August 1, 2014
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APRIL  3, 2014 ARCHIVED STORIES:

JOHNSTON, S.C. (BP) -- It's fitting that Josh McClendon should pastor 200-year-old Philippi Baptist Church in quaint, rural Johnston, S.C. The 33-year-old said he senses a spiritual calling to the small-town setting.

Philippi Baptist Church in Johnston, S.C., unveiled a new historical marker recognizing its 200 years at the 2014 bicentennial celebration in February. The 19-21 at the top of the marker is the South Carolina Historical Marker identification number. Photo courtesy of Philippi Baptist Church
McClendon said his burden for rural communities began during his senior year of college. "It seemed like a lot of young guys, and rightly so, want to go to where the masses are," he said. "And truly that's where the greatest need is, but I feel like sometimes the rural communities get overlooked."

McClendon is full-time pastor of the church that celebrated its bicentennial in February and averages 150 in Sunday attendance.

Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page, who delivered the bicentennial address, also voices an immense appreciation for small congregations.

"Churches like Philippi are the backbone of Southern Baptist life," Page told Baptist Press. "By far the majority of our churches are small in size. We value them and see their involvement at all levels of Convention life.

"In fact, a true study of Convention involvement will show an already large number of these churches and their pastors involved at all levels of Convention life," Page said. "However, we continue to seek ways to deepen their involvement because they are great sources of talent, commitment and sacrifice."

McClendon grew up in Locust Grove, Ga., in a church by the same name as his pastorate, Philippi Baptist, attended two Baptist colleges in Georgia, Truett-McConnell and Shorter, and is earning a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

McClendon, his wife Valerie and two children live in an aging farmhouse that men from his church helped them remodel. In the fourth year of his first pastorate, McClendon is following the model Jesus gave of making disciples of men.

"My heart as a pastor is to make us a reproducing-disciples church," McClendon told Baptist Press. "I plan on being here as long as the Lord calls me; we love it here. But whenever the day comes for me to leave, I'd love to be able to walk away and the church continue to make disciples. That's my heart."

He started encouraging discipleship early in his pastorate, but expresses an empowerment that came in the past year.

"In the last year we have jumped into that," he said. "We've had discipleship groups along the way, but I took some of our church leaders -- just a few, it's a very organic, grassroots kind of thing -- to start pouring into them. Read More

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