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3 families start Minnesota church

A block party hosted by Calvary Church in New Prague, Minn., each July allows the church to interact with hundreds of people in its community.

NEW PRAGUE, Minn. (BP) – When three families here decided they wanted to plant a church that would be outward-focused, they turned to Southern Baptists for help.

Roman Catholics and Lutherans are the strongest Christian emphases in this town of about 8,200 people, but no missions-minded Southern Baptists surfaced until 11 years ago, when the three non-Southern Baptist families started talking.

“We didn’t have any churches in New Prague that would go out to the community,” Kurt Stepka told Baptist Press. The families met a few times in the basement of Dave Mulder’s home, prayed about it, “let it rest for a few months, and God said, ‘Yes,’” Stepka said. 

“Dave was well-experienced in this process,” Stepka continued. “He was older and had been around more. He contacted the SBC [the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention] and they were very supportive, financially and with guest speakers. They supported us tremendously to get this off the ground.”

The Stepka and Mulder families continue today as members of the multi-generational Calvary Church of New Prague, now in its 10th year. The third family, the Bivens, have moved out of state. About 130 people attend Sunday morning worship at New Prague Middle School. Wednesday activities take place at Falcon Ridge Elementary School.

Thirteen acres have been purchased for a future church home, but more important than their own brick-and-mortar building is Calvary New Prague’s focus on reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus.

“One of the things we desired when we first were talking about starting a church was to be missions-oriented, to reach lost souls,” Stepka said. “That was important for us: to see people in our community who are lost and need Jesus. That’s what prompted us to help reach lost souls.”

Members started a summertime block party to introduce the church to the community. The congregation interacts with up to 1,500 people in July. The block party provides “food, music, testimonies and is an attempt to connect with people,” Pastor Robert Doleshal told Baptist Press. “It is a ‘Hi!’ to the community to let them know, ‘We’re here for you,’ as well as introducing them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Robert Doleshal

Rather than VBS, Calvary New Prague each June provides “Energize,” which involves age-graded team-building, Scripture memorization, Bible study, worship, Gospel presentations and “a huge rec time,” the pastor said. Energize takes place at a city park that has a covered pavilion, which the church rents for the week.

The leaders then take Energize to Austin (Minn.) Baptist Chapel en Español, located about 90 minutes southeast of New Prague. 

“The folks go and sleep in the church, do work projects in the church and in the community, and in the evening, Energize,” Doleshal said. “Pastor Victor [Ordonez] three years ago asked our missions team if they could help. We see it as both a missions project, to help a church smaller than us, and great fellowship with fellow believers from a different local church.”

Doleshal, a Texas native who spent several years pastoring in Texas and Arizona, said he has learned Minnesotans’ Eastern European ancestors endured difficult and rugged lives, which led many to less hopeful perspectives and little consideration of Jesus beyond their traditional heritage.

He infuses their dutiful Christianity Sunday morning with straight-talking “this is how the Bible says His people should live and think” messages, centered on a trust relationship with Jesus.

“For those who come out of long-held traditional religions, there is a rewiring of the way people understand and relate to God, but this is true coming out of any worldview into a biblical comprehension,” Doleshal told Baptist Press. “Our congregation loves God and His Word, the Bible. Because God and His wisdom are infinite, we are constantly learning, which is necessary for all of us to mature spiritually.”

Calvary New Prague offers Bible studies for all ages, plus 10 community groups, as well as ministries to meet specific local needs, such as parenting teens, being a good grandparent, and partnering with people at stress points in their lives.

Time is given the last Sunday of each month for the five-person mission team to bring up matters of interest to the congregation, such as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering video produced by the North American Mission Board.

In addition to helping provide for several independent missionaries, Calvary New Prague members allocate 7 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists pool their mission dollars so people in North America and around the world can hear of God’s unconditional love for them.

“From our very first budget we’ve been giving 7 percent,” Doleshal said. “It doesn’t do any good or make any sense to be a member of something you believe in and not contribute to it.

“We know from the national level to the state and associational level there are all sorts of services and help available to us. By participating in the Cooperative Program we are part of something much bigger than what we ourselves can do alone.”

Stepka added to his pastor’s comments.

“Southern Baptists supported us tremendously,” the church elder said. “I’m glad we can support them back so they can re-give to someone else, to keep the church planting going wherever it may be needed.”