By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY – Micheal Young once spent his free time enjoying the ways of the world, but a visit to a youth meeting at Northside Baptist Church in Montgomery transformed the high schooler into a Christ-follower on fire for the Lord.
“I went for a girl at first, but when I got to the church the Lord spoke to me,” said Young, who was baptized the Sunday after his conversion in October. “Before I started going to church, I would get into mischief every weekend and bully people. Now, the Lord has touched me and I have a testimony of a person who has given up the bad ways of his past life to live a reborn life.”
The change in Young’s life even inspired his brothers, Aaron and Jacob, and his cousin, Jeremiah, to repent of their sins and turn their lives over to Christ in the ensuing months.
“My family and I talked and shed a bunch of tears,” Young said. “It feels great knowing I am able to help someone get out of a bad situation by offering them real hope found in Jesus.”
Baptisms of students like Young have not been the exception but the norm recently at Northside Baptist Church. Since 2016, 78 new converts – many who are youth – have stirred the baptistery waters there. The baptisms have reflected a growth in its Sunday morning worship services, expanding from 60 in 2014 to 125 now. Sunday school attendance has also increased significantly during that time span, from 36 in 2014 to nearly 100.
Pastor Scott Tilton said the congregation’s spirit of prayer and desire to reach others for Christ drew him to accept the call at Northside Baptist Dec. 15, 2016.
“Every time we came here to visit before we came here officially, there was this feeling of freedom and God moving,” Tilton said. “When we came that first Sunday and saw two youth baptized, we were simply amazed at how Christ was moving in a church that didn’t even have a pastor at the time.”
A HOUSE OF PRAYER
Prayer is a spiritual discipline the congregation does not take lightly.
Before Sunday school begins each week, men from the church gather at the altar and pray for at least 30 minutes. During its Monday night and Wednesday evening Bible studies, the men and women pray together for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit.
The church also keeps a lengthy list of prayer concerns for the government, military and others in the community and beyond who need God’s intervention, protection and wisdom.
“You stay on that prayer list, regardless if you are doing wonderful or in a bad situation,” Tilton said. “When we put your name on that list, you are there until God takes you from this life. I’m convinced the one thing we do the least amount of that’s one of the most important things is communication with God.”
Church leaders are planning future prayer services, and hope to even open the doors for members to pray for a continuous 24-hour period.
“Prayer is the most important thing we do here, and I stress that on a regular basis,” Tilton said. “It’s nothing for me to stop in the middle of a sermon and ask someone to stand and pray. If we don’t stay in communication with the general, we’re going to lose the battle. We’re fighting a war here. It’s imperative we know what the general wants and what the general is thinking. He is the victor in this battle. We are in the trenches. We are the ones fighting. It’s important we stay in contact with our God.”
A MOVEMENT OF YOUTH
Tilton believes the youth are the church of tomorrow, and the congregation shares his passion for involving them in many areas of service at Northside Baptist.
Every two months, the youth lead the Sunday morning worship service. The youth also are encouraged to lead prayer, participate in the praise team and help take up the offering.
During Sunday morning Bible studies and Wednesday evening gatherings, the students are discipled and challenged to reach their classmates for Christ – and the students have embraced the opportunity to play a part in seeing their friends come to a saving relationship with Jesus.
“The fact that our youth have Christ in their lives makes it much easier for them to deal with the struggles they face,” Tilton said. “We invest in our youth, and try our best to instill in them the Word of God. We teach them what they need to do battle with Monday morning when they go to school.
“We have youth from our church who really are taking a hold of this,” he continued. “They get the bull by the horns and they press forward. We are tying to teach our young people what they will need, and, disciple them to carry the Gospel to the football field and classroom.”
Youth Pastor Steve Ostrander attests to the Holy Spirit’s movement among his students.
When he first came to Northside Baptist, they averaged just five to six students, but the youth group grew quickly to as many as 40 attending each week.
Now, Ostrander leads devotionals at Northside High on Wednesdays, Verda Elementary on Thursdays and Colfax Elementary on Fridays before school begins.
Ostrander said establishing a good rapport with students has helped the adult leaders better connect with the youth on a deeper spiritual level.
“My number one goal is to have the Holy Spirit move in these kids and have it become contagious at home,” he said. “I praise God for allowing those kids to be able to come.
“There are lives being saved,” he said. “When an individual comes to the altar and says I have been living for the world and now Jesus is in my heart, it’s an awesome Holy Spirit moment. I tell them let’s get caught up in God’s word. These are students who crave the Bible and want others to know that Jesus can do the same thing in their lives that He did for them.”