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Cooperative Program turnaround key to his 3rd stint as pastor

EDITORS’ NOTE: Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention is April 9. The following feature story reflects a pastor’s commitment to reaching people and making a difference within his state, across North America and the world through the Cooperative Program.

NEWPORT, Tenn. (BP)–Saying to a pulpit committee that “cooperative missions is the way to go,” Tom Mooty agreed to pastor West End Baptist Church in Newport, Tenn. -– for the third time.

The church has responded well to Mooty’s challenge and has increased its giving through the Cooperative Program to 6 percent, with a goal of moving toward 15 percent.

Mooty, who was reared in Cocke County, actually attended West End occasionally as a teenager although he primarily attended a Methodist church.

He was licensed and ordained to the ministry in 1968 and three years later he became West End’s interim pastor before becoming the church’s fulltime pastor in 1973.

Mooty resigned in 1975 to attend college and seminary at Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga. He had no idea that he would return to West End, but in 1977 the church asked him to return.

His second tenure with the church lasted 10 years until he was called to First Baptist Church in Wartburg, Tenn., in 1987, where he remained for 17 years.

In early 2004, Mooty was contacted by West End to consider returning for a third time.

He turned the church down twice but subsequently agreed to preach on a Sunday morning in June if it would be called a “homecoming” service.

Afterward he was asked again to consider becoming West End’s pastor. “I just did not feel led to come back to Newport,” Mooty recalled.

He acknowledged he had “every reason to return” because it was “home.” The main reason for not taking the position immediately was “God was not leading me to do so.”

But the pulpit committee at West End was persistent.

“One member told me he remembered me consistently telling the church to ‘go as far as you could on the right road.’”

Mooty said the committee told him they did that and were convinced he was the man God wanted to serve as their pastor.

Mooty reconsidered and prayed. In July 2004 he told the committee he would return if the church would agree to some stipulations.

At the time the church was supporting independent missions and had ceased giving through the Cooperative Program.

“I told them I was a Southern Baptist and that they had to phase out the independent missions and begin giving through the Cooperative Program,” Mooty said.

The church agreed to a process of phasing out the independent missions at a rate of one-half percent a month, while at the same time giving that percentage through the Cooperative Program toward an initial goal of 10 percent of each week’s undesignated gifts. “I didn’t want to cut all the independent missions at once,” Mooty said. “That would not have been fair.”

The church is on target. The church’s CP gifts have risen to 6 percent and are still climbing. The church also has begun regular monthly contributions to East Tennessee Baptist Association and has met and surpassed goals for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

Mooty is a firm believer in the Cooperative Program. “Two can do more than one,” he said. He noted that no one church can singularly support all the missionaries and missions that all the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention support together.

Appreciative that the church has been responsive to him being “up front” in what he wanted and expected, Mooty hopes to see the church begin giving to the Mother’s Day offering for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.

“My desire is to see the church continue to grow in its missions giving,” Mooty said. “Ten percent is not the final goal. I would like to see it reach 15 percent and to also give 5 percent to the association.”

The church also is seeing growth numerically.

There were 64 people at the service at which he was called as pastor; now West End is averaging about 180 each week, and more than 40 people have been baptized since the start of his third stint at the church.

Mooty is glad the West End pulpit committee did not give up after he turned them down several times. He also is grateful that God made it clear to him “that I should come back.”

“The church has a rich heritage,” Mooty said, “and we are looking to the future under the Lord’s leadership.”
Downloadable resources for the Cooperative Program are available at www.sbc.net/CP. Click on Resources. Other resources are available through state Baptist conventions.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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