An occasional feature
(go to previous "Whatever it takes churches" articles: 2000,
A model church, not a megachurch
Why build when you can plant? That challenge captures the essence of what
Pastor Luther Keith of Central Baptist Church in Inglewood, California,
believes about ministry. Under his guidance, Central Church has planted 17
Photos by GREG SCHNEIDER
In recognition of the neighborhoods changing face a few decades ago from
middle-class white to black, Central Church called Luther, an African American,
in 1974. There were only 17 members, and three were African American. A white
lady brought me to pastor a dead church, Luther reminisces, laughing.
The area went through another shift in the 1990s and is now predominantly
Hispanic. Thats why were starting Hispanic churches, he says. But its not about
color, he adds. My thing is church planting.
Encourage members to
goWhenever the church starts to get a little crowded, they plant
another church. If Central Church had kept all its members and added to its
facility, they would be ministering to more than 2,000 people today. Instead,
we are a model church, not a megachurch, says Luther. We believe in building
people with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, and those people build
churches. Four churches were started in one Sunday at Central Church when four
men were commissioned and seven were ordained to plant churches in the
Luther encourages any members who want to go and be a part of the new work
to do so. But if you go, go! he advises. Dont try to keep one foot in both
churches. Make up your mind where you want to be. He firmly believes in
commitment because he knows it is much easier to remain in the comfort and
security of an established church like Central Church. He never directs anyone
they should go but allows them to volunteer instead.
TOP: Rev. Thomas Blackwell (left) mentors pastor Jerry Christopher
(right). ABOVE: Pastor Keith (left) spends time during the week visiting with
local business owners about the needs of an ever-changing neighborhood and how
the church can meet those needs.
Train men to
leadLuther received almost all his formal training through
seminary extension after he assumed the pastorate. A lifelong student, Luther
has taken practically every training course Southern Baptists could make
available to him. He believes education is vital, but it is not a prerequisite
for beginning a ministry. Its not how much Greek you know, Luther says in his
no-nonsense way. Its whether or not you can relate to people.
When eager young men come to him with a desire to teach but no formal
background, Keith asks a few basic questions:
Is your salvation experience authentic as evidenced by a changed life?
Are you willing to seek seminary training as needed?
Are you willing to undergo a personality profile?
Are you able to gather a small group for Bible study and grow from
Are you willing to go through all the steps and take the necessary time to
achieve church status?
The church looks for men who are natural leaders, who can follow
instructions and who have the patience to go through the channels of ministry
from Bible study to mission to church.
If someone has no interest in getting training, we have no time for him,
Luther says unequivocally. Once a person begins on the path to becoming a
church planter, all the
resources of the church are available to help him in any way it can. Acting
as mentors, Luther and the other staff pastors counsel church planters in how
to prayerfully find their location and lead people effectively.
Take the gospel
firstIn everything they do, the churchs first goal is to share
the gospel with the lost and hurting world right on its doorstep. Central
Church has won awards for its social ministry efforts against drugs, gangs and
Through the ministry of the Central Urban Development Center located in the
church, Central Church has seen many desperate people come to faith in
For information about how your congregation can plant churches, visit the
North American Mission Boards church planting website www.namb.net/root/cp.
A Titanic Moment: Timing is everything
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CARPENTER'S WAY CHURCH
When Carpenters Way Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, staged its production
of Titanic Moment, they never dreamed how significant their timing would be.
Opening night of the five-day run was September 9, 2001. Two days later, the
world reacted in horror to the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon
and a Pennsylvania field.
Share a message with
meaningThe message of the production that was 13 months in the
making: You dont know whats going to happen. Be prepared for your Titanic
Moment. Rick Williams, pastor of Carpenters Way Church, says that many people
gave their lives to Christ and many more asked for counseling regarding
assurance of salvation as a result of the combined tragediesone historically
reenacted, one unfolding before their eyes on television.
The idea for Titanic Moment was born during a trip to Orlando where Rick and
his wife, Melody, visited Titanic: The Exhibition. Characters dressed in period
costume walked people through the exhibit, giving them insight into how the
passengers felt and thought. Apparently, many of the passengers in 1912
believed theyd sit in the lifeboats for a few hours while the crew repaired the
unsinkable ship and then continue on their journey. The comment that grabbed
Williams attention was, You dont know whats going to happen.
Rick knew this was a powerful message for a gospel-hardened culture, so
after returning to his church he convened a meeting with his staff and the idea
began to take shape. Nancy Mize, the churchs director of drama ministry, wrote
the script, and things snowballed from there.
impossibleThe idea of using interactive drama is not new to
Baptist churches; many have adopted that genre as a regular part of worship.
Drama, like music, has a way of connecting with people on a deeper level, of
engaging more than their intellect and appealing to their heart. However, few
churches attempt anything as large as the Titanic production in Lufkin. Almost
one quarter of the church became cast members. Most of the 130 people in the
play had never been on stage in their lives.
If your church is interested in hosting a drama production, regardless of
the grandness of the scale, Carpenters Way Church has some ABCs to pass along
that might help.
Ask a challenging question and
expect a responseChoose a message that packs a punch. The phrase
Titanic Moment became a catchword all over Lufkin, Rick says. Especially after
the terrorist attacks, not knowing when your Titanic Moment may come was a
Ricks desire to bring people face to face with their own mortality was key.
At the end of the presentation, he asked the audience to check the back of
their boarding passes/tickets. If their pass had the symbol of a cross, they
didnt survive. Rick posed two questions to the group, Did you live or die? If
you died, where are you spending eternity?
Be as professional as
possiblePay attention to details. Carpenters Way Church had
authentic costumes. The wardrobe was Broadway quality, says playwright Nancy
Mize. Makeup clinics were held months in advance. Dialect coaches taught Texans
to talk like Britsno mean feat, Nancy laughs. The set included a grand
staircase built by church members. Theres much more to drama than actors.
Proficiency is needed in many areas: from set design and construction to
lighting and sound, from wardrobe to makeup, from filming of video sequences to
web pages, from music to Irish dancers and much more. Theres a job for
A portion of the 130-member cast is seen here during a curtain
call. Cast members hoped their portrayal of a sinking ship would cause
non-Christians to think about their own lives.
resourcesInvest in success. Carpenters Way Church invested
almost two percent of its annual budget as well as 13 months of dedicated work.
Was it worth it? Ask the many people who came to faith in Christ. Ask the
scores of lukewarm Christians who recommitted their lives to a deeper walk of
faith. Finally, ask the cast who discovered the joy of service in a whole new
arena as they tried drama for the first time and found they liked the fit.
For a closer look at the cast and more information about Titanic Moment,
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and
speaker living in Cochrane, Alberta.
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