New pastor thrives by connecting with the community

John Wiggins, the pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in La Grange, North Carolina, chats with a community member.

John Wiggins serves as the Pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in La Grange, North Carolina. When the church asked John to serve on a temporary basis during a time of transition, they discovered that John was an inspiring fit for the job.

After many honest, Spirit-led conversations between John and the congregation, John’s temporary position turned into a permanent one.

First Missionary Baptist Church is located in a town whose population is almost 50% African American and 50% Caucasian. John’s vision for the church is for it to be one that focuses on creating a sense of community where all people are welcome. He wants the church to be a safe space whose doors are open to everyone.

Once he had shared his vision with the church, John’s vision quickly became the church’s vision.

“All I have been doing is what I’ve been taught here at CUDS,” John explains. “What I’ve been implementing in my ministry is what I’ve been taught at Campbell Divinity School.”

John knows that the success of a church is not all about numbers. First and foremost, his congregation focuses on spiritual growth as individuals and as a church body. Many people who now attend the church did not feel comfortable or accepted in other places, but they experience a loving and inclusive spirit embodied at First Missionary Baptist Church.

John feels strongly about including those who are often overlooked by churches. “They are the church,” John exclaims. John has made it a priority in his ministry to make sure all people feel like they have a place at the table.

First Missionary Baptist has ministered to its community in many ways. The church opened its doors to a local Girl Scout troop, and participated in an after-school tutoring program at the Frink Alumni Center in La Grange. By collaborating with different organizations in the community, the church has helped tutor elementary school children in the area.

For John and church members, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience. “We were received with open arms and the children at the center showered the church members with love,” John remembers.

One of the ministries that the church is most passionate about is their food bank. The church has focused its efforts on how it can expand and develop this valuable ministry. By partnering with the NC Central and Eastern Food Bank and Food Lion, the church’s ability to provide for the community is going to double. The church members have converted one of their classrooms in the church in order to accommodate the adjustments and expansion of the food bank.

It is easy to see that John is passionate about his ministry. His vision for the community and his heart for the people he serves are just a couple of the many qualities that contribute to his effectiveness as a minister and leader in the La Grange community.

“The only way we can connect with people is to leave the church walls,” says John.

In all that he does, John strives to listen to people and locate the needs in the community. He seeks to meet people where they are with sincerity, humility, and compassion.

“We have to be purposeful,” John says. “Christ was purposeful in what he came here to do.” At First Missionary Baptist Church in La Grange, NC, this is what ministry looks like.