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Ind. church touches its community & the world

GREENWOOD, Ind. (BP)–“Dozens upon dozens” of touches are important to the members of Calvary Baptist Church.

“We want people who aren’t connected with Bible study to be connected and be touched,” said pastor Butch Tanner.

At least 100,000 people live within four miles of the church, located in a suburb south of Indianapolis. They’re Calvary’s first priority.

“The number one thing is connecting with at least 1 percent of those people; that’s our first goal,” Tanner said. “When I talk about connect, I mean build a relationship with them. We’re using our Sunday School as the driving instrument –- reaching, teaching, fellowship, family ministry.

“Why create a new wheel that duplicates what can be done through Sunday School?

“If you’re on our Sunday School roll, you’re going to get a quarterly. Even if you never come,” the pastor said. “If you’re a member of Calvary, then we commit to you to help you grow in your faith, and you commit to grow and do your ministry here. If you don’t live up to your end of the bargain, that doesn’t release us from ours.”

That’s how the church has grown to about 350 in Sunday morning worship, said Tanner, a former missionary with the SBC’s International Mission Board. He and his wife, Carole, born to missionary parents, and their family served in Zambia before their daughter’s health necessitated a return to the United States.

Calvary was stop No. 34 Sept. 24 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour to kick 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.

Tanner, who has led Calvary since 1999, said it is “one of those wonderful churches that restores your faith in what church is all about. There are chunks of things going on. It’s been awesome.”

Some people actively involved in the Greenwood congregation wouldn’t have had a thing to do with church five years ago, the pastor said. “Some people joined Sunday School literally to get us off their porch, but we have touched them, and they have changed.”

Telling of a woman who died recently, Tanner recounted that some members of Calvary had made themselves known to her family through persistent contact, and so the family asked the pastor to conduct her funeral. The next Sunday, the woman’s daughter attended Calvary for the first time and later made a profession of faith.

“If you get enough people touching them enough times, it’s got to make a difference,” Tanner said. “Here’s the one concern everyone seems to have: that we don’t stop. We’ve got plans; we’ve got dreams. And the only thing that would stop them would be for us to stop being faithful in the process. Doesn’t the Lord say if we’re faithful He’s going to make sure everything works?”

Calvary’s faithfulness includes the 10 percent of its undesignated offerings that are given to the Cooperative Program –- the CP Missions channel for supporting missions and ministry nationally and internationally. In all, probably about 25 percent of the church’s offerings are earmarked for missions and ministry.

The church recently completed a three-story educational building. Three houses previously used for Sunday School now provide for Korean and Romanian congregations, with a Burmese congregation set to fill the third.

Several Calvary members are involved in apartment ministries, including outreach to those who speak Spanish. The church also helps support ministries on area college campuses.

A former staff member is now a career missionary in Mexico; a family from the church now is studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas for career ministry. Some younger members of the congregation are in earlier steps of a call to career ministry, the pastor said.

“It’s fun to watch the process as people commit their lives to ministry and follow through with that,” Tanner said. “We want to become a receiving church that receives lost people so we can win them to the Lord and train them and become a sending church so we can send them out.”

Initial steps often have been the international missions trips church members have taken to Canada and Guatemala and, for several years, assisting an orphanage in the Ukraine, where a bull is named in honor of the pastor.

“One year, we raised money here for milk cows, and raised enough to buy two cows and a bull, and food for a year, and they named the bull Butch Tanner,” the pastor said with a grin.

Short-term mission trips change his members, the pastor said.

“It opens their eyes to a whole different world because we so often get involved in everything in our own life that many times we think our problems are the biggest thing in the world,” Tanner said. “When they go to a mission setting, they have to think differently and see differently and realize, man, we’re blessed beyond measure.”