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Canadian church stretches from metro outreach to CP Missions

CALGARY, Alberta (BP)–Now, Richmond Hill Baptist Church is an example of Canadian Southern Baptists’ solidarity with Cooperative Program (CP) Missions. Four years ago, however, Southern Baptists assumed a crater-sized responsibility for the new congregation after it had been fractured by another group.

“We had a lot of work to do to establish our credibility,” said pastor Allen Schmidt. “The church had seven liens and a lawsuit against it when we came in.”

That didn’t stop Schmidt from leading Richmond Hill Baptist Church to give 10 percent of the undesignated gifts from its offering plates to the Cooperative Program and other Southern Baptist missions from its inception– including 1 percent to Midwest Baptist Association, which spans the province of Alberta, and 1 percent to the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta.

“I think the people need to see they can do more for missions,” Schmidt said. “We feel the Cooperative Program is a very effective way of balanced outreach to the world.”

This year Richmond Hill is giving more than 15 percent of its non-building fund income to Southern Baptist mission causes, including 9 percent to CP Missions, with plans for increasing that to 10 percent in the next budget year.

“We don’t want to get hung up on just 10 percent,” said Schmidt. “Ten percent is just a starting point.”

The starting point for Southern Baptist involvement in the 25 people who comprised the Richmond Hill congregation in 1997 was an immediate cash infusion of $200,000 in missions gifts from Texas, Mississippi and Florida.

The end result? A three-story, 28,500-square-foot building on two acres of southwest Calgary that seats 600 people for worship.

“One of my goals for coming to this church was to plant a major presence in one of Canada’s largest cities,” Schmidt said. “Our vision for this church was to have a Bible-believing, soul-winning, church-planting church of significant size. We have so few churches of significant size in Canada, and a part of that is because it costs a lot of money to plant a church in a city.” Interest payments, for example, on the $2 million mortgage are $17,000 a month.

“Normally something like that would really scare me off as irresponsible or overwhelming,” said David Bell, a corporate lawyer and member of Richmond Hill since his baptism in February 2001. “Rationally it seems like a lot of money but it’s just so worth it,” he continued. “The community needs it, and every time there’s a need, it gets fulfilled.”

Richmond Hill membership increased from 64 to 139 over the last two years. Worship attendance increased from 98 to 185; Sunday School, from 45 to 95. The general fund offering increased from $75,000 to $199,000 and the building fund offerings from $149,000 to $254,000.

“And so far this year, 15 new members have come and another 10 are talking about it,” Schmidt said. “God certainly has blessed and we’re trying to be faithful to do his work.”

The church is located in a new and fast-growing part of southwest Calgary. Apartment complexes flank two sides of the church; new homes stretch for miles around it, and the city’s newest and largest mall is a block away.

“We’re meeting a niche in the community,” Schmidt said. “We have a traditional worship service with blended music, grand piano and a 35-voice choir. People are responding to this, and not just the elderly. We started with older people, but now we have a good balance.”

Richmond Hill provides “Friday Night Live” — using Team Kid materials produced by LifeWay Christian Resources for sharing Jesus’ love — for about 95 youngsters from age 3 through high school. The $5 per child charge includes dinner. The church promotes Friday Night Live as a time when parents can have a dinner date elsewhere with each other.

“That’s made contact with a lot of nonchurched people in the community,” Schmidt said. “We involve a lot of our new people as Team Kid staff, and that helps them become vital members of the church.”

Richmond Hill’s outreach includes fun and fellowship to draw in the unchurched.

On the last day of the world-famous Calgary Stampede, the church hosts a Stampede Breakfast that last year pulled in more than 400 people for pancakes made “from scratch” by the pastor, plus sausages, orange juice and western gospel music.

More than 200 attended the church’s fall rally and pig roast the Sunday after Labor Day, and the whole month of December is a intense exposure to Christmas, the pastor said, including a Christmas concert that brought in at least 500 people last year.

“These special events give you exposure to the community,” Schmidt said. “People who don’t regularly come to church come to these. We make contact with a lot of new people with them.”

And the people who stay?

“We’re picking up people who are looking for a solid teaching of the Word,” the pastor said.

“We’re just craving to learn more about the Bible,” said Bell, whose wife, Kari, was baptized with him a year ago. “The gospel is being preached here, and the close connection with the [Canadian Southern Baptist] Seminary is a real bonus for the church.

“On Sunday evenings we have special training, where seminary professors teach six-week seminars on parenting or whatever,” Bell said. “And the seniors are incredible mentors. We feel a sense of vision in the church, that it will be a place our kids can grow into their teenage years.”

Richmond Hill has grown to be one of the largest churches in the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists and the second-largest giver to CP missions last year in the CCSB because Schmidt — in his 44th year of ministry — “inspires a lot of the young people,” Bell said. “He’s an extremely hard worker; he’s extremely well-prepared; he speaks the gospels in his sermons and he’s shepherding the community.

“Anything we can do to spread the Word of God is fantastic,” Bell continued. “This community — and Calgary — needs evangelism in a bad way, but we recognize so do so many parts of the world — everywhere. The Cooperative Program is huge. I love it.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RICHMOND HILL BAPTIST CHURCH.