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Change Church - Miracles in messy places

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GRANTVILLE – In Luke 7: 43-50 Jesus tells a beautiful story about a woman who apparently had a sordid past, but who came to Christ and was forgiven. She was so grateful that she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with the hair of her head, kissed His feet in gratitude for the forgiveness He bestowed and anointed His head with oil.

A cynical pharisee witnessed the woman’s expression of love and appreciation and condemned her. Jesus addressed the Pharisee and in essence said, “Those who are forgiven much have a great capacity to love much and those who are forgiven little seem to love little.”

The Gospel story in Luke 7 brings to mind Proverbs 27:7: A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.” People who are on fire for God are hungry for the spiritual. When they come to church, they don’t criticize or complain; they drink in every song of praise and feast on the riches of God’s Word. None of it is bitter to them. It is all precious and sweet.

Like the woman in Luke 7, T. J. Boyd, pastor of Change Church in Grantville, has been wonderfully redeemed from life in a dysfunctional home that degenerated into a life of sin and degradation. However, today you would be hard pressed to find anyone with a greater desire for truth, a more passionate love for Christ and a more zealous desire to win the lost than Pastor Boyd.

Boyd may have been an unlikely prospect to pastor a Baptist Church when he was growing up. He explained, “My life before Christ was anything but good. We grew up in poverty. My dad was in prison. My mother, my siblings and I lived in a two-room camper with no power and no water. But we never looked upon ourselves as poor. We had each other and a place to sleep.

“There was a time when I was in kindergarten that we were homeless and had to sleep in a car. The amazing thing is that I now pastor a church in that same town where we were homeless. Later when my father came home from prison I became the target of his abuse, but I felt like I saved my brother and two sisters from his anger. I took his anger for the whole family. So, I grew up with no godly influence in my life – only alcohol, drugs, abuse and an unfaithful dad.”

Boyd continued, “When I graduated from high school, I had to throw away my dreams of going to college due to financial issues. I slowly became involved in the use and abuse of drugs, and the manufacturing and sell of methamphetamines which led to multiple arrests and two stints in prison. On one occasion I swallowed 6.3 grams of meth and truly thought I would die by an accidental overdose. In desperation I prayed to a God I didn’t know. I said, ‘God, I don’t know how to pray, but something is missing. Money and drugs don’t fill the void in my life. I need what my Uncle Donny has, and he told me that what I need is You.’ If I live, I owe you my life.

“God dealt with my heart. I came home from prison in 2006 and two days later I made a public profession of faith at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Luthersville. By October, I was sharing my testimony and preaching in churches in the area. I surrendered to the call to preach in December 2006. I became the men’s minister at Rehoboth and by 2010 I was called to be the associate pastor at Rehoboth. It is a remarkable story of God’s grace.

“I knew I had to tell the world about Jesus and what He is capable of doing in one’s life. I had no choice. I knew if Jesus could change my life, He could save and use anyone.”

First Baptist Church of Grantville had approached Boyd on three different occasions about becoming their pastor, even though he was enjoying his work at Rehoboth. Then the Boyd’s daughter had major brain surgery to remove her left frontal lobe and he concluded that if God was faithful to help his family through that crisis, then He would also be faithful to help them with whatever they would face in ministry even if it was a hurting church. It was not long thereafter that the Holy Spirit began to move in his heart, and he accepted the call to be the pastor of the Grantville church.

He reported, “First Baptist was a wounded church with 17 members, mostly senior adults, who were weary, worn, beaten down, hurting, but faithful. But my experience is that God does miracles in messy places. Some of those members have gone on to heaven, but I am grateful that they got to see a healthy church before they left life on this earth.

“I had only one request from the beginning – that we vote on a name change but keep the same 143 years old mission in place. We voted unanimously and became Change Church. Our motto is: ‘Changed lives changing lives – we are Change Church.’

“Sometimes it is challenging to get some of the people we are trying to reach to come into a brick structured traditional-looking church with stained glass windows, but once they step inside and get a taste of what God is doing, they see that Change Church is refreshing, renewing and alive.

God is doing an amazing work in Grantville through Change Church. The people have a mind to work. The focus of the church is on outreach. The people are active in the town and community and in prisons all over the state as well as in the area where the church is located. Through the church’s Hope Ministry, the church feeds, serves and restores the lives of people in the Grantville community.  Boyd testifies, “I am blessed that God continues to send workers like James Wheeler into this harvest field and that we are seeing God change so many lives – even restore the broken hearts of the church body we found when we arrived.”

The church has a strong motorcycle ministry via Faith Riders whereby the bikers use their vehicles as a tool to reach people for Christ. The church has prison events, outreach events, a food distribution service through their Hope Ministry - all reflecting that the church’s emphasis is on aggressive evangelism.

One of the church’s strategic ministries revolves around the pastor. He explained, “Our police chief who was at one time the sheriff in another county busted me and sent me to prison, but now we are best of friends, and I serve on the police department as the chaplain.

“Before the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 we did prison ministry twice a month locally and traveled with Bill Glass’ prison ministry several times a year throughout the Star Prison System – even ministering on death row lock down. We have helped so many who are trapped in addiction. We believe every single person is in recovery from sin, self, shame and our secular society, so the recovery battle is one we all face someway and somehow.”

Change Church is a picture of heaven in many ways because the church is comprised of people of every economic status, every race, every social class, and every kind of past. The Change Church pastor stated, “God is adding to our church weekly (the church has two Sunday morning services, a Sunday evening service and a Wednesday evening service). It is rare when we don’t see some decisions for Christ in any given service. I always expect someone to get saved; and we have seen upwards of 168 a year follow Jesus in baptism.”

The church attendance often reaches 400, but Boyd explains, “The size of our building limits our attendance. If we had more room, we would have more to come. We are ready to build, but we realize that in a young church it takes time to build up financial resources.”

The church also reaches out in many ways beyond the local community. Last July the church conducted a children’s day camp in Crystal Springs, Mississippi that turned into a revival where 53 were saved and baptized.

Boyd admits, “God has been good to us, and He gets all the glory. We know that without Him we would still be sitting here as a wounded, weary, broken church body. We just keep our focus on the miracles in messy places and trust God to do it again. He has been faithful to His Word and His promises in these past 5 and ½ years and we look forward to the next fifteen years we have ahead of us. Don’t focus on the mess. Just focus on Jesus and lift Him up to all people and watch what God will do.”

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