Young pastor brings lively vision to dying church
WELDON SPRING – Jason Porter, 31-year-old pastor of Fellowship at Weldon Spring, believes in the power of Proverbs 29:18, which states: “Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
Porter has a vision to see people come to Christ and be made disciples in St. Charles County. He and a core group of 15-25 people from the former Weldon Spring Baptist Church concluded that they did not want their congregation to perish, so they have implemented a new model of church with a new name that has resulted in about 55-60 people coming to Sunday morning worship. The one-year anniversary of this change occurred Oct. 1.
“Every day I show up there (at Fellowship of Weldon Spring), put the keys in the door, I’m so humbled by the fact that we’ve got a building, a place to meet,” Porter said. “We’ve got a core group of senior adults who were there who really have sacrificed a lot to say that we understand that we need to reach the next generation, whatever that’s going to look like. I really want to give them a lot of credit.
“If there are churches out there that can do anything similar to what we have done, it’s just a huge, huge, huge advantage to be able to swallow your pride and literally realize this is God’s church, not our church.”
Porter freely credits the preaching of his father-in-law, Jim Carter, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Ferguson, and Jim Breeden, director of missions, St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, for laying a foundation of trust with longtime Weldon Spring Baptists that enabled him to be called as their pastor last August.
Porter, who was on staff at First Ferguson and became familiar with the Weldon Spring flock during the nine months that he and Carter and Breeden would take turns filling their pulpit, told the congregation he would come, but only if he could fully impart his vision. The members agreed, and Porter decided to shut down the church for the entire month of September to remodel, retool and pray. The new church launched on Oct. 2, 2005, with a new name, a fresh vision, a contemporary praise and worship music style, and a new determination to reach its Jerusalem.
“The people who have been joining us have been very strategic, very mission-minded in the sense of reaching their areas by bringing visitors to us,” Porter said. “There’s no doubt that the area of St. Charles County where we are is just booming. We do sit on an intersection of Highway 94 and 40 which is one of just the main corridors in St. Charles. The population is just growing like crazy, so that’s had an influence.”
Fellowship of Weldon Spring has a sharp, inviting Web site that is a major part of the strategy they are using to get people to come to church. One service offered through the Web site at www.fellowshipws.com is called “send an evite,” where members can send an attractive, colorful graphic image filled with information about the church to their friends. Porter said the church must learn to minister this way in a culture where people in their 20s and 30s are increasingly inclined to make a decision on entering into an activity based on their comfort level with the organization’s Web site.
“All of our material, everything that we hand out, directs people to our Web site,” Porter said. “It’s far easier to update that. We have an audio link on there that has my messages on it. A guy named Bill Jones out of Dallas designed our Web site for us, and he came highly recommended from a buddy of mine in Dallas who’s doing a church plant. Bill did a great job putting that together for us.
“We also have little business cards that we printed up that are real high quality, kind of glossy front and back. We call them ‘Impact Cards,’ and our people just kind of carry those around in wallets with them (to hand them out to potential visitors and to drive traffic to the Web site).”
Porter is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. He earned a graduate degree at Texas Tech University and seemed headed for a career in sports medicine. Before entering the ministry full-time he was a certified athletic trainer and worked at Texas Tech, Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, and Liberty. He then served as the college and young adult pastor for two years at First Ferguson before being called as pastor of Fellowship.
“God has completely scrambled my eggs and taken me in a different direction here,” Porter said.