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C.H. Spurgeon Awards celebrate God’s work in SBC churches
November 10, 2003
By Jeff Robinson
Thom Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School, gives the award for “Church of the Year” to Englewood Baptist. Photo by Deborah Martin
“Shock and awe” has an all-new context for David Dixon.
Dixon, who serves as associate pastor of evangelism and church growth at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., said he was intensely surprised when the church was named “Church of the Year” at the second annual C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony Oct. 23 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The only advance notice Dixon and other staffers at Englewood received was a letter informing the church it had been nominated for an unspecified C.H. Spurgeon Award.
“It was shocking and surprising,” Dixon said. “The letter said we had been nominated for an award but it was not specific as to which award. We had no idea. We are excited about winning it, but we certainly give all the praise and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because that’s why we are here, for His glory.”
The C.H. Spurgeon Awards ceremony and conference debuted last year. It is sponsored by the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and was conceived by the school’s dean, Thom Rainer.
The Spurgeon Awards honor top churches in 12 categories, such as global missions, evangelism, prayer and innovative ministry. Rainer had been sending certificates of recognition to top SBC churches for several years prior to his founding of the Spurgeon Awards.
“The purpose of the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Awards is to bring glory to God by recognizing His work in His churches,” Rainer said. “Although the churches do get rightful recognition, we are very clear that we do not seek glory for the churches, but to encourage and exhort them in the manner of the Apostle Paul.”
Both objective and subjective criteria determine finalists and award recipients in each category. All finalists receive a recognition letter from Rainer and the Graham School. A winner is selected from among the finalists.
The Spurgeon Awards have broadened their scope since their inaugural year. Last year, only Southern Baptist churches in the Midwest were eligible for the awards. This year, nominees came from SBC churches nationwide and the event will continue on a national scope in the years to come, Rainer said. This year’s top church, Englewood, has experienced profound growth in recent years. The church averages 1,250 in attendance for Sunday morning worship and 800 for Sunday School. Sunday School attendees have increased by nearly 200 in the past two years and have climbed by a greater percentage of late, Dixon said.
“The past two months we have averaged 950 in Sunday School, so the Lord is continuing to grow the church,” Dixon said. “We just moved to two worship services in October.”
The Spurgeon Awards are named in honor of the famous British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who lived from 1834-92. In London, Spurgeon served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle that underwent such meteoric growth during his ministry that the church built a 5,000-seat sanctuary.
“We use Spurgeon’s name for these awards for several reasons,” Rainer said. “He was a Baptist who had a high view of Scripture and believed that no church could be healthy without firm theological convictions. He had an evangelistic passion as clearly evident in his book, The Soul Winner.
“He was a pastor’s pastor, evident in the pastor’s school he started at Metropolitan Tabernacle. ... He insisted on churches having some type of accountability beyond themselves. That is why he urged churches to report records of attendance and baptisms. He had no interest in numbers for numbers’ sake, but he did believe in congregational accountability through numbers.”
Rainer said the response from participating churches has shown that the Spurgeon Awards are accomplishing their goal of celebrating God’s work and encouraging congregations and leaders.
“We have had countless church leaders, staff and laypersons tell us that they rarely, if ever, have received encouragement as they did through the Spurgeon Awards. They tell us that they are now more motivated than ever to press on for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.”
Among the other winners were: church of the year, first runner up, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; second runner up, Long Heights Baptist Church, McKenzie, Tenn.; evangelism, Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, Ala.; worship, Valley View Church, Louisville, Ky.; discipleship, First Baptist Church Thayer, Thayer, Mo.; ministry, Word Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa.; church planting, Eastwood Baptist Church, Haughton, La.; global missions, Calvary Baptist Church, Elko, Nev.; Sunday school/small group, Holgate Baptist Church, Portland. Ore.; innovative approaches, The Country Church SBC, Marion, Texas; preaching, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.