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Bivocational church in Shelby Co. grows from 50 to 350 in 5 yearscomment (0)

February 10, 2011

By Sondra Washington

Reaching the community and doing missions have nothing to do with a church’s age, its membership or staff. According to leaders of Community Baptist Church, Maylene, churches “worshiping God from the neck down” is simply a matter of focus.

Five years ago, the Shelby Baptist Association church’s average Sunday worship service attendance was 50 people. Now the 50-year-old church is averaging more than 350 weekly with as many children attending as there used to people total and starting to do missions in its community as a church body.

“With a totally bivocational staff, led by Rev. Bo Brown, [Community Baptist] has continued to experience God’s blessings for the fifth straight year,” said Dave Miller, music minister at the church. “In calendar year 2010, we added more than 90 new members, eclipsing the 70-plus members we’d added each year the prior four. That growth has brought a variety of changes in who we are collectively and the vision from which we press forward.”

One major adjustment in Community Baptist’s vision has been to refocus its attention on doing Kingdom work in the local community.

“Brother Bo correctly, I believe, perceived that we do an excellent job of inward ministry but harbors concern that if our focus remains there, we may lose our outward focus or let it slip away,” Miller said. “So we’re trying to realign some of our efforts and emphasis toward missions and outward ministries.”

Brown said he believes the whole church has had to become more Christ-centered.

“A lot of older congregations have a tendency to be steeped in tradition, not in conviction,” he said. “I think [Community Baptist members] had to come to a place where God’s will was the center of their attention — not tradition.”

They became “wide open to whatever God wanted,” he said, and felt Him leading them to expand their missions efforts.

“Our missions group did missions trips and we did the offerings (the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions) but the thing we began to realize is that God was calling us not just to minister to those in our church but to those outside the church,” Brown said. “I call it the 30/70 challenge, where 30 percent of our efforts will be outward focused.”

Community Baptist completed its first churchwide missions project Jan. 30, working at Shelby Association’s ministry center instead of holding its Sunday evening service. Brown said 114 members of all ages participated in numerous projects at the center, including organizing donations and cleaning.

“It just made me very proud of the church,” he said. “They understood that we were created to help other people — that missions was important. … Going into it, there was a willingness to do whatever was asked. When it was over, there was a desire to do more. They wanted to schedule it on a regular basis. The people weren’t leaving tired. They were leaving fulfilled. They were excited.”

Keith Brown, director of the center and a member of Community Baptist, said the church’s members are accustomed to serving as ministers to help the staff.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “That’s one thing that drew me and my family to the church.”

Bo Brown said the church plans to do a local missions project with the entire congregation once a quarter. He encourages other pastors who may be facing similar situations to be bold enough to follow the vision God has given them for their church.

“Although it may sound like we are different, any church can be a growing church,” he said. “There is nothing special about the type of people or the staff that we have. What’s special is Who we serve.”

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