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Missions, cooperation drive small Tenn. church

GREENFIELD, Tenn. (BP) — The men at Bethel Baptist Church reach out to the unchurched men in their community each autumn by showing off their culinary skills at a wild game supper, preparing turkey, deer, raccoon, crappie, catfish, rabbit, duck and other critters.

Meanwhile, the congregation’s Women on Mission excel each year at promoting missions, noted David Worley, pastor of Bethel Baptist in Greenfield, Tenn. In 2014, for example, with a goal of $19,630 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the church gave $26,896.

The church “believes strongly in missions,” Worley said. Bethel Baptist has given 20 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program for years, preceding and throughout Worley’s pastorate that began nine years ago.

“We try to stress to our people they’re giving to missions every time they put a dollar in the plate,” Worley said. “Our Women on Mission keep missions in our mind and on our heart.”

The Cooperative Program is the mechanism Southern Baptist churches use to support state, national and international ministries and missions.

“I think the Cooperative Program is the very best way to support missions,” Worley said. “The Cooperative Program keeps our missionaries on the field. It’s important that we teach our members about the Cooperative Program.”

Bethel Baptist, where about 170 people participate in Sunday morning worship, has maintained its commitment to Cooperative Program and associational giving, plus a variety of local-to-global ministries, over the last two years despite a $3.5 million building project.

The church purchased seven acres adjacent to its property, tore down its 60-year-old sanctuary and built a new worship center, adult wing and children’s wing.

“We needed more space, badly,” Worley said. “Our long-term plans include building a family life center.”

Bethel Baptist appears to make good use of its building. About 70 youngsters, including several from the community, gather at the church each Sunday evening for Awana. Acteens, Children in Action and Mission Friends meet Wednesdays. The men’s wild game supper, held for at least the past eight years, draws about 200 attendees, many of whom don’t attend church. And despite being in the final stages of construction, Bethel Baptist managed in November to donate 526 shoeboxes to Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child global outreach.

About 2,200 people live in Greenfield, a rural area of rolling hills, trees and farmland producing corn, soybeans and winter wheat about 150 miles west of Nashville in Weakley County. Agriculture and the University of Tennessee at Martin, 15 miles north, are the county’s largest economic stimulators.

Hunger can be an issue in the community. Bethel Baptist helps pay to process wild game gathered by the local Hunters for the Hungry and distributed through the community’s We Care program. The church has at least twice paid for food from Second Harvest food bank to be stuffed into an 18-wheeler and distributed in Greenfield.

In a joint project of Acteens and Women on Mission, the teenagers distributed to the homebound a Thanksgiving meal prepared by Acteens leaders. Deacons take DVDs of weekly Sunday services to homebound members.

“It thrills their hearts to get that DVD and a visit from their deacon,” Worley said. “Bethel has people willing to work …. They love the Lord.”

Bethel Baptist is an active participant in the 44-church Weakley County Baptist Association, joining others in mission trips each year to Cincinnati and the Honduras.

“Our church has been blessed by the mission trips of our association,” Worley said. “The people who go on these trips come back with an excitement about missions. And we feel closer to the other churches in our association because we get to know each other on these trips.”

Bethel Baptist also is involved in church planting.

“We just got through for three years helping a church get started in Dyersburg, Tenn.,” Worley said. “It was a great experience. That church is bigger than our church now; they’re running about 200.

“The good thing about it is that at least 75 percent of the people going there weren’t going to church anywhere,” Worley said. “That was important to us and to them, that they reach people and not just get disgruntled people from other churches.”

Bethel Baptist anticipates being involved with another church plant in the future, the pastor said.

Worley noted that he makes it a priority to go to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting each year. “If we’re giving that much money, I need to be there, to hear what’s happening,” Worley said. “And I enjoy the fellowship, preaching and worship.”

Worley occasionally blogs on SBC Voices and SBC Today.

“I’m trying to cut back on my blogging, but I’ve gotten to be friends with some of them, and the blogs through the years have helped sharpen me and make me think harder about what I believe,” Worley said. “The blogs have been good for me, even though sometimes it’s been painful. They’ve driven me deeper and sharpened me, like iron sharpens iron.”

Bethel Baptist’s partnerships add value to the congregation’s Christian growth, the pastor said.

“I just really believe that we can do more together than we can on our own,” he said, “It helps to know that we have brothers and sisters in Christ, who are preaching the Gospel alongside of us. It’s an encouragement to know that we’re not alone.”