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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–From the arid climate of southeastern Washington state to tourist-favorite spots near the Gulf Coast, the following five churches have found missions is something that any church can support. Through the Cooperative Program, each effort is multiplied beyond what they could do on their own. In return, they found a new fervor for missions.
MISSION GIVING FUELED BY MISSION ACTION
Once named one of the top 100 “best small towns to live in,” the suburban town of Brewton, Ala., is a little piece of Americana. Just north of the Navy beach town of Pensacola, Fla., the town welcomes lots of travelers passing through, yet remains very stable in its population of around 10,000.
With 19.97 percent Cooperative Program giving, First Baptist Church’s mission action is as fervent as their giving. Their hands-on mission projects include a continuing commitment to a Reynosa, Mexico, orphanage.
“Our church has always had outstanding mission leaders who have kept missions before the people,” pastor Jack Fitts said. “But our mission trips, local and international, have fueled our Cooperative Program giving.”
Total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 1,567; baptisms, 20; primary worship service attendance, 405; undesignated receipts, $818,795; Cooperative Program, $163,520; CP percent, 19.97; total missions expenditures, $271,289.
BIG HEART FOR MISSIONS
If cowboy boots, horses and lush gas royalties come to mind when you think “Texan,” then Central Baptist Church of Carthage fits the bill. But the small-town church in the green Piney Woods of East Texas has a heart for missions that is as big as Texas itself.
“Many of our people grew up poor,” pastor Steve Jackson said. “Though our church has been blessed financially, our people kept their spirit of humility, giving and not hoarding their blessings. The Kingdom is richer and we are richer as a church because of it.”
According to its 2008 ACP, Central Baptist gave 18.96 percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program; total members, 1,220; baptisms, 6; primary worship attendance, 260; undesignated receipts, $932,938; Cooperative Program, $176,929; total mission expenditures, $225,458.
DOING WHAT CAN’T BE DONE ALONE
Michael Adams — only the fourth pastor in the 100-year history of First Baptist Church in Lexington, Tenn. — credits the church’s strong Woman’s Missionary Union and the church’s “extreme stability” as the force behind its members’ commitment to missions.
The church in the county seat town of 7,500 made a commitment several years ago to increase their giving to the Cooperative Program yearly. Today, 20.20 percent of their undesignated receipts is earmarked for CP.
“We support the Cooperative Program because it gives Southern Baptist churches of all sizes an opportunity to join resources to accomplish what individual churches couldn’t do alone,” Adams said.
Its 2008 ACP reported the church’s membership at 1,785; baptisms, 30; average worship attendance, 700; undesignated receipts, $1,062,704; CP giving, $214,705; total missions expenditures, $249,723.
UNDERGIRDING CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
The tri-cities area of southeastern Washington often lays claim to having the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita in the nation. Many of the scientists who work in the region’s research industry are part of the growing congregation at Richland Baptist Church. Nestled in the desert between the Cascade and the Blue Mountain ranges, the church tripled in baptisms last year.
“The Cooperative Program supports Christian education and our seminaries,” pastor Stanley Hughes said. “It is a very effective way to support missions and we are confident in how the money is being spent.”
The church’s average worship attendance is 446 with a total membership of 1,359, according to the 2008 ACP. Other information included: baptisms, 8; undesignated receipts, $1,046,125; Cooperative Program, $172,660 (CP percent, 16.5); total missions expenditures, $288,895.
EXPANDING UPWARD AND OUTWARD
The little church that dates back nearly to Civil War days in a town of only 6,500 isn’t afraid of numbers. As the median-income congregation of First Baptist Church in Winona, Miss., upped its Cooperative Program giving to 29 percent, the radius for their mission action steadily moved outward, expanding as far as Ecuador and Thailand.
The church’s plan for missions, in addition to international mission trips, includes regular ministry at two state correctional facilities and an outreach program in a neighboring state.
“The heartbeat of those who directed this church, those who moved us to give to the Cooperative Program, is the realization that collectively we can do so much more than we can do alone,” pastor Phillip Dancy said.
According to the 2008 ACP, the church’s total membership was 924; baptisms, 3; primary worship service attendance, 325; undesignated receipts, $609,915; Cooperative Program, $176,869; total missions expenditures, $213,932.
Marilyn Stewart is a writer based in New Orleans.