LEBANON, Ore. (BP)–The Cooperative Program is more about faithfulness than it is about money, members of Trinity Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ore., have determined.
That’s why members have been giving at least 10 percent to Southern Baptist mission causes for the church’s entire 50-year history. In good times, it was much as 17 percent, but never less than 10.
“God requires a tithe. That’s the minimum,” said Ted Haws, pastor since 1985 of the timber town congregation snuggled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. “We would not be faithful to God if we did not tithe. It’s as simple as that.
“We don’t give a tithe out of fear,” Haws explained. “It’s not for fear; it’s for righteousness.”
For the same reason, Trinity Baptist engages its community and ministers in Willamette Valley Baptist Association, where Bill Phillips is director of missions.
“Ted’s consistent leadership by example has led his church to not only be faithful in support of the Cooperative Program, but to involve them in many mission ministries in nearby Albany, other Oregon churches and in the ‘Jericho’ evangelistic project in Douglas and Siskiyou Associations in 2003,” Phillips said.
“Ted demonstrates the importance of the Cooperative Program from his background in missions in Montana. He knows first hand the importance of working together to reach others for Christ. He knows that the Cooperative Program directed the course of missions in pioneer areas.”
In addition to helping another church in the association restore its vitality, Trinity Lebanon engages its community and responds to needs as they arise, such as by offering a food bank. In the past they offered ESL (English as a Second Language) training. In the future they may sponsor a skateboard park.
Participating in the Cooperative Program enables the church to undergird its local ministry and missions with the tithe they give to help spread the Gospel globally, Haws said.
“The Cooperative Program ministers around the world in totally different ways from what we can do locally,” he said. “We just can’t let it go at that. We have people right here — next door to us — we have to minister to. We are the Lord’s hands and feet ministering in this part of the world.”
Trinity Lebanon emphasizes missions and stewardship as much as it does the five other purposes of the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, ministry and discipleship, Haws said.
“Missions and stewardship is just as vitally important to us in the total ministry of the church,” Haws said. “We emphasize total life ministry: You don’t just say it or give a little here or there. You live the life you were called to live.
“There’s a sense of fulfillment in walking the way Christ calls us to, a sense of fulfillment in serving the needs of others.”
Trinity Lebanon is in its eighth year of operating MTI — Ministry Training Institute — for church members and others in the community who want Bible college training, but who don’t have the ability to go away to school.
“The two foci of our Christian walk is vertical and horizontal — worshiping God and ministering to others in Christ’s name,” Haws said. “We teach this not only from the pulpit, but also in Sunday School, in discipleship, and at MTI, where members are learning to be church strengtheners.”
Bobby Rieke graduated in May with an associate’s degree from MTI — conferred through an arrangement with Oklahoma Baptist University. Today he serves as a Willamette Valley Baptist Association Mission Service Corps volunteer missionary.
When Rieke went to his Missionary Service Corps church strengthener assignment 18 months ago, some 15 people considered themselves members of Knox Butte Baptist Church in Albany, Ore. Today, about 30 people attend worship services.
Rieke serves full time as a non-salaried associate pastor; his wife supports the family with her earnings as a nurse. The total life commitment is what he learned as a Trinity Baptist member and as an MTI student, Rieke said.
“I learned at Trinity how it all works together — God’s command to ‘go ye unto all the world’ and the Cooperative Program,” Rieke said. “We try to be faithful but always it’s God who is more faithful. He takes our ‘little’ and makes something big out of it, does something with it that only He can do.”
God does that continually at Trinity Baptist, Haws said.
“In 2000 the church was at its biggest ever,” the pastor said. “Maybe 130 in Sunday services. We’d been giving 13 percent to the Cooperative Program and 4 percent to the association for quite some time.
“Then things started going haywire with the economy,” Haws continued. “We lost 100 resident members in two years, mostly wage-earner young families. They moved away from the state, for the most part, looking for a new start.”
Long-term unemployment has become endemic; temporary and seasonal jobs are sporadic at best. Trimmed financial sails gave way last year to a return to Trinity Baptist’s minimum standard of faithfulness: 10 percent of undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program. Another 4 percent is given to Willamette Valley Baptist Association, which emphasizes missions and ministries to college students.
“We are not an end unto ourselves,” Haws said. “We’re only an integral part of the kingdom. We have to give beyond ourselves or we become ingrown.
“Once you turn inward you lose all sense of godliness,” he added. “The Cooperative Program helps us get beyond ourselves without the concern for giving back. When we give to the Lord He will use it in the world and it will account for eternity.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SACRIFICIAL GIVER and STRONG CONVICTIONS.