First Baptist Church begins alternative worship service

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

First Baptist Church of Cassville began a new fellowship service at Cassville Elementary School on Oct. 2.

"North Point Fellowship offers a casual informal opportunity for people who have been turned off by the traditional church and larger crowd," said John Duncan, First Baptist Church pastor. "It will be a very casual, easy going service and a lot of fun."

Although First Baptist Church members began working directly on the North Point Fellowship idea nine months ago, the first service realized years of aspirations.

Over four years ago, as First Baptist Church continued to grow, Duncan began to pray about the church's next step.

"We looked at lots of options, because we needed to create space in our church," said Duncan. "We decided on a smaller venue that would be casual and informal. We also wanted a neutral site for people who aren't coming to church.

"We want to reach those people," said Duncan. "We want to be seeker friendly, for people seeking God and seeking a church who haven't found what they need in a traditional setting."

Duncan discussed the idea with the First Baptist Church congregation and asked for volunteers willing to work for the new service.

"The great part is how people have responded in wanting to serve in the various areas," said Duncan. "We have 75 excited people."

The volunteers signed up to set up equipment, serve refreshments, greet attendees and teach Sunday School classes at the new service.

As North Point Fellowship support grew, First Baptist Church members began to look for an off-site location.

With permission of the Cassville R-IV School Board, First Baptist Church will rent Cassville Elementary School facilities for the alternative fellowship service.

North Point Fellowship worship services are held in the elementary school cafeteria and several Sunday School classes are held in elementary school classrooms.

"The rooms that we are using for Sunday School are ones that teachers have volunteered," said Duncan.

After the off-site location was secured, First Baptist Church ordered specialized mobile equipment.

A North Point Fellowship crew sets up and tears down a stage, sound equipment, a video projector and a video screen before and after each Sunday service. Cafeteria chairs and round tables are used as congregation seating.

All carefully executed plans were evident as attendees entered the Cassville Elementary School last Sunday.

A welcome table, set up directly inside the elementary doors, was manned by hospitality workers who supplied each attendee with a paper name tag.

A map diagramming the locations of the worship service, Sunday School classes, restrooms and the nursery were also available at the welcome center.

"We have beepers so that parents can leave their babies in the nursery knowing that they will be contacted immediately if needed," said Duncan.

Inside the elementary cafeteria, attendees were offered a wide variety of snacks and drinks. Greeters roamed the room helping guests find seating.

"This is a neutral site for people who aren't coming to church or have had a poor experience at church," said Duncan. "It is a new option to introduce people to church in a casual atmosphere.

"With this congregation we are not trying to compete with any other church. We are not trying to take anyone else's members," said Duncan. "We are wanting to reach those people that are not in church."

In the coming months, the North Point Fellowship congregation will begin to tackle a larger task than setting up equipment or greeting attendees. "I challenge you to invest and invite," Duncan said during his first North Point Fellowship message. "Until people know we care for them where they are, they won't come to where we are."

Duncan challenged each member of the congregation to invite one person to North Point Fellowship.

"Invest your time and get to know them," said Duncan. "There are 9,000 people within 10 minutes of this spot that are not going to church anywhere."

Statistics show that nine out of 10 people would come to church if they were invited, said Duncan.

"North Point Fellowship should be about being church in the world instead of doing church in the building," said Duncan. "This is not for us. It is not about us. It's about reaching people."

Duncan promised to offer both the present congregation and visitors a fresh word from God, good food, good music and a comfortable environment at the North Point Fellowship service each week.

North Point Fellowship is an alternative off-site service of First Baptist Church.

Refreshments are served in the Cassville Elementary School cafeteria from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Worship services begin at 9 a.m.

Duncan will deliver the 9 a.m. message at North Point Fellowship each Sunday morning. Steve Arnold will lead the praise team with a mixture of gospel songs, hymns and praise choruses.

A full Sunday School program, with one ladies' class, one mens' class, two adult classes, a youth class and graded children's classes will follow the worship services.James Weaver, First Baptist Church associate pastor, will deliver the 8:30 a.m. message at First Baptist Church. Duncan will return to the main building to deliver the 11 a.m. message.

North Point Fellowship members and visitors are invited to the main First Baptist Church building for Sunday evening services and Wednesday evening programs.

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