Missouri Church Celebrates Easter Sunday for Jesus’ Resurrection and for Their New Beginning

Kayla Frederic (right) from First Baptist Church of O'Fallon, Mo., helps Nathaniel Thorton find just the right pair of glasses as part of an eyeglass distribution outreach at Bales Avenue Community Church in Kansas City, Mo. The event helped Bales Avenue introduce itself to the Northeast Kansas City neighborhood where it officially launched on Easter 2014. (NAMB photo by Gerik Parmele)
Kayla Frederic (right) from First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Mo., helps Nathaniel Thorton find just the right pair of glasses as part of an eyeglass distribution outreach at Bales Avenue Community Church in Kansas City, Mo. The event helped Bales Avenue introduce itself to the Northeast Kansas City neighborhood where it officially launched on Easter 2014. (NAMB photo by Gerik Parmele)

On Easter Sunday the community surrounding Bales Avenue Community Church came together to celebrate two resurrections.

The first and most important was Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. The second cause for celebration was the church’s new beginning — a merge with Living Faith Church, a growing church plant in Kansas City, Mo. — after decades of decline.

Jason Dawson, pastor of Bales Avenue, said, “One of the primary reasons for launching again on ‘resurrection morning’ … is the demonstration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead!

“We hope we’ve demonstrated Christ in a real and authentic way,” he said. “What a great parallel. What was dead is now alive. This is the message of the Gospel that the power of God is demonstrated as His people are reconciled to God.”

The new church is the result of a merger between Bales Avenue Baptist Church, which started in 1891, and a young church plant named Living Faith. The Easter Sunday relaunch took place in the former Bales Avenue Baptist building on the corner of Kansas City’s Bales Ave. and E. 12th St. More than 100 people attended the service, where Dawson preached on “Jesus is Alive in the City.”

Like many other churches throughout North America, the ministry context at Bales Avenue has changed drastically since it opened its doors. Membership grew to more than 1,000 by 1901, making it the second largest church in the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The church peaked in size at more than 1,300 in the 1950s, but post World War II demographic shifts transformed the once thriving middle-class, culturally monolithic neighborhood to an ethnically diverse, low-income neighborhood. From 1990 to 2010, the foreign-born population of the area around Bales Avenue Baptist grew from 3 percent to more than 35 percent of the total population. The medium household income is $21,089 –less than half of the nation’s average.

By the winter of 2013, about 50 to 60 people attended the church each week. And the vast majority of those regular attendees had moved to the suburbs, 30 to 45 minutes from the neighborhood surrounding the church.

“This made ministry to the neighborhood difficult,” Dawson said. “If you saw people become born again — even on a Sunday morning — it’s hard to spend time with them and disciple them when you live 40 minutes away.”

As Bales Avenue struggled to discover its place in northeast Kansas City, Dawson was gaining a love for a similar urban neighborhood. While the Dawsons were members of a suburban church in nearby Independence, Mo., a family who lived in the urban core of northeast Kansas City took Dawson and his wife Brandy under their wings and mentored them. Every week the Dawsons came to the city for Bible study.

“I speak Spanish,” Dawson said. “I’ve lived in Nicaragua and Mexico. God has given me the ability to speak the language for a reason — to share Christ in that context — so when I had the opportunity to move down to that neighborhood, I took it.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tobin Perry

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