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CP Missions at heart of church’s global impact

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–CP Missions is a foundational component of First Baptist Church of Clarksville’s strategy to be a Kingdom-building congregation.

“CP Missions is our handle on the world,” pastor Roger Freeman said. “It’s the way the Lord allows us to touch the world at all levels of the Acts 1:8 commission.”

The Cooperative Program is the Southern Baptist Convention’s strategy for working together to reach people in the United States and around the world. It also helps train future pastors, missionaries and other ministry leaders in six seminaries as well as providing a host of resources to help local churches grow.

The hands-on missions involvement of many in the Tennessee congregation fuels Freeman’s Acts 1:8 vision to evangelize and minister locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

“This summer we had people in short-term mission projects on five continents,” said Bill Graham, associate pastor for missions and ministry at the church in Clarksville, 40 miles northwest of Nashville. “We had more than 150 volunteers going on mission trips.

“It’s an opportunity for folks to see missions up close and personal,” Graham said. “They get to see where their Cooperative Program giving goes, and they see the need.”

First Clarksville underscores CP Missions once a month during its three Sunday morning services. A 90-second video version of the SBC’s Missionary Moments — produced by the CP Missions staff at the SBC Executive Committee — is aired while the offering is being taken. This follows a missions-related Scripture reading and prayer. The missions emphasis also includes an insert in that Sunday’s bulletin from either the International Mission Board or North American Mission Board.

“The impact of this shows in our giving,” Graham said. “We’ve not been behind in our budget at all this year. We’re ahead of budget even as we go into December.

“I believe it is because the people see the need and they see how much the Lord has blessed them,” Graham continued. “They’re willing to give — generously — of their time, resources and money.”

First Clarksville averages 2,280 in worship and 1,760 in Bible study each week. It is the eighth-largest congregation in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The 12-person vocational staff includes five age-level pastors as well as a recreational pastor because the church, though weighted in terms of missions outreach, also ministers to those in the church body, Freeman noted.

“Giving to the CP and missions comes first,” the pastor said, “but when we do that, God always provides for us to minister to the needs of the people here as well.”

In the 2002 church year, 155 people were baptized at First Clarksville, then immersed in the church’s Bible study, discipleship training and missions programs to equip them and all the 4,958 members for service in God’s Kingdom. One of the church’s goals for 2004 is to have at least one team a month involved in a short-term mission project somewhere in the world.

But the church doesn’t forget that Acts 1:8 outreach starts at home.

Good Samaritan Medical Dental Clinic is perhaps the most visible example of First Clarksville’s investment in its community. For 20 years the church has sponsored the free clinic. About 200 doctors and nurses volunteer their services each month. Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. five days a week, depending on the number of patients.

Good Samaritan is housed a block from First Clarksville. About 1,800 new patients have been seen so far this year, Graham said in late November. Spiritual healing is as important as physical healing: Each new patient hears about God’s love and provision for them during their first visit, and doctors, dentists and nurses pray with and provide spiritual counsel for their patients.

Other community ministry includes financial and volunteer support for the local Loaves and Fishes ministry to the homeless and the local crisis pregnancy center. First Clarksville members also provide tutoring at a housing project; care and compassion at several area retirement centers and nursing homes; and a once-a-month meal for area college students.

A deaf ministry was begun a couple of years ago; today it includes signing during worship services, Bible study and a missions opportunity for next spring when the group will travel to an Appalachian part of Kentucky where they will assist a NAMB Mission Service Corps worker who is setting up a school for the deaf.

Clarksville is located near Fort Campbell, Ky., where the 101st A-Mobile Division is based — the first military group deployed to Afghanistan. First Clarksville members recently put together morale-boosting shoeboxes for 150 deployed soldiers filled with packets of hot chocolate, beef jerky, other stateside remembrances and a New Testament supplied by the North American Mission Board.

“We have had as many as 50 of our members deployed overseas,” said Graham, who retired after serving 25 years as an Army chaplain. He also retired as manager of NAMB’s missionary personnel unit before returning to First Clarksville as one of five people from the church known to have served in career missions.

First Clarksville members roofed a church in the Cumberland Baptist Association last summer; they’ve also done construction ministries in Chicago, Iowa, Brazil and Canada. They’re involved in the partnerships between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Iowa Baptist Convention and the Rio Baptist Association in Brazil.

First Clarksville is helping to start a church in New York City and another in Buffalo, N.Y. It hosts a Hispanic congregation in its building at the same time it is becoming increasingly multicultural with growing numbers of African Americans, Hispanics and Koreans as members.

“The people are well-fed and well-led,” said pastor’s secretary Rosina Seay.

Freeman, pastor at First Clarksville since 1993 and in the ministry for 30 years, always was mission-minded but a trip to Rio a couple of years ago was a life-changing experience for him, Graham said.

“Leading people to Christ every day, seeing the need and the poverty, he was changed by it,” Graham said. “When he came back, he told the congregation about an opportunity. A pastor in Rio had told him of a building in one of the slum areas that cost $14,000 U.S. that he wanted to use for a church.

“Roger said, ‘Folks, we have the opportunity to do that,'” Graham recalled. “One lady gave all she had: a gold coin. The congregation bought back that gold coin and raised the entire amount for the church in Rio on that one day.”

First Clarksville for several years has given 10 percent of its receipts to Cooperative Program CP Missions and an additional 1.4 percent to its local association, in addition to all its direct mission dollars.

Rather than promoting three separate mission offerings, First Clarksville celebrates the Great Commission every November, while members are encouraged to give monthly in support of the Annie Armstrong offering for missions in North America, the Lottie Moon offering for international missions, and the Tennessee state missions offering. The $140,000 goal in 2001 was exceeded by 42 percent, so they upped the goal to $198,800 this year. Members voted recently to make 2003’s goal $250,000.

“I would describe our church as a blessed church who wants to be a blessing to others,” Graham said. “The pastor’s vision is as long as we are faithful to the Lord in missions — in giving to CP Missions and in world mission offerings — the Lord will continue to bless.”

First Clarksville moved into a $13 million worship center complex in February 2001. So far the congregation has given more than $9 million toward the building in addition to meeting its budget, giving to missions and participating individually in short-term missions.

“We have very strong lay leadership who are willing to follow the pastor’s lead and we have a good staff,” Graham said. “We’re very cooperative both among Southern Baptist circles as well as community circles.”

“It all comes down to being kingdom-minded,” Freeman said. “I look at the Cooperative Program for a church as obeying Matthew 6:33 – Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BRICK-LAYING MISSIONS.