LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)?The C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony and conference debuted last year, and this year two churches with ties to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are among those honored. The awards are sponsored by the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and was conceived by the school’s dean, Thom Rainer.
The Spurgeon Awards honor top churches in 12 categories, such as global missions, evangelism, prayer and innovative ministry. Rainer had been sending certificates of recognition to top SBC churches for several years prior to his founding of the Spurgeon Awards.
The Country Church SBC in Marion, an SBTC congregation, garnered a Spurgeon Award in the Innovative Approaches category. The pastor is Butch Ibels and the church is a plant that is now planting other churches, said Robby Partain, SBTC evangelism and missions senior associate.
Also honored was Holgate Baptist Church in Portland, Ore., where the SBTC has a missions partnership with the Interstate Baptist Association. The church was awarded in the Sunday School/Small Group category and is successfully doing the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy, Partain said.
“The purpose of the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Awards is to bring glory to God by recognizing His work in His churches,” Rainer said. “Although the churches do get rightful recognition, we are very clear that we do not seek glory for the churches, but to encourage and exhort them in the manner of the Apostle Paul.”
Both objective and subjective criteria determine finalists and award recipients in each category. All finalists receive a recognition letter from Rainer and the Graham School. A winner is selected from among the finalists.
The Spurgeon Awards have broadened their scope since their inaugural year. Last year, only Southern Baptist churches in the Midwest were eligible for the awards. This year, nominees came from SBC churches nationwide and the event will continue on a national scope in the years to come, Rainer said.
This year’s top church, Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., has experienced profound growth in recent years. The church averages 1,250 in attendance for Sunday morning worship and 800 for Sunday School. Sunday School attendees have increased by nearly 200 in the past two years and have climbed by a greater percentage of late.
The Spurgeon Awards are named in honor of the famous British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who lived from 1834-92. In London, Spurgeon served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle that underwent such meteoric growth during his ministry that the church built a 5,000-seat sanctuary.
“We use Spurgeon’s name for these awards for several reasons,” Rainer said. “He was a Baptist who had a high view of Scripture and believed that no church could be healthy without firm theological convictions. He had an evangelistic passion as clearly evident in his book, “The Soul Winner.”
“He was a pastor’s pastor, evident in the pastor’s school he started at Metropolitan Tabernacle…. He insisted on churches having some type of accountability beyond themselves. That is why he urged churches to report records of attendance and baptisms. He had no interest in numbers for numbers’ sake, but he did believe in congregational accountability through numbers.”
Rainer said the response from participating churches has shown that the Spurgeon Awards are accomplishing their goal of celebrating God’s work and encouraging congregations and leaders.
“We have had countless church leaders, staff and laypersons, tell us that they rarely, if ever, have received encouragement as they did through the Spurgeon Awards. They tell us that they are now more motivated than ever to press on for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.”
Winners in the 12 awards categories were:
• Church of the Year, Englewood Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, N.C.; first runner-up, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; second runner-up, Long Heights Baptist Church, McKenzie, Tenn.
• Evangelism, Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, Ala.
• Prayer, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.
• Worship, Valley View Church, Louisville, Ky.