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Prayer, tithing, missions strengthen Okla. church

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (BP) — Valuing prayer, tithing and missions, First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., led 20 mission trips last year alone and has helped plant more than 60 churches in the past decade.

At the heart of its outreach is First Baptist Broken Arrow’s support of the Cooperative Program, giving 10 percent of the congregation’s undesignated gifts while supporting a $16.5 million, 142-acre campus debt-free, according to senior pastor Nick Garland.

“This church has always been a missions-minded people,” Garland said. He has led for 31 years the church that began in 1904 with nine people meeting in a railroad car. Today, the church draws 2,800 to Sunday morning worship and is on track to give more than $1 million to missions this year.

The 10 percent CP allocation aligns with the church’s emphasis on individual tithing.

“If we’re asking people to tithe, shouldn’t the church?” Garland said. “Let’s be found consistent in our actions and guilty of doing good. God has blessed the Cooperative Program and the people who give to missions through it.”

Garland sees in the CP a giving mechanism that treats all churches equitably.

“The genius of the Cooperative Program is that percentage-wise, a small church is just as invested in missions as the church that gives millions. Both honor the Lord with their gift,” Garland told Baptist Press. “The key to the success of the Cooperative Program is that it is not impulse giving, emotional giving, but that it is giving consistently.”

In addition to CP support, First Broken Arrow gives 3.6 percent of undesignated offerings to the church’s Global Outreach (GO) Ministry, inspired by Acts 1:8 in proclaiming the Gospel purposefully, strategically and intentionally.

“We’re called to show the love of Christ in all four areas” (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth) as set forth in Acts 1:8, missions pastor Kevin Cottrell said.

“All are equally important,” he said, crediting Garland with inspiring First Broken Arrow to plant healthy churches on every continent. “Our strategy is very laser-focused. We can’t do everything. We have to say no to a lot of really good things to stay focused on our strategy.”

Broken Arrow and Tulsa, Okla., are the church’s “Jerusalem”; the rest of Oklahoma, its “Judea”; and Central and North America, its “Samaria.” For the “ends of the earth,” First Broken Arrow ministers in Cambodia, France, India, The Netherlands, Southeast Asia and on the Columbia/Venezuela border, with plans to enter Poland, West Africa, Australia and Antarctica.

The church supports Arms Around Broken Arrow, distributes backpacks stuffed with food for needy students and families and undergirds two crisis pregnancy centers and a Christian-based hospitality house for family members of people who are hospitalized.

A homeless shelter, assistance to victims of domestic violence and sex-trafficking, a 12-month transitional addiction treatment facility, Celebrate Recovery and disaster relief also are among the church’s local ministries. Beyond Broken Arrow, the church supports the Baptist Children’s Home, Faith Riders, area prisons and additional disaster relief work.

Weekly for the last five years, First Broken Arrow volunteers have served a meal, taught Bible stories and led recreation for a low-rent, 400-unit mobile home village. Once a month, the church conducts a similar ministry at the Garden Walk apartment complex in nearby Coweta, where Broken Arrow planted a second campus six years ago.

“We’re trying to locally show the love of Christ in a very real and practical way,” Cottrell said. “We’ve seen God do some great things, people saved, families reunited, hope restored and God honored.”

Ministry in Cambodia is a case in point, Garland said. Henry and Neri Tran, the first refugee couple sponsored by First Broken Arrow, are today church planters in Cambodia.

“They came to America to make a life. They worked very hard and taught their children to excel. They were determined to be successful,” Garland said. “Now they’re back in Cambodia as missionaries and have baptized 3,000 to 4,000 people since starting the work there 13 years ago.”

The Trans started an orphanage in Cambodia that houses 84 youngsters. In nearby villages, the Trans and First Broken Arrow have planted 25 churches, some of them meeting in the open air.

Said Cottrell, “We take great comfort, knowing they’re taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them wherever they go and wherever God sends them.”

Through the North American Mission Board’s SEND City thrust, First Broken Arrow is involved in Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle and St. Louis as well as on its own in the Central American city of San Salvador.

“We only engage in long-term church planting partnerships,” Cottrell said. “We find a person of peace to help us plant a local church, and then we help that local church grow to be spiritually mature enough to plant other churches themselves in other areas of their city or area. We work as partners to build healthy churches that can replicate and form new works.”

The early 1980s was a turbulent period at First Broken Arrow that helped strengthen the church in missions, Garland said. The church had gone through several pastors in a five-year period; members were frustrated, hurting and deeply in debt.

“What finally united us was the Talents campaign,” Garland said. On April 19, 1998, the church gave away $18,500 in sealed envelopes. “Everyone got something.”

Children received $1; teens, $5; adults, $10. The instruction was to invest it and return it seven months later, Garland said, “to see how God would bless His money with His people working to invest and re-invest the money.”

The congregation took the instruction to heart, Garland said, and God blessed the effort.

“When everyone had brought what they had earned from their respective talents, there was a $1.2 million ingathering on that Sunday evening of Nov. 15, 1998,” he said. The people “have stayed the course, kept the faith, kept their focus on Jesus.

“I feel the future is as bright as the promises of God because these people have their eyes and heart focused on Him.”