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Va. church’s opportunities stretch across street to Southeast Asia

GLEN ALLEN, Va. (BP)–Staples Mill Road Baptist Church is “one of those churches in the right place at the right time,” Pastor Peter L. du Plessis says.

“When we started years ago, we were out in the country, but now the town has come to us,” said du Plessis, near his 10-year mark as pastor of the Richmond, Va., congregation –- stop No. 7 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s national bus tour. Stop No. 6, also in Richmond, was at the SBC’s International Mission Board.

The tour is a kickoff for “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” by SBC churches in one year.

“The Lord has put us in the midst of all this development, such as the 190 condominiums for senior adults that are going up across the street,” du Plessis at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church noted. “We obviously are going to become concerned about senior adults. Behind that is another subdivision with a new middle school.”

The church voted in mid-August to start planning for a family life center to meet needs for children, youth and adults. It’s a far cry from the tent that was used in the early 1950s to house a Vacation Bible School in what then was a community with no church.

Staples Mill Road church started as a result of that VBS. Today, about 350 people gather for Sunday morning worship in a worship center built two years ago; 300 participate in Sunday School.

In its global reach, the church has worked with the International Mission Board by adopting the Kui people of Thailand, with church members having gone four times to that region on short-term mission trips; one young couple from the church recently were appointed career missionaries to that people group.

“We really try to work within the lines of our denomination,” du Plessis said, “because we know its mission endeavors are organized and planned like they ought to be.”

The pastor also noted, “We’ve been a FAITH [Sunday School evangelistic strategy produced by LifeWay Christian Resources] church for three years. We combine FAITH and GROW [an outreach effort also produced by LifeWay] to make it easy for everyone to get involved in outreach.

“For us, it’s not ‘letting them down at the church do it,’ but, ‘I can do something,’” the pastor said. “We have some folks willing to come and make phone calls, write letters and do prayerwalking. We have some volunteers we call the FAITH ‘swat team’ who go door-to-door. What we’re doing is encouraging everyone to be involved in evangelism.”

And not only evangelism. Nearly all the 402 volunteer positions in a range of ministries for the 2004-05 church year were filled by mid-August.

“The key challenge for us is to stay focused on the mission of the church, which is based on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” du Plessis said. “We want to build buildings and facilities as tools to reach others.

“When we built the sanctuary two years ago, we told everybody, ‘That’s just the beginning of what the Lord wants us to do to reach people,’” the pastor continued. “The end is, we have to reach more people. We don’t want to get caught up in ‘us’ and ‘ours.’”

A Bible-teaching daycare utilizes most of the church space during the week; about 170 youngsters between the ages of six weeks and sixth grade are enrolled. The church also offers the AWANA Bible study and memorization program, encompassing about 100 youngsters on Sunday nights. The music ministry, which has choirs for all ages, is, as described by du Plessis, strong and growing — and producing musicals that are used as outreach events.

Staples Mill Road participates in Operation Paint Brush in cooperation with the county; church members provide the labor while the county supplies the materials.

“The county called us to ask for volunteers about four years ago,” du Plessis said. “They saw we had some youth doing yard work and asked about that. Then they added painting. Then roofing. It’s kind of grown as they’ve realized our folks are responding.” The church also cooperates with a community food bank by collecting canned goods and contributing financially.

Staples Mill Road youth participate each summer in World Changers construction projects; this year they went to Puerto Rico. They also are involved in Impact Virginia, a statewide construction and missions program.