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La. church ‘conduit for what God gives us’

COUSHATTA, La. — The Cooperative Program came up during last month’s meeting of the missions committee at Fairview Baptist Church in Coushatta.

The group was discussing a parachurch sports ministry Fairview Coushatta has financially assisted for several years. When a person raised a question about the amount necessary for assistance, pastor Matt Endris took the opportunity to show some of the benefits of Cooperative Program giving.

“I explained how this particular [sports ministry] has to raise its own financial support,” Endris told the 10 committee members. “This is why CP is so good; our missionaries don’t have to spend time going church-to-church raising funds. With the Cooperative Program, our churches agree to cooperate together so our missionaries can stay where God has called them.

“This is the difference between a non-denominational work we believe in, and the work we do together as Southern Baptists,” Endris continued.

It was a teachable moment, but the committee didn’t need to be convinced of the CP’s value. The committee has led Fairview for years to give 12 percent of the church’s undesignated giving to missions through CP.

It was 10 percent when Endris was called as pastor in 2006. Soon after it rose to 11 percent and when the committee heard of the 1 percent challenge to increase CP giving, they led the church to give 12 percent. The new amount was in addition to the 6.75 percent given to the District 8 Baptist Convention, a regional partnering of five Baptist associations. In one way or another, the church allocates more than 34 percent of tithes and offerings to missions.

“We are a conduit for what God gives us,” Endris told Baptist Press. “We don’t want to sit on it. We’re trying to be good stewards.”

Fairview, which draws about 170 people in Sunday morning worship, takes seriously the concept of being an Acts 1:8 church, the pastor said. It’s a conviction that grew out of a 2005 Baptist Doctrine study, “The Acts 1:8 Challenge,” written by Nate Adams, now executive director of the Illinois State Baptist Association.

“It’s Jesus’ model,” Endris said. “It helps us to have a pattern.”

In its “Jerusalem,” the church ministers in several ways: its “casserole ministry” has several meals always ready in the church’s freezer for families coping with illness or tragedy; a food pantry for those needing groceries, and a wheelchair ramp for handicap access, among several other outreaches. For perhaps 40 years, the church has helped with what today is known as Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Fairview’s “Judea” is “outside our immediate area but similar to us,” the pastor explained. First Baptist Church of Arnaudville was a recipient in recent years, with the church doing a Vacation Bible School there in the summer of 2016. Red River Church in Marksville is a current focus. Church planter Louis Charrier started both.

To get to its “Samaria,” Fairview Coushatta crosses boundaries to reach people with a Gospel message. “We’re leaving our understanding and going to something totally different,” Endris said. For a dozen years or more, the church has ministered at both men’s and women’s correctional facilities and at a youth detention center.

Church members have gone to several “ends of the earth” places, including Africa, East Asia and South America. Last year however, Fairview made a five-year commitment to Cornerstone Baptist Theological Seminary in Merida, the capital city of Yucatan, Mexico. It’s a ministry that involves construction, evangelism and relationship-building.

“We’ve been to a lot of countries, and now this,” Endris said. “We want to invest ourselves there. We’re there to be their partners and over time, there’s trust that’s built.

“We don’t want dependency,” the pastor continued. “It’s more developing trust that we are both working together on the same team for the same thing, the expansion of God’s Kingdom.”

Members who go repeatedly to the same location become more comfortable with doing missions and being missional, which leads them to becoming more active in their home town south of Shreveport, Endris said.

“Our purpose is to be obedient servants of and ambassadors for Christ, wherever He calls us to go,” the pastor said. “We are here to know God, to be known by God and to make him known to those who don’t know Him.”

Fairview’s ministry within the congregation is as carefully thought out as is its missions focus.

KidsLife — “Finding God in your everyday life” — gathers two hours Wednesday evenings for a Fairview-designed curriculum that combines the club atmosphere of Awana with the high energy of CentriKid.

For youngsters between the ages of kindergarten through sixth grade, KidsLife offers four tracks of five-week, kid-centric life-learning on a scriptural foundation, followed by a “praise party.” Parents are invited to attend this event to see what their child is learning, before another five-week term begins. The tracks might include cooking, basic ballet, woodworking or something else.

The small-group tracks follow each Wednesday’s large-group children’s worship. Small group classes accompany these tracks where youngsters learn Bible stories.

The Crossover Students ministry — seventh through 12-grade teens — meets in its own building on Fairview’s 10-acre campus. This ministry involves teens and parents learning how to “get through these difficult years together,” according to the church’s website, myfairviewbaptist.org.

Adults not involved in ministry to other age groups learn from a variety of Bible-based and practical-application studies on Sundays and Wednesdays. Choirs for adults and for youngsters are also an option.

“When you reach children, you’re reaching the next generation; you’re opening the door to the current generation — their parents — and you’re reaching back to touch the previous generation,” Endris said. “If we care about the things God cares about, and if we care about the people God cares about, we will care enough to share the Gospel with everyone we meet.”