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Church’s diversity grows, nurtured by CP vision

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (BP) — Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, is enjoying added diversity, with Hispanics, Asians and African Americans joining the traditionally white congregation.

Monty Guice, who has led the church for two years, said Inglewood is changing by the week.

“The world has come to our door, and it’s almost like the church makes a special effort to make them feel welcomed, and that’s because of the missions heart of the church,” Guice said of the suburban congregation that draws 325 worshippers on Sunday mornings.

Guice credited previous pastors with nurturing Inglewood’s heart for missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches work together in their state convention and around the world.

“I love the beauty of it: the body of Christ coming together for a Kingdom cause,” Guice said. “I just think we can do more together than we can separately…. I became a Baptist because of theological convictions but I remain a Southern Baptist because of cooperative convictions.”

Missions is in Inglewood’s DNA, the pastor said; missions is the church’s lifeblood. Last year the church gave about 23 percent of its offerings to missions; 10 percent of that was through the Cooperative Program.

“We’ve have 40 people over the last eight years go to Zambia at least once,” Guice said. “We’ve had teams go to 10 different countries in the last four years, and in the last three years we have had more than 70 different members go on a mission trip, and some have gone on several.

“From an early age,” the pastor added, “children are hearing about missions, seeing missionaries … and by keeping it out in front of the people, over time God calls….”

New members of Inglewood learn about the Cooperative Program in the church’s four-week “Origins” class. Whenever anyone comes back from a mission trip, they are given time during a worship service to speak about their experiences. Inglewood’s “Mission House” welcomes missionaries on stateside assignment — formerly known as “furlough” — who also become guest speakers at times during their stay. For four weeks each November the pastor preaches on missions, accompanied by video reports from members and former staff sent out by the church to start churches in the United States and throughout the world.

Doug Hixson, former small groups and missions pastor at Inglewood, is planting a multiplying church in Spearfish, S.D., that in its second year is planting a new congregation. Hixson said he anticipates several ongoing Bible studies will become church plants in God’s timing in the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota.

Former minister of education and administration Steve Brown has been building relationships in Boston since last July and forming a core group of what he believes will be a multiplying church.

And former church members are serving in security-sensitive areas of Asia and Africa.

The last Sunday in November is “Ingathering Sunday,” when church members bring their World Missions Offering to the altar. The $52,000 or more last year was divided three ways: 70 percent to International Missions and 10 percent to North American Missions. Twenty percent is designated for church members and staff who have gone out as church planters and missionaries and for special church-led mission projects.

“It’s mainly just a love offering,” Guice said. “We try to stay connected to our missionaries. It [the financial ‘extra’] just tells them, ‘We know this is your home church and we don’t want you to feel neglected.’ … We feel like we’re in partnership with them. We also go on mission trips to assist them.”

Being personally involved with missionaries is an important aspect of Inglewood’s ongoing readiness to pray for, give to and participate in hands-on missions, the pastor said.

“I think it’s really good for a church to have a very unique relationship with specific missionaries,” Guice said. “It puts a face … on the regular support we give through the Cooperative Program.”

Inglewood’s community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is another important aspect of the church’s outreach. Over the last dozen years Grand Prairie has gone from being mostly Anglo to mostly Hispanic, from 62 percent Anglo in 2000 to less than 30 percent Anglo in 2010, and from less than 33 percent Hispanic to more than 43 percent Hispanic. Asians also are a part of Inglewood’s growth.

“This is one of the challenges our church faces,” Guice said. “Basically we have a transitioned neighborhood. How do you reach these people on our doorstep? … We rolled out a new vision in January.

“We looked at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and obstacles, and tried to figure out what the church needs to do,” the pastor said. “Not every church is the same. We’ve all been given the same basic idea of what we are to do: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. But what does that look like for us? You’ve got to figure out what God wants for your specific congregation.”

Inglewood identified four core values — relationships, spiritual growth, preaching and teaching, and missions — and developed five initiatives around them: reaching international students at Dallas Baptist University, community ministries such as “Beach Club” after-school activities, and ministries for families, men and prayer.

“It’s a challenge and an opportunity,” Guice said. “The world has come to our door and is coming into our church family…. I think they recognize this church accepts them. They’re comfortable here and they see what we’re trying to do. It’s not just about our kingdom, but God’s worldwide Kingdom.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).