MOOSE JAW, Saskatchewan (BP)–As the men of Calvary Baptist Church have helped others, their relationships with one another and with God have been strengthened.
The congregation’s commitment to the Cooperative Program and other Southern Baptist Convention mission causes has also been strengthened.
And the church is growing.
This all started a year after Robert Butt was called as pastor of the church back in 1998. One day he started thinking about the men in his church.
“They had such potential, and I could see the benefits right away,” Butt said. “We’d be helping ourselves by helping others.”
Calvary Baptist in Moose Jaw was already seeing the benefits of reaching outward. They were meeting quarterly for a mutually encouraging Sunday evening celebration service with Discovery Baptist Church in Regina, about an hour east of Moose Jaw. These are the only two Southern Baptist congregations in southern Saskatchewan, north of North Dakota and Montana.
“We need a Southern Baptist church in every town on the Trans-Canada highway,” Butt said. “There’s no church in Swift Current; that’s about an hour west of here. For that matter there’s only three churches besides ours and Regina’s in all of Saskatchewan until you get to Saskatoon, and that’s about four hours north.”
Watrous Baptist Church is one of the three; it was the first mission project for the men of Calvary Moose Jaw. In 1999 they repaired the roof for the church that until then hadn’t been very involved in Northern Lights Baptist Association. In 2000 Calvary Moose Jaw helped renovate Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon when it was between pastors.
“I just try to keep my ears and eyes open for who needs help,” Butt said. “The work is physical things, but the purpose is spiritual. We want to encourage the churches we go to by showing them we care. That’s what we’re really trying to accomplish.
“And over a period of years we should be able to say we’ve blessed all these churches and have a bond of affection with them and with each other from the camaraderie of working together,” the pastor continued. “It’s building relationships with people in other places.”
‘Other places’ includes Bismark, N.D., where Calvary Moose Jaw members are helping build a new worship center and education space for Capital Heights Baptist Church.
“Often times when churches do missions, they go once and you never hear of them again,” Butt said. “We wanted to establish a relationship of a more permanent nature. I said to Steve Dunn [pastor of Capital Heights Bismarck], ‘Let’s have a three- to five-year relationship and that way we’ll really get to know each other and not just the leaders but the people, so there will be that permanent contact to help strengthen each other.'”
Capital Heights Baptist members last year went on mission to Moose Jaw; they helped Calvary members with door-to-door surveys and general repairs of the building that seats about 300 people. During the evening revival services Capital Heights Bismark youth led the worship and gave personal testimonies.
The greatest value of that missions trip came as members of both congregations developed relationships with each other.
“The big need of our churches in Canada is identity,” Butt continued. “About 95 percent of Southern Baptists in Canada were not born into a Southern Baptist family. The members a lot of the time have no idea what Southern Baptists are. They have no idea of the difference between Lutheran, Mormon, Southern Baptist or whatever. This interaction with a solid congregation that does know its Southern Baptist identity will help us develop our identity.”
Capital Heights Bismark in 1954 was the first congregation established in North Dakota. It has since started 17 other congregations, and hopes to help with still more church plants — this time in Canada.
Calvary Moose Jaw also is establishing its Southern Baptist identity through the way it spends church money. The congregation gives 10 percent of undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program; another 4 percent goes to Northern Lights Baptist Association. Members also give sacrificially to the annual offerings for the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, and recently they began gleaning for the SBC’s ongoing World Hunger Fund.
Sponsored by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which passes on 100 percent of the hunger funds it collects, ‘gleaning’ means to put change each day into a World Hunger Fund container.
“We haven’t been doing this very long, but our cans are filling up fast and people are asking when they’re going to be able to bring them in,” Butts said. “We’ll probably make an event of that, and then start filling up the cans again.
“We just want to be a part of what is going on in a larger scale in our denomination,” the pastor continued. “Think about just Canada for a minute. I really believe we have a tremendously strong and motivating vision to reach our country with a thousand churches. This goal is motivating us and stretching us. It’s causing us to trust God and seek Him at a level we wouldn’t if we didn’t have a vision.”
Butt, a trustee of the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention, expressed his concern for the lack of leaders to minister in Canada’s established churches as well as those called to start churches along the highways and byways of the northern nation.
“I notice all the graduates are already placed even before they graduate,” Butt said. “We’re in great need of leaders who are willing to come out to less glamorous places and get to work. What I’d like to say to those who are seeking God’s direction is, don’t just go to the church that will pamper you; go to the one where there’s a need, and work.”
The Cooperative Program is essential for reasons unrelated to money, the pastor said.
“The Cooperative Program motivates us and stretches us and gets us involved when we think of the good we as a denomination are able to do around the world because we have a system that is both simple and effective,” Butt said. “I like the Cooperative Program. Our church likes the Cooperative Program. We like being part of something bigger than we are.”
The men of Calvary Moose Jaw keep their camaraderie strong with Wednesday prayer breakfasts, cooked each week by one of the group. The women of the church prayerwalk the community. And the congregation gathers once a month for a potluck Sunday dinner.
“One of the things I enjoy at our church is our strong core of highly-committed people,” said pastor’s wife Laura Butt. “They’ve been Christians a long time and have a strong sense of the value of the church. It’s iron sharpening iron when we get together for fellowship, in worship and on mission teams. We draw closer to God as we learn from one another, as we cooperate with each other.”