FREMONT, Calif. (BP)–The primary reason Fremont Bible Fellowship is part of the Southern Baptist Convention is the Cooperative Program.
It’s not just because Cooperative Program dollars helped start the church in 1988, but because of what the CP Missions endeavor stands for, pastor Horatio Jones noted.
“We try to make a difference in our community and around the world,” Jones said. “The Cooperative Program is a way in which we can fulfill the biblical mandate. It’s a way in which our resources — regardless of the sizes of our churches — can accomplish a common goal — of going into all the world and preaching the Good News that God loves all people.
“The Cooperative Program is the very essence of the reason for the existence of the church,” Jones said.
Fremont Bible Fellowship gives more to CP Missions than any other predominantly African American church in California, said Tom Kelly, recently retired strategist with African American churches in the California Southern Baptist Convention.
“From day one we’ve always been a strong supporter and consistent supporter of CP Missions,” Jones said. “We stand with the SBC’s strong commitment to reach all people and fulfill the Great Commission.
“Our philosophy is that if we teach our members to tithe, we as a church should tithe,” the pastor noted. “We see the SBC as the church’s church, and that’s where our tithe goes.”
Fremont Bible Fellowship expresses in a variety of ways its strong commitment to minister in its community. It has started or sponsored seven new churches in its 15 years, and the pastor is mentoring six pastors and church leaders. All the while, the congregation has maintained nearly a 20 percent commitment of its budget to missions.
The church started with a core of about 25 people from Emmanuel Baptist Church in nearby San Jose, Calif. Today about 900 people attend two Sunday morning worship services (and two Sunday Schools), plus separate children’s and youth services.
The church currently is in the midst of its 12th move in 15 years, meeting in a local high school while the light-industrial high tech building they have purchased is renovated. With each move, more people have started attending Freemont Bible Fellowship’s services.
“We had eight locations the first year,” Jones said. “In 15 years we’ve had 12 locations and all our moves have been to facilitate ministry, not just to have worship.
Fremont Bible Fellowship also has a business: Holy Grounds, a coffee shop and bookstore for people who work in the area and for people who drop off and pick up their youngsters from the church’s daycare and preschool. In addition to 75 youngsters in those ministries, the church’s volunteer-led after-school programs draw about 75 elementary students and 115 junior and senior high school students for tutoring, life skills and activities.
It’s all part of Fremont Bible Fellowship’s faith-based Tri-Cities Community Development Center (CDC), which focuses on the felt needs of people in the community and people in transition. The CDC also offers job training, computer training, clothing, food and training for parents in anger management, parenting skills, health and hygiene.
“We try to use a holistic approach to empower people to become more secure in life,” Jones said. “It’s a key area for ministry for us. The call of the church is to reach the outcast, the rejected, the unreached.”
Still on the drawing board: Economic development of businesses in the community, starting next with Integrity Realty, a one-stop full-service real estate business for members and the community, with all proceeds going back to the community development center so that its services are free of charge to the community.
Also on the drawing board: A family life center as part of the CDC. “God gave us that vision in 1988,” Jones said. “It would provide opportunities for recreation and physical development for the community as part of the whole economic development.”
But reaching people is not just a local effort, Jones learned when he went on a mission trip to the Philippines.
“That tremendously impacted my life,” the pastor said. “When you see the commitment of people across the world, it humbles you, given the lack of commitment in ours.” The church’s youth regularly go on mission trips — two last year, including one last Christmas to an orphanage in Tijuana. Adults this year will start going on mission trips, focusing at first on Mexico because the area the church is moving into has a strong Spanish-speaking contingent.
“We have a mission field right in our backyard,” Jones said. “We’ll be launching a Spanish-speaking ministry that’s part of our church.” Fremont Bible Fellowship’s missions emphasis on Mexico will be strengthened by the addition of Spanish-speaking members, and the Spanish-speakers will be encouraged by the church’s commitment to Mexico and to being a church that reflects the community’s ethnic makeup, the pastor explained.
“God will often time give me the vision without the details,” with the details then coming from the church’s members, Jones said. “A pastor’s vision is like a skeleton of a body; the people are the skin and muscles. The Holy Spirit breathes life into it and it becomes a living vibrant ministry that can touch people.”
Jones today also is passing on the mentoring he received from Willie T. Gaines Jr. at Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Jose and Willie J. Smith at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland. Both churches, plus East Bay Baptist Association and the Cooperative Program, helped start Fremont Bible Fellowship.
Among the half-dozen pastors and church leaders Jones is mentoring “in discovering God’s unique design for them” is Kirkland Smith, pastor at Grace Bible Fellowship in Antioch, a Bay Area bedroom community with spiraling new home starts and a reputation for limited church growth.
This is the first of the seven congregations launched by Fremont Bible Fellowship “using concepts we’ve incubated and developed,” Jones said. “Two [of the congregations were] started in our first couple of years and we weren’t stable enough to mentor them. This one, we brought the pastor into our fellowship and mentored him and that’s why they’re experiencing tremendous success.”
Grace Bible Fellowship grew from 30 to 253 in its first year because of God’s grace and because the pastor took the time before its first worship service in January 2003 to develop his core group, Jones said.
“It takes time to develop relationships,” Jones said. “The idea must not be to launch a ministry but to impact people and to connect with people. That was the habit of our Savior. He spent three years connecting with His disciples, and them with Him and with each other.
“My first advice for the church planter is that it takes time and the prioritized connection with people,” Jones continued. “When people’s needs are being met, when their lives are impacted, they impact the people around them and that’s how it goes. That’s how a church grows.”
In addition to God’s direction, time to develop people is the key component of successful church starting, Jones said.
“Jesus touched people and connected with people; the Pharisees connected with doctrine,” Jones said. “Take the time to really connect with people. Take time to assess the growth level of the people and the ministry and take time to develop purpose for the vision, time to develop a plan for the vision.
“It takes time,” Jones continued. “I think sometimes we move prematurely and I think the result may be the churches may be planted but not grow.”
Jones also tells the pastors and leaders he mentors that as a church grows, its structure needs to grow. He said he learned that at a conference led by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, in 1989.
Today, Fremont Bible Fellowship has a ministry council that handles the calendar and budget in such general areas as family, children, youth, worship and missions. Two people from each ministry area serve on that council.
Two people from the ministry council sit on the church council, which deals with Fremont Bible Fellowship’s mid- and long-range planning. The council and the congregation are following Jones’ lead as strong supporters of the Cooperative Program. Jones also leads the pastors and church leaders he mentors to make the Cooperative Program an important part of their missions giving.
“We firmly believe the more you give to God, the more He gives to you,” Jones said. “God enables us to reach people, continue to grow, continue to impact lives in part because of our faithful giving, just as He does for the faithful believer.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MOVING FORWARD and REASON TO CELEBRATE.