Second Baptist Houston pledges $84 million for expansion

HOUSTON (BP)--Faced with burgeoning church growth and committed to reach people for Christ, members of Second Baptist Church in Houston pledged $84 million to expand its three Houston-area sites and to add several others by utilizing movie theaters in Houston and across the United States.

Church members contributed a cash offering of more than $21 million in December as part of the capital campaign’s launch. To date, about $24 million has been contributed.

"This must be the largest capital campaign of its kind, ever," said Paul Gage, president and founder of The Gage Group, a Dallas-based church stewardship consulting firm assisting Second Baptist.

Gage said the size of the campaign represents the "vision and passion" of the church and its pastor, Ed Young, for reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gage hopes other churches "will be encouraged and inspired to expand their witness by what Second Baptist is doing."

Just two weeks after Young introduced the two-year campaign, Hurricane Katrina hit, followed by Rita. As reported by Baptist Press last September, more than 30,000 hurricane relief workers were trained at Second Baptist. And members there have given more than $2 million in hurricane relief funds.

"We've always had obstacles to overcome," Young told Baptist Press. "But we're a family and we stick together."

Young said more members have pledged and contributed to the church's building campaign than any other in Second Baptist's history. One member prayed for a better job so she could contribute more to the effort and, almost immediately, she found a job tripling her salary. A couple gave a half-million dollars they had saved to build a new house. Second Baptist teens were challenged to pay for one square foot of the renovations at $175 each. Several hundred made such pledges, with many pledging to pay for two square feet. Children were given a dollar and challenged to multiply it. A fourth-grade girl bought cookie dough, baked and sold cookies, and gave $44 to the project.

"All of us have been blessed to be a blessing," Young said. "So whether someone gives $100 or $10,000, each contribution is significant to how much God has blessed them."

The campaign follows a self-study begun in 1999 involving 487 church members involved in studying a dozen significant aspects of the church to help form and implement a plan by 2007.

"Our church is about who's not here, and very much about evangelism and lost people," Lee Maxcy, associate pastor for church administration, told Baptist Press. "We're not interested in other church's people but are keenly interested in bringing unchurched lost people to Jesus Christ."

Attempting to minister to lost people where they live, Second Baptist added its West Campus in 1999. An expansion of 200,000 square feet will more than double the facility's size. No longer will the 6,000 members who attend worship services there have to travel more than 20 minutes from the 19 area theaters rented each week for Sunday School.

In February 2004, Second Baptist added its North Campus by merging with another Baptist church. Within 18 months, attendance there more than doubled to 3,000 in worship. Plans for that location will enhance the church's sports ministries that have brought hundreds into the church.

Upgrades at the church's main site, the Woodway Campus, had included a parking garage because some 3,000 people park off-site and are bused to church each Sunday. But that got preempted when an 86,000-square-foot shopping center the church had tried to buy for years was suddenly available for purchase. This adds 6.1 acres, 500 parking spaces and additional educational space to the Woodway facilities.

Responding to an offer from a company that owns movie theaters across the U.S. and around the world, Young has led Second Baptist to plant two more campuses in Houston-area theaters, with plans for three or more locally and in other major U.S. cities.

"God doesn't want His people to remain stacked up together, so they can have a good time and bless only their own," Young said. "God wants His church to expand -- to lengthen its cords and deepen its stakes. That's why New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco and many other metropolitan areas are on my heart.

"Leadership at Second Baptist recognizes our society is more and more a visual society. That's why we're moving into movie theaters," Maxcy said. Part of the capital campaign will underwrite a project to record and broadcast each week's sermon preached by Young or one of the church's other preachers to each theater, regardless of location, in high-definition format.

With 42,000 members, Second Baptist is not the typical Southern Baptist church. However, Young believes the church continues to grow because of its commitment to spreading the Gospel and ministering in nontraditional ways.

"You've got to get out into the community and find out what the needs are. Find out where the pain is," said Young, who explained Second Baptist has nearly every kind of support group ministry imaginable, including outreach to AIDS victims and those exiting homosexuality.

"Others outside the church may look at evangelicals and Southern Baptists as being turned inward, but that's not who Second Baptist people are," Young said. "We're very much involved in loving people.

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, heals people and makes them whole again," Young said. "And we've got to be out there as God's people, obeying the Great Commission."


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