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Tennessee church makes impact with ‘giving and going’ philosophy

Red Bank Baptist Church's drive-thru food ministry garnered a lot of attention in Chattanooga, and people both inside and outside the church donated to help. Soon, the church's benevolence fund was four times what it had been in previous years.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP) – Pastor Sam Greer wants the people of Red Bank Baptist Church to be equally focused on taking the Gospel around the world and on needs in their local community. This mindset is why the church decided to pay nine months of a local pastor’s mortgage after his long hospitalization with COVID-19.

Although the pandemic made things financially difficult for some churches, Greer said Red Bank experienced unexpected financial blessings and wanted to give back to a fellow Southern Baptist church or pastor in the state.

Greer reached out to Randy Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, for ideas.

Pastor Sam Greer baptizes a new believer at Red Bank Baptist Church.

Davis told them about Pastor Zach Lloyd of East LaFollette Baptist Church, who was in the hospital at the time due to COVID-19. Lloyd battled the virus for 7 months, spending 175 days in the hospital. That time in the hospital included a double lung transplant, which according to one of Lloyd’s physicians was an extremely risky operation.

Lloyd eventually recovered and was released from the hospital in May, but not before Red Bank reached out to his wife Sara to tell her they were going to cover the family’s mortgage payment for nine months.

Greer said his church had a specific dollar amount in mind they were prepared to donate, and soon learned that was the exact amount it would take to cover nine months of the Lloyds’ mortgage.

“God providentially performed miracles through His people that we could have never even thought up or written or imagined,” Greer said. “It was not coincidence; it was God’s providence. Without God’s hand none of that would have happened, and it’s a blessing to be a part of Zach’s story.”

Greer said both the “giving” and “going” aspects of the church’s mission were what enabled them to be willing and able to help Pastor Lloyd.

He said when he became pastor at Red Bank, the congregation was already generous in their giving to worldwide missions. The church has consistently been one of the top 50 giving churches to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. But, he said, church members did not do as well with the “going” component in their local context.

“We were looking past our own Jerusalem in a lot of ways,” Greer said. “We really shifted our focus on including our Jerusalem in our giving and our going. Because of that I do believe the Lord has really blessed our church to be able to do some really unique things.”

He said the church has come to a better understanding of how both aspects are necessary for effective ministry.

“The idea that going is for missionaries, not for every believer but those who are vocationally called, that is completely unbiblical,” Greer said. “I believe that if you are not giving and going, then the danger is disobeying the Great Commission that we’re to go and make disciples of all nations. Nobody is exempt from the giving and the going to be obedient to the Great Commission.”

Red Bank has shown growth in both areas in recent years.

The church once had 33 different financial funds people could give to. Those were consolidated into four categories of benevolence, world missions, general budget and red letters (building funds or local outreach).

The church now takes frequent trips to volunteer in the North American Mission Board Send Cities of Miami, St. Louis and Salt Lake City. The congregation has also adopted the Bhama people group in Southeast Asia and consistently ministers to them.

Like all churches, Red Bank was not able to do any ministry involving traveling in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the church partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin a food service program where people would receive food in a drive-thru format without ever getting out of their vehicle.

Greer said in more than 11 months of having the food drive, the church served food to 50,000 people, prayed for each one, and 13 decisions for Christ were made right in the drive-thru line throughout the year.

The food ministry had another unintended consequence in the form of a financial blessing. The drive-thru service garnered a lot of local attention, and people both inside and outside the church donated to help.

Even though the church let it be known that it did not need donations specifically for the food ministry because of its partnership with the USDA, people continued to give until Red Bank’s benevolence fund was four times what it had been in previous years.

This prompted Greer to seek an opportunity, which ultimately became paying Lloyd’s mortgage.

Greer encouraged churches who are lacking in either area of giving or going to focus on the commands of Christ, and the attitude change will come over time.

“I would encourage them to just get back to get back to The Great Commandment and The Great Commission,” Greer said. “Get back to those basics where God has called us and commissioned us to go and He’s given us The Great Commandment to love Him and to love people.

“I would say for those (churches) that are going and not giving, don’t forget that Jesus said, it’s better to give than to receive and where your treasure, is there your heart will be also. If you’re not going, then start with a local trip. You don’t have to go to Africa or another continent, just go in your community. Just get started. It doesn’t matter how small, but just get started.”