By Chris Moon
First Christian Church in Monticello, Ky., had a banner year for baptisms in 2022, according to the annual Church Report compiled by Christian Standard.
The small-town congregation, located about two hours south of Lexington, baptized 56 people.
For a congregation its size, with an attendance of 305 in-person and 100 online, that translated to a 13.8 percent baptism rate. That’s one of the highest among medium-sized churches—between 250 and 500 in average attendance—in the Standard report.
“It was a good year for us,” said Joe Tipton, the church’s senior minister.
Tipton said three factors—two of them outside the church and one of them inside—accounted for the large number of conversions at FCC.
The first was a longtime weekly Bible study that is held at the county jail. About six men lead the effort.
They visit the Wayne County Detention Center every Thursday, Tipton said—“I mean every Thursday.”
That is, the volunteers go to the jail even on Thanksgiving Day and any other holiday that may fall on the fourth day of the work week.
They meet with inmates who are local prisoners, in jail for just a few weeks, as well as longer-term inmates from the state prison system.
“We probably had 15 or 20 baptisms coming out of those Bible studies last year,” Tipton said.
A second influence on the church’s baptisms emerged from the work of a group of the church’s women at a camp for teen girls. Otter Creek Academy is designed to help girls in need of counseling and other mental health treatment.
“We try to move the needle as best we can in a spiritual direction,” Tipton said.
A third factor in the church’s big year of baptisms was its children’s ministry. Back in 2018, FCC invested $3 million in a new kids’ facility. The facility was the result of quick growth in the church’s children’s ministry—growth that has only continued.
A lot of those students have aged up and now are making decisions for Christ, Tipton said.
“We’ve had this whole flock of students who have grown up here,” he said.
Tipton said he visited a middle school class recently and was surprised at how well the students knew Scripture.
It’s a sign of good things to come for a very old church.
First Christian Church in Monticello was founded in 1831 under the influence of Raccoon John Smith, one of the early preachers in the Stone-Campbell Movement. But the historic church is determined not to be a waning church.
“We made a commitment that we were not going to be an old church that slowly dies in a rural community,” Tipton said. “That’s been one of the driving forces of everything we do here.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.
This is the third of several “Spotlight” articles we have planned to complement our May/June 2023 Church Report issue.
PTL. I see a glimmer of light in some Christian Churches and some that really don’t teach what baptism is according to Scripture. I must admit my view is very limited.