MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A church’s firsthand experience on the mission field has led it to begin supporting missions through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Island Creek Baptist Church, Madisonville, Tenn., had not participated in giving through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan, in many years, if ever, said Bennie Creel, director of missions for Sweetwater Baptist Association. The church, however, has given to associational missions over the years, he said.
The church’s interest in missions began to increase with the arrival of Steve Teague as pastor about five years ago, Creel said.
Teague, who was called as a bivocational pastor, came from churches that had a history of giving through the Cooperative Program.
The new pastor began slowly educating the church about missions and giving. “It took time to work up to the point we could be involved in the Cooperative Program,” Teague recounted.
Progress was made in 1998 when Teague enlisted several members, which included some in church leadership, to accompany him on a mission trip to Haiti sponsored by the association.
“Once we went there, the Lord opened a lot of people’s eyes to what the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provided,” Teague said. The team met Southern Baptist missionaries who explained how everything they had was paid for by Southern Baptists, he noted.
“They came back and shared with our people what missions gifts did for the missionaries and their work,” Teague said.
In January 1999, the church voted to begin giving through the Cooperative Program and “we have been doing it ever since,” Teague said. He noted the church began giving 3 percent but he hopes to see that increased to 5 or 6 percent during the next budget year.
Since the church made the commitment to give through the Cooperative Program, the Lord has blessed the church in numerous ways, the pastor said, noting that the church has added Sunday school classes and is looking to build. Attendance has grown from about 80 to 120 in Sunday school during Teague’s five-year tenure, and worship attendance is averaging about 145-150 each week.
Overall giving at the church has increased, enabling Teague to devote full-time duties to the church. “We have not missed what we have given to the Cooperative Program. We really have gained,” he said.
In addition, the “missions bug” has bitten the church in a big way. Last August, a group from Island Creek went to Honduras to build roofs on houses.
“Spiritually, we have also grown to see ministry opportunities and the need for reaching out to those around us,” the pastor observed.
The church has begun a Hispanic ministry, teaching English as a second language two nights each week. About 10 to 20 people attend the classes. The church provides teachers, refreshments and childcare, Teague said, noting that “we are building trust.”
Island Creek also is allowing the Hispanics to use its fellowship hall for a worship service drawing 12 to 18 people each week. Before moving to the church facility, the Hispanics had been holding services under a tree in a local mobile home park.
Teague, who is now serving as assistant moderator of the association, is excited about the future at Island Creek.
“We’re a church with an open vision to reach people. There is a desire to grow and reach out.”