When a few Gravely community residents decided to start a church in their area back in 1949, several local churches worked together to help make Gravelly Baptist Church possible. Now, 69 years later, that church is reaching out to fellow churches in a united effort to make a spiritual impact in their communities.
With the aid of the Saturate USA project, Pastor David Salley is meeting with local church leaders to partner with them in reaching more people with the gospel message. He was introduced to Saturate USA by Paul Becker, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, who invited Gravelly Baptist to join Concordia in the mission initiative. Saturate USA was started by the Christ for All Peoples ministry, with a God-sized vision to take the gospel to 60 million households by the end of 2020.
“We have an opportunity that’s coming up very soon, and my greatest desire for Kingsport is to see churches working together,” said Pastor David, who has been the pastor of Gravelly Baptist Church since 2000.
The church started as a small building on Gravely Road. Doris Johnson, a lifelong member of the church, said her parents, John and Ina Trent, donated the land.
“My mom and dad helped start this church. They wanted a church in their community,” she said. Several churches helped them get it started, with Lynn Garden Baptist Church providing its first pastor, Sunday school teachers and song leader. “They helped to get it established, then went back to their churches,” Doris said. An addition was added in 1959. Then, in 2011, the church purchased the old Gravely Elementary School after a flood damaged the old church. Today, the church has grown to 250 to 300 members and is very active in the community.
A well-stocked food pantry is open to the public every Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. In 2019, 3,797 people were served, and church members volunteered 2,949 hours. “The food pantry is part of our budget, but we can always use food,” explained Pastor David. “If anybody gives us food, we make sure it gets out,” he added.
Another food ministry called Snack Packs was started last October by member Caitlyn Ison. Caitlyn came up with the Snack Packs program as her social impact initiative in her role as 2020 Miss Sullivan County. As an elementary education student at East Tennessee State University, Caitlyn learned that many children rely on school food to survive. “There are so many kids that don’t get food over the weekend and that blows my mind,” Caitlyn said. With the aid of her Sunday school class, she delivers food bags to Roosevelt and Blountville elementary schools every Friday afternoon. So far, 910 Snack Packs have been distributed.
Other community projects include serving a meal to the community each Thanksgiving; supporting the Hope House Center for Women; and supporting Operation Christmas Child.
The church is not only an effective servant to the community but is involved in domestic and foreign missions as well. The World Changers youth program travels once a year to various cities to offer services such as painting and house repair to people who cannot afford it. Last year, the youth worked in Radcliff, Kentucky. On the foreign mission field, the church supports the Victorious Children’s Home in Kenya, and several members have taken mission trips there to assist missionary Vicki Odundo.
In addition to the Saturate USA project, Pastor David has another goal for the church. “My emphasis now is to make disciples,” he said. To help train disciples, the church has partnered with Piedmont International University. “This allows us the privilege of showing some of their online classes, and we can show it to our whole church if we want to,” Pastor David explained.
Members are currently studying Apologetics and Old Testament Studies. The courses can also be taken for college credit. Pastor David said he is excited about offering the opportunity to learn more about Jesus and the Bible. “If we can get people to fall in love with Jesus, that will take care of the evangelism and the outreach; because they won’t be able to help but talk about the One they love.”
So, the church that began with the help of fellow churches many years ago is now working to help other churches reach more people for Christ.
Gravelly Baptist Church is located at 647 Gravely Road in Kingsport. Sunday worship services are at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sermons can also be viewed live on the church website. To learn more about Gravelly Baptist Church, including additional service times, programs or missions, or for more details about the Saturate USA project, call (423) 246-6086 or visit gravellybaptistchurch.org.