News Articles

New congregation helps seekers to grasp that ‘Truth is Out There&#821

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (BP)–Mix a little seed money with hard work, a dream for the future and a lot of faith — and you have Ni River Community Church.
The contemporary “seeker-targeted” Southern Baptist mission congregation — only a dream several years ago — has amazed its leaders from its first service on.
It began with 450 in attendance on Sunday, Feb. 28, in a high school in Fredericksburg, Va., and over its first 18 Sundays averaged that number.
During the same period, Ni River church has had 75 professions of faith and 21 baptisms with more in waiting. And its offering averages $12,000 a month from two Sunday services for “seekers” and a Wednesday evening worship geared to believers.
“We’ve really hit our target dead-on — unchurched people aged 25 to 45 who had given up on church but were seeking truth,” said Pat Taylor, pastor-church planter for the mission of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in north Stafford, Va.
“We’re not looking for ‘fish’ in someone else’s aquarium,” he quipped. “We’re looking for our own. Sixty to 70 percent of the people at the Sunday services are unchurched. People know it’s a dark world out there, and they’re seeking light.”
Two years ago, the Fredericksburg Baptist Association set aside $20,000 to call a pastor-church planter. Then $15,000 in seed money came from a new church grant from the Virginia Baptist Mission Board of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
“Seed money was absolutely critical for beginning the mission,” sponsored by the association and Mt. Ararat church, said Steve Aycock, associational director of missions. “It certainly helped the association launch its dream for a seeker-targeted congregation in Spotsylvania County.”
And it has paid dividends in changed lives.
Middle-class professionals from around Fredericksburg and Washington, D. C., responded to three mailings of 28,000 each, radio and newspaper ads, and word of mouth that boosted attendance with each succeeding week.
“We had the money and volunteers to do the advance work right,” Aycock said.
He and Taylor credit that result to a cooperative spirit that included 15 churches, the association, Virginia Baptists and the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. NAMB appointed Taylor, a former pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in the association, as a missionary church planter and shares his support with Virginia Baptists.
Besides a lot of hard work, the association contributed $50,000 to the effort, and churches in the association about $55,000. Mt. Ararat Baptist Church gives about $1,000 a month. The combined efforts exceeded the Ni River congregation’s launch goal of $107,000 in five months.
Ni River now gives 5 percent of its budget to the Cooperative Program through the Baptist General Association of Virginia and 5 percent to the association.
The seeker-targeted church, built on the Willow Creek and other models for contemporary seeker churches, aims at unchurched people in search of meaning to bring them to faith in Christ. Then a discipleship program helps them become devoted followers of Christ.
A typical seeker service led by Taylor is built around a topic that relates to the lives of modern-day people.
A song, either popular or Christian (mostly Christian), focuses on helping seekers identify themselves with the topic. “Then, through such things as monologues, drama, overheads, video and music, the topic is developed so that a seeker will say, “Yes, that’s my problem,’” Aycock explains.
“At the climax of the service, the sermon presents what the Bible has to say about the topic.”
That has kept people of all ages coming back for more. “Many have told us that this is the first time the Bible has really had meaning to them and related to problems in their lives,” Taylor said.
One woman — who got Ni River’s “X-Files” mailer, proclaiming that the “Truth is Out There” — told Taylor that she and her husband hadn’t gone to church for 10 years.
“We started coming to the services, and it saved our marriage,” she said.
An Orthodox Jew approached Taylor after a service. “I don’t believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah, but I’m a seeker,” said the man, who previously attended another seeker-targeted church. “What should I do?”
Taylor directed him to some books at Ni River’s “seeker table” and suggested he attend small seeker group meetings. “Ask questions and pray, and God will lead you to the truth,” Taylor said.
Three weeks later the man accepted Christ and was later baptized.

    About the Author

  • Robert O'Brien