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Okla. church: Reaching people at home & abroad a top priority


CHOCTAW, Okla. (BP)–Approximately 700 people attend Sunday worship at First Baptist Church in Choctaw, Okla. During the 2003-04 church year, 93 people were baptized, second in the state for a congregation its size.

But numbers aren’t the motivator, said Ray Sikes, who became pastor in 1987 of the church that was founded in 1901.

“We believe our primary purpose is to reach people for Jesus,” Sikes said. “We want to do that on a local level, individual level, national level and international level, and the best tool to do that is the Cooperative Program.”

First Baptist commits 13 percent of its undesignated offerings to reaching people through the Cooperative Program. When the church’s other missions offerings and projects are factored in, it ranks among the top givers in Oklahoma.

The congregation reaches out through a variety of local efforts and mission trips, in addition to a Cooperative Program percentage that has remained steady over the years.

“In order to broaden our horizons and to have as great an outreach as we possibly can, Southern Baptist churches need each other,” Sikes said. “With the Cooperative Program we can reach way beyond our borders. We might be able to support four or five missionaries with the resources in this church, but together with all other Southern Baptist churches we can support 5,000-plus in international outreach and that principle would apply here in the United States as well….

“[W]ith cooperative effort, by uniting with other churches, we can do a great deal more,” the pastor continued. “And there’s no way we could provide seminaries and Baptist colleges on our own, even though we’re committed to education.”

At the local level, First Baptist reaches out to its suburban Oklahoma City community with a variety of children’s, youth and family ministries, including the evangelistic Upward Basketball, Soccer and Cheerleading, with Upward Flag Football slated for the fall.

People from the church and community also are drawn to a 13-week Financial Peace University study on money management. Four times a year First Baptist hosts a blood drive. Every Friday night is “open gym,” with basketball the usual sport of choice. The church also provides a Mother’s Day Out, Meals for New Moms and a tape ministry for the homebound.

“We have reached a number of people this way,” Sikes said. “We reach others through VBS, FAITH [evangelism strategy] and regular visitation, and summer camp. We’re second overall in the state for youth baptisms, and most of them were reached through our summer programs, like church camp at Falls Creek and Super Summer at Oklahoma Baptist University.

“That’s one of the ways the Lord has blessed us — He has given us a great ability to reach out to people,” the pastor said.

First Baptist is in the midst of a $2.5 million building program that will add a three-story educational wing primarily for children and youth. It will join the worship center, gymnasium/fellowship hall, nursery area and another educational wing that all are in traditional red brick styling.

Sunday morning worship each week includes a time of invitation; trained counselors walk down the aisle along with those professing their faith in Jesus or joining the church to provide counsel and affirmation.

“When they come for church membership, we make certain they have made the commitment,” Sikes said. “I tell them how much it means, and how much it will mean to them to be baptized.”

In addition to a ministry to the deaf for the last 13 years, local outreach initiatives include coordinating a citywide “meals on wheels” type of mobile ministry, with local churches each taking a day to prepare and distribute meals for about 30 elderly or sick people. First Baptist started this ministry more than 25 years ago.

The church also has developed four SWAT teams — Servants With A Task –- to tackle car problems, home repairs, landscape maintenance and other tasks.

“Recently we had some senior adults who needed a fence, and someone else had a garage that was falling down,” Sikes said. “When we cleaned a yard, we used children to help too. We want them to learn the concept of missions and serving others.

“Our main purpose is to honor God through serving people and reaching people for Christ,” Sikes said. “A Christian serves the Lord as he serves other people.”

First Baptist sends out two mission teams a year; one of youth and the other all ages. For the most part, the teams have worked in the northern or western states.

“What we normally do with the youth is have them work hard during the day on the building or landscaping, and then in the evening we have VBS or Backyard Bible Clubs, or maybe a church-wide Bible study,” Sikes said. “We’ve found it’s easier to get kids to come in the evening.”

First Baptist also helps support those who go as individuals on mission projects to Central and South America, Australia, Europe, Russia and the Philippines.

“That’s what a Christian should do,” Sikes said. “Our purpose here both as a church and individual Christians is to reach people for Christ. We consider that our primary focus and primary task, and when He returns, that’s what we want to be doing: honoring Him and reaching people for Him.”
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