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N.H. church receives building as gift; works toward 100 baptisms

EDITORS’ NOTE: Baptist Press will release a feature story on each church on the itinerary of the national bus tour of Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch.

LONDONDERRY, N.H. (BP)–When their pastor left, the nine remaining members of an independent Bible church prayed about what they should do. At the same time, the members of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church were praying for the Lord to provide them with a new building.

The answer to the prayers is stop No. 12 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of churches. Welch conceived of a national bus tour rally as a means of generating a sense of urgency about evangelism among Southern Baptists. The bus tour is a kickoff for “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

The nine members were in the process of giving their 300-seat church to Christian Fellowship when they asked what they could do to join with the Southern Baptist church plant.

“It was clearly God’s hand — not something I was able to work out,” said Mark Ballard, who started Christian Fellowship in 1998. “The church is absolutely united; that wouldn’t have happened without the hand of God.”

A reliance on prayer undergirds the work of Christian Fellowship. A group of people has set aside every Thursday to pray for revival and spiritual awakening in New Hampshire, New England and the nation. The pastor prays every day by name for every member and every person who comes regularly enough that their name is on the church mailing list.

“The soil here is very hard,” Ballard said. “People don’t go to church just to go to church here. In the South, Christianity was part of the culture. It wasn’t that way in my home in Colorado, and it’s certainly not here in New Hampshire.

“Having pastored two established churches and starting two others, I pretty much had the mechanics down,” the pastor added. “We saw some fruit here, but not much. The Lord moved on my heart that I needed to make prayer a priority and not let other things crowd out the time I needed with the Lord.”

During this church year, 17 people have made professions of faith; seven have followed through with baptism.

“As part of Bobby Welch’s emphasis at the convention [for a million baptisms], we set a goal for July 1 to June 30 [2005],” Ballard said. “We’re asking God for 100 baptisms. I don’t think that’s been done in New England since Southern Baptists have been working here, that any church has had 100 baptisms. But we know that he gave us a building last year. He can give us 100 baptisms this year.”

Christian Fellowship’s faithfulness to God starts with its finances. Before the first offering was taken, the fledgling church determined that 15 percent would be directed to missions: 5 percent for the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptist’s method for global evangelism and training of church leaders; 5 percent to the New Hampshire Baptist Association; and 5 percent to church planting efforts elsewhere in the state.

The church also pledged to add at least one-half percent a year to the Cooperative Program until 10 percent was reached. Today Christian Fellowship gives 8 percent to CP Missions, 5 percent to the association and a little more than 5 percent to church planting.

“I’m absolutely convinced that if I as a pastor want my people to learn to tithe and to give over and above the tithe, number one, to do it myself, and number two, to lead the church to do it with missions,” Ballard said. “The Lord has been faithful. At the end of three years, we came off all outside support.

“The Lord has honored our giving to missions, and in the coming year we’re trusting the Lord to add a second staff member,” the pastor said.

Christian Fellowship has helped four other church plants, and the pastor served as president of the Baptist Convention of New England for 2002-03. At the same time, the church has sent members on short-term mission trips to Canada, Israel and security-sensitive areas. One person even went back to serve overseas longer.

Closer to home, Christian Fellowship has two men preparing for career ministry and three men who rotate the pulpit at a local campground and a nearby church plant. Ballard and others started the online Northeastern Biblical Studies Center to help meet the need of lay leaders for additional training.

In New Hampshire, Christian Fellowship helps other church plants with their special events and door-to-door surveying. “We do what we can to help others, especially in the early days of their work,” Ballard said.

Summer is the biggest local mission work time at Christian Fellowship, the pastor added.

“Every week we have an evangelism outreach like going to parks and handing out water or free car washes or mall-walking [in prayer,]” Ballard said. “We found that to be the most effective outreach we can do here, the servant evangelism. With each act of service, our folks tell the recipients, ‘The greatest gift in life is free: Jesus.'”