In September of 2018, we found ourselves at a crossroads at Immanuel Baptist Church.
Even though our building sits on a busy major thoroughfare in Independence, MO, we had continued to see numbers dwindle on Sundays and our connection to our community grow ever more distant. The leadership team found themselves in the unenviable role of trying to assess what a church on the decline would do next.
That is when we agreed on one thing—Jesus Christ loves our church more than we do. All we had to do was follow Him. That all started with reaching out to several sister churches in our metro area including Lenexa Baptist, Fellowship Greenwood, Grace Church, Country Meadows, and Church of The Three Trails, and several others. We asked for advice, prayer, and pulpit supply most urgently first. All of the groups we reached out to were encouraging with one in particular taking an attitude of LOVING a fellow sister church completely—that church was Fellowship Greenwood led by Pastor Chris Williams. They poured out themselves on us with prayer campaign help, pulpit supply, worship encouragement, and many other key helps for us. Most of all, they loved us and prayed with us fervently for direction and wisdom
During one time of prayer, almost as an afterthought, we asked Pastor Chris if we should delay some much needed maintenance updates to our building until we found a pastor. His answer was a resounding NO! And with that, started a unifying effort to get our leadership team behind a proposed renovation in our worship center.
This created a genesis for unity in our congregation as we saw a common goal for good along with it becoming clear that we MUST reconnect to the neighborhood around our building as it had evolved mightily in the last 5 years. This included many young families with children. Fellowship Greenwood had just implemented a “Saturate” campaign that took gospel packets to their community and soon, Immanuel followed in that effort committing to taking the gospel to over 8,000 homes in our zip code. We re-started an effective clothing ministry and rebranded it ibc: serves and continued to feed the hungry in our community with our food pantry. Not only have we seen decisions for Christ, but also baptisms, more folks joining our church, and our attendance rise. Our food pantry and ibc:serves serves hundreds in our community each month.
On Sunday the 15th of September, we held a dedication service to honor the newly renovated worship center with special worship music led by Wes Hazelrigg, who grew up at Immanuel many years ago, and his worship team. We anchored that celebration with Dr. Rodney Hammer’s excellent sermon on Jesus and we capped it off with a fantastic potluck dinner in our fellowship hall. What a glorious, God-honoring day it was!
We ask for continued prayer for us and our interim pastor, Jim Vest, as we seek a rather unorthodox approach to finding our next pastor, who God already has picked to lead us into our next chapter. We believe that through expectant prayer and faithful obedience, we will connect to our next pastor. We further believe that that man is known to our circle of churches that continue to pray for and advise us.
We like to say there’s a bright future at ibc. With God’s help we can see many hear the gospel and have relevant connection to a local church where they can belong. Pray for us!