EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of the SBC’s October emphasis on the Cooperative Program, Baptist Press will provide readers with extra news and information detailing the scope and depth of the Cooperative Program and its impact for the Kingdom. Using vignettes and profiles of churches and individuals, as well as historical and ongoing accounts, our intent is to explain the Cooperative Program not just as a funding channel but as one of the critical ties that bind Southern Baptists in voluntary fellowship for cooperative ministries and missions.
MERIDIAN, Idaho (BP)–The economy is humming in Idaho’s Treasure Valley thanks to a good potato crop and a robust computer technology industry. Central Valley Baptist Church’s eight church starts, mission service to 35 countries and 60 baptisms so far this year point to a robust spiritual harvest as well.
Central Valley’s members know their participation through the Cooperative Program has played a role in the church’s vibrancy.
“Anyone who has been in the church for some time knows we have benefited from the Southern Baptist spirit of cooperation,” pastor Clint Henry said.
Members have seen their Cooperative Program gifts at work in planting churches at home and supporting International Mission Board missionaries and mission projects overseas, Henry said.
Seven of Central Valley’s plants are located in Treasure Valley. Each received some CP support through the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. More than 20 percent of Central Valley’s offerings help put love in action through the Cooperative Program.
CP is the way state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention work together to fulfill Christ’s command in Acts 1:8 way — simultaneously supporting local, regional, national and international missions and ministries.
“The Cooperative Program is a very good way to impact other parts of the world,” Henry said.
Central Valley’s steady growth is interrupted only occasionally as members volunteer to be the core of a new church plant. Worship attendance averages 500.
When the church outgrew its facility four years ago, it moved to a highly visible location at a new exit on the Interstate 84. Baptist volunteers helped build the new facility without the church incurring debt.
“That’s who we are. We help each other,” Henry said.
Central Valley’s men’s ministry has played a key mission education role through its long-running monthly breakfast when the men pray for missionaries, highlight the Cooperative Program and the SBC’s special mission offerings and view IMB and North American Mission Board videos.
The church’s newly minted Solid Rock Outdoorsmen is the only hunter’s education class of its kind in the area, providing the men a ministry service opportunity in helping participants learn to call elk, tie flies for fishing and garner other outdoor sports skills.
“Our strengths are missions and discipleship,” Henry said.
New members are introduced to the Cooperative Program through a New Members Class using CP and missions offering resources.
The church has participated in IMB-facilitated mission trips to Thailand, Ecuador, Eastern Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. Two or more national and international mission trips are scheduled yearly.
Henry is a Texas native whose first exposure to Southern Baptist work outside of Texas was his service as resort minister at Jackson Hole, Wyo., during college.
Henry, who served in Minnesota and Wisconsin before becoming Central Valley’s pastor 15 years ago, said church members’ traditional social values fit well with an area heavily populated by Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. New Christians, some former Mormons, make up about a third of the congregation.
“Our conservative values match much better here than in the Midwest,” Henry said.
The church joined with other local evangelical churches in supporting a Christian class for high school students during release time from campus. The off-campus class was prompted by the prevalence of Latter-day Saint “seminary” classes next to new high schools that teach Mormon doctrine to students in grades 9-12.
Meridian is located in southwest Idaho, near Boise, the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard. Agriculture, including potatoes, and dairy farming are major industries and provide income for many of the church’s members. The church was established in 1982.
Marilyn Stewart is a freelance writer and member of Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.