WOODVILLE, Miss. (BP) — Faced with unanticipated dangers at home and abroad, Christians can find “true safety” in serving the Lord, pastor Rob Muncy told the Mississippi congregation he leads a week after a June 17 massacre of nine worshippers at a historic black South Carolina church.
“We talked about how some people don’t go on mission trips because of safety,” Muncy told Baptist Press. Yet in Charleston S.C., “a group of people [were attending] Wednesday night prayer meeting. Physical safety is just an illusion we comfort ourselves with,” he said.
“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”
About 25 people were in attendance at Woodville (Miss.) Baptist Church’s June 24 Bible study and prayer meeting, six from African heritage. Muncy spoke in response to the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where white supremacist Dylann Roof opened fire after sitting for about an hour as a visitor in a Bible study and prayer meeting.
“Year-round at Woodville Baptist, a key facet of being in the center of God’s will is giving to missions through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, as well as being involved in local missions, church planting as far away as Vermont and Ohio, and numerous short-term mission trips globally. Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists work together to support state, national and international missions and ministries.
“The Cooperative Program is the model for evangelism that all other denominations are looking at,” Muncy said. “It may not please everybody all the time, but it’s the best system for evangelism, freeing our missionaries to focus on ministry, evangelism, reaching people with the Gospel.
““I include talking about it, explaining it, in my sermons from time to time,” Muncy said. “Giving to the Cooperative Program is being obedient to the Great Commission. Jesus said to go and make disciples.”
Woodville Baptist was founded in 1800 as one of the first Baptist churches in Mississippi, 10 years before the town of Woodville was chartered. The church has been committed to giving at least 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program for decades.
“We have RAs [Royal Ambassadors], GAs [Girls in Action] and Missions Friends on Wednesday evenings, and the kids learn about it there, too,” Muncy said. “This church gladly takes on the mantle of training the next generation.”
Being in the center of God’s will also involves raising up future generations of pastors, missionaries and other church leaders. “We honestly don’t know how many [we’ve mentored],” Muncy said. “Last Saturday at a memorial service in town I met another pastor from Meridian, Miss., who grew up in this church.”
Local ministries include being part of a PBM Ministries (with PBM standing for Presbyterian Baptist Methodist) that gives groceries to nearly 500 families the last Saturday of each month, reaching some of the 40 percent of Woodville residents who live below the poverty line.
““There are still 1,000 families in need that are not being reached, so we hope to grow and expand to include counseling, life skills training, gardening and tutoring,” Muncy said. “We get to pray with every person. As much as they need the food, they need prayer more.”
Church members lead weekly Tuesday Bible studies at a local maximum-security correctional facility and minister Thursdays at a retirement home.
In a town where racial separation is the norm on Sunday morning, Woodville Baptist has partnered with New Life Community Church, an African American congregation, for 21 years to provide Backyard Bible Clubs each summer. This year about 85 participated.
And an interracial crowd of about 100 youngsters participated in Woodville Baptist’s 2015 Vacation Bible School.
“We have to be involved in the community God has placed us in,” Muncy said. “When I came to Woodville, this town was 75 percent African American, and our church was 100 percent white. I don’t know how not to invite everybody I meet to church, and our church now reflects that.”
While whites still fill the pews Sunday morning, Wednesday evening is “very integrated,” Muncy said.
“And what was perhaps a half-dozen adults in prayer meeting and Bible study in 2008 has grown to at least 25 adults, plus another 60 teachers and students in the missions education programs. Woodville Baptist also provides ESL classes for more than 30 Guatemalans from a people group that has settled in the area.
“With the kids and our dedicated teachers, we’ll have more on Wednesday nights than we do Sunday morning,” Muncy said. “We pray for the sick and for the lost by name. We also pray for our town, our leaders, our nation. Prayer is followed by a verse-by-verse study of the Bible and how it applies to life.
“Everyone says the South is so racist, but we do everything together,” Muncy said. “We shop together, we go to functions together. But when it comes to church, there’s just the mentality of separation. We’re working on that.
“Sharing the Gospel is the primary purpose of the church,” Muncy said. “The Great Commission isn’t a suggestion. … The Scripture says we are saved for good works, and the only good works we can do that will last through eternity is to lead others to Christ, and discipling Christians.”