SEBRING – In recent years, the city of Sebring has seen lasting ripples of the gospel wash through its community as First Baptist Church has cultivated an environment of evangelism that flowed from its members to their neighbors.
Since the arrival of senior pastor Derek Lambert in 2018, more than 13 percent of the city’s 10,000 residents have been reached through the gospel impact of the church, resulting in 485 professions of faith.
“Our mission is to make gospel-centered disciples who live their faith and make other gospel-centered disciples as they go,” Lambert said.
With the pastors modeling evangelism before the people and providing training for members, the church has fostered an evangelistic environment that has made waves in the community located in the center of the Florida peninsula.
“We emphasize the gospel, our pastors actively share the gospel, and we train our folks to share the gospel,” Lambert said.
As members become increasingly engaged and committed to sharing their faith, they have presented the gospel to more than 1,300 people. With over 13 percent of the city’s residents hearing the gospel, the church is seeing lives changed both inside and outside the church.
“We are seeing conversions during worship services, children coming to faith in AWANA, and students committing their lives to Christ in our youth ministries,” said Lambert. “God is at work!
“Our folks are catching the vision to share the Gospel as they go, which will make a huge difference in our community and the kingdom of God.”
Despite the many challenges COVID created, the worldwide pandemic led the congregation to become more intentional about ministering to the needs of the growing community. Food distributions during the height of the pandemic and community block parties have endeared the church to the community.
“We believe we must serve our community with hands and feet, not just by existing on a block of land in downtown,” Lambert said. “We are becoming more intentional about ministry beyond our walls.”
The church hosts major community events throughout the year that draw hundreds to their downtown Sebring campus. Along with community block parties, perhaps the most outreach comes from their Upwards Basketball league event in February. In partnering with the Sebring Police Department and Fire Department, Youth for Christ, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the church draws more than 1,000 to this outdoor, end-of-the season block party celebration.
First Sebring hosts an event every October in conjunction with the city’s “Halloween on the Circle” that draws 5,000-plus people to the quaint downtown. With the church located just one block off the circle, thousands of neighbors are served each year.
This year, the church began a new ministry that led 373 persons to Christ during the 12 Hours of Sebring motorsport endurance race. See story here.
“Our church has embraced the vision to share the gospel with every person,” the pastor added.
This desire to minister to those around them is increasing. The church is currently praying through ways to support surrounding local churches needing support and encouragement post-pandemic. With a growing percentage of churches hurting and closing their doors and an increased number of church goers becoming unengaged, First Sebring is burdened and ready to take on the weighty mission of adopting and coming alongside churches.
“We want to be ready, not to accept new members to our church, but to come alongside existing churches to ensure that a gospel presence remains in smaller communities,” Lambert said. “God has gripped our heart with this and now we lay the groundwork in our church and await His orders regarding next steps.”
Lambert is convinced that when a church is devoted to sharing the gospel, God “blesses obedience,” he said. “God will continue to bless us as we share the gospel.”
In making evangelism training accessible for members and providing opportunities to practice that training, the church has cultivated a gospel-sharing congregation that Lambert hopes other churches will instill in their members.
“The gospel is sufficient. Preach the gospel and share the gospel,” he said. “Train your folks to live and share the gospel and provide opportunities to impact your community with the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation.”