WILMINGTON, Del. (BP)–About 150 people attend Sunday morning worship at Bethany Baptist Church in Wilmington, Del., and about 150 attend Sunday School.
The church brings in about 50 youngsters from inner-city Wilmington via a bus ministry.
“We started a program about four years ago called Kingdom Kids,” said Gene Johnson, pastor for the last six years at Bethany Baptist, located south of downtown Wilmington. “That’s the vision the Lord gave us: outreach, outreach, outreach. That’s what we’re all about.”
Bethany Baptist is stop No. 17 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.
The church’s outreach also includes reaching out within its local community to white collar workers involved in Wilmington’s credit card industry, to Mississippi (through a partnership) and around the world.
At least 20 people have been baptized so far this year, including a couple who had lived a block from the church for 15 years. They happened to visit for the first time on the Sunday that Bethany Baptist started its 40 Days of Purpose discipleship study. The entire family now is involved in the church, the pastor said.
Bethany Baptist sits in the middle of a 400-home middle class community called Tuxedo Park, and it was birthed in 1950 during tension at another church about belonging to the American Baptist or Southern Baptist denomination.
A building was constructed for the fledgling congregation, but the community wasn’t significantly impacted by the church’s presence.
“When I came here they were running about 60, and nobody from the [Tuxedo Park] community,” Johnson said. “When I came there was no vision for children. We started a Wednesday night supper, and there was no high chair in the building!”
Ministry to children and their families now is a major component of Bethany Baptist’s outreach. The Kingdom Kids program includes taking the inner city and local youngsters on an outing such as bowling or skating once a month. The care their youngsters have received has drawn in at least four families to the church, the pastor said.
Locally, church members go door-to-door once each month throughout Tuxedo Park and hang a small gift and information about the church on doorknobs. The gifts range from Valentine hearts in February to pro football schedules with testimonies from Christian athletes during football season.
Bethany Baptist hosts two or three weeklong backyard Bible clubs each summer, in addition to its Vacation Bible School, which this year drew in 115 children.
As part of its missions commitment, Bethany Baptist is in a partnership with First Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss.
“They’re sending people here, and we’re going there,” Johnson said. “They help us with finances as well as sending people, and we do things for them they’ve never done, that we have some proficiency at, like going door-to-door. We’ve been to Mississippi for three years straight.”
The Easter after his arrival as Bethany Baptist’s pastor, Johnson had a vision of people walking to the church. This year, he saw that happening, the pastor said.
“It’s been exciting,” Johnson said. “There were three hard years and the last couple of years have really been a blessing. Now we’re at the point of needing more people to do the ministry. We’ve got the people here. The friction is between the small number of committed, dedicated spiritual leaders, and the need for ministers.”
At least 60 percent of the congregation has been in church for less than two years, the pastor said. He is in the process of training them to be involved in ministry.
“My struggle is trying to get them where God wants them to be for the future,” Johnson said. “What kind of church does God want to be here five years from now? We can’t forget about what’s coming down the road.”