News Articles

Across from Packers’ stadium, landlocked church casts a vision

GREEN BAY, Wis. (BP)–Highland Crest Baptist Church is landlocked in is location across the street from where the Green Bay Packers football team plays, so the church plans to strategically place satellite churches across the region to handle its growth.

Highland was stop No. 35 Sept. 26 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour to emphasize evangelism in kicking off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal for Southern Baptist churches to “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

The church’s proximity to the Packers’ football stadium, and the visibility the church has in the community because of that, leaves members hesitant to relocate from their four-acre site, said pastor Jim Downs.

The solution is strategically placed satellite churches, said Downs, pastor since 1990 of the church that was started in 1957.

“It’s not unlike a Shell gas station,” he said. “They put them in different areas because people don’t want to drive across town to buy their gas. If we can provide in other locations something very like we have here, which God seems to be blessing, then we can multiply the ministry of Highland Crest.

“One of our untapped areas is house-to-house,” the pastor continued. “I think people are more willing to hear the Gospel than most people realize. For every one who might slam the door, I think there are 10 who will hear at least some part of what you want to say. Our job is to go out and tell the Gospel and trust God will bless that.”

Recounting one such encounter, the pastor pointed to the young lady’s testimony in church recently. “She told us her life was completely wrapped up in her work and her son, until one of our men shared with her and she opened her life to Christ. She’s found there’s so much more to life than she ever thought.

“She’s typical of many who have been like that,” the pastor continued. “She’s as hungry as can be for the things of God.”

Compared to the Bible belt, Wisconsin is a place where most people are from a Lutheran or Roman Catholic background, Downs said; they’re “churched” but without assurance of salvation.

The FAITH strategy of evangelism through the Sunday School helps bridge the gap, the pastor said. This fall, Highland Crest is in its fourth semester of the outreach. Twelve people made professions of faith during FAITH visits earlier this year.

About 400 attend two worship services at Highland Crest; about 300 attend Sunday School.

“We’re trying to maximize use of our building,” Downs said. “This was one of the early churches in the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention. It began when a couple of families who had been attending an American Baptist church began to have difficulties with the doctrine. They called upon the Illinois Baptist convention to come up; someone there gave them some information and encouraged them to start meeting as a Southern Baptist congregation.”

The fledgling congregation began by meeting in homes, then small buildings before buying six acres -– and later selling two to what is now an office building.

The church was named for the street it was on –- Highland Avenue –- and the fact it was just over the crest of a hill. Then the Packers built a stadium, and the city of Green Bay decided to rename the street to Lombardi Avenue after famed Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi. The congregation opted to keep its original name.

Worst part about that: They haven’t been able to make inroads to the players, but the location has helped the church to grow, the pastor said.

About 400 volunteers built a worship center in 1992 for Highland Crest. Every year since, the church has sent out its own construction and other types of mission teams.

“This year we sent out four teams,” Downs said. “A dozen [members went] to St. Louis to build a church; 13 to Brazil in July for two weeks to do church planting and relationship evangelism -– house to house and sharing Christ in schools; a senior high group went to Nebraska to work on an Indian reservation — Vacation Bible School and one-on-one evangelism; and a junior high group went to Flint, Mich., to do painting and cleanup for a church and associational office.”

Highland Crest has a deaf ministry with about 10 participants, one of whom joined in the St. Louis construction outreach.

“He was able to rub shoulders with other workers, and that was good for him,” Downs said, noting that the workers understood and worked with his inability to hear verbal commands.

Highland Crest gives 15 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, the channel for supporting SBC causes across the nation and worldwide. The church also gives 2 percent to Bay Lakes Baptist Association and 3 percent for the church’s direct missions projects.

“We started several years ago designating a percentage of our receipts back for direct missions,” Downs said. “We really wanted to get our people involved in direct missions –- missions trips and that type of thing. We had done a bit of that here and there; we decided this was the year to get kicked off in a big way.”

Their personal involvement in missions helped members realize the difference they could make for God’s Kingdom work, the pastor said.

“In the Brazil trip I think we had some people find out they could do something they hadn’t done in the past,” Downs said. “A couple of teens were able to stand in front of a class in a school and share their faith. One young lady led a woman to Christ and it was a real touching thing to her to realize she could do that.”