by Karen L. Willoughby
KENOSHA, Wisc. (BP) –- It was all there in the church constitution, Lenard Tavernelli realized when he became pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Kenosha, Wisc., in October, 2013.
He didn’t have to start something new, but just lead the congregation to regain and fulfill its purpose and mission.
Detailed in its constitution are five components of Christian health: celebrating, community, character-building, caring and communicating.
“When I first came up from Chicago … to meet with the church, I could feel God’s love among the people,” Tavernelli said of the church on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan. “You could sense the heart among them to be the church, really grow in the way God would have them to, and a genuine desire to serve their community.”
Members also had a heart to reach out to the ends of the earth, Tavernelli said.
“In Philippians 1:5 the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians how thankful he is ‘for your partnership in the Gospel,'” he said. “The Church has always been partnering together for the sake of the Gospel. We think the Cooperative Program is perhaps the best way going for that cooperation.”
Fellowship Baptist Church attracts about 100 people for worship on Sundays. For many years it has given 11 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches support the missions and ministries of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
“There’s strength in numbers and there’s also a God-glorifying unity that the church is called to,” he said. “We’re not just called to it; we have it. We just need to maintain the unity of the Spirit.”
Tavernelli said he wasn’t even a Southern Baptist when he first went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2004. But the first day of orientation, the entire incoming class sat in the seminary chapel for eight hours, learning about the history, purpose and effectiveness of the Cooperative Program. Shortly thereafter, he found a Southern Baptist church home.
“Jesus calls us in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples,” Tavernelli said. “We as the church –- one of three Southern Baptist churches in Kenosha city limits -– can’t do that alone. We can’t even disciple all of America, let alone the entire world, where nearly 5,000 IMB missionaries are serving.
“We’re called to fulfill the Great Commission, in the spirit of the Great Commandment. The Cooperative Program helps us do that.”
To bring missions through the Cooperative Program to life among the congregation, Tavernelli hosts Sunday morning Skype video calls to various IMB personnel serving in restricted geographical areas.
“The church from what I hear has always had a heart for international missions,” he said. “They’ve told me how much they enjoyed talking with the missionaries, and some of the missionaries have sent prayer cards.”
The Kenosha church’s missions involvement starts locally. Members prepare a hot evening meal for up to 200 people three to five times a month, and take it to the Shalom community ministry center.
The church is well known in the community for the 200 Thanksgiving food baskets it gives to those in need.
Every other Saturday during the school year, church members serve breakfast at a local school as part of the Frank Neighborhood Project’s Christian-based “Breakfast and [basketball] Hoops.”
The church fulfills its constitutional components of a healthy church through worship, Bible study, discipleship, benevolence, evangelism and missions.
Much of Tavernelli’s time is spent discipling others, he said. He saw the benefit of discipleship while serving as a Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) leader in college. Those he discipled grew in faith and began discipling others.
“When I look for someone to disciple I look for three things: someone faithful, available and teachable,” Tavenelli said. Currently with the help of his wife Angela, he’s discipling four men and three women.
“I’m working now with seven people: two groups of two men each, because I want them to have each other to lean on, not just me,” he said. “My goal is to see everyone growing in godliness and living to glorify God. The mission of the church is to know Jesus, serve Jesus and share Jesus.”
He wants the congregation “grounded in the Word of God and good doctrine, and seeing that translated into changed, fruitful lives,” Tavernelli said. “It’s all about making Jesus Christ known, and loving Him and treasuring Him. That is where my heart is for the church and throughout the world.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.