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FBC Grand Bay taps its equity to help new church startcomment (0)

March 16, 2006

By Kathy Dean

You have two choices when faced with a new opportunity — either accept it or run from it, said Benny Still, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Bay, in Mobile Baptist Association. The question: would his congregation tap into the equity in their property to help a new congregation purchase its first sanctuary? And does it matter that the new congregation is predominantly black while First, Grand Bay, is predominantly white?
The answers were quick and sure, according to Still. “I’m so proud of my people that they have taken the ball and run with it,” he said.
But Charles Dent, pastor of New Generation Church said it is more than just running with the ball. “First Baptist Grand Bay heard the call of God and they stepped up to the plate, and they hit a home run.”
Differing sports analogies aside, what both pastors agree on is that the partnership between their two congregations is bringing people to Jesus Christ.
On Feb. 5, when the congregation of New Generation Baptist, a member of Mobile Association since October 2005, met at its new home — the old Faith Assembly of God facility on Cody Road in west Mobile — four people made professions of faith in a sanctuary packed with more than 200 people. And since First, Grand Bay, voted Jan. 18 to partner with New Generation, it has recorded seven professions of faith, three transfers of membership by letter and seen an increase of thousands of dollars in the Sunday morning offering.
That’s no surprise to Thomas Wright, director of missions for Mobile Association, which orchestrated the partnership.
“There are multiple benefits for a congregation that looks outward rather than just inward,” Wright said, adding that the Lord blesses those who are obedient to the Great Commission. “Each congregation that looks outward begins to grow.”
The partnership is the result of an intentional effort by Mobile Association to focus on five areas: biblical prayer, evangelistic ministry, church development, church planting and partnership missions.
“Out of those emphases, we recognized that to pray for and share Jesus with everyone in Mobile County by 2012, the association needs to reflect the ethnicity of Mobile County,” Wright said. 
According to him, the black community in Mobile “has seen that the Mobile Baptist Association is multiethnic and is serious about evangelism and church growth, and they are willing to partner with us to make an eternal difference in Mobile County.” 
With the help of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, the association identified 40 areas in Mobile County that needed a new church work and prioritized 13 of those. 
New Generation is the seventh black congregation formed or that has joined the association since January 2005, and an eighth is being planned with Moffett Road Baptist Church, Mobile, as the primary sponsor.
“Our goal is to have all 105 congregations in the association involved in a church-planting coalition,” Wright said. Even small congregations can be co-sponsors in planting new churches through prayer and possibly monetary support, he said.
In the case of New Generation, the congregation had not been formed long enough for banks to loan money to purchase property. So First, Grand Bay, made the purchase, and New Generation signed a vendor’s lien to make the payments on the property.
It took just five weeks from the time Wright brought the idea to Still and First, Grand Bay, for the vision to become a reality.
“That’s committee meetings, deacons meetings, special called business meetings, notification of the church family in writing, the vote, the financing, the closing — that just doesn’t happen unless it’s a God thing,” Still said.
Dent praised Wright and the association for their vision for Mobile County. “Without vision, the people perish. If we don’t have the vision for biblical prayer and evangelism and church work, we will never reach the community.”
Ronald Davis, associate in the office of associational missions and church planting with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said the partnership is “one of our sterling testimonies and a witness of our growth and maturity as the people of God come together beyond racial lines to do what’s right and reach people for the Lord.”
Part of Davis’ calling is to work with black churches and facilitate new church plants and development of new churches statewide. In 1994, there were nine black churches that were part of the Alabama Baptist State Convention; today there are 62 and prospects for growth are increasing every year, he said.
“Right here in Alabama, our statistics show that out of the 4 million people in this state, only 2 million-plus claim faith in relationship to church, and that leaves 2 million that are unchurched,” Davis said. “We have a great challenge before us to reach people for the Lord, and we do that across cultural and racial lines.”
Reaching across racial lines is more than just a business deal for Still and Dent. It’s a friendship, a brotherhood in Christ that brings their congregations together to work and worship.
The congregations have held one unity service together and have plans for future efforts such as Vacation Bible School, backyard Bible clubs, block parties and Habitat for Humanity projects.
“In my lifetime, I’ve finally seen the church become the church God wants it to be,” Still said. 
“It’s not about race. It’s about Christian brotherhood. It’s about fulfilling the Great Commission where we are.”

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