Moments with Your Mission Strategist

 Dr. Dennis Love

“Substitute Sweeteners”

Let’s see how long you’ve been around.  How many of you remember the diet drink called “Tab?”  If so, then you’ve been around a long time like myself. 

For the younger generation who don’t know, Tab was a diet cola.  In fact, it was probably the first diet drink to hit the supermarkets.  Tab was marketed to those who wanted to keep “tabs” on their diet.  I’ve been drinking diet drinks for years, and I’m thankful they’ve come a long way from the days of Tab, because in my opinion, Tab tasted terrible. 

It’s interesting to me that at some point someone decided they needed to figure out how to provide us with sodas without having them packed with a pound of sugar.  So, in a lab somewhere, or maybe in a dingy basement, they cooked up a substitute for sugar.  Substitutes that taste very much like sugar, but without having a pound of sugar in a can or in a bottle.  So, hip, hip hooray for sugar substitutes. 

However, not all substitutes are good.  I wish some kids could learn that playing a football, baseball or basketball video game is no real substitute for playing it outside with some of their friends.  I wish some parents could learn that buying their kids almost anything and everything they want is no substitute for spending time with them.  I wish some educators could realize that testing a kid is no substitute for teaching a kid.  I wish some people could learn that material possessions are no substitute for contentment.  And finally, I wish some people could learn that there are no substitutes for Jesus.   He’s either Lord of all, or you’ve substituted Him for some other sweetener.  

The church is not even a substitute for Jesus.  Some people think it is, but it is not.  God wants us to be the church, but some think it’s enough to just join one.  God wants us to be His eyes, to be His hands, to be His voice, and to be His feet.  There’s no substitutes for these things.  We are warned in 2 Timothy 3; “That in the last days as perilous days come upon us that there will be many having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  

In other words, Paul is telling Timothy that in the last days you will see a lot of substitutes for Jesus.  Some may be able to teach a powerful Bible lesson.  Some may act like Jesus.  Some may be able to draw large crowds of people.   And some may be able to preach as if they have the anointing of God all over them.  The only problem is, they have substituted His power for self-power.  And notice that Paul tells Timothy that many will be doing this. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be among the many.  To make it in this world, I need the real power of God in my life.  I don’t want a substitute Jesus, because there are no substitutes for Jesus.   

So, if you have substituted anything in your life for Jesus, throw it away and replace it with real sweetener.  Diet soft drinks are one thing.  A diet Jesus is another.  Matter-of-fact, a diet Jesus will not take you very far in this life.  


God is Good

Eph. 3:20-21
Leah is the counselor at Hope In Christ Counseling.                       

Her office is located at 130 Logan Street, Marion. 

Phone number is 828-559-7710.

Some Facts Surrounding Loneliness

Look for yourself and you will find loneliness and despair. But look for Christ and you will find him and everything else.”- C.S. Lewis   

     Loneliness is prevalent in our society. This has been especially true since the pandemic and lockdown in 2020. A 2022 survey reported by showed that “21 percent of adults in the United States stated that they always, or have often felt lonely in the past 12 months.” ( Loneliness is a problem that is present within the church, and it also frequently comes up with clients in counseling.

     Statistically speaking, some studies show a marked increase in loneliness in the past 30 years; “In 1990, 33 percent of surveyed U.S. adults reported having 10 or more close friends, and only three percent stated they had no friends. In comparison, in 2021, only 13 percent of respondents said they had 10 or more friends, and 12 percent reported having no friends at all.”  ( Sadly, this is prevalent within the Christian community as well. Loneliness has been linked to increased rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, addiction, headaches, sleep disturbance, dementia, and suicidal ideation. (Psychology Today: “Research confirms that loneliness is bad for your health;” (

     Loneliness has increased due to lack of social connection and engagement within our communities. Social media has had a great impact on people, (especially younger generations) losing their social skills. While there can be positive aspects to social media, it creates a false sense of belonging and connectivity with no true interpersonal connection. Since the pandemic, people became afraid to interact with others or chose to only do so through virtual means. I recently completed a training on Neuroscience for Clinicians. One of the points the presenter made was “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” She was referring to the fact that when we don’t activate parts of our brain, they will basically stop working. However, the example given was regarding how people started isolating themselves initially due to the pandemic, and therefore isolation created social anxiety in individuals. It’s like a vicious cycle; the more you isolate, the more anxious you are in social situations, and the more anxious you are in social situations, the more you isolate, therefore compounding the problem of being lonely.

     Within my practice, I am often met with clients who are lonely. The problem is two-fold: One aspect is that as noted above, we often create an environment for loneliness to thrive by not reaching out to social supports, church family (or becoming a part of a church), and continuing to isolate. Within my practice, I teach clients and provide them with resources to break this cycle. However, the other side of this is that as Christians, we are called to “love one another: as I have loved you…By this, others will know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35, KJV). Caring for those who are lonely often takes time and energy that we would rather spend doing other things, but it is necessary for the church to thrive. It’s important to be aware of the needs of those around us. We do this by really listening to what they are saying, and what they are not saying.

     In addition, God promises to be with us during those lonely times. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee:” (Isaiah 41:10, KJV). As the joke goes,  ‘sometimes we just want someone with skin on.’ This is where the church can step in and minister to those who are alone. However, God wants to be our comforter and fill us with His Holy Spirit in all our hurting and lonely places. Psalms 147:3 says, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (KJV).



In an attempt to save on the cost of postage, future newsletters will not be mailed via United States Postal Service.  The newsletter will be on our website and newsletters will be delivered to each of the churches of the Blue Ridge Baptist Association.

If you are a shut-in or know of someone who may not be able to attend church, please contact the office and the newsletter will be mailed to you.


In Christian Sympathy

We extend our sympathy to Rev. and Mrs. Wendy Reese (Calvary Baptist). Wendy’s mother Margaret Ann Cable Sexton passed away June 10, 2024.



*      Providing them with a Meal

*      Hygiene Items

*      Coming on Site and Sharing the Gospel——Preaching,    Teaching, Singing

*      Sharing a Morning Devotion

*      Partnering with them to Disciple those the Lord sends their way


Individual/Business Contribution                                     $1,101.10

Ashworth Road                                                                       $1,159.24

Bethel                                                                                        $1,250.00

Bethlehem                                                                               $    280.00

Calvary                                                                                      $     200.00

Catawba Heights                                                                   $1,908.84

Chapel Hill                                                                               $     589.50

Cherry Springs                                                                        $1,129.94

Clinchfield                                                                               $1,250.00

Dysartsville                                                                              $   750.00

East Marion                                                                             $   500.00

Friendship                                                                                $   200.00

Garden Creek                                                                         $1,287.98

Glenwood                                                                                $6,719.86

Grace Community                                                                 $2,000.00

Greenlee                                                                                  $2,500.00

Macedonia                                                                               $    400.00

Nebo First                                                                                $    819.00

New Horizon                                                                             $   600.00

North Cove                                                                              $   375.00

Old Fort First                                                                           $1,932.00

Pleasant Gardens                                                                  $1,050.00

Sugar Hill                                                                                  $   630.00

Vein Mountain                                                                         $   500.00

West Marion                                                                            $   353.27


I was blessed to worship with the good people at Dysartsville on May 5th.  Pastor John read from John 2:1-10 and preached on, “Unseen Miracles That Bring Us Blessings.”  He reminded us that we all have unseen miracles that have taken place in the past, and miracles that are taking place in the present that we often miss, but yet that bring us blessings.  Thanks Pastor John for an encouraging word from the Lord. 


It was a blessing to worship with the good people at Hankins on Sunday, October 19th.  Pastor Danny preached a message on prayer from 1 Timothy 2:1-8.  He shared why prayer is so essential for us as believers.  Just as gas is essential for cars and lawn mowers, prayer is essential for us.  Without it we cannot go, and we have no power.  God is waiting on us to pray.  Are you praying?  If not start!  If you are, pray more!  Thanks Pastor Danny for a powerful word from the Lord on prayer.


It was a joy to worship with the good people at Chapel Hill on Sunday, June 2nd.  Pastor Jonathan preached a message on “The Simple Gospel.”   He reminded us that when we share the simplicity of the Gospel with others, no matter what their age, they can be saved.  The Gospel is simply the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus.  Thanks Pastor Jonathan for reminding us just how simple the Gospel of Christ truly is!


  It was a blessing to worship with the good people at Ashworth Rd. on Sunday, June 9h.  Pastor Gary preached from 2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 and spoke about why God was thankful for this church.  He was thankful for their growing faith in the Word of God.  He was thankful for their increasing love for one another.  And He was thankful that they were enduring under severe persecution.  Thanks Pastor Gary on sharing how the church today can be a thankful church in the eyes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.     

I was honored to preach at First Baptist Old Fort on Mother’s Day, May 12th.  Pastor Drew was sick and ended up having surgery to remove his gallbladder.  We had special prayer for Pastor Drew and others as well.  I preached from Proverbs 31:28 on “What Every Mom Needs.”  Every mom needs a Savior, a Church, and a Task.  The good people at Old Fort responded well to the message.


Because of the generous giving of North Carolina churches, 21,142 backpacks were collected in 2023.  The goal for 2024 is 22,000 backpacks! You can be a part of this wonderful ministry!   More information can be found here:>Appalachian-Christmas-Outreach.  Hankins Baptist Church does a great job every year of putting backpacks together.  If you or your church cannot put the backpacks together, but would like to contribute, gift cards or financial gifts may be given to Hankins Baptist Church. The donations will be used to buy items for backpacks.


Mrs. Amy Conner (Cherry Springs)                                                                  05


Rev. & Mrs. Danny White (Hankins)                                                                04

Rev. & Mrs. Drew Dalton (Old Fort First)                                                        12


Rev. Jonathan Tipper (Greenlee)                                                                      04

Dr. Jonathon Watson (Chapel Hill)                                                                  05

Rev. Ryan Bennett (Glenwood)                                                                        27


Rev. & Mrs. Michael Robinson (Sugar Hill)                                                    18

Rev. & Mrs. Ryan Bennett (Glenwood)                                                           18

It was a joy to worship with the good people at Clinchfield on Sunday, June 23rd.  Pastor Terry is preaching a series titled, “The Great Commitment.”  His sermon was taken from Romans 12 and he preached on, “Making The Great Commitment.”  To make the great commitment we must be humble, be living out our faith, being one in Christ, and being one for Christ.  Thanks brother Terry for a very timely challenge, and for allowing God to use you at Clinchfield.

McDowell Mission Alliance Photo

Greetings, Blue Ridge Baptist Association!

I am excited and honored to introduce myself, Crystal Sweatt, as the new Executive Director of Mission Ministries Alliance, formerly known as McDowell Mission Ministries. Many of you may not know that our mission comprises three vital shelters: the John Thompson Center for Men, the Friendship Home for Women and Children, and the Overnight Shelter.

A fresh vision and renewal are underway at Mission Ministries Alliance, and we warmly invite our local churches to join us in addressing the growing issue of homelessness in our community. Our mission is to minister to the addicted and homeless individuals in our community, believing that every person should have access to shelter, housing, healing, and hope, ultimately leading them to a secure future with Jesus.

We are expanding our services with 20 additional beds at our Overnight Shelter, along with daytime showers and laundry facilities. We have numerous volunteer opportunities and ask our local churches to partner with us by providing meals, hygiene items, coming on-site to share the gospel, or partnering with us to disciple those the Lord sends our way.

We also invite you to join us in praying for the unsheltered in our community and that the Lord would lead us in how to respond to this growing issue. This is the calling placed on our ministry that started in 1993, and it is now my calling to ensure this is carried out with integrity.

We invite the churches in our community to join us on our renewal and healing journey to address this pressing issue. We serve the most vulnerable in our community, living out the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did unto me.” This scripture reminds us that in serving those in need, we are serving Christ Himself.

Together, we can make a profound impact.

In Christ’s service,

Crystal Sweatt
Executive Director, Mission Ministries Alliance

The Blue Ridge Baptist Association would like to welcome Rev. Michael Chambers and his lovely wife Shelley to our association.  Michael is the new pastor at Cross Memorial Baptist Church.  Pray for the Chambers family as they begin their new journey right here in McDowell County. 

It was a joy for me to be with the good people at Cross Memorial on Sunday, June 30th to hear Brother Michael Chambers deliver his first message as their pastor.  He is preaching a series of sermons on, “Prayers For The Church.”  He preached from Ephesians 1:15-23 and shared how Paul gave thanks to this church for their love for one another, for knowing God deeply and fervently, for really knowing Jesus, and for really knowing the power of Jesus.  Thanks Pastor Michael for delivering a timely word from the Lord to your new church family.

McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh, PA

Your associational mission team left Marion on Saturday, June 15
th to go to McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh, PA to help Faithbridge Community Church conduct a Community Block Party.  We returned on Friday, June 21st
.  You should be appreciative of the three ladies who represented our churches.  They were Amelia Fox, Lora Newton and Mary Blackwelder.  The Pastor at Faithbridge, James Hogan, was so appreciative of our work that he made it clear that the church could not have pulled off the Block Party without our help.  The team worked hard every day, and we witnessed God working in that community and throughout the Block Party.  Pastor Hogan baptized seventeen on the day of the Block Party. The Blue Ridge Baptist Association has built a relationship with Faithbridge Community Church that will open the door for a team to go back next year, and the possibility for other teams to go at other time to assist the church in reaching multi-ethnic people in McKees Rocks, PA. 

A Very Special Thank-You

The associational mission team to Pennsylvania would like to say a very special thank-you to the following churches who packed backpacks for boys and girls, and to those who gave special monetary donations to the team.  We had a total of 97 backpacks and $1,150 given for our trip.  A very special thank-you to:

West Marion Baptist Church

Hankins Baptist Church

Harmony Grove Baptist Church

Nebo First Baptist Church

Clinchfield Baptist Church

Dysartsville Baptist Church

Macedonia Baptist Church

Bethlehem Baptist Church

Chapel Hill Baptist Church

Vein Mountain Baptist Church
Cross Memorial Baptist Church


Your associational mission team would also like to say a very special thank-you to Glenwood Baptist Church for allowing us to use one of their vans to make the trip to Pennsylvania and back home again. 


Thanks From Your Mission Team

Amelia Fox

Mary Blackwelder

Lora Newton

Dennis Love