SCIOTOVILLE — Though Steve Mann is the new Pastor at Berean Baptist Church, 5526 Winchester Avenue in Sciotoville, his face is familiar, and he is glad to be back.
Steve Mann, Pastor of BBC, and his wife of 37 years, who serves as church secretary, are excited about being back in the local area, and serving with their BBC family. For the 30 years, the Manns have served as missionaries for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism in England.
Mann actually grew up in Sciotoville, and his father, Fred Man Served as the pastor many years ago.
“I grew up in West Virginia, but in the middle of my junior year my dad was a pastor, and he came here to pastor this church, probably 30 or 40 years ago. I graduated from East High School. I went away to college where I met my wife Caroline and then we came back here, and I served as assistant pastor here for about five and half years,” Mann said. “We’ve been here for about six weeks now. The last three years we were in England with our mission they asked me to serve as the regional director for Western Europe, so I had the oversight over Western Europe.”
Mann said he and his wife joined ABWE after departing from the Sciotoville in 1985.
“My wife Caroline, and our two children departed from the local area in 1985, and we joined a missionary organization, and we ended up going to England, and were in England for 28 years,” he said. “Our oldest daughter Evangeline, who is married and lives in Georgetown, Ky. with her family. They have two children, and are expecting another one in just a few weeks. Then our son that was born here, Isaac, he and his wife are missionaries in Papau Indonesia, and he teaches in a Bible college there.
The journey back to Sciotoville began to evolve when Mann’s parents became ill.
“My parents began to have some health issues, so felt like they needed our help, and the mission then allowed us to move back. So, about a year and a half ago we moved to Independence, Kentucky where my parents were living, and bought a house right across the street to help them, and I was still carrying on with my work with the mission,” he said. “In fact, I am still carrying on both jobs at the moment. We will leave on Friday for a conference that I had to organize in Athens, so that will be my last duty with the Mission to oversee that conference.”
He said his parents will also be returning to the local area.
“My dad, who was pastor here, is going to be moving back with us. They are going to be moving back to the area with us,” he said. “So it has been quite a challenge, trying to sell houses, and trying to get everything settled, but we are still working on it.”
Their return has been welcoming, though they did stay connected to BBC while away on the mission field.
“It has been very interesting, because we have such good friends here. Not only did we have friendships from that time, but the church has financially supported us in our mission work, so we would come back periodically, and sort of kept up with what was going on and kept in contact with everyone,” he said. “So coming back has been really nice, its like coming back home and being with people that are like family to us, so that has been really good.”
Change is apparent in the local area, since they last resided here.
“One of the things that we have realized coming back is that Sciotoville has changed, and Portsmouth has changed in the 30 years that we have been gone,” he said. “So, trying to figure out how do we as a church engage with the local community? It is in a different way than it would have been 30 years ago,” he said. “So we are trying to talk, and think that through, and trying to get to know people in the community has been challenging, but it has been good. I’ve had some really good conversations with not only church people, but people in the community.We’ve already one outreach that the church does every year around Halloween time, its the Fall Festival, and there were about 400 people that came through, and we had games, and snacks and was just a very relaxed time to get to talk and get to reconnect with people in the community.”
Reconnecting is paramount for Mann.
“The church has changed over the 30 years as well, and I think that one of the things that we want to do is to reconnect with the community,”he said. “We’ve aged as a church, and I think those things are not uncommon in church life. So, now it is now re-engaging with a new generation of people and how to do that well. These are the types of questions that we are trying to work through.
They experienced first hand the work of God as missionaries in England, he said.
“With our mission work, we worked in four different churches in England, and many of them were either dying churches that were in need of revitalization. We worked with two churches that were like that,”he said. “England is a tough place in the sense that Christianity is not the prevailing culture. At one point it may have been, now it is probably 70 percent Agnostic, or Atheist, so it was a challenge for us to go there from here because there is a strong Christian ethos in the culture here. To go there and face that culture and try to talk to people about Christ was not very easy, but we were able to see the Lord do some things in which people were amazed, and we were amazed. We saw churches re-established, and get back on their feet, and we were able to plant two churches as well.”
All of what they experienced will helpful as they seek to reach out to the local culture.
“I think that was all great experience for us, and helps us coming back,” he said. “I think what it has done for us is it helps us to think, and try to read a local culture, and not just go in with preconceived ideas, and try to make a cookie-cutter type ministry, but sit down and really think about this and try to determine what is the best way, and how do we engage this culture and community in an effective way.”
Their focus is helping people to grow, and to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is their main objective.
“My wife and I both did quite a bit of counseling training, and a lot of it was informal, but a lot of reading, and things such as that,” he said. “I think that it’s not just about growing a church, but its about growing people, and taking people where they are talking about the Gospel and seeing how the Gospel transforms individual people. The last 14 years of our ministry has not been about focusing on growing a big congregation but growing people, and helping people grow. When you help people grow, their lives are transformed that speaks to other people in the community and they see that, and they want the same thing. Growth is sort of a by product of that, but our main focus has been on focusing on individuals.”
He said he and his wife Caroline are looking forward to what lies ahead for them at BBC.
BBC service times are:
Sunday School, 9:30 a.m, Sunday Worship 10:30 a.m., Sunday Evening 6 p.m., Awana’s Wednesday 6:45 p.m., Wednesday Service 7 p.m.
For more information regarding Berean Baptist Church, visit the websiste: www.bereanbch.org.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-464-3862, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.