News Articles

Md. church focuses ‘beyond walls’ to attract international folks

ROCKVILLE, Md. (BP)–When a former missionary to Indonesia is called as pastor to a congregation that considers itself diverse, it might be a logical next step for the church to begin deliberately reaching out to internationals.

At least, that’s the way First Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., sees things. Bob Schmidt has been pastor there for six years, after 12 years as an independent Baptist missionary. He learned the value of the Southern Baptist Convention from fellowshipping with SBC missionaries, he said.

First Rockville is stop No. 18 on SBC President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the country to kick off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“Last year we baptized a lady who had come to the States to visit her daughter,” Schmidt said. “She came to the Lord while attending our church. She was baptized a week before returning to China.”

At least 13 people have been baptized so far this year at First Rockville, which is on Interstate 270 just outside the Beltway that encircles Washington, D.C.

“We see ourselves as a church that prepares people for the mission field, like the lady from China,” Schmidt said.

First Rockville has a growing International Sunday School department — beginner and intermediate — that teaches English using the book of Mark. That’s up from one class five years ago, when the teacher was prepared but no one showed up for 10 weeks.

Five years ago, the church started to reach out to its community with FAITH evangelism teams. Four years ago, they began what has become an annual outdoor service, Connecting Community, which also includes dinner on the grounds for people who live up and down I-270.

“We’re also building an ROC — recreation outreach center — for Upward Basketball and Upward Soccer,” Schmidt said. “No gyms are available in this area, so there’s a real need in the community for a gym. But we’re wrestling with the city — many constant, nitpicky things that are ridiculous.”

First Rockville doesn’t limit its outreach to local efforts.

“We have so many internationals,” Schmidt said. “They say, ‘Go to our country.’ And we do!”

Teams have gone twice to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where one of the members has a connection. Other teams have gone three times to India and are praying about starting a relationship with several lay-led churches in southern India as a result. The pastor’s daughter is an International Mission Board Journeyman missionary in Botswana; church members plan to go there in March to help the Francistown Baptist Church with an evangelistic outreach.

First Rockville also recently started a translation ministry. All that’s needed is a two-person team so at least one is available every Sunday to translate the sermon from English to a second language using wireless technology and digital transistor radios, the pastor explained. Two Farsi-speaking members came to him, and now services are translated for three people who speak that particular Middle Eastern language.

“Hopefully that will grow, so we can do other languages as well,” Schmidt said. “We learned when we went to First Baptist Church Jacksonville to see how they did their international program that all you need is to be prepared. God will do the rest.”

In addition to 10 percent of undesignated funds going to the Cooperative Program and Montgomery Baptist Association, First Rockville also supports at least three individual missionaries and a local jail ministry.

“I think the important thing in the history of this church is the revival that’s taken place here,” Schmidt said. “This church has changed to where we’re not concentrating on us, we’re concentrating beyond our walls.”