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Church’s 50 baptisms reflect pastor’s passion for outreach

ALBION, Okla. (BP)—-Johnny Montgomery is seeing concrete results –- certainly in his family’s concrete business but also at the small church he serves as bivocational pastor.

Albion Baptist Church in southeastern Oklahoma baptized 50 new believers in 2004 — a far cry from the four baptisms of 2003. The upswing in baptisms placed Albion atop the list of leaders in both total baptisms and baptism ratio for churches with memberships between 1-99, according to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

The church’s baptism ratio in 2004 was 1.2, which means it took only 1.2 members to reach another person for Christ -– nearly a one-for-one result.

The church also has grown from about 30 in Sunday School to around 60 since Montgomery was called as Albion’s bivocational pastor, and 80-90 now attend worship every Sunday.

Among the reasons for the growth is Montgomery’s emphasis on the Great Commission –- “something I really stress.”

“We can have church every Sunday, and we can meet and do all these other things, but yet, if we’re not out doing the Great Commission, we’re not doing what the Lord wants us to do.”

Montgomery joins church members in visiting regularly whenever the opportunity presents itself.

“We don’t have a specific visitation night,” he said. “If I feel led after work, I’ll holler at a friend and ask him to go see someone with me.

“The awesome thing about that is I have a lot of young Christians, and I really don’t have to ask them to go; they want to go. That’s where a lot of our discipleship comes in.

“I fully believe the more you share the Gospel, the more you’re going to grow, because the more you share the Gospel, you’re going to get challenged, and you’re going to end up needing to study the Word of God to show yourself approved to the people.”

Albion’s vibrancy reflects the commitment which Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, underscored in his Jan. 25 message to the state evangelism conference.

“I am challenging you to change what you are doing in your own personal walk with God,” he said. “… I want to ask you, for the sake of every boy and girl in your town without Jesus, and for the sake of every single mother who … can’t put food on the table, for the sake of every teenage girl who goes home wondering what is going to happen to her in her home tonight, and for the people who live in the big house and nobody will go talk to them about Jesus — I’m going to ask you for their soul’s sake to change.”

Akin to the unfolding “Everyone Can” campaign in the Southern Baptist Convention to reach and baptize 1 million people in a year, Jordan urged conference attendees to commit to witnessing to at least one person a month with the aim of leading him/her to accept Christ as Savior, follow Him in baptism and become involved in a Southern Baptist church.

Speaking to pastors, Jordan urged them to “put the main thing back in the center of your church by putting it in the center of your life. And I’m going to ask you not to let a week go by that you don’t find someone to share with.

“Pastors, our churches will not win people to Christ if we are not in the business of winning people to Christ ourselves.”

Albion Baptist Church, in addition to its door-to-door evangelism, often holds outreach events such as catfish dinners and turkey shoots.

“I told the people when I came here, ‘In order to see the church blessed, we have to be obedient to the Lord, and we have to reach the lost at any cost,” Montgomery, formerly a bivocational youth minister, said.

“We put on a turkey shoot and advertised it in the paper. We gave away a shotgun and had 10-15 guys who would never, ever set foot in a church come. One of those guys was saved as a result.

“Since then, we’ve won almost his entire family to the Lord. It’s been awesome. It was a great ministry and we’re going to do it again this spring.”

Montgomery has led the congregation through a “Fresh Start with God” study developed at Saddleback Church led by California pastor Rick Warren. And once-a-month “testimony nights” have been key in encouraging his members to share their stories.

“One Sunday night a month, we have testimony night. I want our people to open up and share their testimony because I don’t believe a Christian can move forward until they have shared their testimony or the Gospel with someone,” the pastor said. “Once they have done that, then they can start moving forward in Christ, and then it’s easier for them to share the Gospel. It’s really opened the people up, and they want to go out and share the Gospel because they understand the Great Commission….

“The Lord has done an amazing work here,” Montgomery said. “I’m just praising God that I have been able to be a part of it. I praise Him for all He has done, and give Him all the glory.”
Compiled from reporting by Bob Nigh, managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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