Caney Spring Baptist reaches community through ‘Witness Wardrobe
The clothing ministry at Caney Spring Baptist Church is an example of how a small church with a big dream can make an enormous impact for Christ.
The clothing ministry, known as Witness Wardrobe, was launched in 2014, and has since grown into a project that ministers to an average of 70-80 families per week. All of the items of clothes are given away completely free of charge.
“It is not just for the people of Marshall County,” said Caney Spring pastor Tony Cansler. “We minister to people from all around.”
“There are people that drive down from Nashville to get clothes from us. Davidson County, Bedford County, Rutherford County, Williamson County, Maury County,” he said. “There are people that come from Tullahoma, some from Fayetteville. … It’s just something you almost have to see to really grasp it.”
Last year, the program ministered to over 800 families, including 200 families that had never previously used the ministry, Cansler said.
“We gave away over 18,000 hanging articles of clothes, 1,600 pairs of shoes, and over 800 coats,” Cansler said, “and most importantly, we led people to Christ through the ministry -- even in the ‘store’ when they were shopping.”
So, what exactly does the ministry look like? Cansler provided a description.
“If you’re trying to picture it in your mind, picture 3,600 square feet; picture a mini-department store,” he said. “We’ve got clothing racks, and we have everything separated out by sizes. Children here, boys, girls here. Men’s, ladies here. It’s all separated out by sizes. There’s over 600 pairs of shoes. And we’ve got other things (beside clothes), such as household items and those things.”
Cansler’s church recently donated roughly 3,000 articles of clothing to Delano Baptist Church to help that church start a clothing ministry, too.
“We loaded them up,” Cansler said. “We filled up an SUV, a pickup truck with a camper, and half of their church bus — they’ve got a 30-passenger church bus — with clothes for them to help launch their clothing ministry. … And we let them see our structure, our layout, what we did, and how we used this to witness to people.”
Cansler said the ministry has put more emphasis on evangelism in recent days.
“Last February, God just spoke to me and made a revelation that for every customer that we have come through, we should ask them, ‘Is there anything that I can pray for you about today?’ And that changed the ministry to a different level of spirituality,” he said. “It built a connection to the people, and through that, we are able to lead people to Christ.”
Cansler said God has blessed the Witness Wardrobe ministry since its inception. He also said the tremendous growth of the ministry is a testament to the needs that are being met across the state.
“Our previous pastor was Stephen McCollum, and God laid it onto his heart to launch the clothing ministry in 2014,” said Cansler, “and (the ministry) quickly outgrew the church.”
The church then rented a store front in a strip mall in Chapel Hill for about four years. The owner of the property gave Caney Spring a discounted rate and paid for the utilities, Cansler said.
“The ministry continued to grow, to grow, to grow,” said Cansler. “It was taking up four rooms in our church. Plus, our church hallway in the Sunday School wing was completely storage, so it was taking over.”
The church recently made the decision to build a facility on the church property, and will soon be getting its certificate of occupancy.
“We wanted to bring the ministry back to the church because — even as much as we were witnessing to the people — some people were still missing that we were a church.”
Cansler is excited about how impactful the ministry has been, but he believes even bigger things are in store.
“Now that we are freeing up the space in our building, we’re going to really turn the heat up, so to speak, on evangelizing,” he said. “We are going to be doing cold calls, and texts, and other messages to these people because we want them to understand why we do what we do.”
“We’ve got some other things that are in the works that will be a ministry in conjunction with the clothing ministry,” he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Baptist and Reflector, a publication of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Photo courtesy of the Baptist and Reflector
Caney Spring Baptist Church hosts a Witness Wardrobe that has grown, in the five years since it was founded, to serve 70 to 80 families per week.