‘Just loving people’ keeps Ky. Baptist church growing at amazing pace

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – A short conversation with Mark Bishop explains the rapid success of Highview Valley Station.

Bishop, a highly energetic and evangelistic pastor with a go-to spirit, has a passion for telling people about Jesus and is quickly growing what was once considered a dying church.

With his leadership, Valley Station has gone from a struggling church to a vibrant one with 225 baptized in the past three years. The campus church that Highview Baptist was trying to rescue will become an autonomous church next Easter at the completion of a three-year plan.

Highview Baptist Church Pastor Aaron Harvie said Bishop has done a great work at Highview Valley Station.

“He has the gift of evangelism. He truly cares and loves telling people about Jesus. He is one of the rare ones who lives the mission of God.”

The church has grown from 70 to 500 who regularly attend services in a little less than three years. Bishop said there’s been no silver bullet, just some roll-up-your sleeves evangelism and showing people you care.

“Just loving people,” he said. “Have we knocked on doors? Yes. Have we done social media? Yes. Have we done community service things? Yes. But it’s mostly just loving people and hard work. God has done the rest.”

Bishop, a former Army chaplain and still an Army reservist, is a natural leader and leads out by example within the church. He doesn’t tell people to go tell, he takes them with him to show them how it’s done. However, as the church has grown, it has taken Bishop away more evangelistic time than he wants, but says he still dedicates at least an hour a day for intentional evangelism – knocking on doors, calls, texting, etc.

When Bishop first arrived as pastor, he was knocking on 150 doors a week and led two barbers to Christ. He tries to stay active because evangelism is how the church has come to life.

“As our church has grown, the church staff has not grown at the same stage,” he said. “I don’t ask people to tell people about Christ and then not do it myself.”

It’s a recipe that has made him accepted and respected in the church and welcomed in the community. The church has wrapped its arms around Valley High School, where the church leads in outreach Fellowship of Christian Athlete groups and feeds the football team on Wednesday nights.

God has blessed the church with about a dozen men who are called to preach and Bishop spends every other Sunday to equip them to speak in churches around the city. He makes for a busy life that he wouldn’t trade for anything. “I can’t believe they pay me for this?” he said.

Highview Baptist Church’s partnership has made a lot of the success possible, Bishop said. He was a preacher in a growing church at Vine Grove when approached about taking the position at Valley Station.

“(Highview) Pastor Aaron (Harvie) is about multiplying,” Bishop said. “I knew Aaron from doing doctorial studies with him. I taught at Boyce (Bible College) and he was at Southern (Seminary). He said, ‘I have a work over in Valley if you would come and do it until you guys are able to be autonomous and self-supporting.’ People were saying, ‘You’ve got it made at Vine Grove. Why would you go take a little church?’ But the potential in Valley Station is unbelievable. We haven’t scratched the surface. To run a 1,000 here is not an impossibility. I don’t see any reason we’ll stop growing.”

Harvie said the turnaround at Valley Station “is a gift from the Lord. I don’t know if it can be replicated, but I pray it is.”

Bishop said the church is considering going to two services, but he is walking gingerly on making too many changes with so many new Christians still getting comfortable. “We’ve kind of maxed out (with the space in the sanctuary). It can hold 550 and we’re hitting about 80 percent of that. So, we’ll have to do something.”

The community surrounding the church is mostly blue-collar and “fiercely independent,” Bishop said. “The Lord has blessed us. I’ve got great people to serve with.”

Harvie has marveled at the work happening at Valley Station.

“The growth has been true and honest evangelism and people experiencing the Holy Spirit changing people’s lives,” he said.

Bishop, who is known throughout the convention for his evangelistic passion, will be a keynote speaker for the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s REACH program in the spring.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” he said. “I did some Refocus workshops and did a REACH when they split it up into regions. I love evangelism and I love Bro. Todd (Gray, the executive director-treasurer of the KBC). He’s such a blessing and knows how to lead by example.”

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