Growth Symbols

Dr. Dwight Tomlinson

I was twenty-four years old; my wife was twenty-two. We had a nine-month-old baby and a whole lot of reasons not to start a church, but the Holy Spirit kept pressing in that still, small voice, “Separate me Dwight and Gayle for the work whereunto I have called them.” Our sending church followed the pattern in Acts 13 and “sent us forth” to Redwood City, California. After I got a job there and started knocking on doors, the Redwood Baptist Church was born in July of 1974.As the years went by, the Lord provided property, buildings, and people. In the first decade of the church’s existence, more than four thousand people walked down the aisle, knelt at an altar, and professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot save anyone, but we can sincerely, lovingly go door-to-door throughout our communities seeking opportunities to share the greatest story ever told with those who are willing to listen.As independent Baptists, we understand the need to plant churches. Our entire movement has historically revolved around missions and church planting. Our doctrinal position may be the glue that holds us together, but missions and church planting are the natural outcome of unity around doctrine. Independent Baptists don’t fellowship just to drink coffee and eat pie. We fellowship together as churches for the great purpose of sending forth laborers into the harvest fields of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His church the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20. For two thousand years, local independent churches have joined hands for the purpose of sending those who are called by God to cities without churches to establish ministries. Acts 13 records the beginning of the missions movement. Two church planters were sent out under the authority of the local church to win people to Christ, baptize them, and organize them into local independent churches. Eventually those two original missionary church planters returned to the church of Antioch to give a report, but not until they “had ordained them elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them unto the Lord, on whom they had believed”  (Acts 14:23).That was the beginning of the missionary movement but definitely not the ending. From their time until ours, the Holy Ghost has continued to say; “Separate me __________ for the work whereunto I have called them.” By the grace of God, our independent Baptist churches have stepped up to the plate and supported these men with prayers and finances. We call it missions.NEW FIELDSTen years after starting Redwood, the Holy Ghost said once again, “Separate me Dwight and Gayle for the work whereunto I have called them,” and we found ourselves on the southern shores of China planting a church in Hong Kong. Once again, we found that the Bible works anywhere a person is willing to step out by faith and follow it. The problem in church planting is not that the Bible has been tried and found wanting; the problem is that too few of us are wanting to try it.My wife and I enrolled in language school, printed up fliers inviting people to Sunday services in our home, and opened the doors to see what God would do. The first meeting in our home was attended by six people—five of them were my family, and one was a Chinese man. We looked at the words of Jesus in John 3, “Ye must be born again.” The following Sunday our new Chinese friend returned and brought four of his friends. Now we were even numbered—five in my family and five new prospects for the Gospel. From that Sunday on, our family was in the minority. In a few months we outgrew our home, went downtown, and rented a building; and the Bible Baptist Church of Hong Kong was organized.Space will not allow me to write of all the amazing things we saw God do among those dear people. Many were saved, and people were transformed by the power of the Gospel. People who had grown up bowing to Buddhist idols forsook their superstition and embraced the Cross. Many of those who were saved in these early years are still strong witnesses for Christ to this day.Time went by, and we were led to come back to America and plant the Bay Area Baptist Church where Jeremy Stalneker is doing a great job as their pastor. I recently received an email from Pastor Stalneker telling me that he had lunch with the mayor of his city. The mayor told him that he still has the Bible that I gave him years ago when we planted that church. I vividly remember the opening of the church and giving a Bible to a young mayor who looked like he was not at all interested in what we were trying to do in his city. Yet today, by the grace of God, the mayor is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.FRUIT OF THE HARVESTI am humbled and amazed when I see what God used me to accomplish, often in spite of my efforts. This summer I will have the honor of not only preaching the thirty-fifth anniversary of Redwood Baptist Church for Pastor David Azzarello, but my wife and I will be with Dr. Arthur Maricle, the Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Santa Rosa. Pastor Maricle surrendered to preach thirty years ago as a layman at Redwood Baptist Church. We will also be with Pastor Jeff Eldridge at Gateway Baptist Church in Red Bluff. Gateway Baptist Church was started by a man who was saved, baptized, trained, and sent out by Redwood Baptist Church. The church at Hong Kong is now in their twenty-third year, and each week hundreds of people assemble to hear the wonderful story of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today my wife and I look back and realize that God took our meager offering and multiplied it greatly!The Lord of the harvest has not changed. He has lost none of His power, authority, or compassion. There is no promise Paul and Barnabas had two thousand years ago that you and I do not have today. There is no special anointing the first missions-minded church had in Antioch that is not available for any missions-minded church today. If you listen carefully, you just might hear the still small voice of the Holy Ghost saying; “Separate me _____ for the work whereunto I have called him.”