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Kentucky church spreads its influence through 2 locations

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)—-“One Church. Two Locations.” It’s an apt self-description of Highview Baptist Church.

Begun 50 years ago with about 20 members, the Louisville, Ky., church now encompasses about 1,950 in Sunday worship at its original Fegenbush Campus location.

Three years ago, Highview added an East Campus, beginning with 80 people meeting at a Christian academy. Today about 850 attend Sunday worship and a $12 million facility is being built.

Highview was stop No. 20 Sept. 7 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour to launch “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

At Highview, the “two-location philosophy really works!” said Kevin Ezell, the church’s pastor since 1996.

It works in part because of the church’s close connection with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the pastor said. At the East Campus, the seminary’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., teaches a Sunday School class and professor Thom Rainer, author of “Effective Evangelistic Churches” and numerous other books, leads the Wednesday night service. Seminary students provide crucial support through Highview’s numerous ministries at both campuses.

“The use of interns from Southern Seminary is a huge strength for us,” Ezell said. “We invest ourselves in seminary interns, and we also develop good lay leadership.”

Weekend worship starts with a 5 p.m. Saturday service at the Fegenbush Campus, and again 8, 9:15 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, with Bible study at 9:15 and 10:30 a.m. The East Campus has Bible study at 10 a.m. and worship at 11:15, with Ezell driven there in time to preach.

“The two locations provide some interesting challenges but they also provide a larger area to draw from and reach,” the pastor said. “We’ll be moving into our new east facility at Christmas that seats 1,900 on the main level. This will allow tremendous potential for growth.”

Highview doesn’t depend on its buildings to generate numerical growth. It was among the first wave of churches to adopt the FAITH strategy of evangelism through the Sunday School, and at least 100 people have been baptized so far this year through the efforts of FAITH teams to share their faith.

Jeremy Brown, 17, was one. He lived with his sister and their mom and was involved with youth FAITH training in April at Highview when he made a profession of faith and was baptized. In August, Jeremy died during football practice.

“The church responded the only way it could to this tragedy,” Ezell said. “Our young people rallied around his sister. Our women comforted his mom. How horrible it would have been for them if they didn’t have a church that cared.”

The use of the FAITH strategy for evangelism through the Sunday School has helped the church in several ways, the pastor said.

“When you’re making that many contacts, percentages say you’re going to have a good response,” Ezell said. “I believe God honors our obedience in making those contacts.

“FAITH also helps our church stay focused and passionate on the Great Commission,” the pastor continued. “Our people trained in FAITH are our very best members.”

FAITH-trained members’ commitment to the church is greater in all facets of church life -– attendance, participation, stewardship -– than the commitment of non-FAITH-trained members, the pastor said, noting, “FAITH equips people to serve at a higher level.”

Describing Highview as also having a passion for missions, Ezell recounted that church members have helped start churches in Philadelphia, Seattle, Indianapolis and New York City and have gone on missions trips to Brazil, North Africa, the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The church’s adult choirs recently produced a CD, “House of Praise.” It’s available on the church website and through its “Growing Strong” television ministry and Christian store at the Fegenbush campus.

In addition to its outreach locally and globally, Highview provides discipleship and fellowship for its members and guests.

A meal, fellowship and discipleship-building Bible studies are offered on Sunday nights, with small groups utilizing Crown Financial Ministries resources, for example, or offering such groupings as Marriage Mentoring, Grief Share, Single Again and Married Again. The church also offers an AWANA program for children.

“One of our challenges is having our facilities keep up with the people,” Ezell said. “At Highview our desire is to model the picture of the church as found in Acts 2. We are getting back to the basics of what God has called us to be.”