BLACKFOOT, Texas — Salvations, calls to ministry, and freedom from addictions are just a few of the ways members of Friendship Baptist Church in Blackfoot, Texas, have seen God moving within their congregation since embarking on a church-wide Experiencing God Bible study earlier this year.
“I’m watching a whole group become united in a love for Christ, just an adoration and desire to understand and walk with Jesus,” Jerry Horine, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, said. “There is joy and excitement every time we get together. We can’t wait to share what God is doing. We can’t wait to hear and encourage one another and to be encouraged.”
Years ago, before Horine and his wife were married, they participated in an Experiencing God study at their home church in Indiana.
“It was instrumental in my walk with God,” Horine recalls. “It was huge for us.
After they were married, Horine and his wife moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. During that time, Friendship Baptist Church—a tiny rural congregation in Blackfoot, TX, population 41—invited him to step into the role of senior pastor, taking the reins from the previous minister of 20 years.
“I was only 23 years old, and I didn’t want to come in and just tell them all the things we needed to do,” Horine said. “I wanted us to seek the Lord.”
In 2018, Horine decided to take the church, which was averaging 80 people per week at the time, through the Experiencing God study. Fifty people signed up for the class and 48 completed it.
“What started happening is that all the church members were seeing God at work,” Horine said, “Experiencing God helped us not to focus on preferences or on our wants but just to see what God was doing.”
Friendship Baptist Church has seen steady growth since then, now averaging around 200 on Sundays. So earlier this year, Horine decided it was time to take his church through the study again.
“We have several of the families who went through it last time going through it again, and we have a bunch of new people going through it.”
Though the study is still ongoing, Horine said he has already seen God at work among the participants.
Several weeks into the study, Horine said a small-group leader named Doyle woke up at three in the morning and began reading his Bible. As he sensed God speaking to him, he started writing notes, which eventually turned into a sermon outline.
“This guy had never preached. He’d never led a Sunday school class. But I knew he had a word for our church, and I felt like it needed to be preached that Sunday.”
More than 250 people attended church that week.
“He was so nervous and vulnerable,” Horine said. “But as he preached, God just united the whole church.”
That evening, Doyle attended the weekly Experiencing God meeting. Near the beginning, he confessed that he felt guilty about attending. His granddaughter had asked him to share the gospel with her, but he told her he wouldn’t be home until much later that evening.
“So we all prayed for him, laid hands on him, and sent him out,” Horine recalled.
Horine was still in the parking lot chatting with church members when Doyle returned.
As soon as he parked his car, he opened the door, fell to the ground in tears, and cried out, “My baby girl just got saved!”
Horine congratulated him on his granddaughter’s salvation, but Doyle told him it was actually his 30-year-old daughter who accepted Christ.
“As he was sharing the gospel with his granddaughter, who wasn’t quite ready, his daughter ended up having a conversation with him in the kitchen,” Horine shared. “He just starts laying out the gospel and she responds. And then two weeks later, he baptized his daughter. It was powerful!”
Horine said an addendum to the story was that he later heard from another church member who had woken up in the middle of the night and felt compelled to start praying for Doyle. What she didn’t realize was that at the exact time she was praying, God was giving Doyle the message that would ultimately become his first sermon notes.
Horine said there have been many other instances of God at work in his congregation as well.
“There have been people who went out and poured out all their alcohol, and their small group has become an accountability group. We had someone called into the ministry,” Horine shared.
For Horine, what makes Experiencing God powerful is its simple message.
“Let’s love God with everything, and if we love him, then let’s obey him, and let’s walk in obedience with him,” Horine said. “And that’s just this message that’s being portrayed over and over again. And we do that by watching him work. These seven realities that have been so time tested through the decades are simple. When we walk in them together, it unites us as we watch God work. I think we will continue to watch God move in so many ways through this.”