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Cooperative Program’s results resonate at missions-minded Living Hope Baptist Church

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP)–Living Hope pastor Jason Pettus points to results, especially when it comes to missions.

“We don’t talk much about the Cooperative Program as a program,” Pettus said. “We talk about the results of it. We talk about the half-dozen students we send to seminary every year. We talk about what we are able to do in our city and around the world through the SBC. We don’t talk about the Cooperative Program; we show what it accomplishes.”

Pettus, 37, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., was 28 when he was called in 2001 to lead the congregation. Worship attendance has grown from 1,500 to around 2,300 in tandem with the church’s increased emphasis on missions.

“We couldn’t run a seminary and provide disaster relief and plant churches and reach the nations the way the Southern Baptist Convention does,” Pettus said. “The Cooperative Program allows what we give to go further than it could in our hands alone. There is no other method I know of that would enable our church to be engaged in Kingdom work the way the Cooperative Program does.”

As a key avenue “to support what God is doing in our state, nation and world,” Pettus reiterated that the Cooperative Program provides “seminary training for future leaders and mission opportunities through the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board for our people.”

Living Hope, established in 1976, currently commits 10 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The church’s missions focus includes Hope House, a nonprofit established in 2007 by — but separate from — the church to help area residents physically, mentally and spiritually, in a local adaptation of the multifaceted ministry centers of First Baptist Church in Leesburg, Fla., and First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

“Hope House shares the Gospel, helps existing and new churches grow, and shares resources with the poor,” Pettus said. An example of its ministries: backyard Bible clubs for children throughout the summer.

Extending its missions reach across the United States, Living Hope “partners with church planters, NAMB, and sending mission teams to spread the Gospel and help churches care for their cities,” Pettus added. “We are hoping to begin planting more churches.”

Living Hope also is involved internationally, with members from the church serving on three continents as missionaries with the International Mission Board.

“We are partnering with them by sending teams to serve with them throughout the year,” Pettus said. “We also are training and raising up new leaders to become IMB missionaries.”

Pettus, with a D.Min. from Reformed Theological Seminary, is a teaching pastor for the multi-generational church. His Sunday morning messages are backed each week by a worship guide insert that includes “Four Christ-Centered Conversations with your Children” and multi-question study guides for teens and adults to use in midweek small group Bible studies.

“I sense God calling us away from being a consumer-driven church and more focused on being a missionary training and sending church,” Pettus said.

“The process begins with membership. We ask all our members to be involved in sharing their faith, in reaching their lost friends and family, and in studying God’s Word daily. And we ask them to gather with a group to study God’s Word, to discuss the four questions based on Sunday’s worship [service] and their studies as a family, and to serve on-mission somewhere in the church and outside the church.”

Pettus added, “My personal passion is to make disciples who make disciples and raise up leaders who will touch the world with the love of Christ.

“We see two or more people baptized each week, on average. We have more than 100 men training for Kingdom service of some sort,” the pastor continued. “We have hundreds of people leaving our city every year to take the Gospel to our nation and world, and we have more than a thousand people serving in our city throughout the year by sharing Christ and showing the love of Christ in acts of service.

“The church exists to help people get to know God, grow in Christ and give to others,” Pettus said. “We are challenged every week to invest love and prayer into people, and to invite them to know Christ and to worship with us.”

Pettus described Living Hope as “a simple church … driven by a simple vision that God has given us in the Great Commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40, and all we do is determined by the simple mission God has given us in the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20.”

Two years after Pettus was called as pastor, the church dedicated a new preschool and children’s building on its 10-acre campus.

Living Hope’s first building was constructed in 1978. Educational space followed and, in 1996, a worship center. A gymnasium with dedicated space for children and youth currently is being built.

Despite the cost of construction, Living Hope remains committed to supporting missions through the Cooperative Program and is in the top 50 churches across the SBC in its commitment to putting love in action through CP.

“They are our top CP dollar giver in Kentucky,” said Billy Compton, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive associate for the Cooperative Program. “The church continues to grow and be an excellent model of mission and ministry cooperation.”

Pettus turned the conversation away from accolades.

“God has laid leading men on my heart these days,” the pastor said. “I feel compelled to raise up as many effective dads, husbands, deacons, elders, pastors, church planters and missionaries as possible.

“No church is perfect and I am far from the leader God wants me to be,” Pettus said. “Yet, God is faithful and is choosing to work through me and the church I serve. God does not need a person, a church or a system to be perfect for Him to fulfill His Kingdom purpose. We must simply be willing to allow Him to produce fruit through us and to undergo the pruning and painful process that He has chosen to produce growth for His glory.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. For more information and resources relating to the Cooperative Program, go to www.sbc.net/cp and www.cooperatenow.org.