GROVE CITY, Ohio (BP) — Highland Baptist Church does something new every year to re-engage its members in evangelism while also nurturing each week their commitment to missions.
And it includes giving 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches partner together to follow Jesus’ command in Matthew 18:19 to “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”
“The Gospel never changes, but we do not want our evangelistic zeal to grow stale,” said Peyton Hill, pastor of the Grove City, Ohio, church near Columbus.
Highland Baptist’s triple thrust of evangelism, missions and partnering with the SBC frames its local and global impact.
In 2018, Highland underscored the importance of having regular Gospel conversations through an initiative called “Mission 4X4.”
Each member was to identify one person from each of four groups — family, friends, coworkers and neighbors — and do four things during a four-month period: pray for them, serve them, invite them to church and share the Gospel with them.
The names of those who heard the Gospel during the evangelism emphasis were placed on a display board in the back of the worship center. By year’s end, the board contained more than 500 names.
“We launch a new evangelism emphasis each year, not because we want to reinvent the wheel, but rather to re-engage our people,” said Hill, who has led the church more than five years.
The 2019 initiative, to begin at Easter, is SBC President J.D. Greear and the North American Mission Board’s new “Who’s Your One?” evangelism thrust.
In its missions focus, Hill said the congregation recites the Great Commission at the close of every Sunday morning service.
“This allows Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations to be the last thing attendees hear before returning home,” he said.
As they exit the worship center, members also are reminded through church signage that they are now entering their mission field.
“We constantly are driving the need, necessity and responsibility to share the Gospel,” Hill said, noting, “The Gospel is the motivation for missions. We talk about the Gospel all the time at our church because both unbelievers and believers need to continually hear the good news of Jesus. We want to work toward the picture of Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, seeing people of every nation around the throne of the Lamb of God.”
In addition to international missions — in South Asia and a large Pacific island, both primarily involving Muslims, and Mexico for a lower-cost outreach — the church also has been involved with various nationalities within the city of Columbus, especially African Muslim peoples. Central Ohio is home to more than 100,000 Muslims, with the world’s third-largest settlement of Somalis, after their homeland and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Cooperative Program, Hill said, is “the instrument by which we partner together” in Southern Baptist life.
“Ten percent is a great standard for a church our size or smaller. It enables us to play a significant role in planting churches around the country, educating future pastors and other leaders, and it allows us to send missionaries all over the world.
“We wouldn’t be as effective if we did our own thing as we are by giving to missions through CP,” Hill said.
“Individually, our church cannot plant a church in each of the [NAMB’s prioritized] SEND cities, nor can we send church members to every one of the 6,000 unreached people groups. But through our giving to missions through the Cooperative Program, we can make it happen.”
Also reflecting Hill’s partnership commitment with Southern Baptists, Highland Baptist supports prayerfully, financially and hands-on the ministries of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association and the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
“A lot of times, it’s the pastor who drives mission and when he leaves, a lot of times those connections fall apart,” Hill said. “But partnering with SBC entities keeps continuity from pastor to pastor and generation to generation.”
Partnerships strengthen a church and the ministries with which it partners, the pastor said.
“In partnering together, we can lean on the partner’s expertise,” he said. “It is helpful for us to know when we’re partnering that we’re part of something bigger than our church.
“We use ‘our’ and ‘we’ a lot, because the Kingdom of Christ is bigger than any one church,” Hill continued. “These 4,000 [IMB] missionaries are our missionaries. They’re not separate from us. I think partnering together combats an isolationist or silo mentality.”
Highland Baptist locally is involved with several food pantries and pregnancy centers, as well as with Stowe Mission, the Metro Columbus Baptist Association’s multi-faceted community ministry that includes food, medical/dental/eye care, a pregnancy center, education and more.
When a four-year partnership with a Los Angeles church plant recently concluded, it opened the door for Highland Baptist to become the primary sending church for the Maranatha Community Church plant in nearby Pickerington, Ohio, where Jeff Beisel is planter.
Because of its investment in missions — from the Cooperative Program to partnerships at every level of Southern Baptist life — Highland Baptist is healthier and more unified than it would be otherwise, Hill said.
“I have experienced, personally, not only the joy of being able to preach the Gospel among unreached people groups who have never heard of the death and resurrection of Christ, but also I have witnessed the unity, health and growth that Highland has experienced by engaging in international missions,” he said.
“The healthiest, most evangelistic and most unified churches are often the most engaged in God’s global mission,” Hill said. “Jesus commanded it … and how do they hear unless they are sent? We want to send people to all nations so that they can know Jesus and experience the glorious salvation that He provides.”