• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff 16

Church, its pastors embrace ‘diversity in God’s Kingdom’

OVERCOMERS CHURCH pastors Larry Blackford, left, and Mark Routt, right, will have their first Sunday evening service at Huntertown Church of the Nazarene on Oct. 1 at 6. Also pictured are Beth Ellenberg, pastor at Huntertown Church of the Nazarene, and Routt’s 20-year-old son, Caleb. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Everyone in the community is invited to attend the inaugural services of Overcomers Church on Sunday, Oct. 1. By everyone, lead pastor Mark Routt and outreach pastor Larry Blackford mean people of all racial backgrounds – not just black and not just white. “He wanted diversity in God’s Kingdom. And that’s what I always wanted too,” said Blackford, a native of Woodford County. “God has a time and purpose for everything … And the time is right.” Routt’s vision for “planting a church” that’s intentional about inviting every one inside its walls – a one-ness in the body of Christ as described by Blackford – originated in the winter of 1994. “So it’s coming to fruition after a long journey,” said Routt. He met with Beth Ellenberg, pastor at Huntertown Church of the Nazarene, about 10 years ago and told her, “I think God wants us to start another church in Versailles.” Ellenberg embraced this vision to offer a Sunday service welcoming racial diversity because “if Mark can reach somebody that I cannot, I’m all for that … It’s all about hearing the gospel from somebody inside of Jesus,” she said. Their conversations about opening Huntertown Church of the Nazarene’s doors to another church continued. And by early this year, Routt says he started getting telephone calls from people – most surprisingly his dad, “who never calls me, never. I can’t remember the last time he called me.” His dad and the others were all telling Routt, “I’m supposed to help you do something this year aren’t I?” With a lot of prayer this past June, Routt asked for guidance to find someone who could help him start a church that he envisioned. “Out of no where,” he said, “his (Blackford’s) name came to my mind.” Both pastors have been serving in the ministry for more than three decades, but they didn’t keep in touch during the years since Routt’s fifth- and sixth-grade basketball teams at Simmons Elementary were coached by Blackford, who has been chaplain at the Woodford County Detention Center for about seven years and shared Routt’s vision to build a church that “exemplifies the Kingdom of God.” “Every color of skin in this community – we want here,” said Routt. “I will say that from the pulpit,” he added. “Because the most segregated hour in the United States of America is 11 a.m. Sunday morning. And that’s just wrong.” “Very wrong,” echoed Blackford. When people sit in the pews at Overcomers Church, he said they’ll come to the realization that “there’s no white music. There’s no black music. It’s the Holy Spirit … in the music.” “I call him coach,” said Routt of Blackford, “because that’s what he’s always been to me.” Now, he’ll share Sunday morning preaching responsibilities at Overcomers Church with his onetime mentor. “There’ll be ministries he leads that I’ll follow. There’ll be areas that I lead that he’ll follow,” explained Routt. Having two adopted children – both African-American – has given Routt and his wife a heart for bridging racial divides in this country. “If anything,” he explained, “my kids have been a bridge that has opened doors for me in ministry. “He’ll be 21 in December (looking at his son, Caleb) so for 21 years, he’s been opening doors for me.” Routt, who moved away from Versailles to pastor at a church in Louisville, will return to his home church on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 6 p.m., and with Blackford, they’ll begin weekly services for Overcomers Church within the walls of Huntertown Church of the Nazarene at 721 Huntertown Road. “They’re letting us use this facility,” said Routt, “and it’s amazing.”

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