Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Charleston Boulevard members Christian Baker, Destiny Goad, Serenity Goad and Ellana Garcia play a board game together at the church’s community center.

Charleston Boulevard Attendance Grows From 15 to 90

Story by Walter Cardenas, Assistant to the President

Two years ago, a group of Charleston (W.Va.) Boulevard church members, organized by Audrey Hunt and Gary Riley, met to brainstorm and plan community outreach programs. During the meeting, tears and discouragement turned to hope, as they began to dream of new people visiting and joining their church. They purposed to make prayer a priority.

Under the leadership of Tony Garcia, associate pastor, the church began sponsoring community engagement opportunities such as a soup kitchen, hotdog roasts, cooking classes, game nights and a painting/art class that grew to 70-plus participants with a waiting list. Members provided food and a warm atmosphere at every event, intentionally developing a community where everyone felt welcome.

They also formed weekly small groups for fellowship and Bible study, taking the conference’s theme, “Telling Somebody About Jesus,” seriously. The congregation became so “others” focused that guests shared that because they had never been treated with such love in any other church, they wanted what this small group of Seventh-day Adventists had to offer.

Church leaders began planning evangelistic events to help people make decisions for Jesus. They held a four-day reaping event called “God of the City,” serving a fully catered meal each night, followed by worship music, a message and small group discussions. Attendees filled the pews as a result of Boulevard members distributing invitation cards.

The church also had two full evangelistic series. The second series was preached by Tim Bailey, conference president, and Donald West, the new senior pastor of Boulevard. Opening night featured a concert by the Lesters, followed by different musicians on the other evenings.

During the meetings, 25 people joined the church through baptism or profession of faith, and many more are studying in preparation for baptism. From August 2021 to June 2023, 42 people joined Boulevard, and the average church attendance has gone from 15 to 90.

Members April Johnson and Mo Maitley display prepared food at the church’s soup kitchenThe congregation has now developed a culture of caring for other people’s needs. They hurt when their community hurts and are intentional with everyone they meet, say leaders. Every new member is empowered and taught the importance of leading others to Jesus, and many have already done so. Their dream is to grow to 200 or more members. The Holy Spirit is ready to do even greater things under the leadership of their new pastor, local church leaders and every church member.

The church has learned not to just have evangelistic events, but rather develop a lifestyle of evangelism. Members realize they are representatives of Christ and His church around the clock. “As we witnessed the transformation of the Charleston Boulevard church over the last two years,” states Bailey, “we hope it will be a model for all of our churches in the Mountain View Conference, showing that God can do big things.”

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