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Missouri pastor has seen Cooperative Program from both sides

Cornerstone volunteers handwrite about 100 condolence letters each month to relatives who have lost a loved one. Most of them are not members of the church. Submitted photo

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Since 2007, Cornerstone Baptist Church has sent 10 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches work together to spread the Gospel in North America and throughout the world.

“We just believe the Cooperative Program is the primary way to reach the world for Christ,” Pastor Brian Credille said. “We are open to doing other things, but I don’t think anything else could take the place of sending career missionaries called by God to plant their lives in a place far from home.

“They go, learn the language, the culture, and dwell among the people, sharing life and Jesus with them. Let God call out the called. We send them and support them in every way we can.”

Credille and his wife Rose were career missionaries in Southeast Asia with the SBC’s International Mission Board for eight years, until health issues and a leading from God to return to the pastorate brought their return in 2007 to the United States.

“That has given us a perspective of the Cooperative Program on both sides,” the pastor said. “We saw how the Cooperative Program got us to the field, kept us there and provided funds for ministry. CP works; we know it works!”

Cornerstone Jeff City exceeded its goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering again this year, and anticipates doing so for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering this spring. The church also allocates 2 percent of undesignated offerings to the Concord Baptist Association.

“It’s inspiring to see how God’s people have responded to the need and risen to the challenges these last two years of the pandemic,” Credille said. “It’s exciting to see what God has done.

“I don’t think things will ever be back to what they were before the pandemic. What we – all of America – have gone through has been challenging, but at least for us, it’s given us a renewed commitment to God’s Word.”

Cornerstone is a traditional Southern Baptist church that sticks closely to time-honored methods of being a local body of Christ. In addition to its commitment to missions through the Cooperative Program, the church relies on its members to be the hands and feet and arms of Jesus wrapped around Jefferson City.

Pastor Brian Credille

One recent Sunday there were 91 present for Sunday School, and 118 for the morning worship service. (Numbers are starting to creep back up toward the pre-pandemic’s 160.) The evening service, attended by about 40 continued its verse-by-verse “Journey Through the Indispensable Book” that started with Genesis 1:1 in January 2021. They’re now in Exodus 3.

“There seems to be a renewed interest, a real hunger for God’s Word,” the pastor said. “People are excited to be here and to be studying the Bible together. It not only comforts us but challenges us when we are willing to listen to what He has to say.”

Cornerstone Jeff City is a congregation that serves as faithfully as it gives to missions through the Cooperative Program, the pastor said.

Cornerstone Jeff City’s Joy Puppeteers have been ministering for at least 20 years, the pastor said, at community events, hospitals, at the church and during an evening Vacation Bible School that starts with supper each night for children and their families, which draws 120 or more youngsters from many churches and no church.

Once a month for the last 12 years, church volunteers provide a 4-hour Parents Date Night for the community, with age-graded child care for up to 30 youngsters from infant through the fifth grade.

For the last 10 years, church members have been passing out True Life business cards to the people they encounter. The cards have the church’s information on one side. The other side directs people to truelife.org, where they will find answers, “to life’s most challenging questions, through interesting and engaging video and article formats presented by qualified experts” in biblical studies, ethics, science and more, according to the website.

Cornerstone Jeff City for about 15 years has used the G.R.O.W. – God Rewards Our Work – evangelism program, which utilizes each member’s giftedness in outreach, whether it be praying, making telephone calls, in-person visiting or writing letters.

Church volunteers handwrite about 100 condolence letters each month to relatives who have lost a loved one in their family: spouse, children, parents, siblings and grandparents. It’s a four-step process for Jackie Matthews, 84, who has been involved since the beginning. She starts with a grid: the deceased’s name, relatives’ names, relationship and address.

She then reads the obituaries in the local newspaper, looking for relatives in the area (which includes nearby small towns) to fill out her handwritten grid. The church pays $100/month to whitepages.com, which provides the addresses.

It’s a time-consuming ministry that involves some detective work to find the correct relative, but it’s worth it, Matthews said. She types up the grid each week from handwritten notes, and takes it to the church for volunteer teams to write the letters.

“There are 11 deaths on the sheet I completed tonight, and 16 letters to write,” the volunteer said. “One man who died has four brothers.

“I don’t think of how many deaths,” she continued. “I think of how many people they left behind. We’re not trying to gain members or enlist people for our church. We’re trying to console grieving people.”

The faithful commitment of members who serve God by serving people in His name inspires him, the pastor said.

“What we do is Kingdom ministry,” Credille said. “A lot of the people we reach never come to our church. At least this gets the Gospel to them. We’re just trying to get them in touch with God’s love.”