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Rural Renewal

Farmer-turned-pastor spurs church growth in Arkansas.

Marty L. Tackett, 54, never planned to be a senior pastor. He’d been content as a farmer, growing rice and soybeans in the southeast corner of Arkansas. He had served part time in ministry for many years, and volunteered as a youth pastor, but never pictured himself growing a church from the ground up. But in 2011, he accepted the call to pastor a year-old church plant in his community of Lake Village, Arkansas.

Tackett faced a challenging environment in leading Lake Village Assembly in the poverty-stricken Mississippi River Delta town of 2,065 people. The community experienced a loss of 19.8% of its residents between the past two decennial censuses. An average of 20 people met in an unfinished building when Tackett became pastor. The upper floor consisted of a frame only, prompting one churchgoer to compare it to “meeting in a barn.”

But the congregants began to pray. Tackett explains the intercession provided “an atmosphere of friendliness and true concern for everyone” the Lord brought to the church doors, no matter their spiritual state.

Many involved in the church are part of Tackett’s family. His wife, Tina, is co-pastor, Bible teacher, and keyboard player on the worship team. His daughter, Samantha R. Smith, 30, leads the worship team, and his son Ethan L. Tackett, 28, plays the drums. The Tacketts’ son-in-law C. Hunter Smith, 35, is media director, and their daughter-in-law Shelby Tackett, 23, leads the Busy Bees ministry for kids ages 2-4.

But it isn’t only homegrown staff members who came together to help Lake Village Assembly to increase.

“The Lord would show us our next need, and we’d pray, and it wouldn’t be long before that person would come,” Tackett says.

Two such leaders, Jessica and Andrew Vaughn, first came to the church in 2011. In their early 20s at the time, they had returned to Andrew’s hometown after college to farm. They later became youth pastors and then student ministries directors. Apart from prayer, Jessica credits much of the church’s growth to how the Tacketts develop leaders. “They really invest in those who are involved in leadership,” Tina says.

As the church grew in numbers, God provided for the congregation’s physical needs as well, with construction completed on the original building in less than two years. In 2018, construction started on a multipurpose building. The 10,000 square-foot facility, dedicated in 2019, has a basketball court, a commercial kitchen, space for community events, restrooms, and a workshop.

Today the church attracts an average of 150 people on Sunday mornings. Midweek gatherings feature prayer time, a full meal, and seven classes for all ages, including more than 50 kids. Among other Bible studies, Bloom is a group for young women, and in February the church launched a class for married and premarital couples. Lake Village Assembly also reaches out to the community through events like sports camps, teen mentoring, comedy nights, banquets, and Scripture distribution.

Adherents spiritually contend in prayer for the town’s well-being, targeting destructive forces such as depression, divorce, and fatherlessness.

The Tacketts still farm their land, but these days their most important harvest is lives changed by Jesus.

Borghy R Holm

Borghy R. Holm is an ordained AG minister who previously served for seven years on staff with Kodiak Assembly of God in Alaska. After graduating from Southeastern University with a bachelor's degree in journalism/public relations in 2006, she worked as a writer for Wycliffe Bible Translators, and then as a communications executive for Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. Currently she is pursuing a master's degree in theological studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.