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Blessed at the outset, church remains grateful for CP

ALBUQUERQUE (BP)–First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque doesn’t participate in the Cooperative Program out of obligation, but to pass on the blessing, as pastor Tim Marrow puts it.

Originally named Taylor Ranch Baptist Church, the congregation was birthed with Cooperative Program gifts and has given back at least 10 percent of its offerings from the beginning.

With its 10th anniversary, the church began increasing its CP Missions gifts upward a quarter of a percent every other year.

“It’s 11.5 percent at present; in January it’ll be 11.75 and our goal for 2008 is 12 percent,” Marrow said. “God has blessed us so much, we just feel like we could do more than just give a tithe.”

Every church can be a part of helping fulfill the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program, Marrow said. “Because we support the Cooperative Program, our church supports more than 10,000 missionaries. And not just missionaries, but our six seminaries and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission too.”

As part of its Great Commission focus, First Baptist disciples and equips its members and provides ways they can reach out to those who live in the rapidly growing area west of the Rio Grande River.

Nearly 400 people gather for Sunday worship at 7:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m., with Bible study for all ages at 8:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.

During the school year, while children are in choir on Sunday evenings, adults meet in a variety of discipleship small groups, such as “Running the Rapids” for parents and grandparents of teens, “When worldviews collide,” “Wild at Heart,” and a Beth Moore study: “He speaks to me.”

About 150 youngsters participate in a midweek AWANA program, including many whose families don’t go to church.

Recent local missions projects include gathering sleeping bags and backpacks filled with toiletries to be given on an as-needed basis to the homeless and collecting cleaning products for the Baptist Children’s Home in Portales, N.M.

And, in its Operation Penetration initiative this year, church members are aiming to distribute 20,000 yellow door-hanging bags with information about the church and the positive difference God can make in people’s lives. The contents also include children’s activity pages, tracts and a Purpose-Driven Life booklet.

“We’ve worked it through the Sunday School,” Marrow said. “We started with 5,000; the idea was that 100 people could take 50 bags each. That worked, so we thought we’d do 5,000 more.”

First Baptist of West Albuquerque now plans to set out an additional 10,000 yellow bags by Easter in other local areas west of the Rio Grande, the pastor said.

“People have been very receptive to receiving them,” Marrow said. “We have received first-time guests as a result — and God blesses us as we go, because even people we don’t visit find their way here. When you look at the parable of the soils, especially from Mark 4, that’s what we’re doing: touching as many people as possible.”

When the church was started, all its members lived in the same zip code. Today, members live in 17 zip codes; each of those zip codes are part of Operation Penetration.

Mission trips help First Baptist members touch even more people. For at least four years, teens from the church have participated in World Changers construction missions projects. Adults and youth three times have gone to Bangkok, Thailand; the pastor has gone to Moscow.

“Albuquerque has a population of 480,000, or 600,000 in the surrounding area,” Marrow said. “That’s not many compared to Moscow’s 12 million and Bangkok’s 9 million. You catch a greater vision of the lostness of mankind when you realize how few of the people in huge cities like these have a personal relationship with Jesus…. It gives people a greater sense of the need for reaching people for Jesus Christ and reaching as many as you can when they go on these mission trips.”

Sunday School classes at First Baptist of West Albuquerque reach out in additional ways, such as serving a meal for single moms, dishing up a meal for homeless residents and helping through Samaritan’s Purse and Angel Tree programs. And for seven years, the church has participated in the GROW Sunday School outreach program — God Rewards Our Work — which includes writing cards, making personal visits and sharing evangelistically.

“We’ve been able to put many hooks in the water, evangelistically speaking,” the pastor said.

“It all comes back to the Great Commission,” he noted. “Even in our new members’ luncheons and orientations, I talk to them about the Cooperative Program. I explain it to them and let them know the importance of cooperating with our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters…. Every church has its own identity but [the Cooperative Program] is something every Southern Baptist church can be a part of, so that every person has an opportunity to hear the Gospel before Jesus returns.”