West Guilford Baptist Church is a picturesque country church nestled on a hillside overlooking Pine Lake. It is a perfect-looking country church, replete with all the charm a building could need. The only trouble was that for a while… things weren’t looking good.
Like many rural churches, West Guilford’s membership had dwindled significantly over the years until it was home to just a dozen people. They’d had to let their pastor go because they couldn’t afford to pay him. All in all, the future of the church looked bleak.
Meanwhile, in nearby Haliburton, Pastor Brian Plouffe was wrapping up his term at Lakeside Baptist Church and beginning to think through what was next. When the faithful few at West Guilford heard that he might be free, they asked him to come and speak once a month. After some prayer and discernment, Pastor Brian agreed. For six months he spoke once a month. Then, after six months, he doubled his contribution to twice a month. All the while, the church began to pray. They prayed for direction and for growth—a tall order, it seemed, but they prayed anyway.
Amazing things began to happen. New people began to trickle in. One person came to Christ and asked to be baptized—their first in a long time. After a year, Pastor Brian was offered a half-time position which they were able to pay for in part thanks to a grant from CBOQ. “We think it was God’s timing,” says Pastor Brian. “We love the community in Haliburton county, so we were open to God’s leading.”
Within the first year, four or five more people accepted Christ and were baptized. Some people joined them from Lakeside Baptist, adding more energy to the congregation. Even with all the new life, Pastor Brian says they didn’t need to stray from their roots. Their worship hasn’t changed much—it’s still a solid blend of older and newer music. There was no “magical” formula that led to their new growth. Rather it was the solid practice of prayer and community that has changed the congregation. Because they are smaller, they can take time every service to share the good things God is doing and take prayer requests. These moments have created opportunities to encourage one another, sharing both the good that God is doing and the struggles that may still be ahead.
They didn’t start with high expectations, but they were open to hearing what God had for them. “I’ve been very excited about how God has grown the family aspect. For many years, we didn’t have any children in the church… We started praying.” They have 6-10 come every week to pray. They began by praying that God would send them at least one child. And a single mom came. Warmly welcomed by the congregation, they continued to pray and their Sunday School has grown from nothing to needing to split into two classrooms as they welcome between eight and 20 children a week.
Pastor Brian is a warm, friendly person. He makes a point of visiting all the newcomers and help them feel at home. Something God put on his heart at Lakeside was that he greets people as they come in… and he doesn’t wait until they’re through the doors. Regardless of the weather, Pastor Brian heads outside to greet people and welcome them as they come toward the door. For many people who might be unsure of their reception at church, this warm welcome is a good representation of the hearts of Haliburtonians and growing congregation of West Guilford Baptist Church.
Good things really do grow in Ontario… (and Quebec, of course).