RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A Texas church has promised to double its gifts to the International Mission Board while maintaining its commitment to the Cooperative Program to lessen the effect of the financial downturn on Southern Baptists’ missionary force.
Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, has pledged to give an extra $350,000 a year to the IMB for the next three years. The $1.05 million will be in addition to the churches’ usual CP and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts.
“The need to take the Gospel to the nations has never been greater and this is not the time for Southern Baptists to be backing up and cutting back,” said David Dykes, Green Acres’ pastor. “We wanted to do our part to put more people on the mission field.”
A multimillion-dollar shortfall caused IMB to limit missionary appointments in 2009. Total personnel last year reached 5,600 but eventually will be trimmed to about 5,000 through natural attrition (retirements, resignations and completion of service). The mission board reported that for the first time in its history, leadership had to draw $7.5 million from contingency reserves to balance the 2010 budget.
Dykes said the church’s plan to bolster the IMB’s budget won’t come at the sacrifice of its general CP giving or support of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. That’s because the BGCT allows churches to designate a portion of their CP gifts. For the past three years, Green Acres designated $350,000 annually to a local ministry called Breckinridge Village of Tyler that, at the time, Dykes said was in need of extra financial support. Beginning this year, that $350,000 will be redirected to IMB.
Green Acres gives 15 percent of its $12.5 million annual budget through the Cooperative Program. That came to $1.8 million in 2009, about $300,000 of which went to the IMB. With the church’s decision to re-designate its previous allocation to Breckinridge Village, that number will jump to about $650,000 this year.
Green Acres is in the midst of completing a $40 million expansion project that will leave the church with about $8 million of short-term debt. Dykes said it could have been tempting to use the $350,000 to help pay off the debt but that the church isn’t willing to spend money designated for missions on itself.
“I want people to know that we love and support the Texas Baptist Convention,” Dykes emphasized. “Even with this designation to IMB, which does not go into the Texas convention’s budget, we are still its biggest [financial] contributor.”
Dykes said the decision to increase Green Acres’ giving to the IMB through CP was intentional.
“We are champions of the Cooperative Program,” Dykes said. “The brilliant, God-inspired vision of CP was like the Panama Canal being built — suddenly ships no longer had to sail around South America,” he said. “But today the vast majority of ships can’t use the canal because it’s too narrow — so they’re enlarging it. That’s what we need to do with the Cooperative Program; we’ve got to build a bigger canal to get more money channeled to missions.”
Dale Pond, Green Acres’ missions minister, believes the congregation’s desire to increase giving to the IMB exemplifies its missions heart. Pond said Green Acres currently is involved with 15 strategic partnerships around the world and last year sent 1,200 members on 44 short-term missions projects. He added that Dykes’ interview for this story came just a few hours before Dykes boarded a plane with 60 other Green Acres members bound for Guatemala to lead a spiritual retreat for evangelical missionaries.
Dykes said he isn’t trying to brag or win kudos for himself or Green Acres — but he does hope the church’s passion for missions will encourage others.
“Missions is not a program in our church, it IS our church,” he said. Borrowing from British revivalist Henry Varley, Dykes added: “The world has yet to see what God can do in and through and with a church that is totally committed to global missions. … With God’s grace we will be that church.”
Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about the Cooperative Program and how your church’s contributions are used, visit cpmissions.net. Go to imb.org/offering for resources related to Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving.