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Pastor underscores CP relationships

HARTSVILLE, S.C. (BP)–Pastors must do their part if Southern Baptists are to fulfill the Great Commission, Rod Elliott says.

“If we truly want to love God’s world by fulfilling the Great Commission and Commandment, the Cooperative Program helps us accomplish and partner with other Southern Baptist churches that desire the same,” said Elliott, 38, senior pastor of Kelleytown Baptist Church in Hartsville, S.C.

“I think the pastor has to be a cheerleader for the Cooperative Program,” Elliott said. “From a practical and financial standpoint, the Cooperative Program is the best way for us to be on mission around the world. If we truly want the world to hear, Southern Baptists must continue to fly the Cooperative Program banner.”

Missions education resources from the state and national conventions can give pastors a boost in setting forth the call to missions, Elliott added.

“One of the things I enjoy is the Missionary Moments prayer guide,” the pastor said. “It’s one of my favorite resources. It makes it so simple to keep the Cooperative Program in front of everybody as you lift up a missionary’s prayer concern.

“The ‘Every Number Has a Story’ CD is another one of my favorite resources,” Elliott continued. “The videos are great and it’s powerful to put a face to a missionary.”

But Elliott knows that relationships drive ministry — and that includes the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministries of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“God is all about relationships,” the pastor said. “He wants us in relationships with Him and with other believers, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than through the relationships that are in the Cooperative Program.”

Elliott initially learned about missions, the Cooperative Program and relationships from “pillars of my home church and community,” many of whom were his Royal Ambassadors leaders from the first through sixth grade at First Baptist Church in Graniteville, S.C.

“The Cooperative Program allows us to be on mission around the world 24/7,” Elliott said. “When we join other likeminded followers of Christ, we’re doing so much more together than any one church could do alone. Together we provide seminary education. Together we send out prepared and well-trained missionaries. Together we provide disaster relief services. Together we get to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ and be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Kelleytown Baptist Church, where around 305 people gather for worship each Sunday, casts its evangelistic and ministry net a number of ways locally, regionally and beyond.

“For a church our size we do many things, but if the many things we do in the name of Jesus don’t revolve around evangelism and discipleship, we really have to evaluate the purpose in doing them,” Elliott said.

“Time is precious,” he reflected, “and as a father, I understand my greatest ministry is in my own home. Therefore, I watch just how much time our families spend at church and truly believe that we need to do a better job at evaluating whether programs are carrying out the purpose of ministry.”

That being said, Kelleytown is in its 40th year of providing a kindergarten ministry to the community. Other ministries include an outreach to motorcycle enthusiasts.

Another unique ministry is Kelleytown’s annual Family Fun Festival, which corresponds with the local July 4th celebration. The church provides inflatables, free food, an antique car and motorcycle show, Christian music that stretches from southern gospel to contemporary to blues, and “the best fireworks show in town,” the pastor said. About 1,000 people participated in last year’s event.

Over the course of several men’s retreats, accountability groups have been established “that have really in my estimation changed the culture of Kelleytown Baptist Church, and proved to be effective in discipling other men,” Elliott said.

Women in the church took note and have begun similar small discipleship groups.

“I have been led to begin a process of one-on-one discipleship with a select group of men and boys,” Elliott continued. “While I have the privilege to preach to a large group on three different occasions each week, I want to pour myself into a person in a Paul-and-Timothy type of relationship.”

Kelleytown is an active participant in its local Welsh Neck Baptist Association. In addition to the 3 percent of its undesignated offerings that goes to the association (plus 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program), Kelleytown participates with the association in various ministries, including the Darlington International Raceway and a local prison.

Several members also are active in the local soup kitchen and some are just now getting involved in a new pregnancy center that has opened in Hartsville.

“Last year we partnered nationally with a sister church in North Carolina and in Vermont for missions work,” Elliott said. “One consisted of backyard Bible clubs at apartment complexes and the latter consisted of construction work.”

Internationally, the church has established a relationship with a missionary family in Eastern Europe and with a local church. Kelleytown members have ministered there and the missionary family has visited at Kelleytown on numerous occasions. That relationship started when Elliott was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

“My wife Tina and I were one of the couples who said to our dear friends, ‘We’re going to hold the ropes for you,’ for this couple who went out with the International Mission Board,” Elliott said. “We haven’t formally taken the step of ‘adopting’ them or their people group but our heart’s desire is to be on mission with them and with the people of their region.”

Kelleytown also partners with one of its members serving in Eastern Europe with Campus Crusade for Christ.

“We’re also praying God will continue to open doors to be on-mission elsewhere as well,” the pastor added.

As Kelleytown members have grown spiritually as well as numerically, they have become increasingly willing to make a difference in the community and world through mission opportunities, said Elliott, who is now envisioning the church moving toward the next level that God has in mind for it.

“While we are blessed to have land, and finances, we’re maxing out our physical facilities. We’ll have to go to two services and eventually two Sunday Schools if we are to continue to grow.” But, he noted, our opportunity is to capitalize on the families God is bringing to our campus through our various ministries now.”

Previously involved in Upward Basketball and Soccer with a sister church, Kelleytown recently built six soccer fields and has just begun its first season offering Upward Soccer to the Hartsville community, drawing about 260 children.

“I coach two teams and I’m amazed at the number of kids I coach who tell me they have no church affiliation whatsoever,” Elliott said. “What a wonderful opportunity we have to love on families through ministries such as these and hopefully steer them into either KBC or another evangelical church.

“From a demographic standpoint, Hartsville is not poised to grow dramatically over the next several years but right here in the Bible Belt, there are lost people that still need to be reached,” the pastor continued. “At Kelleytown, we just want to be faithful to the Great Commandment and Great Commission and hopefully when we are, we’ll see our water bills go up from filling the baptistry so much.”

Since October 2006, 86 people have been baptized at Kelleytown; 96 more also have joined the church.

“Personally, my goal is to verbally witness to one individual a week with the hope of leading them to Christ,” Elliott said. “As a leader, I want our people investing in relationships and evangelism and they need to see their pastor model that for them.”

Elliott said he was excited when God began opening doors to minister at Kelleytown Baptist. It was a missions-minded church that wanted to impact its community and wanted to be a pastor-led church when he was called as senior pastor in 2006. The members were willing to do what needed to be done to grow and they had a history of long-tenured pastors.

“The benefit of a long-term pastorate is ultimately about relationships and stability,” Elliott said. “Not only do the pastor and his wife and children have stability and a place to call home, but so does the church, because they’re not looking for a pastor every few years.

“Another benefit of a long-term pastorate is relationships that are formed within the church,” the pastor said. “God created us to be in relationships with Him and with one another. Other than our relationship with the Lord and our family, there’s nothing sweeter than the relationship between a pastor and his people. I truly want the best for my church family. At the end of my ministry as a pastor, nothing would make me prouder than for my congregation to say of me that I faithfully preached the Word of God, that I was a soul-winner and that I loved them immensely. In my opinion, nothing finer could ever be said of a pastor.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.