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Church has a special glow when people come to Christ

SAN DIEGO (BP)–Large “salvation candles” on each side of the platform are lit during Sunday morning services at New Seasons Church if someone has been led to Christ that week. If no one has been saved, the candles are dark.

“Bless God, there hasn’t been a Sunday since March when those candles haven’t been burning,” A.B. Vines, pastor of the year-old San Diego congregation, said. “I’ve told my people that if there is a Sunday when we can’t light those candles, it means we have failed the Lord and we will have to come to the altar, fall on our faces and confess our sin to God that we’ve let a week go by without bringing someone to Him.”

New Seasons Church was formed in January 2005 when Highland Park Baptist Church -– a black congregation led by Vines -– and Bancroft Baptist Church –- a white congregation led by Cal Samuels -– decided to merge.

Although there have been growing pains as the multiethnic church finds its voice, the vision of the church is clear: Most of its growth has come from conversions and people new to the community.

The church participates in LifeWay Christian Resources’ FAITH/Sunday School Evangelism Strategy as a means of sharing the Gospel. After Vines, Samuels and other New Seasons members attended a FAITH National Institute at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., they haven’t looked back.

“One thing Bobby Welch [SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.] taught us in FAITH is that your church will grow, so don’t put off planning for the growth,” Vines said. “When the growth happens … we won’t miss a beat ministering to the people. You have to look to the future.”

Diversity marks New Seasons’ FAITH outreach teams. “We have to have every flavor -– black, white, Hispanic and Asian -– to reach out to this community,” Vines said. “We’ve been focusing our visits on the area behind our Paradise Valley site. When we knock on doors, we find rainbows. We never know what language we are going to need, so as much as possible we combine colors and languages on our teams.”

In a seven-mile radius around the church, the population is 42 percent Asian, 22 percent Hispanic, 18 percent white and 10 percent black; poverty, gangs, violence, drugs and alcohol are a way of life in the area, Vines said.

“What we want is for the community to see us as a refuge,” the pastor said. “We want them to look over here and see us as their church, a center of ministry and healing.”

Michael Dunn, New Seasons’ FAITH director, leads the teams with a contagious enthusiasm. As the teams gather to go out, he regularly exhorts, “People, we are going to usher someone into the Kingdom tonight!”

After one evening’s visits, members of one team were bursting to give their report. “We got one!” said Kim Shropshire, the church’s youth minister. “We knocked on this lady’s door and she kept saying, ‘Just a minute, just a minute.’ So we kept praying. When she finally came to the door we went through the FAITH survey. She kept asking questions. Her little boy was coming to the door, banging on it with his sippy cup, and she’d tell him, “Just a minute, just a minute.’ Then, her brother kept coming to the door asking, ‘Jennifer, are you all right?’ and she’d say, ‘Yes, I’m all right. Just a minute!’

“So when I finally asked her if she wanted to pray to ask Christ into her life, she said, ‘Right now?’ and I told her, ‘Yes, right now, right here on your porch.’ And she did! We were all laughing and crying. We invited her to church Sunday and told her we’d meet her. We gave her the church’s phone number, our home phone numbers, our cell phone numbers, everything!”

“Hallelujah!” Vines shouted. “We’ll have those candles lit on Sunday.”

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  • Polly House