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Texas church fosters commitment to missions challenges

MIDLAND, Texas (BP)–Reflecting a cornerstone in its commitment to missions, First Baptist Church in Midland gives more than 30 percent of its undesignated offerings to mission causes, including 14 percent to the Cooperative Program.

“We constantly hear from those supported by Cooperative Program gifts as to how the Gospel is spreading,” said Gary Dyer, the Texas church’s pastor since 1995. “What more profitable investment could there be than that?”

The Cooperative Program, also referred to as CP Missions, is the Southern Baptist method of pooling mission gifts for maximum effectiveness and efficiency around the world.

“The support of the Cooperative Program is more than just a matter of interest to First Baptist Church in Midland,” Dyer said. “It is — and has historically been — a matter of unwavering commitment. We have remained steadfast in giving well over 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program because we can — and the size of the worldwide challenge,” he said, “compels us to do what we can.”

In addition to its financial commitment to missions, more than a fourth of the church’s active members — perhaps 750 people — are involved in some type of hands-on missions activity in Midland, in the Midland Baptist Association, across North America or around the world.

“It’s just part of what our people understand our people are supposed to do as Christians,” said Dale Pond, the church’s minister of missions. “We don’t come to church to take; we come to give. We give first our worship and honor to the Lord,” which Pond said includes service to the Lord.

First Midland — which was founded in 1886, and now drawing 2,500 people for three Sunday worship services — was the first Global Priority Church in the Southern Baptist Convention, a designation reflecting a partnership with the International Mission Board and other churches in networking to meet key missions needs. First Midland also is an SBC Key Church, a designation that refers to a commitment to starting churches, nurturing disciples and sending them out on mission for God.

The purpose behind these relationships, Pond said, is a commitment to provide ways for people to live out their Christian calling to help build the Kingdom of God.

First Midland provides an array of service opportunities in all compass directions through its missions and benevolence committees.

Mission Midland is the church’s hub for local ministry, with food, clothing and shelter as mainstays. A storage area is maintained where household items, furniture and even automobiles are available for no cost to those with emergency needs. A hospitality house is provided for those with loved ones in Midland’s regional hospital, while a 22-unit apartment to be constructed next spring will enable single parents to feel safe and secure as they learn skills necessary for self-sufficiency based on God’s reliability. For missionaries on stateside assignment, a missionary residence is available.

Currently, volunteers are working on First Midland’s Christmas Store, which will be open Dec. 8-11, providing toys for needy families from purchases made by church members throughout the year.

“This is where 500 or more families will come to pick out toys for their children,” Pond said. “We greet them at the door, present the plan of salvation during an interview process, wrap their gifts and carry them out to their cars for them. About 10 percent of the adults will make a profession of faith as a result of this one thing we do for them.”

First Midland also has a presence in the city’s jail ministry, crisis pregnancy center, soup kitchen and several other local ministries.

Mexico, a scant five hours or less from Midland, is next door to being local. The church has focused for 35 years on the Big Bend area straddling the Rio Grande River and for a dozen or more years on the Juarez area across the border from El Paso. First Midland provides financial support in Mexico for perhaps 25 churches plus schools and orphanages, and its members serve in across-the-border outreach as opportunities arise — sometimes during one- or two-week mission trips; sometimes for years.

First Midland utilizes the language skills of people from Spanish-speaking Southern Baptist congregations in the Midland Baptist Association in its efforts in Mexico. As the translators learn teaching/training skills from their translation duties, they begin setting up outreach trips from their own churches, thus expanding the pool of missions volunteers.

“During the year we’ll do several discipleship mission trips for Sunday School training, revival services, summer programs,” Pond said. “We also do a couple of trips to prayerwalk around ministries we support.”

Church and ministry-related construction have long been part of First Midland’s missions toolkit. A church builder’s group, in tandem with other mission teams from the church, has reached out to much of the non-South part of North America.

“If you listed all the states we’ve worked with, you could cover the whole northern tier of the United States, from Maine to Washington,” Pond said. “We try to find churches where you see evidence of God at work and help facilitate them and join with them in doing ministry.” First Midland is helping support at least 20 congregations in North America, financially and with hands-on involvement, in addition to its support through the Cooperative Program.

“There are a lot of ways to establish these connections,” Pond said. “At one point we wrote letters to all the directors of missions in the Northwestern United States and asked them to refer churches in their association that needed help.

“The goal for our adult departments is that each class takes a mission trip to the church they adopted and help with whatever they need — VBS, music, builders, Backyard Bible Clubs, whatever,” Pond said. “It’s been a very neat thing to see the relationships develop between our adult departments and people in these pioneer areas.”

First Midland fosters missions-related connections with monthly meetings of the missions coordinators from each department in its two Sunday School sessions. This keeps them informed and enthused about ongoing outreach, Pond said.

“One month we may emphasize our apartment ministry….,” Pond said. “Whatever the need or opportunity, I put it before them and they take it back to the department. They are responsible for keeping the things our church is involved in in front of their department. And each class takes on a mission congregation and makes it ‘theirs.'”

Reflecting on First Midland’s multifaceted missions outreach, Dyer noted, “We definitely see our involvement with the Cooperative Program and with hands-on missions opportunities as investments, and we see the returns.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: UNWAVERING, CARING COAST TO COAST, TOYS & MORE and PASTOR’S CP PERSPECTIVE.