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Church makes forgiveness center of ministry

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Maywood Pastor Bob Sprawling is making forgiveness a central theme of church outreach.

The congregation of Maywood Baptist Church in Independence understands forgiveness, and members have made it the center of their ministry.

“Maywood’s leaders chose to relate to our changing community on its own terms,” Pastor Bob Spradling said. “We asked our community how we could partner with them in what was their own ‘felt’ needs.”

New programs were initiated to reach the changing needs. According to Spradling, the residential neighborhoods saw an increase in rental properties, declining incomes and crime.

An entry Sunday School class was started in 2009 by Josh Monk, who had a significant criminal and drug background prior to meeting Jesus. “The class was comprised of men and women with backgrounds similar to his,” Spradling said. “The Gospels were always the focal point of the lessons.”

The entry class quickly grew to 85. Spradling reported that each quarter, the men and women of the class were invited to attend new classes that were intended to take them deeper and further in their discipleship. “Josh’s class always took a dip in attendance, but was quickly filled to approximately 85,” Spradling said.

In 2012, Monk began meeting with 10 to 20 men on the lawn of the church. The men were coming straight from work to the class, so they decided to bring pizza, hamburgers to grill and other meals. Spradling reported that this group, that began with 10 to 20, now is 100 who meet in small groups on Wednesdays.

Sadly, Spradling said Monk died last November after a nine-month-long battle with cancer. Monk left a legacy of an Invite Team. His team served to invite people to Jesus and to church to become followers.

Maywood believes in indigenous leadership. “We believe that God has sent men and women from lives of addiction and brokenness,” Spradling said, “to reach our broken community.”

Maywood calls the pastors of the church “coaches,” out of a conviction that the real superstars of the church are the men and women who can reach the community (Ephesians 4.11-13). The job of the coaches is to maximize the effectiveness of the entire team in their service. “When someone from the community enters a Sunday School class or a small group,” Spradling said, “they meet someone who looks like them and who speaks a similar language.”

“God has a trophy case filled with pictures of men and women who have been transformed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ,” Spradling said. “I am blessed to witness new persons being added to His trophy case nearly every week.”

–The Pathway