WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Along with 106-year-old Nieves Herrera, several people in their 80s and 90s have been baptized during the past six months at First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Tim Beverly, minister to senior adults, credits the revival among the church’s senior adults to a renewed commitment to one-on-one witnessing.
“We realized that everyone assumed that senior adults are Christians if they have come to church for a long time,” Beverly said, who has begun using the FAITH evangelism strategy “to confront them and ask what they understand about being a Christian.”
During a home visit with Don and Louise Gibb, ages 90 and 88, Beverly asked if they knew they were going to heaven. Don Gibb initially offered a works-based answer, saying he had kept the commandments, including honoring his parents. After a clear presentation of the gospel one-on-one, he and his wife both made professions of faith. Don Gibb has since died. Louise Gibb continues to be quite active in church activities, even arriving an hour early for most events.
“It is amazing that people can sit under crystal-clear gospel preaching for years and still not understand the basics of salvation,” Beverly said. “If a person is not confronted directly, he assumes that everything is OK spiritually.”
At the West Palm Beach church, 200 senior adults attend a weekly “Super Premier” luncheon, during which the plan of salvation is presented and an invitation is offered to receive Christ. Two or three respond weekly and are later visited by Beverly. The evangelistic effort has reached beyond church members to those in the community. Church secretary Louise Howard has rejoiced over the recent baptism of her parents, Walt and Erma Engdahl.
“My parents were members of the Latter-day Saints, and I had prayed for them for 20 years, since I became a Christian,” Howard said. “The older they became, the more desperate I felt. What a joy to see them, at 78 and 90, be baptized in my church.”
The 54-year-old Beverly has been First Baptist’s minister to senior adults for two years. He said he’s convinced that the one-on one method of witnessing is the key to such dramatic results: “We will never again assume that a person is a Christian just because he is elderly and in church.”
Nichols is a correspondent for the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal.