CRESTON, Iowa (BP) – “I’m just excited about some trends we are seeing in our church now,” Pastor Charles “Chuck” Spindler told Baptist Press recently. “Post-pandemic I’m seeing people with a desire to get reconnected, especially young families.
“We’re in a rural community so people here like being connected,” said the pastor of Crest Baptist Church, which started in 1964 and constituted as a church in 1979. The town of about 7,500 people sets 65 miles southwest of Des Moines.
Pre-pandemic, about 160 people attended Sunday morning services at Crest Baptist. The numbers are back to at least 150, and on Easter Sunday, 260 people were present in two services.
Back when Spindler was called as pastor 28 years ago, about 40 people were attending services. Even then, the church was allocating 10 percent of its budget for missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches work together in state conventions, across North America and throughout the world.
“It’s a matter of stewardship to look beyond our local church,” Spindler said about the church’s CP giving since he was called as pastor. “We had been a receiving church and I believed the church was at a point of being more of a giving church.
“The 10 percent we give through the Cooperative Program allows us to join with others to do something we alone could not do,” the pastor continued. “With CP we are engaged in international missions, connecting with the world. In a way, we are somewhat limited here in the rural heartland. Having the ability to touch the world for Christ’s sake through Southern Baptists missionaries is a blessing for us, and for them.”
Crest Baptist reaches out locally and regionally as well as globally.
Before Spindler became pastor, mission teams from Southern Baptist churches in the South traveled to Creston to lead Vacation Bible School at Crest Baptist. Spindler led the church to do their own VBS, and to take VBS elsewhere in southwest Iowa.
Not only did this enable Southern mission teams to go to places with greater need, but it also helped strengthen the gospel’s reach across Iowa.
“As a result of this philosophy – that we are a giving church – we’ve helped plant a few churches,” Spindler said. “One we fully sponsored, two we were secondary sponsors of, and we have helped others as well, all in Iowa and mostly nearby.”
From other income in excess of budget, Crest Baptist gave $10,000 in 2021 to help two southwest Iowa churches with facility needs. Members more recently voted to give $12,000 to the SBC’s Disaster Relief for tornado relief in Kentucky.
“Even though we’re not a big church, God has blessed us and we’re glad to share those resources as we’re able to,” Spindler said.
“We may not be able to go but we can help,” the pastor continued. “By funding the work of SBC Disaster Relief volunteers, who are there and serving people in crisis, we find fulfillment in our partnership.”
Several Crest Baptist members do short-term mission work in the United States and internationally, such as in Peru, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Three young adults from Crest are involved in career missions in Africa and Asia.
The church also is actively involved with its community.
At the suggestion of a member with cancer, Crest Baptist in 2015 organized a cancer support ministry that has grown to include 26 volunteers and currently 60 cancer patients.
The volunteers, most from the church, make “cancer support bags” that include puzzles, snacks, port pillows, and the like, to be given to first-time cancer patients for their use while undergoing routine treatment at the local hospital. The volunteers send cards quarterly, with Daily Bread devotions included, to the cancer patients on their list. Gas gift cards occasionally are given to those who need to travel for treatment.
“The cancer support group wants to aid in providing quality of life,” Spindler said. “There was just not any support system for cancer patients that was spiritual in nature when we started.”
One event is a trip to the theater for a Christian movie, with admission, popcorn and fountain drinks provided. Another is a leisurely trip via pontoon boat around the local Lake Icaria.
Around Valentine’s Day there’s a Coffee Fellowship, with food and musical entertainment provided by the support group “to give time for them and their family to fellowship with other cancer patients and their families,” Spindler said.
For 18 years Crest Baptist has been offering a Celebrate Recovery group. “I was doing jail ministry and realized most crimes were drug and alcohol-related,” the pastor said. “I felt we needed a Christ-centered recovery group.”
In addition to several other typical Southern Baptist ministries, Crest Baptist opened its doors in 2002 at no cost to Mayflower Heritage Christian School.
“It has maximized the use of our space and also helped in growing our facilities,” Spindler said, referring to its paved parking lot provided in part by a grant the school received for an outdoor play area for its students. The church/school partnership also netted a $300,000 construction grant for additional education space.
“I served in two previous churches where facilities were used only on Sunday and Wednesday,” the pastor said. “I thought then that wasn’t a good usage of buildings. Early in my ministry here I approached our county election supervisor to offer our church as a polling place. Now the building is used for voting, 4-H meetings, and a foster care group, among others. This is valuable in the utilization of the facility as well as being a good community partner.
“We want to be the best overseers of the resources God gives us not only in finances but also in people, discipling people so they can disciple others,” Spindler continued. “We have an outward view. We want to impact the world for Christ’s sake.”