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Cooperative Program helps Va. church fulfill its purpose

YORKTOWN, Va. (BP)–Members at Bethel Baptist Church here call their commitment to missions “glocal thinking.” Community involvement standing atop global missions and the Cooperative Program helps Bethel Yorktown achieve its purpose, pastor Thurman Hayes said.

“The Cooperative Program is a way for me as a pastor to get my church, my local church, involved in God’s global purpose,” Hayes said.

“What’s so exciting to me about the Cooperative Program is that it enables our local efforts to be connected to a worldwide purpose,” the pastor continued. “I tell them, ‘As you give every week you are touching every week North America and the world for Christ.'”

Bethel’s commitment stands as strong as its 21 percent giving of undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention’s method of funding missions, missionaries and seminary training.

It’s a commitment that stands as resolutely as the care Bethel has given to area residents since before the Civil War.

And it’s a commitment that couples with the church’s multiple mission trips that give members hands-on experience and a new perspective on the world and their place in it.

It’s nothing more than standing strong on the Bible, said Hayes, pastor since 2000 of the church where about 775 people worship in two Sunday morning services fused with a common Sunday School.

“We have a passion to reach our community for Christ, but a Great Commission church has a heart for the world too,” Hayes said. “Our giving to the Cooperative Program comes from our belief that we want to be part of something larger than what we can do on a local level.

He uses the Bible to teach missions to the congregation, and they respond by reaching out to others, the pastor said.

Bethel Yorktown’s local efforts include Upward Basketball, a weekly evangelistic sports activity involving 500 students and children, said Ben Carr, minister of students.

AWANA is another of Bethel Yorktown’s ministries to children. About 175 youngsters from age 3 through the fifth grade participate in this weekly, fun-games-and-prizes Bible study.

Bethel Yorktown’s worship ministry features a multi-generational, multi-performance Easter production that church leaders anticipate will be seen by about 4,000 area residents this year.

Local efforts also include care for a hurting community, such as during last September’s Hurricane Isabel — the worst storm in a generation, by most accounts. The church, spared because it was set back from large trees, became a rallying point where members called for help or came to offer help, depending on their circumstances.

The community’s recovery from Hurricane Isabel continues, as does Bethel Yorktown’s commitment to global missions. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions receipts came to $94,360 as of the last Sunday in December.

This was up from more than $85,000 given for the Lottie Moon offering in 2002.

“We have some people who give every week to Lottie Moon,” said Bobby Turner, church administrator. “It’s just a love of missions and missionaries.”

Bethel Yorktown prays about missions and goes on mission trips, as well as gives to missions a total of 25 percent of undesignated income (21 percent to CP Missions) plus North American and International missions offerings.

In addition to missions giving and praying, Bethel Yorktown strongly promotes participation in mission trips, the pastor said.

Through the years, Bethel Yorktown members have been a part of various mission trips, and for the last two summers, the church has taken the gospel to the North African nation of Morocco.

“Last summer our group was able to go into some villages where probably the name of Jesus had never been named,” Hayes said. “The going I think is one of the things that fuels the giving and the praying. When Bethel members have gone on trips they experience what God is doing, and it expands their horizons as they see the global purposes of God.”

Bethel Yorktown plans on returning to Morocco again this year, and is in the process of adopting a North African unreached people group as part of their missions strategy.

Bethel Yorktown, founded in 1817 and officially organized in 1840, was among the congregations that formed the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845. Known historically as Bethel Church, it was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War, June 10, 1861, according to a commemorative plaque and numerous Internet sources.

“Our church has also started three other churches, one of which is the largest church in the state,” said church historian Elizabeth Smith. “The emphasis on missions and starting churches comes from the pastors we’ve had. They’ve been missions-minded.”

Pastor Hayes also credits Ryan Davidson with strengthening Bethel Yorktown’s commitment to being a praying/giving/going on mission church. Davidson, on staff for two years as worship leader, in October was named the church’s minister of worship and missions.

“The double vision I see is that as Southern Baptists we have a fabulous opportunity to do missions,” Davidson said. “Whether it’s prayer walking in our area at Easter, or somewhere else in the world, we want to be a part of people accepting the Lord.”

Bethel Yorktown also takes care of its own. The church built a new worship center in 2003. The 28,000-square-foot building includes a 1,000-seat worship center, four educational rooms and a music suite. It is the church’s first new worship center in 40 years, and reflects the growth in the congregation since Hayes was called as pastor, church administrator Turner said.

“We want our building and grounds to be used to reach people for Christ and not be just pretty monuments,” Hayes said. “We built it to be able to reach people for Christ. That’s why we exist.”

“It just excites me to think that every time we put money in the plate, we’re supporting missionaries who are penetrating unreached people groups around the world, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention that is planting churches throughout the state, the North American Mission Board that is doing the same across the nation, and the seminaries that are effectively equipping pastors and missionaries. I find that personally tremendously exciting.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LOOKING AHEAD and CONNECTED VIA CP.