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Staffer attracted to Baptist cooperation

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP)–Jason Pettus knew there was something special about Living Hope Baptist Church. As an associate pastor in an interdenominational church that didn’t give to missions, one of the reasons he accepted the call to Living Hope was its Cooperative Program emphasis.

Southern Baptist churches have “an extraordinary opportunity to be a blessing,” Pettus said, through Southern Baptists’ support of missions and ministry efforts of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Because we give to the Cooperative Program, we have seminaries training men and women to share the Gospel and to see missionaries going around the world,” Pettus said.

Executive Pastor Scott Kilgore believes the vision that inspires the Bowling Green, Ky., church to support the Cooperative Program is the same one that drives its growth in adding dozens of new members over the course of the year.

“Living Hope has got a vision and it’s a vision that’s not myopic,” Kilgore said. “It’s not just about work right here, but one that stretches beyond our boundaries. We recognize ours is a mandate to the world.

“I think people gravitate to a grand vision when they know the only way it can be attempted is through a vision from God, because people want to see God at work. When a church exists for someone outside the four walls, some miraculous things happen.”

With a former staff member now serving in Africa, Kilgore expects the Cooperative Program to take on a more personal dimension at Living Hope.

“What is going to be a plus is now the Cooperative Program will have a face and a heart because of one of our own,” Kilgore said. “Someone we know and love is being supported by our Cooperative Program dollars.”

Mark Phillips and his wife, Parker, headed to Niger, Africa, in 2005 to work among one of the world’s most unreached people groups. Before his departure, Phillips was intent on educating high school students about the Cooperative Program’s history and purpose.

“I asked students and none of them knew what the Cooperative Program was,” Phillips said before leaving. “I grew up in RAs (Royal Ambassadors) and learned about missions at a young age. We’ve missed a generation. We’ve got to teach them.”

Pettus calls the Phillips’ journey a prime example of the Cooperative Program’s value. Living Hope took advantage of the Southern Baptist Convention’s expertise to send the couple overseas, the pastor said.

“None of this would have been possible without the International Mission Board and our Cooperative Program dollars,” Pettus said. “Who knows who’s going to be saved through their ministry? I believe there will be a day when we gather around God’s throne and there will be nations and people there because of Cooperative Program dollars.”

Throughout its 30-year history, Living Hope Baptist Church has consistently given 10 to 12 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program.

Last fall, the Kentucky Baptist Convention honored Living Hope for leading the convention in total dollars given in 2005 -– well beyond $400,000.

Living Hope’s generosity also extends beyond the Cooperative Program, giving another 7 percent to associational and other missions causes.

While they give a lot of money to missions, it’s a hands-on endeavor as well. Last year hundreds of members were involved at the local, state, national or international level.

Locally, twice a year the church sponsors “One Great Day.” The citywide campaign assists numerous agencies, single mothers and elderly residents with home repairs and other needs handled by more than 1,000 volunteers, Pettus said.

Outside Bowling Green, the church has sent teams to such places as eastern Kentucky, Montana, New Orleans and Oklahoma. In recent years, international mission teams have been to the Ukraine, China, South Africa, India and Japan.

Trips to far-away places demonstrate how the Cooperative Program allows Living Hope to join with other likeminded believers to help spread the Good News of Christ, Kilgore said.

“So much structure is there and we can take advantage of the expertise of people,” Kilgore said. “We leverage their knowledge and dollars to do Kingdom work.”

Kilgore believes cooperative missions deserves more support among Southern Baptists, noting that it needs continual emphasis because of newcomers from other churches or from no spiritual background who aren’t aware of it.

“No manmade system is perfect, but I think the Cooperative Program is an inspired idea which has as its thrust the evangelization and discipling of the world,” Kilgore said. “Because of this lofty goal, it compels me to support it in some way.”
This story initially was published by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.kybaptist.org.

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  • Ken Walker