starting to come together and function as a New Testament church should function.”

Turning around a church is much like turning around a ship on the ocean or building a sports team.

“It takes time,” Catron said. “It’s almost like having a bunch of kids and turning them into a team.”

But with fresh faces have come fresh ideas, including a campground ministry that is in the works since the church is located about five miles from the popular Dale Hollow Lake in Cumberland County.

“We started with the basics,” Catron said. “What I tell them is we have to learn not how to do church but how to become the church. With that concept and continuing to reiterate that Sunday after Sunday, it’s just now beginning to take hold.”

Before Catron’s ministry, the church had only a Sunday morning service and “they were out the door.” He has added a Sunday School program and a Wednesday evening prayer service and Bible study time.

The church building was built in the 1950s and at one time was vibrant, he said, with evangelist Dale Rose as pastor. However, for some time, it had dwindled to a scant few attending.

Catron, who has been in the ministry for nearly three decades, said he has been part of turning around other churches. Branham happened to be next on the list.

“That seems to have been my ministry for 26 years,” he said. “I’ve done this at several other churches that were struggling. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it has been. I try to get the churches to focus back on the main priority, why they exist and to desire to be in fellowship with one another. You either succeed together or die together. It’s just the way it is.”

Catron, who has a twin brother Nick who works as an associational ministry strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said his church doesn’t have deacons yet but some men have stepped into bigger roles. He has been encouraged by the growth and spirit of the little church.

The auditorium is going through a makeover including a badly needed sound system, Catron said.

The tenure has also been memorable as Catron had the privilege of baptizing his 8-year-old granddaughter who was saved at Vacation Bible School and his son-in-law. His daughter and husband started coming to the church when Catron became pastor.

“My son-in-law was never active in church, (but) said he was always a Christian,” Catron said. “He was always very generous, a giving young man, but didn’t see the need (to be baptized). Then one Sunday afternoon, he said to me, ‘It’s time for me to get baptized. I’ve gone too long.’ I can’t give that realization to him. It’s God moving in the heart of an individual.”

It's Catron's individual focus that God is using to help Kentucky Baptists come back to life through their focus on the call and commission of Jesus Christ.

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