Brighter Days Dawning as Church’s Plans Begin to Change Community’s Story
By Delaney Dye
Last year, Prestonsburg Church of God in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, was awarded a grant from the Change the Story fund. Since last summer, they have been able to insulate an old warehouse, refurbish parts of the building, and continue progress toward their community arts center. The grant was utilized to install insulation in the ceiling for musical performances and art shows. Pastor Jason Johnson couldn’t be more pleased with what God has done and what he continues to do.
“The project has not been instantaneous. It has taken a good amount of time and is still in progress,” says Pastor Jason Johnson. Unfortunately, COVID-19, as well as the expense of building supplies, have caused the project to move more slowly. The community arts center was to open this summer, but has been pushed back.
Turning the corner, there is hope that the facility will open officially in the fall. Small theater productions, art galleries, spoken-word poetry, and open mic nights are foreseeable events to take place at the community arts center. They hope these events will draw kids in. Johnson should know. After all, it was through his own personal testimony that Johnson saw a need for this ministry. He was saved at a Christian rock concert and his story fits right into what he is doing and the vision he has.
Johnson says that the Change the Story grant has helped move in the direction that the Prestonsburg Church of God is wanting and is a step towards fulfilling the vision. The vision for the community arts center is to break down the barrier between the secular and the sacred. The goal is to bring the community to communion with Jesus. Johnson reminds us of Jesus’ ministry:
“Jesus didn’t just walk into the areas or parts of his life that were already Jewish,” he explains. “He went into areas that were with drunkards, tax collectors, and people who were antireligious. Then, he had communion with them. He broke bread with them.”
In the same way, the community arts center will be a community center hoping to bridge the church with the community. In some cases, the grant has helped to meet immediate needs. In this instance, the Prestonsburg Church of God’s fulfillment of the grant was fulfilling a vision. The goal is to fight the disconnect and discord. Johnson explains the vision further:
“To bridge that gap that exists in our society between secular and sacred,” he continues. “To bridge the lost or the saved and bring in the fellowship of community so people can feel the love of Christ.”
Johnson is a volunteer pastor. Because Prestonsburg is a community with high poverty, funding is especially hard. The grant has significantly helped this church due to its smaller financial support from the community and congregation.
Even with lots to do, the unfinished facility is being utilized right now. In addition, they have used partnerships to make a difference in the community. Specifically, they have partnered with Christian Appalachian Project which continues to help provide for the needs in the area. They also have been working with the Blaine Church of God to provide relief during two major natural disasters.
First, this ministry is partnering with the Christian Appalachian Project to help transport food for the community. Prestonsburg is a small community made up of about 3,500 people. With a high poverty rate, this partnership provides basic health care necessities in addition to nutritional goods. People with food insecurity issues often do not have time, transportation to come out or cannot afford childcare.
Johnson compares this system to a blessing box. Members of the congregation regularly fill up the box located outside the facility. Whether it is delivering families food or filling the box, this ministry is helping their community daily. Being able to have food provided to this population when they feel comfortable, helps them greatly.
The other partnership the Prestonsburg Church of God has is with a church about thirty minutes away in Blaine, Kentucky. Recently, two natural disasters struck the area. This all happened right after the Blaine congregation launched. The pastor at Blaine served as pastor before at Prestonsburg. Because this community was without power, electricity, and heat for weeks, the Prestonsburg Church of God went out to help.
The Prestonsburg Church of God is celebrating progress to their center and being back to having in-person services. “We were created for each other. We were created for community. It is so important to be back and be with people,” says Johnson.
There is a lot of anticipation and excitement of the community arts center to be opening in the future. In the meantime, they will continue to be the bridge by serving with partners and building on their facility.
Prestonsburg Church of God is one of several congregations to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of recent crises:
Delaney Dye is a junior at Anderson University, working towards her bachelor’s degree in youth leadership development and public relations with a focus in event planning and a minor in family science. Dye is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.