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Pastor asks: How many more could be reached via CP?

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (BP)–As a pastor and former missionary, Calvin Wittman wonders how many more people could be reached if churches expanded their participation in Cooperative Program (CP) Missions.

“A pastor has to ask, what could we do in impacting the lostness in our world if every person would get involved in the Cooperative Program? How many more people could be reached?” Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., said.

“What could we do if every church cooperated the way they want their members to cooperate?” Wittman continued. “If we’re not as a church giving at least 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, how can we ask our members to tithe?

“I know there are other ways of doing missions, but there is no better way than the Cooperative Program. I’m talking to you as a former missionary,” said Wittman, Applewood’s pastor since 1999 and an IMB career missionary in Spain before that. “The Cooperative Program is the most effective way to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re involved with it. We’re a missions-minded church.”

This year Applewood members are ministering overseas in Belarus, Brazil, Kenya, Hong Kong, Romania and London. In the United States they’re ministering in Southern California, across Colorado and throughout the metro Denver area. Since the 1970s in the early days of partnership missions, the church has sent out 1,200 volunteers in short-term missions projects in 35 nations overseas.

“We believe every member should be a minister,” Wittman said. “You can’t just get involved with your money. It’s time that matters in the Kingdom of God. You have to be willing to give of yourself.”

About 800 people attend two Sunday morning worship services at Applewood. The church, with a five-facet thrust to impact the world — worship, witness, welcome, work, word — provides support for five missions: Romanian, Vietnamese, inner-city Denver, Brighton, Colo., and one in France.

“It irks me that people will buy an RV and go to the lake for a month, but they won’t invest a couple thousand dollars and a couple weeks in eternity by going to a foreign country and sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard,” Wittman said. “Either we are or we aren’t disciples. If we are, then each of us should be involved in some way in sharing the Gospel.”

Jesus’ Acts 1:8 charge to the church starts at home, the pastor said, so while Applewood has a passion for missions “to the ends of the earth,” it doesn’t lose its “Jerusalem” focus.

“We lead our state in Cooperative Program giving … but the Great Commission says we will be witnesses in Jerusalem too,” Wittman said. “You can’t reach just the uttermost part of the world and neglect Jerusalem.”

Major church events is one of the ways Applewood members welcome the community to what the church has to offer.

At Christmas, it’s the sanctuary dressed up in Victorian England splendor as backdrop for the annual production of “Scrooge.”

Celebrate America takes place the Sunday before the 4th of July. This year, 124 classic cars from across the nation registered as part of a car show, which also included typical block party activities -– inflatables for youngsters to jump in, face painting, cotton candy — plus five hours of mini-concerts, an honor guard presenting the U.S. flag and the release of 100 doves during the “land of the free” phrase as the National Anthem was sung.

“It’s a way to have a positive influence on our community,” said church member Julie Parr. “It’s an awesome event and every year I’m amazed.” About 175 members were involved in the Celebrate America outreach.

Applewood’s outward focus starts by preparing its members, the pastor said. A new members class is followed by “SHAPE” — Spiritual giftedness, Heart’s desire, Abilities, Personality and Experience — which helps them identify their area of ministry.

Life Trek University on Wednesday evenings provides more training -– ranging from CPR training and parenting to Christian apologetics and other classes that help people grow spiritually.

In order to reach the community as effectively as possible, Applewood is aiming to build a second educational facility. But the church’s 15-acre property, purchased in parcels 25 years ago, straddles 32nd Street, which divides Wheat Ridge and Lakewood, Colo. For several years — and nearly $120,000 without one spade of ground being turned — the church has been trying to get permits to build a second education building on its Lakewood property.

“The cities in Colorado don’t want nonprofits taking up land that could be producing taxes,” Wittman explained. “They’ve changed the laws twice in the last five years to make it more difficult for us to get a permit.”

Church leaders will by fall if they have satisfied the cities’ concerns, the pastor said. Regardless of the outcome, Applewood is committed to ministering to members of the church, the community and the world.

“In the past three decades, Applewood has commissioned 24 career missionaries into foreign missions,” said Robert Oxford, the church’s director of missions. “Teams from Applewood have ministered in 35 countries. We have been involved in starting six churches in Colorado and a dozen or more churches internationally.

“It has been our privilege and honor,” Oxford said, “to share the Gospel and serve the Lord around the world.”