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Sagemont tops $1M in Mission:Dignity gifts

HOUSTON (BP)–Sagemont Church in Houston is the first church in the Southern Baptist Convention to reach the $1 million mark in contributions to the Mission:Dignity ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources that assists retired pastors and their widows who have financial needs. GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins received a check for nearly almost $42,000 at a church-wide celebration on Sunday, March 29, reaching the $1 million mark.

“We are on a mission at GuideStone to bring dignity to these precious servants of the Lord in their declining years,” Hawkins said. “We are especially grateful for individuals and churches like Sagemont that support this vital ministry.”

John Morgan, Sagemont’s senior pastor for more than 40 years, has always had a heart for preachers and their families across the Southern Baptist Convention. And what touches his heart most is the plight of retired ministers and widows who live near the poverty line.

“My father was pastor at First Baptist Church of Pasadena [Texas] for 33 years. He loved the church and they loved him, but planning for the future was not emphasized when he started in the ministry,” Morgan said. “My father and others of his generation went into the ministry with no turning back. Sometimes they received a salary; sometimes they were paid in food or work. They trusted the Lord to provide for all their needs and put the needs and ministries of the church first.

“Now they are looking to us to respond and to show they are not forgotten,” he added.

Early in his ministry, Morgan decided to act on his concerns. He led Sagemont to reach out and assist aged ministers and their widows in the Houston area. The church began gathering the names of individuals with specific needs and responded by sending them $100 to $400 each month. Over the years, the number grew as high as 30 at a time.

“As our church began to invest in the lives of these dear people, we were blessed,” Morgan said. “I would receive monthly thank you notes from these retired pastors with a 10 percent tithe to my church. The notes of these faithful servants touched my heart.”

In April 2000, he heard a presentation about GuideStone’s assistance program — then called Adopt An Annuitant — that was providing ministers and widows across the SBC with a monthly check to supplement their income.

“Thousands of our old preachers were living on $200 or less in monthly benefits from their retirement income and just a small amount of Social Security. I shared this need and the ministry with my congregation and the people responded,” Morgan said.

Morgan challenged his church to give to the Mission:Dignity ministry in the midst of a $9 million building program for a new preschool and children’s building.

“I believe anytime is a good time to respond in love to others,” he said. “People sit in judgment of the church today. They are not interested in bureaucracy or impressed with buildings. They want to know how a church is sharing its love.

“Our church operates on a cash basis. We borrow no money…. We believe it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive, and we’re always trying to find a way to implement our mission statement, which is to provide living proof of a loving God to a watching world.”

The initial response to Morgan’s appeal was overwhelming. Individuals, families, Sunday School classes, businesses, Bible studies and other groups said yes to sharing each month. When they added up the first month’s gifts, it came to $10,650. The annual totals have been more than $100,000 ever since.

“There’s nothing we do here that motivates our people to give to the Lord more than the Mission:Dignity ministry,” Morgan said. “We feel it is one of the best ways we can help deserving people and at the same time allow our young folks to identify with the past where ministry and ministers were far different than they operate today.”

Mission:Dignity provides financial support for nearly 2,500 retired Southern Baptist ministers or their widows. Qualifying individuals receive $200 a month and qualifying couples receive $265 a month. The neediest persons with at least 30 years of SBC ministerial service may receive as much as $530 each month.

John Morgan encourages other pastors to lead their people to give to Mission:Dignity.

“There is not anything a person in the body of Christ can do that’s more honoring to the Lord, is more in keeping with the truth and teaching of Scripture, than to take care of those who have fed you spiritual food and ministered to you in Jesus’ name throughout your life.

“If you will do this, you will be astounded if it is done with right motives and done in the name of the Lord. The income to the church will be far beyond what you ever thought that it could be. And all one would have to do is come here to Sagemont and see how the people have learned to give knowing that, as they give, God’s Word is being fulfilled as they meet the needs of others.”

Morgan continued, “I have been in ministry for 50 years and almost 43 years at Sagemont and I believe that what makes a church a great church is loving God and loving people. When a church shows love to those in need, God will pour out a blessing.”
John Ambra is director of development for GuideStone Financial Resources.

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