Davey Lyon says that for many people County Lowndes is “a bit forgotten”.
“It’s rural, it’s poor, it’s between Selma and Montgomery, and people just pass by.”
But for Lyon, it is Jerusalem. This is the place where he grew up and where he raises his family. This is where God called him to ministry, and this is where he and God did business about some of the prejudices he grew up with.
And most importantly, this is the place where God begins to write a new story, Lyon said.
“I have lived in County Lowndes all my life. I was born and raised here, and have seen the racial divide from all angles, ”he noted. “We see very little in County Lowndes what Revelation 7: 9 tells us Heaven looks like. “
Over the past two years, as racial tensions escalated across the country, Lyon and his wife Amber began to feel that God was calling them to actively participate in sharing the gospel with people who looked different.
“Our world is a shattered world, and the only thing that’s going to make sense of it, the only thing that’s going to bring hope of any healing or healing at all, is Jesus,” Lyon said.
So he prayed and began to explore what God might ask them to do. From 2017 until early 2020, he had pastored a small church in the Hayneville County seat and worked for the Alabama Department of Transportation. He walked away from the church to finish seminary, but God made it clear that he was to stay in County Lowndes and take refresher courses.
The fact that Lyon felt compelled to stay guided his prayers.
A church for all
It was not long before the purpose of the new calling began to be refined: to found a church for all.
In July 2020, he and his family began to visit the old Piggly Wiggly building in White Hall, a town of less than 1,000, and pray there. Lyon didn’t know where to start, but he knew God would guide him.
Through various connections, Lyon was put in contact with Neal Hughes, director of missions of the Baptist Association of Montgomery. He met Hughes, who began to gather resources, including connecting him with the church planting office at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
Hughes also introduced Lyon to Dewayne Rembert, senior pastor of Flatline Church at Chisholm in Montgomery.
Learn the culture
The two became quick friends and started meeting once a week for Rembert to mentor Lyon.
“I worked with him to teach him about urban and rural culture from an African American perspective,” Rembert said.
This cultural perspective is important for understanding, but most of all, Rembert told Lyon not to change who he is – just to show people that he loves them, that he is genuine and that God loves them.
This is exactly what Lyon wants to do. Very early on, he began to build relationships with local leaders at White Hall. With the help of his home church, Benton Baptist in Benton, Alabama and Montgomery Association, Lyon began in November 2020 to organize food distributions and pray with people in the old parking lot of Piggly Wiggly. He also organized a few neighborhood parties for local residents.
Lyon “has already earned the respect of this community,” noted Rembert.
Rembert has experience with planting a church in a poor area. He also has an idea of what Lyon’s country of origin is.
“When I first arrived in Montgomery in 1995, I was warned not to disturb girls at 45 (‘four-five’),” Rembert said, noting that the nickname came from the county number of Lowndes on area license plates. “These guys in the 45’s, they’d have you when it came to their daughters. It’s a cultural thing in the African American community – they’re very territorial. “
A message to share
And the people of the county also grapple with entrenched poverty and racial tensions that have existed for generations, Rembert noted.
None of this makes church planting easier.
But with needs in mind, Lyon began to pray about what the church should look like, and kept coming back to Genesis 1: 26-27, which says that God made man and woman to his picture.
“The Lord started telling us that people wouldn’t treat each other the way they do if they understood that everyone was made in his image,” said Lyon. “Because we are made in his image, we have value in and to be his creation. We felt like it was a message God wanted us to share.
“So our prayer would be that we see a church in County Lowndes that looks like heaven. We want to see people as God sees them, so that we can love them as God loves them.
Lyon proposed the church name Imago Dei to 45 – imago dei, Latin for “the image of God” and “the 45” to represent the local community.
Rembert said Lyon put 45 in there “already shows them that he intends to understand their culture”.
Looking for a house
In January, Lyon felt it was time to start leading a Bible study, but didn’t know where to do it. The Baptist State Board of Missions provided two trailers, and as Lyon and others prayed about where to put them, they felt led to pray specifically for the old Piggly Wiggly building.
Hughes felt the large building could be divided and also used for other departments, such as a food bank, pre-employment training, financial literacy classes and counseling.
“Another part could be the church that runs community ministry like food for the elderly at lunchtime, Celebrate Recovery (an addiction recovery program) at night, and maybe we could build a place where we could accommodate people who could come and help more in the Black Belt [region of Alabama]”said Hugues.
They keep dreaming, and “God keeps showing up,” he added.
Lyon has established a relationship with the owner of the Piggly Wiggly building, who offered to rent it out at a “cost recovery” price.
“Everything that is happening there is centered on the gospel, all of it fulfills a physical need with the intention of sharing the gospel and sowing physical seeds,” said Lyon.
While he was distributing food and having conversations, very few knew the gospel message.
“I would say that in the past six months, if I have shared the gospel with 100 people, there was one person who I felt could clearly articulate the gospel from one person. way in which I was convinced that she was saved and that she could share the gospel with someone else, ”noted Lyon. “We have just seen this void of the Gospel.
Attendance at Imago Dei is already about 25 meetings for the study of the Bible.
“It brings joy to our lives, and it brings a little taste of heaven into our lives. And I want more, ”said Lyon. “I don’t want to have to wait for Heaven to experience it more.”
Since God began to draw his heart towards planting Imago Dei Church, Lyon has taken a leap of faith and quit his full-time job to focus more on the community and complete the seminary.
“We believe that God has called us to be missionaries in County Lowndes and He wants us to devote ourselves fully to this,” Lyon explained.
He also prays that an African-American associate pastor will join him and hope that God will bring that person as the church strives to be multicultural in direction, fellowship, partnership and leadership.
Lyon said he was grateful for God’s provision every step of the way.
Much of this arrangement is how his sending church, Benton Baptist, associated with the work.
Lee Tate, pastor for Benton, said that for all of the church members who have been involved in prayer, fundraising, or volunteering with the Imago Dei Church at 45, this has “been an event that changed life and eternity “.
“It changed the way they saw the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the truth of the Word and how God is behind it all,” Tate said.
The church wants to see the gospel come out, he added.
“It was a blessing. Were happy. We love to pray about it and talk about it.
Lyon expressed his gratitude: “If you ask for the quintessence of a sending church, it is Benton Baptist. If you’re asking for the epitome of a support network, it’s the Montgomery Baptist Association. And if you’re asking for the epitome of a mentor, for me it’s Dewayne.
Hughes said he was grateful to the heart of Lyon for his home country.
Lyon did not make the decision to quit his job and plant the church on impulse, said Hughes – his heart “was warmed by the Spirit and he prayed and cried for this community. In the end, he knowed God said it, and that settled it.
For more information, visit the Imago Dei Church on the Facebook page of 45.