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‘Thankful to be part of what God is doing’ with CP

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (BP) — Central Baptist Church’s mission, rather than location, is reflected in it name.

The church of about 900 Sunday worshipers spreads out from its 150-acre campus southwest of Warner Robins, Ga., to the ends of the earth through gifts to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program.

Stephen Byrd pastors the church that includes Robins Air Force Base Air Force personnel and their families, some of whom may live in the community only temporarily.

“We get a lot of great couples here for a while and then send them back out,” Byrd told Baptist Press. “The Lord blesses us to be with them, serve with them, worship with them, shepherd them, and then we send them out around the world. We pray with them their last Sunday and they take the Gospel to the four corners of the world.”

Likewise, the 10 percent of undesignated offerings the church gives to missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program spreads the Gospel globally, Byrd noted.

“We believe people should tithe and that’s a good example for us,” Byrd said of the Southern Baptist Convention channel for supporting national and international missions and ministry.

“We believe we can do more together than we can on our own.”

Byrd challenges members to give sacrificially through tithes and mission offerings, such as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

“We’re just thankful to be part of what God is doing through Southern Baptists here in North America and throughout the world,” Byrd said. “We know God is using those efforts.”

Family, faith development and missions commitment are among Central Baptist’s pillars.

Amid Warner Robins’ military population, Byrd noted, “One of my favorite things about Central is that because of their church family, many retirees from the base stick around.”

Central Baptist balances long-term members with those who are short-term. A longstanding English as a Second Language (ESL) ministry, for instance, reaches military spouses born overseas. Most current attendees are Hispanic, Asian and of various heritages from majority Muslim nations, and not all ESL attendees are connected to the military base.

“Why they come [to Warner Robins] is a great question,” Byrd said. “We actively pray and ask the Lord to tear down any walls and barriers so anyone, wherever they’re from, can hear the Gospel.

“We believe the Gospel has the unique ability to bring people together under the banner of Christ,” Byrd said. “We desire to reflect at Central what heaven looks like, every color, every creed, every nationality.”

Byrd sees in Central Baptist “a rich and meaningful way to experience God’s grace, and a powerful way to display it.” He envisions people in Warner Robins being drawn to God by seeing His love through Central members’ love for each other and their community.

“Our vision here is that anytime anything is going on in Warner Robins, Central Baptist wants to be part of it,” Byrd said. “If there is an event, we try to be there and have a presence.”

International missions also is important, Byrd said, and includes a July 8-15 outreach in Honduras and annual trips to Moldova.

“When they come home — from what they experienced there [in Moldova], being on the front line, sharing the good news of God’s love — they come back impassioned, empowered to do that at home,” Byrd said. “It flows out to the community.”

Central Baptist, birthed in 1955, has planted four churches in recent years, including Mercy Hill Church in Kennesaw, Ga., about two and a half hours north of Warner Robins. Mercy Hill pastor Brandon Nichols grew up at Central Baptist and served as student pastor for about eight years.

“Central grows up its guys. We don’t keep our guys to ourselves,” Byrd said. “We raise them up and send them out. We’re fixing to send out another one. God is going to use that in a great way. God is blessing.”

An additional minister joining Central Baptist’s staff near summer’s end will focus on discipleship and outreach, Byrd said, reaching the 120 new members the church has added over the past year.

Byrd’s appreciation for the Word of God is renewed by life experiences, including a recent trip to the nation’s capital.

“All these monuments are saturated with the Gospel,” he said. “Pocahontas’ baptism. The top of the Supreme Court has Moses and the Ten Commandments. The highest point in the capital, the top of the Washington Monument, has a Latin phrase inscribed on it: Laus Deo — [which means] Praise to the Lord.

“And I’m looking at where we are in this nation, and just how broken everything is,” Byrd continued. “The problem is, we etched all this stuff in stone…. What God wants is for His Word to be in our heart.”

Since that visit, he said, “We have a renewed emphasis on the Word of God, preaching it, teaching it, loving it, and encouraging our people to do the same. The centrality of the Word, as it says in Psalm 119:11, ‘I have treasured your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you’ [CSB]. How it needs to be front and center in our church and in our lives.”