Photo by Cindy Klepper
Pastor James Bachman may have stepped down from the pulpit of the church he pastored for 32 years, but he's not stepping away from spreading the word.
In fact, he wants to help spread it even farther than before - with a worldwide ministry that prepares the laity to use their gifts to, in his words, "get the gospel out."
In his new role as pastor emeritus of the Roanoke Baptist Church, Bachman is organizing the Layman's Web College, a mammoth undertaking that will eventually include 585 classes available in a variety of formats for use by pastors around the world.
Laymen who complete the course, he says, will then be equipped to fulfill the role that was in-tended for them from the beginning.
"God's plan in the early church was to get those laymen ministering," he says. "We've kind of gotten away from that."
It's not the first time Bachman and the Roanoke Baptist Church have looked beyond their immediate community.
The church's Answer Publications also has a worldwide reach with the books and pam-phlets it publishes, Bachman says. As that ministry grows, he says, it requires more at-tention - attention it will now receive from Bachman as he steps into a role as full-time director of both Answer Publications and the Layman's Web College.
Bachman came to Roanoke Baptist Church in 1976, two years after the church had built a new facility on Seminary Street in Roanoke. When that church building burned down in 2002, Roanoke Baptist moved its services to the former Jefferson Center School in Whitley County, where the church's school was located.
The school, the church and its more than 40 ministries moved again in 2004, this time to the former Lafayette Central School building in Allen County. With an average attendance of about 300, the Roanoke Baptist congregation is making plans to enlarge the auditorium in that building.
As the congregation continues its growth, it will be led by a new pastor, Mike Tarr, a 1989 Roanoke Baptist High School graduate who spent the past 12 years ministering in Al-buquerque, NM.
As much as he loved the pastorate, Bachman says, he's looking forward to moving in a new direction.
"It's time for me to step up and do this for the church," he says. "I've seen the need, but few were doing anything."
The Layman's Web College, he says, will "help pastors prepare lay people for the work of the ministry."
While there are thousands of colleges that help prepare people to be pastors, missionaries or Christian school teachers, he says, there is nothing to prepare the laity for its role in the church.
Bachman has assembled a 75-member advisory team from across the country. Bachman himself is coordinating the curriculum, and 18 textbooks are being developed.
Most of the 585 50-minute sessions will be filmed, beginning in mid-January, on a set constructed at Roanoke Baptist.
More than 100 individual churches are expected to offer the Layman's Web College to their members when the college opens in September 2010, Bachman says.
Each church will receive the material in the format they request - various Internet formats or DVD. The textbooks can also be downloaded, Bachman says.
While Bachman is not limiting its use to Independent Baptist churches, he says some churches may not be interested in the material because of its Independent Baptist flavor.