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NYC & Arizona church plants get boost from Kentucky

MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP) — A Kentucky congregation gave an eye-popping $118,000 in a single day to support church plants in Arizona and New York.

First Baptist Church in Mayfield collected the offering during its Founder’s Day service Aug. 7 to share the Gospel with Native Americans on reservations in the desert Southwest and with urbanites in the nation’s largest city.

Senior pastor Wes Fowler, who has visited many of the areas where the churches are being planted, noted their desperate need the Gospel.

“We also know these church planters have been called and equipped by God for the work that lies ahead,” Fowler said. “We count it a joy and an honor to help support their efforts.”

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted, “Such generosity reflects the commitment of the people of First Baptist Mayfield to reach the world for Christ. I believe God will honor their commitment and bless these church plants to reach many, many lost souls with the Gospel.”

Church planter Rick Downing, who previously served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Mayfield, is working to start churches in several Native American villages in Arizona with North American Mission Board missionary Eric Gibbs. Meanwhile, church planter Chris Turpin, a Kentucky native, is working to start a congregation on New York’s Staten Island.

Fowler said the Founder’s Day offerings traditionally have been for renovations of the Mayfield church, not church planting.

Todd Gray, western Kentucky regional consultant for the Kentucky convention, said he was impressed by the amount of the single-day offering.

“This is a congregation that chose to put the needs of church planters and lost people ahead of their own,” Gray said. “Their pastor, prior to collecting the offering, said to the congregation, ‘This is a sacrificial offering. If your offering does not require you to live differently, then it is probably not a sacrifice.’ This is a pastor who deeply loves his church and who is loved by his church. He is not pushing them into sacrificial giving, but leading by his own example.”

Fowler said First Baptist became interested in ministering to Native Americans in Arizona after hearing about the needs from Gibbs.

“For the past several years, we have taken short-term mission trips to Arizona to conduct Backyard Bible Clubs and complete small construction projects,” Fowler said. “Through this experience, we quickly realized the tremendous need for churches among the Native American population.

“On one occasion, Eric took me to a small village where there were zero followers of Christ; there was no church and no evangelical witness,” Fowler said. “For me, this was both devastating and unacceptable. So, as we began to pray about using our Founder’s Day offering to plant churches, Arizona was a top priority.”

Fowler said First Baptist became interested in Staten Island through Turpin.

“I met Chris through a regional KBC workshop, and he explained to me the strategic location and population of Staten Island,” Fowler recounted. “He also expressed his strong desire to see 50 churches planted on Staten Island within the next 25 years.”

Fowler noted First Baptist’s responsiveness to the work in Arizona and New York. “We normally receive anywhere from $90,000 to $100,000, so to receive over $118,000 was a bit overwhelming as well as exciting,” the pastor said. Seven baptisms also were part of the Aug. 7 Founder’s Day service.