OIL CITY, La. (BP)–Chad Mills has led First Baptist Church in Oil City, La., to double its Cooperative Program giving during the last two years, increase its outreach into the community and become a more mission-minded church.
And the congregation has responded to the young pastor in wholehearted fashion.
From a Sunday School class raising its own money to do community projects to the enthusiastic support of overseas missionaries and planting of new churches, First Baptist has become a “beacon of light.”
“Oil City is our Jerusalem. The state is our Judea, and this nation is our Samaria. There is not a need for us to go off to be that beacon of light. This church, these people, can be a shining example right here,” Mills said.
Mills, who finished the first phase of EKG-LA (Empowering Kingdom Growth-Louisiana) initiative last May, said its impact has been remarkable. EKG-LA is a three-phase church health initiative that incorporates a study of “EKG: The Heartbeat of God” by Ken Hemphill, “ACTS1:8” by Nate Adams and “Making Change” by Hemphill.
“The initiative showed the congregation they were part of something bigger. We started looking for ways to be Kingdom-minded,” Mills said.
The pastor recounted, for example, that the church learned of a church planter trying to start a Vietnamese church and voted unanimously to help financially. Unfortunately, the church planter began having immigration issues and was denied a visa.
Undeterred and still wanting to help a mission church, First Baptist decided to support an existing Hispanic mission church — Iglesia Bautista Antioquia — in Bossier City.
“It was the first time in the church’s history for them to support a mission church,” Mills said. “I am overwhelmed by the love and the willingness to give that [First Baptist] has. Oil City has been hit harder than most small communities. Yet, despite their financial misfortunes, they continue to faithfully give.
“It has really blessed my heart the way they are getting it,” Mills said. “They are now looking for practical ways in which they can be witnesses.”
To help the congregation gain a better understanding about missions, Mills felt convicted to set aside the month of March to educate, promote and emphasize missions. He called it “Marching toward Missions.”
“For too long, the people in our church have heard about Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon and Georgia Barnett, but no real understanding as to who they were and what they were about,” Mills said of the missions notable whose names are attached to Southern Baptists’ international and North American missions offerings and Louisiana Baptists’ state missions offering.
“So, I have tried to educate them, and we have filled our church calendar with so many different events and activities — practical ways to learn about missions and what they can do to be a part of the Kingdom,” he said. “I used the entire month to teach, preach on missions and the importance of the offerings.”
He also reactivated the church’s missions committee.
“We had not had an active mission committee in some time,” Mills said. “After their first meeting, they shared with me that they felt Georgia Barnett and Lottie Moon got the short end of the stick because of when they took place.
“In the fall [the Georgia Barnett offering], most parents have little extra money because they are trying to get their children ready for school. At Christmas, they run into the same problem with Lottie Moon,” Mills said.
Instead of waiting for the August or December, Mills and the committee decided to encourage people to go ahead and give. Envelopes with the different missions offerings were put out.
“They can still give in August, December or at Easter time,” Mills said, “but this gives them the opportunity to give instead of waiting.”
Both young and old in the church also branched out into the community looking for mission projects to undertake.
One of First Baptist’s Sunday School classes held a church-wide garage sale for its “Needs and Good Deeds” project and raised more than $1,000 for wheelchair ramps, yard work and other projects in the community.
The youth got involved during the Easter break by fanning out in the community doing similar projects for those in need. They also handed out devotionals and learned how to witness to others.
“This project was important because it taught the kids they are missionaries on their school campus and in their community,” Mills said. “They also learned how to prayerwalk and what it means as we canvassed the community in ‘Sharing the Peace of Jesus,'” Mills said, referring to Louisiana Baptists’ statewide evangelism campaign.
On March 21, in another first for the church, Mills invited Virgillio Tunon, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Antioquia, to preach and the church’s band to lead worship.
“In essence we brought his church to ours so that our congregation could come to know him better and to see how their money was supporting that church,” Mills said.
The church also established a food pantry to help the community during this time and conducted a clothing drive to help the Rescue Mission of Shreveport/Bossier, which is a mission for homeless men.
And Mills culminated the month with a one-day mission fair at the church, which drew good attendance. Booths were set up and books were set out to educate people about Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Georgia Barnett as well as offering envelopes for those wishing to give.
A quartet from the rescue mission not only entertained the church with their singing but gave their testimony. The Ark-La-Tex Crisis Pregnancy Center also had a booth. The center, which has been in existence for 12 years, handed out information about its ministry and a representative answered questions.
There were also booths for the Gideons and a Louisiana Tech student, who is not a member of First Baptist, trying to raise money to go on mission this summer.
“I believe it helped them to make a better connection with missions,” Mills said. “The fair was a huge success. We raised more than $2,000 for our seasonal offerings and the ministries that were here raised more than $400. It was simple but effective. I envision that it could grow into a three-day mission fair.”
Mills said it was “truly been an amazing month. It has been amazing to sit back and watch what God has done in this church and this community. I am both excited and humbled to serve such a great and mighty God.”
Philip Timothy is a staff writer for the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com) of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.