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Cooperative Program is ‘lifeblood’ of Southern Baptists’ ministry, pastor says

Immediately after Cory Gonyo baptized Ethan Horner at First Baptist Church in Bettendorf, Iowa, Horner baptizes his daughter, Lily Horner.

BETTENDORF, Iowa (BP) – “Easter is about missions,” says Cory Gonyo, pastor since 2014 of First Baptist Church of Bettendorf. “It’s about God’s mission to save the nations in Jesus Christ.”

The church celebrates the baptism of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior throughout the year, and especially on Easter, the pastor said.

Pastor Cory Gonyo

“At First Baptist Church we preach and teach that Easter is about God’s mission to tell the whole world Jesus is alive,” Gonyo said, including Evan Nutter, the church’s other preaching elder, in his statement. The church called Nutter in 2021.

“Central to our philosophy of ministry is Luke 24:44-47,” Gonyo told Baptist Press. “On the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He spoke of all the Old Testament when He said ‘everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’

“Then He gives His Great Commission, ‘and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem,’” the pastor continued. “The entire Old Testament leads to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the entire New Testament flows from the Gospel event.”

First Baptist Bettendorf exists to glorify Christ in worship, discipleship, and mission.

“This is our identity statement,” Gonyo said. “It’s an aspiration, a conviction and something we’re growing toward. We want to raise up people to continue to be used by the Lord in fulfillment of the Great Commission, from the youngest to the oldest.”

To prepare the congregation for its missional task, First Baptist Bettendorf sets aside Sunday afternoons for “Family Ministry Night,” which includes GAs (Girls in Action,) RAs (Royal Ambassadors for boys) and Adults on Mission, a co-ed version of WMU.

The church where about 120 attend Sunday services also offers multiple discipleship groups where members, their neighbors and friends study Scripture together, live life together and serve together.

“We don’t have any other church growth plan,” Gonyo said. “When we are obedient to the Great Commission, we believe that Jesus will build His church and bless us to serve His mission.”

Locally, First Baptist Bettendorf’s food pantry is one way the church serves 60 or more families each week, twice as many as it did during the pandemic. Before the doors open at 9 a.m. Wednesdays, Gonyo leads a Bible study for the volunteers and any others who want to attend.

Royal Ambassadors leader Caleb Gonyo stands in front of flags displayed in the foyer of First Baptist Church of Bettendorf, Iowa.

Members also serve at the two local crisis pregnancy centers and many assisted living centers. Discipleship groups focus on meeting needs they learn about among their neighbors, such as cleaning yards, home repairs and the like.

Church members plan to go on mission trips this year to Turkey, led by Nutter, and Brazil, led by Gonyo. In addition, Gonyo plans to go to Southeast Asia, where he served as an IMB missionary from 2006 to 2014.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter offering for North American Missions, and Send Relief receive major emphasis at First Baptist Bettendorf, as does the Cooperative Program.

First Bettendorf believes in the way Southern Baptists work together in state conventions and throughout the world, Gonyo said.

Gonyo, a Wisconsin native, was 22 and a law school student when he became a follower of Jesus through the ministry of Grace (Southern) Baptist Church in Vermillion, S.D., which was planted by his father-in-law, Wayne James. 

He followed God’s call to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; served nine years in ministry in South Dakota; and eight years as an IMB missionary before his call to Bettendorf. Gonyo has since also become an adjunct professor at Midwestern and a member of the IMB trustee board.

“I’m deeply grateful for Southern Baptists who gave me the privilege to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Southeast Asia, supporting me and my family through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Gonyo said.

Pastors Gonyo and Nutter emphasize book-by-book expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word. “We are an elder-led, deacon-served, congregational church,” Nutter said. “We lead through teaching God’s Word.

Pastor Cory Gonyo was a missionary in Southeast Asia from 2206-2014.

“We also continue to teach why the Cooperative Program is so important,” Nutter continued. “We regularly invite IMB missionaries to speak at our church, and are supportive of international missions through prayer, giving, and going.”

In 2014, the church was giving 2 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program. The church now gives 16.5 percent.

“All that we do together as Southern Baptists is supported by the lifeblood of the Cooperative Program,” Gonyo said. “It’s all about our faithfulness as Southern Baptists to the inerrant and infallible Scriptures and the Great Commission.

“It isn’t just about the Cooperative Program as a program per se, but what the Cooperative Program supports in faithful doctrinal instruction through our seminaries, and in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, tribe and tongue through the IMB and NAMB.”

At its March congregational meeting, the church voted to donate 100 percent of funds received from its sale of parsonage property, primarily to SBC ministries and mission, with an emphasis on reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel. Some of the funds were also given to the area’s two local crisis pregnancy centers, upholding its commitment to the sanctity of human life, the unborn child made in the image of God.

While American society is becoming more hostile to biblical Christianity, “our focus is on being faithful to the Gospel,” Gonyo said.

“Our greatest hurdles in reaching our community are our greatest opportunities,” Gonyo said. “We are to faithfully represent the gospel of Christ to a hurting world.”

Nutter added, “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. That’s John 4. He really is the only answer, regardless of politics and people’s problems.”