LINTHICUM, Md. (BP)–“I’m a product of a Southern Baptist seminary and the Cooperative Program made it possible for me to go,” said Lyn O’Berry, pastor of Linthicum (Md.) Baptist Church. “I’ll always remember that.”
The Cooperative Program, also known as CP Missions, is a key Southern Baptist Convention avenue for reaching people for Christ by combining the gifts from the 46,000 SBC churches across the country to support more than 10,000 missionaries and their work in North America and around the world. The Cooperative Program also provides support for the SBC’s six seminaries, which train people as missionaries, pastors and other ministry leaders.
“You see why it’s so important to give to the Cooperative Program? When you don’t give here, you break faith with our missionaries halfway around the world,” O’Berry said.
“Our people see that when they give that dollar it goes everywhere because millions of Southern Baptists also are giving.”
CP roots run deep at the Baltimore-area church. The son of deacon chairman Tom Baker graduated from seminary and now is a pastor in Alabama, while member Charlie Lawson was a seminary trustee for 10 years.
However, the personal ties are not what inspire the church to give 20 percent of its undesignated offerings to CP Missions, the pastor said.
“I’ve always said, as a Southern Baptist church, the underlying question is, do you break faith with the missionaries, seminaries and everything that makes us Southern Baptist? If you’re a Southern Baptist, you support the work of the Southern Baptist Convention,” O’Berry said. “It’s as simple as that.”
About 120 people worship each Sunday at Linthicum. Throughout the week they’re involved in a wide variety of ministries that reach out to people who are homeless and in jail or prison — including mentoring those who are released. Other ministries include disaster relief, after-school children’s outreach, care for those in an assisted-living center, evangelical telephone support and a food drive that at Christmas netted 556 institutional (#10) size cans of food for a local men’s mission center.
That’s about five cans for each person in a typical Linthicum Baptist worship service.
“We’re small in number but we’re not a small church,” O’Berry said. “We do a lot.”
One of the things Linthicum Baptist does a lot of is prayer. Church members are a part of Capital Hill Prayer Partners, a nationwide group of believers who pray for members of Congress. They go in teams to each chamber solely to pray during deliberations of the houses of Congress.
“The key is that this group, working through the chaplain of the respective houses, is praying continually,” O’Berry said. Linthicum Baptist, located about 40 miles from the White House, hosts Capital Hill Prayer Partners when members gather in the Washington area.
“I appreciate this group because they do a very good job of keeping us informed of the nuances and impact of legislative initiatives and amendments which otherwise might be overlooked even by the discerning believer,” said O’Berry, who receives a daily e-mail from Capital Hill Prayer Partners. “They give us an opportunity to pray for the president and public officials, and a focus about which to pray.”
For more than 20 years Linthicum Baptist members have participated in a quarterly telephone counseling ministry connected to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“He started this when he was in Baltimore in 1981, and now he’s in 10 cities,” Lawson said. “Four times a year we volunteer to counsel people who watch a Billy Graham program on television and call the number at the bottom of the screen.”
Church members volunteered six nights in December. About 25 percent of the callers made a profession of faith, the pastor said, while another 15 percent rededicated their lives to God. “The others call in for prayer,” O’Berry said.
Training for new volunteers takes place the night before the programs start airing. Some Linthicum Baptist members have been involved with the ministry since its inception, like Lawson, who is a floor supervisor of the 50 or more Baltimore-area volunteers.
Church members also provide supplies for an after-school program at the Christian Children’s Center in East Baltimore. Team Kid participants bring canned goods weekly for a local food bank. And members — several of whom also volunteer as counselors or in other support roles — are given baby bottles to fill with change for a crisis pregnancy center.
“We figure if you’re going to be pro-life, you need to be proactive about it,” the pastor said. “We don’t just give money but actively encourage our people to get involved, if that’s where the Lord is leading them.
“Other than the Cooperative Program, almost all the ministries we do, we’re involved with them hands-on as well as with our money,” O’Berry added. “We give money and effort.”
But actually, the church is involved hands-on even with the Cooperative
Members last year traveled to Prince Edward Island in Canada to help nurture a recently birthed congregation for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. They helped lead two backyard Bible clubs, prayerwalked and helped with other outreach on the French-speaking side of the island.
The pastor also has been to Moldova, a former Soviet republic, three times to lead pastor training classes. One of the men he taught now pastors a church of 1,600.
“People with an interest in the Cooperative Program,” he said, “made it possible for that to happen.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HANDS-ON MISSIONS and LINTHICUM BAPTIST CHURCH.