Changed lives lead to baptisms
Mission USA news story
Nestled in the very southwest corner of Utah, St. George is a unique city that is home to SMCC@The Springs, a USMB congregation. Close to 80 percent of the city’s 140,000 residents are of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) background.
The Springs began in the early 2000s as Desert Springs Church under church planter Tom Mertz. After struggling for several years, Mertz had a heart-felt “meeting-of-the-minds” with Pastor Paul Robie of South Mountain Community Church in Draper, Utah. The fledgling church officially joined the SMCC family in January of 2009 and became known as SMCC@The Springs. Mission USA, the USMB church planting and church renewal ministry, has supported The Springs since 2009 and is currently assisting with funds for Phil Wiebe’s position as associate pastor.
In early 2009, the church had an attendance of about 90 people. Since then, it has grown consistently at an annual rate of about 20 percent, hitting a high attendance of 460 in 2011. After moving from a cramped converted warehouse to a local high school a few months ago, numbers have drifted somewhat lower as people adjusted to the new location and new venue.
The most exciting part about The Spring’s three-year growth is life transformations. Since early 2009, 38 people have been baptized, with over half of those being of LDS background. Moreover, the church has over 100 children—from babies to teens, indicating a dynamic family-oriented environment.
As people have come to know the true Jesus and not the falsely created “Jesus” of Mormonism, these public professions of faith have been dynamic, says Wiebe.
“The interesting thing with people who have an LDS history is that salvation rarely comes by a discussion and a prayer,” says Wiebe. “It usually happens over time. We have numerous attendees that remain LDS while coming to our church as they try to sort things out. It takes a while for them to process the truth of the gospel that they are hearing for the first time in their lives.”
Small groups are an important aspect of the church’s life-transformation ministry, and some of the groups have recently exploded in size. One small group that began with four couples grew to 16 couples and 30 children in the last month. Five of the couples have recently come out of the LDS. The group is now breaking off into four small groups.
The Springs has matured in its strategy for dealing with LDS realities, most recently utilizing some of the more mature previously LDS Christians to help with the transition of younger LDS believers. This is crucial because leaving the LDS church is a very difficult thing for individuals and families to do, says Wiebe.
“Imagine your children telling you they were leaving your church for the LDS church,” says Wiebe. “Take that emotion and then add the fact that families disown each other because of the transition, and that's what we deal with. It brings new meaning to Christ's words about leaving your father and mother on his account.”