Staying true to the mission

Through personal outreach and online connections, FBC New Braunfels keeps its focus on Jesus in historic setting

There may have been very little Southern Baptist influence when New Braunfels was settled predominantly by Germans in 1845. But for the past century, First Baptist Church has been a beacon, preaching the gospel and ministering in Jesus’ name. 

Situated in the booming corridor between Austin and San Antonio, the congregation has seen church plants descend on the area with modern worship and new methods of reaching younger generations, but FBC New Braunfels hasn’t forgotten its identity.

“One of the things that I’ve tried to lead us in is remembering who we are as a church,” Pastor Brad McLean said. “That doesn’t need to change even though more church plants are coming in.”

FBC New Braunfels continues to preach the Word faithfully and God continues to bring new people of all ages to join the work regularly. One way the church has been able to reach families lately is by hosting Family Adventure Club on Wednesday nights to disciple parents along with children. 

“We really wanted to connect with parents, as well, not just have a drop-off situation,” said McLean, the church’s pastor since 2007. “We wanted to engage entire families.”

The idea is for parents and children to have biblical discussions on the way home from church and to foster conversation around the dinner table, he said. They’ve employed the same concept with Vacation Bible School, offering discipleship for parents to make better use of the time.

With 400-450 people attending services each Sunday, it was a display of unity in 2019 when the church voted to move locations in response to the city’s growth. “We are in a neighborhood centrally located in the downtown area,” McLean said. “With that comes parking issues and other constrictions being landlocked.”

FBC New Braunfels has a Restoring Hope Boutique where it provides clothing to people in need. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Somehow, though, it didn’t work out. “The Lord just made clear that another decision needed to be made,” the pastor said. 

A few months later, COVID shut down everything and church members saw that God had protected them. “We would have been saddled with paying off land,” McLean noted.

Instead, FBC New Braunfels took a significant step into the digital world, hiring a communications director and learning to make the most of the online space where people often go first to find a church.

“Through that, especially through COVID as we began to put sermons online, we had many people visit us and say it was their first time, but they’d been listening for months,” McLean said. “We had a family that moved from Minnesota who joined a small group here while they still lived in Minnesota. They were able to do that on Zoom.”

The enhanced digital focus “has helped us tremendously because it has allowed us to better communicate who we are as a church—what our convictions are, what our values are.

“As folks have engaged with us online, I believe that commitment is already further down the road by the time they step into the church facility because there’s a sense of already knowing us and knowing who we are. They’re just coming to engage in person,” he said.

As far as local ministry, FBC New Braunfels has a Restoring Hope Boutique where it provides clothing to people in need.

“We’ve helped many, many folks who’ve come out of the penal system and they need something to wear to an interview,” McLean said. “We’re trying to help people as they’re trying to get their lives back on track by simply giving them clothes to wear so they feel more confident. Within that is an expression of the gospel and the invitation to worship with us.”

The church has several retired teachers, and they periodically take lunch to teachers at a nearby elementary school. 

“We’ve been sending groups out into neighborhoods and apartment complexes prayer walking, leaving a door hanger, and then going back and trying to engage in conversations with folks,” McLean said. 

For about a decade before the pandemic, FBC New Braunfels sent teams to Southeast Asia to share the gospel with people who had not heard of Jesus. Recently, they sent a group to Cuba and another to Denmark and Germany.

“Those are exciting things where people get to go and see other parts of the world and care for people,” McLean said. 

In 2017, FBC New Braunfels was tragically thrown into the national spotlight when a bus crash killed 13 of their senior adults. Though the church is not defined by that event, McLean said, they remember it as a time when God was glorified. 

“We could say with great confidence, ‘Lord, thank you for preparing for eternity every one of those who lost their lives because they knew your Son as Savior,’” he said. “We had to give great praise to God because they were saints, and they were prepared for that moment.

“In the aftermath of that, in celebrating those lives, we got to worship our God together as a church, and I believe the Lord healed so much and strengthened our faith so much through that time.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Erin Roach
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