Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
VILLA RICA, Georgia (BP) – Most things change over time, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together in God’s kingdom work across North America and throughout the world.
Flat Rock Baptist Church shares that commitment to do what it can to spread the Gospel worldwide. The church gives about 13 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, and has done so for 20 years. The church has given at least 10 percent since the mid-1970s.
“I believe we’re more concerned about getting the Gospel to a lost and dying world than any other group,” Jerry Brown told Baptist Press, referring to the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s been in ministry for 50 years, and pastor of Flat Rock Baptist since 2006. “And we’re better at it than any other group.
“The Cooperative Program works because we all work together,” the pastor explained. “We [Flat Rock Baptist] can’t go so we help those who can go to spread the Gospel, to let the people they’re reaching know Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.”
Villa Rica straddles Carroll and Douglas counties about 30 miles west of Atlanta. Flat Rock Baptist was started in 1882 by area farmers the year after the town was incorporated. The town has quadrupled in size since 2000 to about 17,000 in 2020.
The church of 150 or more is climbing back after a drop to about 70 last year. Members got too comfortable watching church services on Facebook, the pastor said, “but I can’t fuss at them because they’re still sending in their tithe.”
Tithing is an obedience issue, Brown said. Giving beyond the tithe is a generosity issue, and generosity beyond the tithe requires trust.
“I cannot teach my people to tithe if my church doesn’t tithe,” the pastor said. “Why do you think God has blessed our church? It’s not because we give, but because we trust He will have it used to bring Him honor and glory.”
Members reach out in the community for the same reason: to honor God and bring Him glory.
“Our congregation just feels the Lord’s work is to extend into the mission field,” William Mayfield told Baptist Press. Now 74, he’s been part of the church since he was 4. He served 35 years as Sunday School director, and 10 years as chairman of the deacons.
“We may not have the ability to go ourselves but we have the resources to send others,” Mayfield said. “We feel it’s our assignment from the Lord to help out any way we can for ministry.”
The pastor teaches parenting classes to men at the local pregnancy care center. Women in the church take care of young moms and mothers-to-be.
“We help various elderly members,” Mayfield continued. “One of the youth groups mows people’s lawns and does repairs on houses. We take food to members and the whole community, food and clothing, anything they might need.
“Our women’s organization reaches out to provide food baskets at Christmas. We support the local food kitchen. There’s a neighbor church that does food and clothing [ministry] and our church supports those functions too.”
Flat Rock Baptist members also participate in mission projects organized by the Carrollton Baptist Association. They financially contribute to associational missions, the state missions offering and various local ministries as well as the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions.
“I feel the Lord led me to this church for a reason,” Mayfield said. “I felt my dedication to serving the Lord meant staying in this church and serving as best I can.”
Flat Rock Baptist is a rural congregation four miles outside of town, but new subdivisions spring up “about every week,” Mayfield said with a grin for the slight exaggeration.
The big thrust since the church reopened last November  is encouraging the congregation to return to in-person services. The church started broadcasting to Facebook Live in 2020 and watching services at home is still a novelty to some people.
In addition to local members, people from Alabama and from Florida watch the online services.
“We are a vibrant church, active in spreading the gospel in those new areas, encouraging people to be part of the kingdom,” Mayfield said. “The way times are, Jesus could come and any time and [we tell people] you don’t want to be in the way of that. …
“The pandemic was an instrument of Satan,” said Mayfield, shaking his head in frustration. “Until people understand God is sovereign, they live in fear. But if you trust in the Lord, Satan can’t harm you.”