Published Aug 09, 2022
CLEARLAKE—After months of outreach to city employees by First Baptist Church in Clearlake, a city hall worker named Crystal brought her daughter to the church’s Backyard Bounce House Party. She told a church leader, “I came to this event because you have handed out several things at city hall from your church… I decided to see what you guys are all about.” A few weeks later, she received Christ as her Lord and Savior.
First Baptist hopes others will make the same decisions—both about visiting the church and following Christ. That hope is why the congregation has blitzed its community, some 90 miles northwest of Sacramento, with outreach over the past 18 months. California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) evangelism grants have played a major role in the blitz.
“Our purpose is to involve the church in the community and the community with the church, to identify ourselves with the community and let the community identify themselves with the church,” Pastor Tim Miller said. “That opens up doors where the gospel can be proclaimed.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Miller and First Baptist. He was called as pastor in December 2020, amid the pandemic shutdown. His first in-person service as pastor was Feb. 14, 2021, with 15 people in attendance. Miller and his wife Lisa realized quickly that the church lacked outreach and discipleship, so they launched new ministry efforts.
But they wondered if a church of 15 could really make a serious impact on a city of more than 15,000.
The answer became evident in the outreach blitz’s opening days: of course. It just took some creative thinking and trust in Christ. Lisa Miller made baskets with baked goodies, information about the church and plaques thanking local government workers for their service. Then she took the baskets to the police department, the fire department, city hall and the veterans administration.
The church’s first big event came in November 2021—a first responders chili cookoff. First Baptist invited the police, the fire department, and city hall workers for a chili cooking competition, including a bounce house, concessions and a Gospel presentation. Despite rain the day of the event, more than 60 people attended. The event was supported by a CSBC evangelism grant.
Other outreaches followed in rapid-fire succession. First Baptist established a monthly breakfast for first responders replete with biscuits and gravy. Then last month, they hosted the Backyard Bounce House Party to kick off a week of Vacation Bible School. Approximately 60 people attended the party, with 20 registering for VBS. The party was funded in part by a second CSBC evangelism grant.
Eternal fruit of the outreach blitz is beginning to emerge. Three adults professed faith in Christ in July along with more than 20 children. The church is proceeding cautiously with the children, wanting to make sure their commitments to Christ are genuine.
The 15 people at Miller’s first in-person service have more than doubled to a weekly worship average of nearly 40. Another bounce house party is being planned for November.
Through its outreach campaign, First Baptist is discovering that some in Clearlake are ready to receive Christ. They just need someone to invite them to do it. Several months ago, Miller shared the Gospel with a police captain and asked him, “Can you think of any reason why you wouldn’t be willing to receive Jesus Christ into your life?”
The captain answered enthusiastically, “Well why wouldn’t I!” He was saved, baptized and became an active part of the church.
Any California Southern Baptist church that has given through the Cooperative Program in the past 12 months may apply for an evangelism grant at https://csbc.com/evangelism-grant-request/https://csbc.com/evangelism-grant-request/.