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Incubator warms churches toward CP involvement

BOSSIER CITY, La. (BP)–The value of the Cooperative Program is part of the “DNA” of four congregations Southern Baptists are birthing in Bossier City, La.

The new congregations have a place to meet in part because of the Cooperative Program; their pastors receive a salary in part because of the Cooperative Program; and their members are carrying out the Great Commission because the congregations give to the Southern Baptist Convention’s worldwide mission causes through the Cooperative Program.

“We’re four churches in one building, building one Kingdom for God, and it’s only because of the Cooperative Program,” said Jessie Colston, pastor of one of the congregations, Common Ground, a neighborhood outreach which meets for Sunday School at 5 p.m. Sundays and worship at 6:30 at the Meadowview Mission Center.

“The idea is for a mission church or new church plant to develop in the DNA of that new work a process of giving to Kingdom causes or world missions through the Cooperative Program,” said Mike Canady, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s missions and ministry team. “The idea is to take a small little congregation just getting started -– even if their contribution is $3, they are instantly helping fulfill the Great Commission; they are immediately part of a worldwide missions endeavor.”

The four congregations at the Meadowview Mission Center share one building — with a spacious 220-seat worship center and several classrooms -– in what partnering entities call an “incubator” where young churches get a start in a “real church” setting they couldn’t otherwise afford. Over time, the expectation is that they will grow to a point where they’ll purchase their own facility, and another mission church will move into the incubator.

“We believe in the Cooperative Program,” said Chad Mills, missions pastor for Eastwood Baptist Church in nearby Haughton, La., one of the churches that has partnered with the state convention and local association in the endeavor. “We see it at work with these mission churches -– they wouldn’t exist without the Cooperative Program. We believe collectively as Southern Baptists we can do more working together.”

The financial arrangement at the Meadowview Mission Center is that each of the four congregations contributes 30 percent of its offerings -– whatever that may be -– for rent and utilities, along with 10 percent through the Cooperative Program and 2 percent for the Northeast Louisiana Baptist Association, with the remaining 58 percent available for the congregation’s programming needs. The pastors’ salaries are funded separately through the Baptist association and state convention, in part with Cooperative Program dollars.

“I really can’t put into words what the Cooperative Program means to me,” Colston said. “Because of it we actually have a location we can direct people to, a beautiful facility to meet in.”

The Meadowview Mission Center, located on the north side of Interstate 20, has proven so successful than an incubator on the south side of I-20 is being discussed.

Eastwood Baptist’s senior pastor, Scott Teutsch, had the idea for the incubator two years ago. By the time Teutsch had convinced the association and state convention on the idea of one church building serving the needs of several mission congregations, a suitable property had come on the market: a Pentecostal church that had outgrown its 220-seat worship center.

The location across the street from an elementary school was good; the property was sound; the buy-in by several other churches in the association provided affirmation; and four new starts were ready this July to move from the home Bible study stage to mission church status.

In addition to Common Ground, the mission center houses:

— Christ Fellowship, where Uriah Oxford is pastor, meets for worship at 6 p.m. Saturdays. This cutting edge new start reaches out to college-age and college-educated people across Bossier City and Shreveport.

— Faith Baptist Fellowship, where Larry Black is pastor, meets for worship at 8:30 a.m. Sunday; Sunday school follows at 10 a.m. This is an African American new start.

— Antioquia la Iglesia Bautista, where Virgillio Tunon is pastor, meets for Sunday School at 9 a.m. Sunday; worship follows at 10:30 a.m. This is a Hispanic new start.

Each of the pastors is bivocational or a student. Colston is a school bus driver. Oxford attends New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and also is a Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at an area college; Black is a maintenance worker at Louisiana State University Medical Center; and Tunon is studying English.

The work of the four is supported by Christina Berry, a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the North American Mission Board charged with coordinating community ministries such as a recent fall festival and an upcoming wellness walking tour.

“Most of the people in the [nearby] community have become hardened to church,” Berry said. “We’re out in the community to give a face to the building.”

She also coordinates a two-hour English as a Second Language class each Tuesday night encompassing about 25 students, mostly Hispanics, and a MOPS -– Mothers of Preschoolers — group that meets between 9:30 a.m. and noon on the first Thursday of each month at Meadowview.

“I’ve been bivocational most of my ministry,” said Brian Prucey, Meadowview Mission Center administrator. “I know the struggles of men who have to juggle home, work and church responsibilities. With the mission center, they don’t have to worry about facilities and financial management; I do that for them. They can concentrate on growing their churches, discipling their members and evangelizing their communities.”

He meets with the pastors and Berry at 9 a.m. each Thursday. The pastors meet together five mornings each week for prayer.

Organizationally the facility is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Prucey said. He pays bills and payroll, is responsible for maintenance and upkeep and coordinates the center’s calendar; he is governed by a board of directors, which consists of Northeast Louisiana Baptist Association director of missions Eddie DeHondt and other interested pastors.

The building’s monthly rent is $1,250; its insurance, $250. Electric bills alone reached a high of $698 in July. The total of the building’s costs is greater than is the sum total of the 30 percent each of its missions give, Prucey acknowledged. That’s where Meadowview’s other partners come into play.

Several churches in the association have pledged to give amounts ranging from $50 per month to $100 per month to help fund the mission center’s operating expenses. They include Plain Dealing, Oak Hill, New Zion, Bansok, South Bossier and Haynes Avenue Baptist churches.

“They believe in the concept,” Prucey said. “They were all mission churches themselves; they understand the needs.”

The incubator concept has had an unexpected benefit, the Louisiana convention’s Canady said.

“With the multiplicity of ministries coming out of one building, when a church planter is out visiting in the community and comes across a Hispanic family who don’t speak English, he has an avenue to channel them to the Hispanic church,” he said. “This [incubator] makes for a really good multifaceted strategy…. What they’re trying to do is reach the community, and it’s not a competitive thing, it’s a cooperative ministry.”