News Articles

CP EMPHASIS: Missions fuels church’s renewal

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.

COMMERCE, Ga. (BP)–Sunday morning attendance among the aging membership at Madison Street Baptist Church may have declined in recent years, but the congregation’s commitment to missions hasn’t wavered.

“It’s the end result that really motivates us,” new pastor Tom Waller said, describing missions and evangelism as two sides of the same coin. “These two things are the reason for our existence.”

“We don’t look at it as giving dollars as much as we do a witnessing effort,” Waller said of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program channel for missions and ministry. “[O]ur people know it’s probably the best way of supporting our missions that could be devised.”

Waller, pastor for the past four months, is working to revive the Commerce, Ga., church, envisioning the potential for its Cooperative Program participation to increase from 19 percent of undesignated receipts currently to as much as 30 percent.

Describing Madison Street as an Acts 1:8 church, Waller appreciates the Cooperative Program’s system of encouraging churches to contribute at least a tithe to support local, regional, national and international outreach.

Madison Street has its beginnings in Commerce’s First Baptist Church, which sponsored the congregation as a ministry to those working at what was the community’s largest industry in the late 19th century, the textile mill.

Today, many of Madison Street’s oldest members are retired textile workers who are too elderly to venture to the mission field, Waller said, noting that the Cooperative Program allows the church to reach populations it can’t possibly minister to personally.

“We don’t believe that when the Great Commission was given to us [Jesus] said, ‘Pick which ones you’re going to minister to,'” Waller said. “We want to have a balanced ministry reaching all the parts of the world, beginning here in our own Jerusalem.”

While no members of the church currently serve on an overseas mission field, a missionary couple from Peru on stateside assignment through the local Sarepta Baptist Association now is worshiping with Madison Street and will speak to the congregation in December. The church recently heard from a young woman on her way to Thailand to minister to women caught in human trafficking there.

Among Madison Street’s active ministries is a food pantry, which the church is considering converting into the Madison Street Missions House, moving it off-site and expanding it to include clothing, household items and a heightened evangelistic focus.

“We believe that when Jesus fed people that He didn’t just feed them and let them go to hell fat,” Waller quipped. “He also gave them the bread of life.”

The church supports International Friends, a Sarepta Baptist Association ministry to international students at the nearby University of Georgia in Athens, and fills shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse’s Christmas ministry to children worldwide. Madison Street is considering re-instituting English as a Second Language class. Waller’s own ministry over the course of 40 years has included mission trips to Brazil, the Philippines, England and several other European countries.

Waller has appointed a 15-member leadership team to study all aspects of the church in an effort to recreate the congregation as a regional instead of a local church. The intent is to grow the church by attracting young members from the community, encouraged by the 60 youth who attended the recent Vacation Bible School.

“The church is very receptive to doing what we have to do to reach those generations,” the pastor said. “In the four months I’ve been here, there’s been a real good spirit among the people who are here and a great biblically based spiritual desire to reach people.”
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship in New Orleans.