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Church’s CP Missions outreach nourishes family commitments

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (BP)–The Cooperative Program is at the heart of various ways First Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., helps build missions-minded families.

The Cooperative Program, also known as CP Missions, is the Southern Baptist Convention’s channel for combining the resources of more than 42,000 congregations to reach people for Christ. CP Missions empowers the equipping and efforts of more than 10,600 missionaries who engage nearly 1,500 people groups internationally as well as church planters and numerous ministry workers across North America.

“Missions involvement by our members and their families contributes to building stronger relationships in their homes,” said Stephen P. Davis, the Russellville church’s senior pastor since 1984. “Missions involvement gets people thinking of other people. They work together and pray together and give together and, as time goes on, they go together.

“You talk about bonding and building love, respect and harmony in the home — mercy, it’s unbelievable!” Davis exclaimed. “Personalizing missions is a motivational thing around our church.”

A thousand or more worship in one of two Sunday morning services at First Baptist. More than 400 of them have gone on at least one mission trip — to Mexico, Africa, China, India, Brazil, Russia or Denmark as well as various missions sites in the United States and Canada.

Hall Lyons, 8, ran through a village in Mombassa when he was 6, playing games with other youngsters fascinated by his red hair, but by then he was an old hand at missions trips. On his initial venture — when he was 5 – he was part of a team who journeyed upriver into Brazil’s Amazon region for 10 days.

“Before Hall was born, we left our youngest daughter at home when she was 13, because we thought she was too young to go, and that was a real mistake,” Jeannie Lyons said. “If a husband and wife goes, and they build that bond with other people and you come home, the other partner or the children don’t understand what you’ve been through. No pictures, nothing can capture the emotion.

“Hall might have been too young to do any missions work that summer he was 5, but it wasn’t too young to make a memory,” she continued. “My little boy has seen kids who have nothing to play with, find something and make a toy — like a tin can.”

Youngsters learn about missions during the Wednesday AWANAs program at the church, but hearing about a child your age with no toys doesn’t have the impact that seeing a child with no toys does, Lyons explained.

“You can’t understand something like that until you see it for yourself,” she said. “It really gives you a love for your country to appreciate the things you have as a child.”

The entire Lyons family went on the church’s mission trip to Mombassa in 2000. Danny Lyons is a physical therapist; Jeannie is a homemaker; Ellen is now 23, Emily, 20, and Hall, 8.

“It’s fun to watch your children witness to people and want to lead people to the Lord,” Jeannie Lyons said. “It’s priceless. It’s just witnessing and you don’t have to think about other things going on in your life because there is nothing else going on. You create a real bond that way.”

High school chemistry teacher David Bauman also spoke of the special bond a family creates when they do missions together.

“Our vision is different,” he said. “It’s not material things. It’s not even the physical property of the church, but how we can help others. When you’re focused outside of yourself — foreign missions, home missions, local missions — it takes away the ‘what do I need’ and ‘what do I want’ to ‘what can I do, what can I give.’

“As a family, we’re closer as far as we’ve got some real memories of where we were together sharing Christ,” Bauman continued. “It makes us closer as a family. It makes them appreciate what they have and recognize material possessions aren’t everything.”

First Baptist has plans for five international mission trips in 2003, and they won’t be going alone. Members scout other churches to see who would like to go on an international missions trip. In past years, people from 17 other churches have gone with Russellville members to Africa, 13 to India and six to Brazil.

“When they return and report to their churches, their churches have become more involved in missions,” Pastor Davis said.

First Baptist emphasizes missions through its midweek children’s program; promotes missions through Sunday bulletin inserts from the SBC’s International Mission Board and North American Mission Board; highlights missions through special emphases and offerings through the year for outreach in Arkansas, North American and internationally — and by financially supporting Cooperative Program (CP) Missions with 14 percent of its undesignated offerings.

“Our commitment is to missions at home and abroad and we need to be as faithful as a church body as we ask our church members to be,” Davis explained. “We wanted to set the example for them in catching a vision for the world mission effort of our Southern Baptist Convention.”

The congregation’s response indicates they have caught the vision, the pastor said. Church members’ gifts have increased significantly over the last 10 years while at the same time they have met First Baptist’s increasing budget requirements.

“Involvement in missions — giving, going and praying — has motivated our church family to give more sacrificially to our church’s budget and to be more excited about reaching the lost people of our area,” Davis said. “Personalizing missions makes pastoring a church easier and more enjoyable.”

First Baptist also gives beyond its CP gift — $7,200 a year to the Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association, $7,000 to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, $4,000 to Arkansas Baptist’s Children’s Home and Family Ministries, $10,000 to the Hispanic ministry of the Arkansas River Valley Baptist Association, as well as smaller amounts for local ministries.

The Russellville church also has given more than $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions each year for many years.

“Pastors don’t need to fear promoting missions,” Davis said. “The thing is, by encouraging your church family to become personally involved helps them see the big picture. They in turn want to give more to their own local church. They soon realize being world Christians is what Jesus was calling them to be.

“Allowing them to get their hands on missions causes them to understand that their gifts really are eternal investments,” the pastor continued. “They want to financially support whatever and whoever makes missions happen. When people see the bigger picture and are given the opportunity to be involved, they give more generously.

“I believe the greatest resource for telling the story to our churches of the mission of the Southern Baptist Convention are these volunteers who have been on a mission trip,” Davis said. “They are hot-hearted for what God is doing all around the world.

“I’ll tell you something else that’s exciting. Our parents are teaching their kids to love missions!” he said.

“Every Christian needs to be part of something bigger than himself, bigger than his own little part of the world,” Davis said. “Then he gets a sense of what Christianity is all about — the love, the unselfishness, the burden for people. People who are involved in the action are more fulfilled Christians.

“God knows that benchwarmers become complainers,” Davis said. “He has a position for every one of us to play. I want all of our church family to find God’s position of fulfillment for them. I have discovered that a good place to start in getting Christians off the bench is involvement in our Southern Baptist mission causes, according to the Acts 1:8 game plan, starting at home and going to the uttermost parts of our world.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MISSIONS MOMENT.