LAS VEGAS (BNM) - A revitalization effort at First Baptist Church, Las Vegas - New Mexico’s oldest Southern Baptist church - continues to show promise, according to the church’s interim pastor, Michael Dean.
According to Dean, First Baptist had dwindled to “just a few families.” But in 2020, the church baptized approximately eight people. Dean noted a strong partnership with the Christian Challenge ministry at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas as a factor in the church’s continued revitalization. Jonathan Bull is the director of the Christian Challenge at NMHU. According to Dean, “Several of the baptisms were for college students that were reached through Jonathan’s ministry.” Additionally, NMHU Christian Challenge staff member Zach Teston has been working with Bull to reach students at the university, Dean said.
As part of the church’s revitalization efforts, Dean worked with BCNM Regional Missionary Rick Brittian to develop a church vision that included values and vision statements. One of those statements directly addressed the church’s partnership with Christian Challenge. According to Dean, First Baptist hopes to “see a day when college students in San Miguel County will have each had an opportunity to hear and see and respond to the Gospel.”
Dean is optimistic about First Baptist’s future. “The Lord has a future for this church,” he said. “And I think it’s evidenced by the fact that there were some really solid people that stayed with the church in hard times. And, [they] said, ‘We are not going to die; we are going to live and see the hand of the Lord in the future.’ I think that’s a big factor.”
Dean said he is “really grateful for New Mexico Baptists stepping up and making a big investment in the future.” He said, “Rick Brittain has been a great resource to us.” Dean also expressed gratitude for the financial support provided by revitalization trusts from the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. “We couldn’t have done it without that,” he said.
Before becoming First Baptist’s interim pastor, Dean completed 28 years as senior pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. He had retired to Glorieta with his wife, Nan. Joseph Bunce, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s executive director at the time, recruited Dean to participate in First Baptist’s revitalization.
Although Dean was recently retired when Bunce contacted him, he told the Baptist New Mexican that he and his wife had planned to continue in ministry. “You may retire from a church. But, I don’t think you ever retire from ministry,” Dean said. “We hoped that there would be the opportunity to continue to serve in ministry and continue to preach and to help out. We just really wanted to see how the Lord might use us to help strengthen the churches in New Mexico. And, so it was a real blessing that this opened up so quickly. And, we are just so grateful to have the chance to walk alongside Las Vegas for this season.”
First Baptist had previously changed its name to Mountain View Fellowship. Before that, it was originally called First Baptist Church.
In July 2019, the church’s previous pastor, Carlos Duran, was charged with two counts of child abuse following a June 5, 2019 incident on the church’s property, according to a statement of probable cause obtained and reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican. The Baptist New Mexican could not verify the status of Duran’s legal proceedings, if he had been convicted of a crime, or if the charges prompted his departure from the church. Dean declined to comment on the matter.