100-plus saved at ‘little country church’

More than 100 people have experienced salvation at little Rice’s Creek Baptist Church near Liberty over the past eight months. Pastor Tim Porter says the explanation is simple: “The Gospel always works.”

“I’ve basically preached salvation for eight months,” said Porter, who became pastor at Rice’s Creek earlier this year when the church was averaging about 30 worshipers. Today, attendance is around 150.

“God is still working in this little country church,” said Porter. Rice’s Creek is the 44-year-old’s first pastorate, although he previously served as a volunteer staff member at another church in Easley and was involved in a prison ministry for three years.

Porter said the message he continually drives home with the mostly blue-collar congregation at Rice’s Creek is that “the Lord can use your life no matter what you’ve done — as long as you are His.”

He thinks his message resonates with his congregants because he is not hesitant to talk openly about his own failures. A few years ago, Porter ran a “booming” HVAC business that began experiencing financial difficulties during the recession. He made some poor business decisions that “got me into a true mess financially and almost put me in prison.”

That experience was a wakeup call for Porter. He said God led him back to seminary and renewed his passion for prison ministry, a calling he had turned away from years earlier. “God’s going to get His way,” he said.

Years later, when he was called as pastor of Rice’s Creek, he believes it was because God wanted to match up a “broken church” with a pastor “who was broken in his past.”

Robert Dickard, director of missions for Piedmont Baptist Association, said Rice’s Creek Church was struggling financially and was “lifeless” when it called Porter as pastor. He said Porter — whom he describes as someone who loves the Lord and is “fired up” with energy — was a good fit for the church.

Dickard attributes a lot of the church’s turnaround to Porter’s enthusiasm, who “came in the door at 100 miles per hour.”

“The first time he preached, God began to save people,” said Dickard, “and people started getting right with each other.”

“People are coming just to see what’s going to happen,” he said, adding that Rice’s Creek has become a home for people who, “whether real or perceived, felt they were unwelcome at other places.”

“Drug addicts are being saved. Alcoholics are being saved. People just out of prison are being saved,” said Dickard. “The Lord is just moving.”

Porter sees it all, including the “stupid mistakes” of his past, as fitting into God’s plan for Rice’s Creek Church. “God’s really turning everything around,” said Porter. “Our people have gotten excited.”