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The Church That Helps People

Growing congregation in an affluent resort community earns a reputation for accepting the poor and addicted.

In 2012, Pastor Todd Carter started One Church in Ruidoso, New Mexico, a mountain resort town with a population of 8,000. In the summer, Ruidoso’s population balloons to around 40,000.

While the town’s number of inhabitants varies from season to season, One Church has experienced consistent growth since nearly closing prior to Carter’s arrival. Relaunched with 14 people, One Church now welcomes an average of 225 attendees and has multiple ministry times during the week to accommodate its growth.

Because of the seasonal fluctuation in Ruidoso’s residents and the resultant dual identity as small town and resort city, Carter and his family spent the first two years figuring out Ruidoso’s rhythms and the mindset of temporary and permanent residents.

Carter says the fact that many people own second homes in Ruidoso leads some to assume that the entire community is wealthy. However, he quickly discovered thousands live at or below the poverty line.

“One thing we’ve learned is that hopelessness knows no bounds,” Carter says. “But the reason we exist as a church is to make hopelessness history.”

The one in One Church is also an acronym that serves as the congregation’s mission statement: “One group of people, No one rejected, Everyone accepted.” As Carter explains, the church’s commitment to welcome people regardless of their socioeconomic status sets it apart from some other area bodies.

“At One Church, it’s not uncommon to see business owners and recovering drug addicts serving alongside one another,” Carter says.

Each week, a thriving Celebrate Recovery ministry draws around 65 people struggling with addiction. Consequently, One Church has earned a reputation on the mountain as “the church that helps people.”

Bart Garrison, who has attended One Church since 2013 and serves on the church’s board, credits Carter’s relatability to those inside and outside the church as reasons for the explosive growth.

“He not only relates well to everyone in the congregation on a personal level, but also to city officials who have invited him to the table as a community leader,” Garrison says.

Recently, the vice president of media at a local radio station began attending the church. After one service, he told Carter that his message should be heard around the entire mountain. Carter’s sermons are now edited and rebroadcast on Sunday mornings, along with three-minute segments airing twice daily during the week on both AM and FM stations.

One Church’s rapid attendance boost also has led to the purchase of a 10,000-square-foot facility that soon will serve as the congregation’s main hub for ministry, especially to young couples with children.

Austin Jacobs

Austin Jacobs is the Assemblies of God World Missions Unreached People Groups specialist. A research enthusiast, avid reader, and marathon runner, Austin holds a master of arts in Religious Studies from Missouri State University and completed his thesis on memorial responses to the Boston Marathon bombing. He and his wife, Hillary, serve in various ministry roles at Solid Rock Church in Springfield, Missouri.