Finding A New Way To Bring People To Jesus
In 1924, Calvary Baptist Church was organized in Lancaster, SC, to bring the families of textile mill’s employees to Jesus. With a booming textile industry, the church became the center of religious life for the mill community and quickly grew to capacity amidst a flurry of opportunities for children and families. People were coming to Jesus year after year until the textile industry collapsed, and everything started to change.
One member remembers moving to Lancaster when she 10 and her father took a new job at the mill. Her family quickly joined Calvary Baptist, and at age twelve, professed faith in Christ. That was 72 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. Like many textile mills across South Carolina, the spinning looms came to a halt, and employees sought work elsewhere creating a street of houses for sale and a stillness in activity. The neighborhood changed. The church declined in number, and people were not coming to Jesus as in former days. However, the faithful members continued to gather at 100 Barron Blvd. hoping God would restore their congregation to new life.
In 2017, the leadership of Calvary Baptist sought the counsel of the South Carolina Baptist Convention to bring renewal to their church. With an aging membership and almost no children or youth, they sought ways to reach their community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A demographic study of their immediate context revealed ethnic diversity, poverty, single-parent households, and a high renter occupancy. There were plenty of families with children, and very few were attending any church in the community. The strategies of reaching this new mill village community would need to be drastically different than anything they had attempted to do in their history.
After valiant attempts and several years with no baptisms, the church re-engaged their consultation with SCBC and considered options to reach their diverse community, many of whom didn’t speak English in their homes. The congregation had recently witnessed a few Hispanic families attending worship and began to pray about how they could reach more families. With a growing Hispanic population in the area and a Hispanic ministry already gathering at Second Baptist Church, a recommendation was made to form a partnership between the two churches and provide worship in both English and Spanish at the Calvary Baptist location.
On Sunday, June 28th, Pastor Jimmy Fox led the church with a stirring exposition of Luke 5:17-25, recounting how several men sought the best way to bring a paralytic to Jesus. Pastor Jimmy stated, “Their problem wasn’t believing Jesus could heal. Their problem wasn’t their willingness to help the man. Their problem was finding a way to get him to Jesus.” Calvary Baptist had the same problem as the men in Luke 5. How could they bring people to Jesus though they were few in number and the barriers seemed insurmountable?
At the conclusion of worship, the remaining 17 members heard a proposal from Brian Saxon, Pastor of Second Baptist Church, to form a partnership and add a Spanish service to the existing worship schedule at Calvary. Second Baptist would provide leadership, resources, and whatever else was needed to shepherd the flock at Calvary, continue worship in English as they prepared to move their Spanish ministry to the Calvary location, and relaunch the church under their care. The result would be one church, worshipping in two languages with a vision to be “a place of lasting relationships where people love God, love people and live the mission.”
After the presentation the church voted on the motion to reinvest their resources to form a partnership with Second Baptist Church. Due to social distancing, some of the members had been listening to the presentation by conference call at home and had to be called to cast their vote. With 17 affirmations and no objections, the members of Calvary Baptist Church voted unanimously to take a step of faith toward a hopeful future so that 100 Barron Blvd would not be “barren of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today”Luke 5:26
Calvary Baptist Church is one of many churches across South Carolina that has been helped by an intentional process to provide hope for at-risk churches.
Author: James Nugent, SC Baptist Convention