As you drive down Crawford Street, you pass a readerboard for First Baptist Church (FBC) that alternates cheerful greetings with fun quips or advice like the town favorite, “If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it like your wife told you to.” This community-minded group of people love food, friendship, and the Deer Park area. First Baptist’s core values of grace, transformation, and an outward-focus have led them to function as a church with unique characteristics.
Grace is undeserved kindness and love, and attendees of FBC are deeply aware of their own need for grace, which leads them to readily extend that acceptance to others. Just this week one family hit a deer and totaled their car, so another family in their small group, who knows what it’s like to suddenly be without a vehicle, chose to walk to work and loan their car to the family in need.
Valuing transformation means investing in families and communities over the long haul, since lasting change is usually a slow and difficult process. First Baptist has been involved in caring for the community through avenues like We Heart Deer Park for years because student success in schools is a wonderful long-term goal.
Unlike a club, First Baptist’s members exist to reach out and serve others, not to promote their own happiness or quality of life. This outward concentration is regularly emphasized through community service projects and diligence in saying no to regular time commitments that would keep members focused on each other instead of serving their friends, family, and neighbors. This external focus has led FBC to participate in several community-centric events, and motivates them to staff their parking lot with friendly people ready to welcome everyone.
First Baptist was one of the first vendors to join the new First Saturday Markets when the Chamber began promoting its summer business initiative, but FBC’s goals were different than the rest of the businesses involved. While happy to encourage economic development, First Baptist’s leadership gets excited about the transformation that can happen when individuals and families meet Jesus. Lead Pastor David Stapp has guided FBC to a consistent commitment that when First Baptist serves they do so without charging anything. This helps First Baptist prioritize relationships and to focus on serving those who can’t give anything back.
We Heart Deer Park
In 2012, after much prayer, both Pastor David Stapp of First Baptist and Pastor Tim White of Tri-County Christian Center approached the Deer Park Superintendent about how their churches could serve Deer Park’s students. Then Superintendent Cooke found it easy to encourage them to combine their efforts and focus on providing backpacks to elementary school students in need. Several more churches joined the effort, and We Heart Deer Park began so that the faith community of Deer Park could demonstrate God’s love to their neighbors, which they did through providing backpacks, as well as creating a back-to-school party on the day elementary students and parents meet their teachers.
Associate Pastor Caleb Stapp is acutely aware of the uncertainty people often feel when they walk into a church for the first time. Stapp explained that newcomers often “don’t know which door to use, where the bathrooms are, or when to stand up or sit down – and that’s OK. At First Baptist we know what people are likely to be feeling when they arrive and so we do everything we can to guide them through that first Sunday service and help them feel like they’ve arrived at home at last.”
Stapp explained that the FBC website has a page dedicated to answering questions for first-time guests and states that their goal is to meet each guest in the parking lot so they can answer questions and provide tips like where the bathrooms are as they walk in.