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‘Experiencing God,’ FAITH have helped Ariz. church grow

KINGMAN, Ariz. (BP)–Going through the “Experiencing God” discipleship study and participating in the FAITH evangelism strategy has enabled members at First Southern Baptist Church in Kingman, Ariz., to focus this fall on the “Purpose Driven Life,” Pastor Paul Daniel said.

Materials produced by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention have helped guide church members to a closer walk with God, Daniel said.

The church was Stop No. 49 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the nation, underscoring the cause of evangelism in kicking off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“We baptized 42 in the 2003 calendar year and 21 so far this year,” Daniel said. “We just love FAITH; it’s really helped us get out into our community. Through FAITH we have been able to see sometimes whole families come to the Lord.

“I witnessed to one man having marital problems; he accepted Christ as his savior. He and his wife, already a Christian, started coming to church, and two of their children -– in their late teens -– also started coming and were saved. We see a lot of this.”

About 250 people in two services participate in Sunday morning worship at First Southern Baptist. The goal is to have 200 participate in Purpose Driven Life small groups.

“We feel like we’re in a mission field,” Daniel said. “About 80 percent of the people around here are unchurched. Mormons are the largest religious group in our area, but still, 80 percent don’t go to anyone’s church.”

The city of Kingman is expected to more than double in population within the next five years, Daniel said -– from 40,000 to 100,000.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Daniel said. “A lot of people are retiring here because the cost of living is less than California or Nevada. We visit the people who visit the church and send FAITH teams to people recommended to us by our members.”

First Southern Kingman was started in a home in 1944, and later built on a half-acre lot in the downtown area.

“About seven years ago we bought five acres in the southeast of town so we’d have room to grow,” Daniel said. “Now we’re in a growing part of town. We have two services and we need more Sunday School space.”

Additional construction is being considered but no plans have been formalized, the pastor said. On the other hand, lack of space is no reason to stop reaching out.

“One of the reasons we’re doing Purpose Driven Life is to strengthen commitment among our people but we also want to use it as an evangelistic tool,” Daniel said. “Our goal is that everyone connected in any way with people in the Kingdom will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

“I think our church is growing spiritually now. We have an increasing number of people involved in outreach, our finances have increased, our faith has increased and we have seen some people’s lives dramatically changed. We have a healthy church and I believe God wants to use our church to reach many people for Christ.”

The “Experiencing God” discipleship study by Henry Blackaby lifted the congregation to a new level of understanding God’s work among them, Daniel said. The study took place during the Sunday evening service.

“It was just something we felt God leading us to do that way,” Daniel said. “Now we feel God wants us to think in big ways that require God to move for us to accomplish what God wants us to do.”

First Southern Baptist helps support two mission churches — one in a lower-income part of Kingman, and one 20 miles out of town in a new community. It also gives 8 percent of undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program, and 6 percent to the River Valley Baptist Association.

For the last 10 years a major outreach of the church is its outdoor, four-scene, Christmas in Bethlehem program. Approximately 2,000 people drive by to see church members dressed in biblical costumes.

In the summer, the church youth help smaller churches in the area with Vacation Bible School. They went to Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico for training this summer. Next year they are scheduled to go on a mission trip in Arizona, and in 2006 on an international mission trip.

“We’re a missions-minded church,” Daniel said. “Think of this as a missions field.”