A rainbow appears in the sky above the Attica Free Methodist Church in this October 2022 photograph posted on the church’s Facebook page.
By Jeff Finley
The Attica Free Methodist Church has experienced dramatic growth in recent years while serving its west central Indiana community and joining other local churches to seek spiritual awakening. The congregation’s fruitfulness, however, didn’t happen overnight.
If fact, the Attica FMC began in 1874. The average weekly worship attendance was 50 when Jerry Badgley, a self-described introvert, became the Attica pastor in 2007. Five years into his time there, the future seemed bleak.
“Our finances were really tight. We had a board meeting where we were talking about whether we needed to cut my salary,” Badgley said in an interview with Light + Life. “What ended up happening in that board meeting is a prayer meeting broke out, and we spent an hour and a half just praying together, and the finances of the church began to turn around.”
“Those People Help People”
Around that same time, the church started Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program that Badgley said “has had a tremendous effect on our church — a very positive effect. Not only have we seen people come to the Lord through that ministry, but it has really opened up people’s minds and eyes about being loving and accepting and caring about people. It’s made a big difference in how welcoming people are and how much they care about being with people that think different, act different, look different, have different values.”
“People can find a home here.” – Jerry Badgley
He emphasized that Attica FMC members “were always pretty open, but there was not a lot of opportunity. With Celebrate Recovery and bringing in new people, it just made the church more welcoming and open. People can find a home here.”
Even though it can be uncomfortable to work with people who have addictions or other problems, church members began investing in additional ministries that they believed would make a difference in the lives of Attica residents.
“A lady that works in a mental health facility here called me about a women’s domestic violence shelter that was getting ready to close down,” Badgley said.
The shelter was primarily a house with little supervision or programming. The homeowner decided to move away and asked the church to take it over.
“We decided it was a bigger job than just what our church alone could do, so we ended up forming Friends of the Safe House,” Badgley said.
That group established Hope Springs Safe House, a 14-bed shelter that now has approximately 16 employees and a budget of $500,000. Hope Springs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission “to provide an accepting, loving, home environment in the Spirit of Jesus where residents can recover from the effects of domestic violence.”
“We do not only have the safe house, but Rapid Rehousing,” Badgley said. “It’s offsite housing. We help people to get immediately into a rental home or an apartment. … They’re not all ladies. Sometimes it’s men. We’re able to connect with them and minister to them. We’ve seen people come to the church through that.”
“It’s amazing how God has provided.” – Jerry Badgley
One volunteer had a son who died from an overdose. Church members began praying for the right people and resources to start a sober living house.
“A year ago, between Christmas and New Year’s, we bought a house. We raised $80,000,” Badgley said. “We were able to take $60,000 from our budget. Our finances have turned around. It’s amazing how God has provided.”
The men’s sober living facility opened in February 2022 after the church remodeled the house. Other church-related ministries include Women and Girls Alive, which a woman in the church runs to help girls and women gain emotional tools for healthy relationships. The church also hosts grief support groups and small groups, and it looks for other ways to serve the community.
“Another church here in town had a thrift store ministry that they closed down,” Badgley said. “There were a lot of people who really missed having that thrift store here in town, so we went down and rented a shop in a little strip mall, and we opened a thrift store last August.”
The senior pastor said his wife, Lisa, “was walking in the grocery store a while back here in town, and the next aisle over she heard a couple of ladies talking about needing some help. One of the ladies said to the other one, ‘You need to go to that church up on the hill, the one with the big cross. Those people help people.’”
That church, of course, is the Attica FMC.
Five years ago, church finances became strong enough for the church to decide to hire its first youth pastor in the congregation’s history. Meanwhile, Joshua Barnett decided to leave his youth pastor position in another denomination because he sensed “that denomination was really trying to emphasize the gifts of the Spirit rather than the Gift Giver.”
Because he lived near Attica, people began recommending that he apply for the Free Methodist opening, but he told them: “No way I’m going to the Attica Free Methodist Church; that’s not going to happen.” Despite a background in the similar Wesleyan denomination, Barnett made incorrect assumptions about Free Methodism. The Free Methodists of Attica, however, were determined to set the record straight.
“We’re praying for revival.”
“They started literally knocking on my door — older ladies that had been praying for revival and awakening — and thinking that they needed to bring in somebody to really focus in on youth in Warren and Fountain counties,” said Barnett, who added that he was on a lunch date with his wife, Misty, when Pastor Badgley — whom they had never met previously — sat next to them and said, “We’re praying for revival. … We know the first step is to bring in the right youth pastor in this area. Your name keeps coming up over and over again, so either you are called to do this, or you know who is.”
Barnett said he “literally broke down like a baby” and “realized the Holy Spirit was trying to break down the wall and my misconception because I was mistaking the FMC for the UMC.”
In the youth pastor role, Barnett emphasized connecting with the community. One of his initial connections was a vice principal who had recently arrived in Attica. The vice principal and Barnett realized they had met years earlier at a wedding, and school volunteer opportunities quickly came Barnett’s way.
Barnett offered to help the schools in any way needed — including listening to and talking with students. School administrators eagerly invited him to fill gaps in coaching roles. Barnett has transitioned to become Attica’s associate pastor with another person now serving as the church’s youth director, but he continues his active involvement in local schools.
“Currently I’m the head coach for junior high football, and I am the head coach for junior high wrestling, and I’m the assistant for varsity wrestling and the assistant for varsity football, and I am the assistant varsity track coach,” Barnett said. “I do get paid; it comes down to 25 cents an hour.”
Both Badgley and Barnett highlighted a partnership with the school system that might seem unlikely to Christians who view public education as an adversary of the church. When the Attica FMC started a day care center two years ago, it didn’t occupy space on church property.
“Our day care is actually in the [public] elementary school. They’ve given us four rooms in the west end of the school. We paid for security doors to block off our little section from the rest of the school, so that people can’t go from the day care into the school,” Badgley said. “But they’ve given us four rooms in the school, and now the use of a fifth and another part of the school.”
Barnett said it is “unbelievable what God has done and is doing” because school administrators know they can ask the church for help in serving the community.
Uniting for Awakening
As the Attica FMC has increasingly reached out to the community, other churches have noticed and formed partnerships with it.
“… even though we might have some theological differences, we’ve gotten together over the last few years to pray.” – Jerry Badgley
“A couple of years ago, the Presbyterian Church did a prayer conference, and they invited all the churches in Attica and Williamsport to gather together just to pray for revival and awakening, and that’s kind of a unique thing that is happening in Attica,” said Barnett, who added that the Free Methodists led worship at the Presbyterian prayer conference. “A lot of other churches are praying for revival and awakening, and even though we might have some theological differences, we’ve gotten together over the last few years to pray.”
It’s not uncommon for the Attica Free Methodists to pray during their services for God to bless the local Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and United Methodists.
Partnering with other churches hasn’t hindered Free Methodist growth. Immediately before the pandemic, the Attica FMC reached an average Sunday worship attendance of 175 people — 3.5 times the attendance when Badgley arrived as pastor. In-person attendance has dipped slightly since COVID-19’s arrival with an average of 150 people last year, but online participation has exploded with 300 to 400 people watching services each weekend.
“One of the things that I love is that we continue to hold on to the heritage, and it’s referenced and referred to with the past people that have prayed and believed for revival,” Barnett said. “These people that now are coming into the Free Methodist Church are tapping into that wellspring of generations before them that were standing in the same space praying for revival and awakening.”
Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined the Light+Life team in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media. He is a member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church where his wife, Jen, serves as the lead pastor.