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Mont. church ministers to city ‘filled with prospects’

BILLINGS, Mont. (BP)–A major task for Trinity Baptist Church in Billings, Mont., is bonding with a community set on maintaining its independence.

Trinity was Stop No. 46 on Southern Baptist Convention 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.

“They have an independent mindset, where people in general are somewhat resistant to connecting with one another,” said Tim Wade, Trinity Baptist pastor since 1999. “We do everything we can to preach and teach ‘need for each other.'”

“… One of our key opportunities is the number of young single moms who live near the church. We have several currently attending and this neighborhood — lots of multifamily housing — is filled with prospects.”

The Sunday School ministry team realized single moms needed a class of their own, but before they could call Shelli Killham to ask if she would lead it, she called first, saying she felt God wanted her to minister to single moms.

“The strength of the class is further confirmation that this is something that pleases God,” Wade said, noting that eight attended the first Sunday of the class. “They’re building bonds, helping each other, even as they’re learning to put their trust in God.”

People in the community respond well to block parties, Wade said. The fifth one took place Sept. 11 of this year with a patriotic theme. This brought back memories of the church’s second block party, which took place the day after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

“It had been in the planning for months,” Wade said. “We prayed about it in the aftermath of the terrorists’ attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, and we felt like God told us this is just what the terrorists want, for us to cancel things like this. We made some adjustments; things were a bit more subdued than we’d originally planned.

“We didn’t have huge numbers, but there was a significant openness — people were seeking God. On Monday after the block party, a woman stopped by to receive Christ; later, her husband did as well.”

About 100 people from the community, in addition church members, attended this year’s block party, which included special events, carnival games, inflatables, hot dogs and chips, live entertainment, a cookie walk and door prizes.

“It was a day to celebrate the joy of the Lord, to focus on patriotism, to have fun and share the Gospel in a seed-planting kind of approach,” Wade said. “One lady did pray to receive Christ during the event.”

About 110 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Trinity. Four people have been baptized in the last year. On Sunday evenings, the church has Discipleship Training.

“We found we can get four times as many people here with a well-planned Discipleship Training than a service alone,” Wade said. “We had about 50 people complete Purpose Driven Life. We saw a lot of spiritual growth and one profession of faith from that.”

Wednesday night programs preceded by an inexpensive meal involve even more people, Wade said. Adults attend Bible study and teens meet for Bible study and recreation, and some 50 youngsters participate in the Team Kid program of fun and games along with Bible verse memorization, missions and morals development.

The church recently completed the first year in the Natural Church Development process toward increased church health, Wade said. About 30 Southern Baptist churches in Montana are involved in the process, which has its roots in Germany.

“I think this is a more solid study than anything else that has ever been done,” Wade said. “They found that of churches that stayed with the process long enough for the second questionnaire, 85 percent grow numerically. I’ve come to see especially through the Natural Church Development process that healthy churches better fulfill the Great Commission.”

Its connection with Southern Baptists and global missions is an essential component of Trinity, Wade said. The church designates 10 percent of its offerings to the SBC’s Cooperative Program for global missions and ministries, plus 2 percent to Yellowstone Baptist Association. It was also providing support to a church in Absarokee, Mont., that was suffering through a mine closure and a crippled local economy, but the church recently voted to close.

“We do need each other,” Wade said. “God didn’t save us to be ‘Lone Ranger’ Christians. If the Apostle Paul needed prayer and fellowship connections, how much more do we.”