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Meet the minister: The Rev. Mike Dorough looks to the future of Riverbend Baptist Church
The Rev. Mike Dorough starts the day’s festivities Aug. 14 by welcoming the congregation and guests to Riverbend Baptist Church’s 70th anniversary worship service in Gainesville. - photo by JOSHUA L. JONES

Riverbend Baptist Church
Service times: 10:30 a.m. Sunday and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Address: 1715 Cleveland Highway, Gainesville
Phone number: 770-532-1125

Editor’s note: This series introduces one minister from every church and faith-based organization in the community each month.

More than 70 years ago, a little boy drowned in the Chattahoochee River on an early Sunday morning.

The tragedy rocked Northeast Georgia, and Gainesville resident Sally Crumbley, who lived in the Riverbend community, got to praying and thinking.

Crumbley decided if the Riverbend area had a church, that little boy might have been in the pews that Sunday instead of in the river.

“And that was the beginning of Riverbend,” said the Rev. Mike Dorough, lead pastor of Riverbend Baptist Church.

Sunday, the church on Cleveland Highway in Gainesville celebrated 70 years in Northeast Georgia. In recent years, participation in the church declined, but the staff and the congregation are in a rebuilding mode, with hundreds more in the pews each Sunday.

Dorough, who joined the church in November 2015 after serving 18 years as youth pastor at a church in Warner Robins, said he is impressed by the church’s rich history as well as its efforts today.

“We celebrate our past,” he said. “And we look to the future.”

Question: What is your favorite thing about being pastor of your church?

Answer: The people, the love and the enthusiasm. We are very much in a rebuilding mode right now, and people are ready to work and follow a vision. We had more than 600 here Sunday for homecoming. These people are hungry and love each other. It’s a sweet fellowship, and the people are ready to work and ready to see God do something.

Q: What is a strength of this community?

A: Primarily it is the love for Christ, the love for the word of God and the love for each other. And I would say it is in that order. You have to love God supremely, and you have to love God’s word. That’s our guide for everything that we do. Then, and only then, can we rightly love each other.

Q: What’s an area that needs improvement or growth?

A: Every area can always use improvement. But when a church has been through some decline and, quite frankly, a little hurt as well, the focus tends to turn inward. We’ve had to spend time just kind of restoring fellowship, loving each other and God has done that.

Now, our focus is turning outside these walls. This summer, we had Bible study once a week at the Ridgecrest Apartments. We had people who went every Thursday with primarily children and some moms, and we run buses down there every night of revival. We have an evangelist this week for children called Crazy Tie Guy, who does unicycling, juggling, all kinds of stuff for kids, and shares the gospel with them.

Q: What is your hope for Riverbend?

A: That we would glorify God in all that we do.

We adopted a purpose statement. Riverbend exists to connect people with God and one another, to grow in their relationship with the Lord, to serve God by serving others and to honor God with our lives.

So connect, grow, serve and honor are our four buzzwords. We want that to motivate everything that we do. And of course, they aren’t just four words we made up. There are Bible verses to go with all of them.

The great commission to take the gospel to all nations starts in our own community.

I keep saying I want our church to look more like heaven, and by that I mean people of every color and every nation. We pray that God will help us diversify. We don’t want a church that just looks like me.