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CP taking church ‘outside of its box’ to reach world for Christ

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (BP) — The Cooperative Program extends worldwide the reach of the 150 or so Sunday worshippers at Monument Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Colo., who lead an assortment of diverse ministries within and outside the church.

While Monument Baptist Grand Junction has been missions-minded and outward-focused since its start in 1971, pastor Ray Shirley has led it to expand its reach while also ministering within the church family.

The church sends 10 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together to fund missions and ministries in state conventions, North America and worldwide.

“The Cooperative Program helps link us [all Southern Baptist churches] together so we can be on mission together,” Shirley said. “We believe part of the commitment we make as Southern Baptists is to support the Cooperative Program. We believe it is our privilege to be part of that and to support missions locally, nationally and internationally. It really is a togetherness, and I like that.”

“We’re the body of Christ, the family of God, and the Cooperative Program is a good representation of that,” he said. “We’re all going in the same direction, using our gifts differently.”

The church donates a total of 22 percent of its operating budget to a variety of missions causes, supporting two Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ International) missionaries, an aviation ministry, Creation Puppeteers, the Alpha and Omega Institute, the International Mission Board and local pregnancy and homeless ministries.

“The hardest part of ministry is to be a healthy internal church and healthy outgoing church,” Shirley said. “It’s a hard battle because in mainline Christianity and even among mainline Southern Baptists, we’re really good at addressing the felt needs we’re comfortable with.

“At our church, we face those same struggles and bridging that gap to actually being a missional person who is evangelizing and striving to take the church outside of itself, outside of its box, that has been a struggle.”

In addition to starting two other churches, Monument Baptist Grand Junction has developed onsite softball and soccer fields available without cost to any team that wants to use them. The fields are in use at least five nights a week.

Its youth have gone on World Changers construction mission trips seven times in the last 12 years. Adults have gone on a dozen or more mission trips since 2000, when Shirley was called as pastor.

A Care Team helps facilitate the church’s ministerial reach.

“As a church what we did to help meet the internal issue was to develop a Care Team,” said Shirley, who is vice president of the Colorado Baptist General Convention and active in Grand Valley Baptist Association and the community. “I can’t do all the hospital visits, for example, but we have five couples –- who minister as couples –- to meet those needs I am unable to meet.”

Shirley and his wife Dianna joined the local community theater group when their son, then a third-grader, showed an interest in acting. This has led to the church’s unique ministry to the theater community, which Shirley said has little Gospel presence.

“We discovered a half-dozen more people in the church who enjoyed performing, and more since,” Shirley said. “It’s developed into a safe place to learn about the arts. … The hardest part of this theatre ministry is to be genuine and real; we’re all sinners.

“We’re trying to build a bridge to the lost,” he said. “If God reveals a pocket of lostness and we’re not willing to go there, then shame on us. The theatre community is a people group that has little or no Christian witness. The Holy Spirit is going to do the work; we’re the instruments He uses.

“We have gotten to know several people who are homosexuals,” Shirley said. “The Lord has shown us you can love the sinner and not the sin.”

One of the church’s members developed a burden for people who are deaf nine years ago after a Sunday guest speaker addressed the need. Understanding this to be a calling from God, Robin Stepanek went to school to study deaf ministry.

Today, Stepanek is Monument Baptist Grand Junction’s deaf coordinator, leading a ministry that reaches statewide with the church’s three trained interpreters.

“We host deaf conferences and deaf retreats and host a deaf conference in the fall that is attended by up to 100 from all over Colorado,” Shirley said. “For the last four years we’ve conducted classes in three levels of sign language interpretation that up to 200 students were involved in.”

The church’s interpreters translate for the deaf community in a variety of venues, including the local college, the university, medical and legal appointments throughout the Colorado Western Slope and sometimes as far as Denver.

“With being the church comes a heavy responsibility,” Shirley said. “Ministry is to be part of all our lives.”

One of his challenges is in helping all members of the Monument Baptist Grand Junction congregation find their ministry, and giving members opportunities to serve and learn at the same time, he said.

“Grand Junction is so wide open,” Shirley said. “We have so many people who don’t go to church or who are disgruntled. Basically you’ve got to know your story; you’ve got to take your story into the community so they see Christ in us.

“Our goal is to take the health of the church into the community,” Shirley said. “As we put our feet in motion, Christ can heal from within.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).