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Church boosts CP Missions giving en route to restoring its witness

LARAMIE, Wyo. (BP)–Laramie, Wyo., a town known for its history, was established in 1866 to protect immigrants, prospectors, railroad workers and stagecoaches on the Overland Trail. In 1870 it was where the first woman voted in the United States.

Now, a new pastor envisions some spiritual history being made in Laramie.

“I came here with the conviction that God was going to bring about a revival in his church — in Trinity [Baptist Church], in the other evangelical churches in town, and a spiritual awakening in Laramie and across Wyoming, the West and the world,” said Dan Grindstaff, who was called as the congregation’s pastor in August 2000.

“The process of revival that we’re seeing starting at Trinity,” Grindstaff noted, “goes back to when we looked seriously at our giving.

“I don’t think God counts the nickels. He counts the heart and the participation,” the pastor continued. “If we’d all jump in there and do what we could, money wouldn’t be the problem in winning the world to Christ.”

Trinity Baptist — largest of the four Southern Baptist congregations in the area, with about 80 people attending Sunday services — was birthed as First Southern Baptist Church in 1956. It was a time of impassioned expansion of churches in what then was known by Southern Baptists as “pioneer missions” states outside the South.

As was typical during that era of church planting, the Laramie church from its inception gave 10 percent of the undesignated gifts it received through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program (CP) Missions for global evangelization. The church constituted in 1957. Within two years 70 people were baptized and a mission was started in Rock River, Wyo. The Laramie church changed its name in 1962 to Trinity Baptist.

In the decade of the 1990s, finances and members dwindled, and as they did, cutbacks were made to missions giving in order to continue paying the pastor’s salary.

“We forgot how it all works together,” said WMU director Doris Bane. “When you cut out your missions giving, you cut out your heart. Even though we’re a small church, we can reach all around the world by giving to the Cooperative Program.”

Within six months of his arrival at the church, Grindstaff had arranged for a financial management seminar to be led by John Thomason, executive director of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.

“It wasn’t anything fancy he did, just biblical preaching and teaching on money,” Grindstaff said. “God just took his words and worked in people’s hearts.

“Gradually over the next two or three months the money came up,” the pastor continued. “I had some church leaders tell me they were starting to tithe. I had some individuals tell me God was dealing with them on this issue. Then we were about $10,000 ahead of budget and I just kind of saw this as God’s timing for us to raise things back to where they needed to be.”

He went to the finance committee. At the next business meeting the congregation voted to increase CP Missions from 6 to 10 percent; Frontier Baptist Association giving from 1 to 5 percent; and local Baptist Collegiate Ministries from .5 to 2 percent. The church budget also increased from $50,000 to $68,500 — no increase for the pastor but an increase for ministry areas such as Sunday school, music and missions groups.

“There was no dissension when we talked about it,” WMU director Bane said. “We all just said, ‘Yeah; we need to be giving 10 percent and getting back to being respectable Southern Baptists.’ Now our finances have improved and the whole atmosphere has improved 1,000 percent.”

It doesn’t take much faith for a church to give a tithe of its income to CP Missions, the pastor said.

“We’re moving mountains here, but it’s a mustard seed of faith,” Grindstaff said. “Our concept of God is way too small. It’s not a matter of having a great deal of faith. It’s more a matter of obedience. I sure don’t have any extra faith to brag about.”

The 45-year-old congregation now is acting like a grown-up, the pastor said.

“If we’re going to be Southern Baptist, we need to participate fully,” Grindstaff said. “I’m just thrilled with what’s going on in our nation — with the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board — and I just want, figuratively speaking, to put in my two cents worth. It’s my duty but it’s also my privilege.

“Our little 10 percent isn’t going to make a dent anywhere, but most churches across the SBC are about our size,” the pastor said. “Every church our size or smaller, even, can have just as significant a role in helping to fulfill the Great Commission around the world as our brothers in the mega-churches.”

In addition to its ongoing ministry to the town’s 11,000 or more students at the University of Wyoming, Trinity members reach out in a variety of ways to minister to the town of 30,000.

When church members heard of a young mother in need, they collected coats for her and her children, and followed that up by collecting items she needed for an apartment she was moving into.

Handmade baskets stuffed with goodies delight shut-ins and others who need love and encouragement.

Baggies of cookies and a gospel tract passed out on holidays at local truck stops cheer truckers and give them something to think about while driving through Wyoming’s wide open spaces.

The church also has been involved in restocking items needed by the local crisis pregnancy center — toys, blankets, diapers, videos and other items new mothers need — and collecting items needed for the hospitality bags to be used at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Trinity also recently took on sponsorship of a new mission in Laramie – named Ellis Island. Christian recording artist Layton Howerton is leading the edgy congregation designed to reach those who may not set foot in a traditional church.

“If we just take care of ourselves, we’re like a social club,” Bane said. “But our commandment is to go into all the world. There’s no way we’re ever going to solve all Laramie’s problems and then reach out. We needed to do it simultaneously in Laramie, in Wyoming, in the United States and the world.”

A person’s giving is not a financial issue but a spiritual one, the pastor said.

“Sometimes giving is simply a matter of obedience, and when you start giving out of obedience, that heats up your spiritual temperature,” Grindstaff said. “When God has dealt with us about some issue, we basically don’t go any further in our spiritual maturity until we do something with that issue. If the issue is about giving, that’s where we bottleneck spiritually — we don’t grow any farther until we deal with it.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: A NEW VISION.