Houston church plant grows sixfold; 70% are new converts




HOUSTON?Nathan Lino, senior pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, refers to it as “the miracle on West Lake Houston Parkway.”

The “miracle” Lino speaks of is the rapid and unusual growth of Northeast. The church has grown sixfold since its planting two-and-a-half years ago and most of the growth has been from new converts.

“Right at 70 percent of our church was ‘unchurched’ prior to coming here,” Lino said. “And the transfer growth (people who came from other churches) is at 30 percent. We work very hard to encourage ‘churched’ people who want to transfer from other Baptist churches to stay where they are. This helps keep transfer growth down,” Lino said.

Since the church doors opened in September 2002, membership has gone from 140 to more than 800. The now 31-month-old church family is bursting at the seams and moved to three Sunday morning services in January.

The former Forest Cove Baptist Church contributed 120 people who committed to 12 months, 24 months or long-term service and seed money to start Northeast Houston Baptist Church. They began meeting in an elementary school gym Sunday mornings, but in April 2003 they opened a new, 35,000-square foot building.

In 2005 alone, Northeast has baptized 21 people?15 of which are adults over the age 25. The goal for the rest of the year is 84, which makes for tougher spiritual warfare, Lino said.

Spiritual warfare won’t stop what Lino calls a values-driven church, though. Lino said the church emphasizes soul-winning, Bible teaching and prayer. Following the command for gospel proclamation in Acts 1:8, Lino said, “We opened a Great Commission Center in our church out of which we resource, recruit and train for evangelism. We put the time and resources into this center to demonstrate to our people the urgency and priority of spreading the gospel.”

Through grassroots efforts, Northeast has developed an evangelism strategy for drawing people into the church.

“We get out people to adopt their street or apartment building for the calendar year. They commit to prayer walking on a regular basis and go door-to-door on their street or in their building to invite people to one of our worship services,” Lino said.

So far, 111 families at Northeast have adopted their streets or buildings. Each quarter, members participate in a “community blitz,” visiting every door in two or three subdivisions. Also, an aggressive follow-up plan, including letters, e-mails, visits, and telephone calls, trails this effort to keep prospects and guests informed and aware.

“We also encourage our people to get creative and use their passions to do evangelism,” Lino said.

This past winter, one church member approached the pastor to ask if he could drill holes into the church parking lot and set up blacktop basketball courts. Since the completion of the court construction, more than 70 men gather on Thursday nights for four hours of basketball.

“This isn’t your normal church league and it is hardly a ‘church’ environment,” Lino said. “We only have one rule?no fighting. We draw some pretty rough characters, so things sometimes get pretty rough out there.”

Less than 20 percent of the men that attend the Thursday night basketball league are churched. Randomly each Thursday night, all games are stopped, so a member of the church can present what Lino calls a “strong, clear, no-holds-barred gospel presentation complete with an invitation.”

“On any given Thursday night, you can hear grown men in the parking lot praying out loud to receive Christ,” Lino said. “We then funnel the newly saved and their families into the Northeast Houston family.”

Lino said strong Bible teaching is integral in the church. Taught by his father, who was also a pastor, Lino said, “From the pulpit to Sunday morning small groups t

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