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Church builds CP momentum, led by former & current pastor

TEHUACANA, Texas (BP)–The Cooperative Program and First Baptist Church in Tehuacana, Texas, were started in 1925 –- and both continue to serve as beacons of God’s light throughout the world.

“We have a strong belief in missions,” said Dale McDaniel, First Baptist’s pastor. “We feel that by our giving we who cannot go into all the world can send those who can.”

The church gives at least 10 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ cornerstone method of shared support for missions work state by state and around the world. In addition to its CP Missions commitment, the church also sends similar sums to the Bi-Stone Baptist Association for cooperative local Southern Baptist missions endeavors and to a nearby youth camp.

At the same time, First Baptist focuses on local ministry, fellowship and community needs. It often does so in cooperation with the local Methodist church and with trustees of the Westminster University campus, now in restoration as an academic institution.

One joint project was outdoor movie nights last summer on the former college’s campus. Another is a Country Pastors Conference set for next fall for rural pastors across the nation.

Church members anticipate participation in mission trips in the future, but, for now, their mission field is the small town where they live, McDaniel said.

An Indian village before the arrival of white settlers, Tehuacana’s main claim to fame is that it was three votes shy of becoming the state capital of Texas. About two hours south of Dallas and five minutes north of Mexia, Tehuacana sits on the edge of oil fields, most of which are no longer active. Today about 300 people call the town home.

About 30 people attend First Baptist, up from the three who comprised the church’s membership five years ago when a college student was pastor.

“When he left, the three members prayed for and got a dynamic pastor who was a real good leader,” longtime member Mary Douglas said. “That turned the church around.”

That pastor was Billy Don Roberts. He started a number of things to get townspeople interested in coming to the church, such as monthly bluegrass jam sessions hosted by the church and Sunday dinners on the grounds each week. Roberts convinced his best friend, Dale McDaniel, to help grow the church.

“He strongly believed God was going to send a great revival to Tehuacana and talked about it often,” McDaniel said. “One night about a year ago, we were having a music night and he asked me if I saw it. The revival was beginning, he said. ‘See all the cars in the parking lot? People are having great joy coming to church,’ he said.

“We talked to late in the night,” McDaniel continued. “The next morning he died of a massive heart attack.”

Not wanting to lose momentum, church members quickly called McDaniel as pastor. The past year has been as much a time of healing as it has been moving forward in the vision to reclaim the church as the center of the community, McDaniel said.

“Our church is made up of people who have vision, who want to make a difference in their families, their church and their community,” the pastor said. “They dearly love their church and their community.”

Red bricks from a demolished refinery were used in 1925 in the construction of First Baptist’s stately two-story building that is kept in good condition by church members. One recent project has involved replacing the church’s clear glass windows with stained glass — 14 so far — as another way to draw people into the church.

“The reason behind that idea is that the congregation wanted to bring a vision to life, to create a pretty country church that families would be proud to come to and hear the Gospel,” McDaniel said. “So people just started donating money to buy and install stained glass windows.”

Sunday morning starts with worship at 11 a.m., followed each week by a potluck fellowship dinner and Bible study that often involves folks from the Methodist church. Midweek services also include a meal and Bible study.

As people fellowship, they also look at “how our church can help change the face of the community,” McDaniel said. “The town has a strong community spirit, a sense of history. Our vision is to put God in the center of all that.” That history includes a country store and cafe, two “wondrous” churches and the old Westminster College, the pastor added.

The bluegrass jam session on the second Friday night of each month draws musicians from miles around — even from east of Dallas — to play and sing old country, gospel and bluegrass music.

“Anyone is invited,” McDaniel said. “They have a place to play; I usually cook a main dish for them — fish, chili, stew, whatever is provided -– and we have an outreach tool for the lost and those without a church home.”

McDaniel is a bivocational pastor whose main source of income is at Mexia State School where he works in human resource development. He also teaches kung-fu as another outreach of the church.

In addition to designating 30 percent of the church’s budget for missions support, members also collected a couple of boxes of sweaters and children’s clothing last fall which were sent to North Korea and Afghanistan.

“It is our responsibility as Christians to give and to pray,” McDaniel said. “… Because of our giving, people around the world hear the Gospel, receive Christ as their Savior and change the face of their community. Our present goal is to reach our Jerusalem, which is our community, then to Judea, and finally perhaps the uttermost parts of the earth, if the Lord allows that we have a vision to go on a church mission trip rather than just talk about it.

“We are told by Jesus to just go; no excuses about why we can’t, such as education or money. We are told to just go,” McDaniel said. “Our previous pastor left his legacy with us that our church can do just about anything.”