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What began as a difficult situation for even the most well-trained experienced pastor has evidently been ordained by God. Cochran became a certified minister, then a licensed minister and last year he became an ordained AG minister.
The church itself has experienced nothing short of miraculous growth. "We run about 350 to 400 on Sunday mornings, and if you add in the youth and kids, it's well over 500," Cochran says. For a community of 2,200, that's more than a little impressive. "Not all the folks are from Anson," Cochran quickly points out. "We have people who drive 30-plus miles just to attend our church."
Cochran believes the success of the church can't be narrowed to just one thing, citing an incredible group of volunteers and staff members and the church's ongoing efforts to bring the community together. However, he says, as a church, nothing is more important than bringing families together in Christ.
"We're really big on family," Cochran says. "We believe in the family unit—the Christian family unit can change the church and the church can then change the world. We have other things happening in the church—people healed, delivered, baptized—but seeing mom and dad saved and God's transformation of their family, that's the main thing for us."
Cochran shares a story of how a father from a well-to-do family told him he always felt God had something big for him to do with his life. "He came up to me last week and told me that he finally got it—the big thing God wanted him to do was be the best husband and best father and spiritual leader for his family."
Passing the credit for the church's success to his volunteer and staff pastors, Cochran says that the men and women who volunteer and who are on his staff have the same passion to see families come to the Lord. And, he adds, the original church members he used to butt heads with at the start of his ministry, now have become like grandparents to him. He and his staff are also actively plugging people of all ages into the ministries of the church, including the young people and children.
He also has worked diligently to bring the Anson church community together, having conducted revivals where each night, a different church pastor speaks the message. This spirit of camaraderie and cooperation has opened doors and hearts in the community and between denominations.
But Cochran isn't satisfied with keeping the church as it is. His dream for the future is to plant new AG churches in other small Texas communities, giving God the opportunity to do the same thing He's done in Anson and Bethel Assembly.
The church is also expanding its community involvement as this week it breaks ground on a new multipurpose center designed not only to house their burgeoning kids and youth programs, but offer opportunities and classes for the community.
"We want to make this center available to the community and use it to host events and classes," Cochran says.
Reflecting on the lean years, Cochran offers those moved to help small church pastors some insightful advice.
"Just offering a kind word of encouragement can mean the world," Cochran says. "A young man in search of a church home, offered to help put up a church sign. While we were working, he told me that where he was going to church he didn't feel the Spirit of God moving and speaking like he did through me. It was like a revelation to me - the Spirit of God is really moving and speaking through me!"
Today, Cochran, now 40, with his wife and three children, says he no longer needs to work four jobs, the church has numerous volunteers in many different ministries, the relationship with community leaders and other community churches is strong and Bethel continues to be the genuine place of caring, friendship and God's love that Cochran hoped it would be.
"The Lord is so good to us," he says, his voice ringing with sincerity. "It's humbling to me to think about it —where the church is. None of this, none, could be done without the Spirit of God and the love and support of all our volunteers. I give God all the glory."
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