Walking the aisle at Immanuel is
a family affair for the Gilbert clan
___By George Henson
___PARIS--Your last name doesn't have to be Gilbert to join Immanuel Baptist Church in Paris, but it sure doesn't hurt.
___In a little more than two years, at least 13 Gilberts have professed faith in Christ and joined the church. Now, when Pastor Randall Scott introduces another Gilbert to the congregation, he's greeted with joyous laughter.
___Mildred Gilbert, the matriarch of the family, came with her daughter, Sally, to church and then professed faith in Christ in her home as members of the church visited her. Since then, her sons Robert, Kenneth and David also have become Christians as have some of their chil
dren and a nephew.
|PASTOR Randall Scott (center) almost always finds himself surrounded by Gilberts. Here he poses with Robert, Deanna, Kenneth and Mildred in front of the church's baptistry, which the Gilbert clan has kept filled.
___Robert Gilbert had attended church about 20 years ago and said he always felt drawn to the church but never went back. His mother's and son's salvation experience and his wife's beginning to attend stirred something in him, but he still couldn't make himself cross the church's threshold.
___"When it gets in your mind, you can't get away from it," he said. "But I was making all kinds of excuses. Finally, one Sunday I got up and drove up to the church, but I just circled the parking lot. I drove around the parking lot three times. The third time around I decided, 'If there's not a good parking spot in the main lot, I'm going home.' When I got around, there was one spot left, right in the middle. I had to go in."
___The love and acceptance he found has kept him coming back.
___Pastor Scott recalled the report from the FAITH evangelism team that led Robert to Christ: "Robert and one of the men had gone out on the porch to talk, and one of Robert's friends was driving down the road and stopped to talk. He told them, 'I'll talk to you later, I'm getting saved right now.'"
___Robert started inviting his brother Kenneth to church, but Kenneth took about three weeks to get to church and another three weeks before he made a profession of faith in Christ.
___"It took me about three weeks to give my heart to the Lord, because I was checking everybody out," he said. "I was making sure they were real, but everybody gave me a good sign."
___He also had attended church for a while in his youth years ago.
___"I was the lost sheep that was finally found," he said.
___Watching his videotaped baptism led his daughter Deanna to become involved in the church.
___And the story continues to grow. Of Mildred Gilbert's nine children, seven are now Christians. But together, they're working on the last two.
___"There's something going on here that I've never seen before," said the pastor, who has been preaching 41 years and been a pastor 32 years. "It's put a spirit in our church that is incredible."
___While the Gilberts make up the largest family flowing into the congregation, many other families are finding faith in Christ through Immanuel Baptist Church as well. Scott attributes that primarily to two things--the love of people for one another and God, and the FAITH outreach ministry.
___But FAITH is much more than an outreach ministry at Immanuel, the pastor said. "We promote that if you're a deacon, a Sunday School leader, someone who prepares a meal for those who go visiting, those who greet people at the doors on Sunday morning, a prayer partner or those who actually knock on doors and make the visits, you're a part of our FAITH ministry. As a result, it has put a spirit in our people to reach out to people outside the church."
___The church stays energized about FAITH ministry, Scott said, because they are constantly seeing and hearing about the fruits of the ministry.
___"We let our team members share what FAITH is doing, because when laypeople share with laypeople, it communicates in a way a pastor can't," Scott said.
___What makes FAITH a powerful tool is its incorporation of Sunday School into the outreach effort, he said. "It's just a natural marriage."
___Immanuel has set a goal of baptizing 100 people this year. "We may not be close, but at least we'll be shooting at it," he said. "You're sure not going to make it if you don't shoot for it."
___And the Gilbert clan is leading the way.
___"When I talk about the Gilberts, I ask the people, 'How many other Gilbert families are out there?' When we reach one or two people, we don't know where that dynamic will then lead."?
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