By Ben Beland

Last year in July 2022, when I began to serve at NorthWoods Church, I had the pleasure to meet with my fellow as a church planting intern, Graham Avis. As our families shared meals and enjoyed life, I soon found how precious his family is but also how much they love God and seek to serve him. A few months later, I was not surprised when I heard that a local congregation had begun to look at Graham as their potential future pastor. Soon afterward, Graham was invited to preach in view of a call and for sure was voted as the desired shepherd of Covert Avenue Baptist Church.

Fast forwarding a few months, when taking the Next Step Connector position with the SCBI, I was much excited to have a conversation with Graham and see how we can partner for kingdom advancement. Often, in my conversations with local churches, we seek to find a simple Next Step among multiple options. Most pastors have a few ideas of small improvement that could encourage their church members to live out the gospel and make it shine in their neighborhood.

If you are not familiar with the SCBI Next Step vision, our desire is to bring local churches to partner together through relationships, inspiring advancement and expanding the possibilities of how we can see God transforming our communities. Four simple steps sum up the strategy; clarifying the next step, collaborating, coaching for implementation and impact, and then celebrating with the participating congregation. Our hope is to foster collaborations within our church family and encourage growth in ministry life.

Concerning Covert Avenue Baptist Church, it took only minutes to clarify the next step that could easily come to a celebration point. On March 4, partnering with several church leaders from the South West Indiana Baptist Association (SWIBA), we held an ordination council for Graham Avis based on the recommendation of Covert Avenue Baptist Church. Having been part of numerous ordination councils, it is always a sweet time to encourage the candidate and affirm the call God has placed in his life. After sharing his testimony and his calling for ministry, Graham expressed his passion to serve a local congregation and his desire to lead it missionally to serve the community. He also answered with great maturity and kindness as we pressed on with inquiry over doctrinal aspects.

On April 16, Covert Avenue Baptist Church convened to celebrate upon the unanimous recommendation of the council to ordain Graham in Gospel Ministry. Little can be said to express how special such an event is in the life of a congregation than to welcome a new pastor but also to affirm his call to ministry through ordination. What a beautiful moment to be part of. We look forward to seeing how God will use this congregation to make the gospel visible in Evansville and beyond!