God’s Opening Doors in Bullitt County
Southeast’s Bullitt County Campus has only been in its permanent home for a few months, but it didn’t take long for God’s people to witness His goodness. In fact, it was on display even before the campus’ first regular service.
Campus Pastor Heath Barth remembers Dylan West, Bullitt County’s Student Pastor, rushing up at the end of a worship night for volunteers a few nights before the campus’ official opening on Sunday, May 15, to ask if the new baptistry had been stabilized. Initially confused by the question, Heath learned that one of the students wanted to be baptized.
“His mom and dad didn’t know he was going to do it, no one had any clue,” Heath said, explaining the student felt God’s call growing in him throughout the evening. “So, the first service we have in this building that’s not even an actual service—it is a worship night for our volunteers—we have a baptism.
“In nearly every service since then on a weekend, we’ve had at least one baptism,” he added. “People are coming to know Jesus every weekend and taking that next step in their walk with Him.”
Heath also shared how, because of its permanent home, the Bullitt County Campus was able to connect with a woman who tragically lost her granddaughter. The woman, who had visited the campus during launch weekend, called following her granddaughter’s death to ask for prayer, saying, “I don’t know where else to turn to except for Jesus.” Two days later, the grandmother attended the Thursday night worship service, where staff, joined by deacons and their wives, stayed afterward to pray over her.
“A week later, she reaches out and says, ‘I know I’m not a member, I know that my granddaughter wasn’t a member, but this is my home now. Would you guys be willing to host the (funeral) service?’” Heath said.
Without hesitation, he answered yes.
“We were able to do something to offer something to her hurting family and friends, many of them who did not know Jesus, because this building was here,” Heath said, adding the grandmother has continued worshiping at Bullitt County each week. “Had it not been for that, if we were still meeting at Eastside, we would not have had the opportunity to love that family in that way in that moment.”
Those at the Bullitt County Campus are thankful for the time they had at Eastside Middle School, just down the road from the new campus in Mount Washington. Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers who arrived early and stayed late each Sunday to set up and tear down, they were able to have services beginning in October 2020, much sooner than they would have otherwise. However, because of the faithful giving of God’s people, Southeast was able to purchase the former movie theater when the owner announced he was selling.
Although the building was in excellent shape, it needed plenty of renovations, as the eight theaters featuring stadium seating had to be gutted and repurposed. Southeast’s special Empty the Jar year-end giving initiative helped pay for the project, including unexpected last-minute expenses such as the need for additional parking spaces.
“Because of the generosity of people through Empty the Jar, we were able to buy the grass lot, the three acres in front,” Heath said. “So, launch weekend we had an additional 170 parking spots that we could park people in because of that giving. That allowed us to make sure that people didn’t pull up, not see a parking spot, and leave.”
The folks at Bullitt County are excited about how God already is using their new, permanent home. Besides having dedicated spaces for various ministries, including students, the church can now more easily offer services like counseling. Whereas staff previously would meet with people in coffee shops, they now can meet privately at the church. The same is true for Encounter Support & Recovery Groups, which had been meeting in space leased in an open gymnasium.
The new space also allowed the church to provide Shine Ministry programming for those with disabilities during the At the Movies sermon series on Thursday evenings. Between the Thursday service, which also is new, and the two offered on Sunday mornings, weekly attendance has more than doubled, to about 1,600.
When plans for the campus were announced in December 2019, Southeast members in Bullitt County were ecstatic, not because it would mean a shorter drive to church for them, but because they knew how God would work in their community.
“People were so excited. We had some people cry. Many people stood up and cheered,” Heath said. “It’s interesting how many people said, ‘We’ve prayed for this so long for this community.’”
From that moment, and really even before, God’s goodness has been on display. In turn, those in Bullitt County have faithfully worked to make Him known throughout their community, first through Sunday services at Eastside Middle School and now through programming that can be offered because the campus has a permanent home.
“We were faithful with the little bit He had given us, and He has given us a little more now,” Heath said. “I’m excited because I believe if we’re faithful with this, He’ll give us a little more, too.”