MARIETTA, GA – Corporations rarely cast a twenty-year vision and churches may never look that far ahead, but Dr. John Hull, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta is doing just that. A committee or task force is being formulated to do the groundwork to chart a course to make the church as effective and productive as possible in 2043.
Pastor Hull has been urging the church to become a maximum church by emphasizing that Eastside exists for the purpose of connecting people to the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
In a powerful sermon Hull preached to the congregation on January 8, he explained that demographic studies show that 200,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the church, which is located on Lower Roswell Road in Marietta, and stated, “This is our Jerusalem; and this is where we should spend 80 percent of our resources and time.”
Hull, who grew up in Cobb County, explained that in recent years the community surrounding the church is now characterized by different political viewpoints, varying economic levels, multiple ethnicities, and philosophical positions that are foreign to the values and perspectives held by most East Cobb residents a generation ago.
He exclaimed, “This is no longer a suburban area. This is an urban area. This is not my father’s Cobb County. This is no longer the church-going county of my middle school years. Many of your neighbors don’t see things from a biblical point of view like you do. They do not cling to traditional thoughts or traditional family values. It’s very much like the rest of urban America.”
Hull continued, “More and more people within our five-mile radius are secular in their thoughts, liberal in their politics, and sympathetic to socialistic designs. In other words, we no longer have the home-field advantage like we did in 1984. We are the visiting team… like when the Los Angeles Dodgers come to Truist Park, which is 10 minutes away from our campus, to play the Atlanta Braves.”
“We will never change our message, but we must change our methods. We will never leave our guiding principles. We have sticky principles: that only Jesus saves us from our sins, that the Bible is absolute truth from Genesis to Revelation, that the church matters, prayer matters, giving matters, the ordinances matter and our neighborhood matters.”
Several years ago, through the leadership of Pastor Hull, Eastside acquired the Olive Springs Baptist Church facilities in Austell (now referred to as Eastside’s South Marietta campus). This site now accommodates three international churches all of which are a part of Eastside Baptist Church.
There is a strong, viable Brazilian church with Pastor Lindolfo Dossantos, which averages more than 120 in attendance. A Hispanic church was relaunched recently led by Pastor Yuris Blanco with an average attendance of 55. There is also a Creole-speaking Haitian church on the south campus that has been a part of Eastside for almost a decade. These congregations are called Eastside Brazilian, Eastside Espanol and Eastside Haitian.
Each of the pastors are on the Eastside church staff, are salaried by Eastside, meet with the staff each week and have all the resources of Eastside available to them, including communications, printing, and the expertise of Eastside’s staff members. The international pastors occasionally preach in their native tongue at the main Eastside campus with subtitles on the large video screens so that everyone can understand the message in their own language.
Pastor Dossantos is scheduled to preach on February 19 when all four congregations will meet at the Lower Roswell Road campus. The subtitles then will be in Spanish and English. Hull stated, “We try to pick out songs that have lots of ‘hallelujahs’ in them because that word is pronounced the same in all languages.”
Pastor Hull expressed his delight at the opportunity of having these men on his team, stating, “I am grateful for these men, their calling, faithfulness, leadership, character, and the team chemistry they provide. They are competent, skillful, experienced and their maturity level is off the charts.”
Pastor Dossantos responded, “Because of our alignment with Eastside we are stronger and able to reach more people for Christ. It is a great relationship.”
Pastor Blanco reiterated, “It is wonderful to be a part of Eastside Baptist Church. We know our children will be Americans and we are making spiritual provisions for them.”
Hull is already looking at the possibility of starting a Chinese, Mandarin, or a South Asian Indian congregation.
Eastside Christian School, now approaching 300 students, will be included in the 20-year vision. Dr. Tiffany Stark, head of the school, has announced plans to establish a high school next year by starting a ninth-grade class.
Ray Farmer, a gifted layman and leader of the church, will chair the long-range vision committee. In a recent interview, Farmer stated, “This is really an exciting time for Eastside. We have some great young families coming into the church and the opportunities are unlimited. We will be open to whatever the Lord directs us to do.
“The opportunities in communication, media, social media, extending our outreach, planting churches, expanding our LifeGroups and many other things will be on our agenda. We will put everything on the table. Any long-standing entity will either plan for the future or they won’t have a future.”
Pastor Hull does not want the church to be focused only on its Jerusalem, but its Judea. Therefore, Eastside partners with the Noonday Association and works with Daryl Price, executive director of the association and member of Eastside, to help make Christ known in a greater area of North Georgia.
Hull has just been selected as the chairman of Frontline Response for the third consecutive year. Frontline Response is a Christian-based, non-profit headquartered in Atlanta and seeks to lift people out of the darkness of sex trafficking and homelessness and seeks to help vulnerable children from being exploited by predators. Eastside is also involved in Must Ministries, an organization designed to help people in need of food, clothing, shelter, etc.
Eastside’s Samaria goes all the way to Idaho where the church has a strong and long-standing connection with Pastor Mike Palmer, who is pastor of the Salmon Valley Baptist Church and the Lemhi River Cowboy Church. The needs in the northwestern part of the nation are great and Eastside is making an impact there.
Through Cooperative Program giving the outreach of the Marietta church extends around the world, but the church has provided mission opportunities for people to be involved in mission ventures on four different continents in recent years. Pastor Hull and his wife, Sharon, were in Guatemala last year to share the gospel. The church also recently had 1,000 Bibles printed in the Farsi language and distributed to Iranian people.
John Hull has the gift of leadership and believes that vison is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our deepest desires and grandest hopes, and it is a call to take the high road of God’s calling.
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