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6 congregations fan out from one building to touch lives

NEWTON, Mass. (BP)–Greek, Haitian, Philippine, Chinese and East Indian churches and, now, a multicultural congregation share the building known first as Hellenic Gospel Church in Newton, Mass.

Hellenic is stop No. 9 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the country to kick off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“We have a lot of different ethnic groups here,” said Hariton Deligiannides, pastor of the latest church in the mix, the multicultural Compass Community Church. Newton is less than 20 minutes west of Boston.

“We don’t have a target group per se,” Deligiannides said, explaining: “Whatever people are in the network of the [church’s] core group is our target group, because those are the natural relationships God has ordained.

“A lot of people we deal with here in the Northeast have been turned off by church,” Deligiannides said. “No matter how good we do on Sunday, we’re not going to get people to come to us. We have to go to them.”

Each of the congregations at Hellenic likewise focuses on developing relationships within their natural spheres of influence.

About a dozen older, Greek-speaking people comprise the Hellenic congregation, which was started in the mid-1980s and is led by bivocational pastor John Metallides.

“You’ll find most pastors in the Northeast are bivocational,” Deligiannides said.

Compass Community meets at 9:30 a.m. Sundays in the fellowship hall downstairs. The Chinese congregation meets at 10 a.m. in the upstairs worship center. Hellenic meets at 11 a.m. downstairs. The Haitian congregation, Eglise Baptiste Haitienne, meets at 1 p.m. upstairs. Philippine International Church meets at 4 p.m. downstairs. The East Indian congregation meets on Saturday nights once a month.

Compass was started as part of the metro Boston area’s Strategic Focus Cities thrust. Deligiannides moved from New York City, where he had worked in the Navigators parachurch organization for eight years.

“I grew up here,” Deligiannides said. “I was coming back to my roots.”

The first meeting was within weeks of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; the first worship was Christmas of that year. Eight people were baptized in the first year. About 20 now meet for worship.

“Our approach here is real relational-based,” Deligiannides said. “There’s a lot of sowing and reaping that have to go on. We want people in for the long haul, not to just repeat a prayer and follow their own ways.

“I understand the question about ‘how many,’ but it’s not how many you have, but how many are new Christians and what is the quality of their Christian growth,” the pastor continued. “The quality will eventually bring the quantity.”

Reflecting on the church’s evangelistic focus through small groups and “life-to-life” relationships, Deligiannides said, “You help them come to Christ and help them grow, and they help others and reciprocate the process.

“We train, equip and resource people to know how to relate to people and how to reach out to them, like having them get their friends to read the Bible with them. Continual exposure to the Scriptures will help people make the decision to follow Christ.”

Key challenges for the church, the pastor said, are staying focused on the quality of spiritual growth provided to each new believer and continuing to provide an environment for those who come to feel safe to be themselves with all the issues they have, the pastor said.

“It would be a good challenge, a blessing of course, for people to come to Christ in large quantities that we can follow up with and help them,” Deligiannides said. “The larger the work becomes, the easier to take a shotgun approach, but that won’t meet the needs especially of people new to faith.”