By Sharon Mager, For Embrace Baltimore
REISTERSTOWN, Md.,–Reisterstown Church (RBC) members discovered real physical needs and a spiritual void in their community while ministering during sports camps and a block party last summer. Their eyes were opened and they became invigorated afresh to reach out and care for their neighborhood and to reach the lost. Since the summer, Pastor John Rudd has baptized over 30 people. The church began a second service and a third is being planned.
At a summer sports camp, members saw a little boy playing soccer barefoot. Another youngster had holes in his shoes. Pastor Rudd and several deacons felt led to buy the boys shoes. The kids were delighted. They thanked the church and they came back the next day with friends.
“Kids don’t understand theology, but they know who buys them shoes,” Rudd said with a smile.
One little boy’s mother came to thank Rudd and ultimately began attending the church and has made a profession of faith.
Rudd told of another flash of realization the church got—that many of the kids didn’t know who Jesus is. Rudd said the church was humbled, honored and delighted to shift some material around to introduce the kids to Jesus.
When Rudd came to RBC as an interim in 2005, the church had been going through struggles and had plateaued. Rudd saw a lot of needed work, but most of all, he saw incredible potential.
He led the church in beginning a prayer committee.
“It all starts there,” Rudd said. The committee made prayer a priority and worked to keep it that way in the church.
The church also started “spiffing up,” cleaning and painting. As they completed one project they wanted to do more. Then they began doing outreach. Rudd taught the church that they needed to do ministry outside of the church building. They began volunteering at the Inner Harbor Ministry’s Curtis Bay feeding program.
Embrace Baltimore, a Strategic Focus City effort of the North American Mission Board and a partner with the Baltimore Association, was just getting underway when Rudd arrived and the new pastor grasped the opportunity opening up for the church.
“Embrace came alongside us and helped us do what God called us to do,” Rudd said.
When Embrace and LifeWay facilitated bringing ministers of education to Baltimore to partner with churches, Reisterstown was fortunate to be one of the recipients. That education minister made the church aware that they needed more Sunday school space. Last summer, Reisterstown Church hosted three mission teams. One of those teams built dividers to provide the needed Sunday school space. As other teams arrived and the church had hands to do the work while members connected with their community, God began filling those Sunday school seats and bringing enough people to facilitate the need for a second service and a part-time youth minister.
Another way the church is connecting with their community is by working with Christians from other denominations. Rudd began attending ministerial meetings and a local youth forum at the encouragement of the Embrace staff. Through those groups, churches from all different denominations have come together to host an annual event called “Sound the Alarm,” a huge community block party with food, games, and music. The gospel is presented hourly and there’s also a prayer tent. The entire event is designed to bring people to Jesus.
Reisterstown community churches also rallied to buy nets to help prevent Malaria in Africa. They stock a community pantry and they’re discussing other ministries to homeless and needy people.
Rudd said RBC now sees the possibilities and members are anxious to do more.
“We’re ahead of budget. God is blessing what He calls us to do, as long as we stay outside the walls of the church,” he said.
Rudd, a young great-grandfather, is known in his church for using the words “absolute joy.” And that seems true as his face comes to life when he shares what God is doing at RBC. He said he just praises God. And he thanks his wonderful wife Mary for her support through the years.
“Churches aren’t called to do different things but to make a difference. We live in difficult times. The world is looking for something. We know it’s not what they’re looking for, it’s who. We want to introduce them to Jesus.”