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They give to missions ‘no matter what’

DENISON, Texas (BP)–Aggressive missions giving doesn’t just happen, said Chet Haney, pastor of Parkside Baptist Church.

It takes a congregation with a heart for missions and a pastor with a focus and willingness “to really challenge people to stretch their vision and their concept of what they can do,” said Haney, who has been Parkside’s pastor for 15 years.

Located in the bustling city of Denison, Texas, 75 miles north of Dallas and one of 65 congregations in the Grayson Baptist Association, Parkside has grown exponentially in its missions fervor.

In 2009, members gave $14,563 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, or $22.61 per capita. Across the Southern Baptist Convention, the average member’s overall per capita gift to the offering is $14.78.

“It’s been a blessing over the years to see families, perhaps formerly satisfied with giving $50 or $100, now looking to do much more,” Haney said. “If you’re going to go from giving, for example, $30 to $3,000, it really affects your family budget for the year. You have to think, ‘How are we going to make this happen?’

“It is important to get people thinking in terms of giving larger amounts, in the upper hundreds or low thousands per family,” Haney said. “That has been a key part of the promotion strategy. It hasn’t caught on with everybody, but it has with most, and that’s been the difference. It’s widespread sacrifice, not the super large gifts of just a few. On the spiritual side, you have to really trust God to provide. That’s the beautiful part of this.”

Parkside’s support of missions through the North American Mission Board is because NAMB’s focus is the area of the world’s greatest need — the raising up of a missionary people who will multiply ministry as they spread out throughout the world, Haney said.

“You boil missions down to its core essence, and you’ve got a sovereign God who chooses to do what He does through people who humble themselves and obey Him so they can join Him — as [Henry] Blackaby taught us — in what He is doing,” the pastor said. “A truly successful mission trip will almost always leave the participants in awe. They won’t brag. They won’t show off. They won’t say, ‘Look what we did!’ They’ll say, ‘What a mighty God we served.’ They’ll say, ‘Look how God blessed me by letting me be part of His work.’

“That’s what missions really accomplishes,” Haney said. “That leads to revival. If we humble ourselves before God, then He will lift us up, and He will allow us to hear that Macedonian call that echoes from the Scriptures: ‘Come over here and help us. We need a construction team. We need an evangelism team.’ That call can only be heard by a humble heart.”

Parkside’s one-day ingathering of money for three seasonal missions offerings — international, North American and Texas — takes place the first Sunday in December.

“We can raise a lot more money that way,” Haney said. “But to have a successful world missions offering you have to prepare for it well in advance, to encourage people to give sacrificially.”

Two things are essential for a successful world missions offering, the pastor said. First, members have to ask God what He wants them to give. Second, they have to commit to give that amount no matter what.

Members do not make pledges, and the church’s goal is an independent amount.

“We have found, in my experience, that after you do this a year or two, it’s hard to keep up with the enthusiasm,” Haney said. “Our goals have a tendency to swell almost to the point of ridiculous for our size congregation. This year it’s a hugely challenging $130,000.”

But when people listen to what God wants them to give and then commit to give it, “God grants miraculous provision in order to honor our commitment,” Haney said. “It takes initiative and desire and faith, and it’s a huge challenge, but when you put it out there, God blesses.”

As one example, the pastor said Parkside member Betty Cabaniss told him how God two years in a row provided a bonus check for the precise amount she and her husband Wayne had set as their family goal for Parkside’s annual world missions offering.

Parkside responds generously to missions needs for two reasons, Haney said. He takes responsibility for making missions personal, and the congregation takes mission trips.

“I’ve always liked making missions personal,” Haney said. “[Missionaries] are real people who used to sit in pews like us and God called them and they said ‘yes.'”

He tells of the first missionary he met, a former band leader who was teaching trumpet in Liberia to build relationships to help start churches. He tells of a pastor in Brazil who requested new tires for his four-wheel-drive vehicle so he could drive into the Amazon and reach people for Christ.

The same week in August that 45 Parkside teenagers and their leaders were evangelistically knocking on doors in New Orleans and helping in Southern Baptists’ continuing recovery of that city from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, 85 members of the church’s construction team were in Kansas City, Mo., helping in the construction of a new chapel for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — this out of a congregation where about 650 people participate in Sunday morning worship.

And for the third year in a row, in December a multifaceted missions team will journey to rural Nicaragua.

“When our people go on a missions trip, they see things God can use them to do in our own local mission field, which is right here where we live,” Haney said. “Our students were so excited about what they did in New Orleans that they said, ‘Hey, we want to do this here,’ and went out knocking on doors before prayer meeting their first Wednesday back, and led seven people to the Lord that night.

“It really affected our whole church,” the pastor said. “Thanks to our teenagers … we have a more serious and sober sense of the urgency of our own personal mission. We’re all on mission for Christ.”

That mission has to start in Denison and across the United States, Haney said.

“Our nation, which has historically been the great sending body for missions throughout the world, has gradually but steadily become a mission field. There’s no denying it,” the pastor said. “The lostness in our country, the depreciation of cultural morality — it’s heartbreaking to see what our country has become spiritually.

“We’re in great need of revival, and we don’t even know how desperate we are,” Haney added. “We are asleep, and I don’t know what it will take to awaken this nation to its spiritual despondency. For that reason, missions at home has become equally if not more urgent than missions around the world — because if we don’t have revival, then there won’t be anything left to give to the world, perhaps in a short time.

“I don’t think it’s too late,” the pastor said. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to see revival, but we’re going to have to really pray. It’s going to have to start in a church somewhere.”

A group of men at Parkside has been praying seven days a week for the past 18 months for God to send revival to America.

Even more personally, 18 months ago the church distributed pieces of chalk to members during a Sunday service — hundreds of pieces. They were asked to draw symbolic circles around themselves and “pray for God to revive what’s inside that circle to show revival has to be personal,” Haney said. “It’s not likely for revival to start in Hollywood or among politicians. God’s blueprint for revival starts in the church.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.