Cherryville church finds ways to connect
    April 7 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Many churches utilize Upward Basketball as a community outreach tool. In fact Upward Sports, with headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., reports 230 Upward basketball leagues in North Carolina this season.

    Churches find Upward one way to fill their gyms with kids from the community, which is one justification for most churches who built them in the first place. Upward leagues can bring a flood of people through your facility for eight weeks who can afford the $65 or so it costs per participant.

    But First Baptist Church Cherryville turns the tables on that cost and assumes all the expenses itself. For the 350 boys and girls involved in their fourth season of Upward Basketball this year, the Cherryville congregation foots the bill for more than $20,000.

    They involved close to 100 volunteers and saw about 2,000 people through their facility every Saturday. Pastor Vince Hefner says many young people made professions of faith through the distinctly Christian sports activity.

    “It’s a recruiting tool for Jesus, not a recruiting tool for our church,” Hefner said. In season and out, Hefner looks for ways to keep his congregation actively involved with ministry, community and personal growth.

    “A local church ought to be involved in ministry 12 months of the year,” said Hefner, pastor for eight years in Cherryville. Besides, he said, when people are busy in ministry and personal growth, they don’t complain about the carpet, heat or sermons!

    The church launched a personal growth event this winter called 27·30, a challenge to read the 27 books of the New Testament in 30 days. Hefner provided a reading schedule and has given away 1,300 New Testaments with schedules.

    When church members wore their 27·30 T-shirts and told friends on Facebook what they were doing, requests for the schedule came from all over.

    The shirts are an evangelism tool, said Hefner, a member of the Biblical Recorder board of directors. People naturally ask about their meaning and the wearer can say, “Let me tell you how the Lord spoke to my heart in 30 days of reading His word.”

    Church members also demonstrate their giftedness through a prayer quilt ministry in which participants gather twice a week to construct quilts as gifts of love given to terminally ill patients. Hefner secured the loan of several acres of land from a church member on which other church members are going to plant a major garden this spring. When the vegetables are harvested, they will be given at no cost to those in need.

    On Sunday mornings some men meet at a local outdoor recreation store the owner lets them use for Bible study with men who avoid a church building like they avoid rickety deer stands. They cook breakfast and study the Bible in an atmosphere where they feel at home.

    “We’ve been blessed here not to just have ideas, but to have planning and implementation as well,” said Hefner, who wishes he could help pastors see the need for planning and not just for having ideas. “Lots of people have ideas. I have an idea for world peace, but no plan to implement it.”

    Hefner sees his church, with attendance of about 500, as “counter punchers.” They have a steady stream of smaller projects and activities.

    Wednesday nights the church has Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action mission groups, and utilizes an Awana program on Sunday nights.

    A space in the old fellowship hall has been remodeled into a coffee house that is very popular with the high school crowd. When unemployment started hitting local families a couple years ago, First Baptist held a job fair, matching employers with prospects.

    Cherryville Area Ministries (CAM) is a service oriented ministry that helps struggling families. While a silent auction has raised money for CAM before, Hefner thought he could cajole more funds out of supporters with a live auction this year and the event at First Baptist raised $10,000.

    Hefner is all about outreach.

    “Anything I can do — that’s legal — I’m going to do to find a way to tell people about Jesus,” he said.
    4/7/2010 8:26:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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