SBC Life Articles

A CP Missions Church

Eric Redmond takes no credit for the fact that Hillcrest Baptist Church, nearly in the shadow of the White House, gives more than 30 percent of its undesignated offerings to the Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program.

This is perhaps the largest CP Missions percentage of any African American congregation in the SBC, but Redmond takes no credit for that, either.

"I inherited this," Redmond, pastor of the church, said. "A strong missions-giving emphasis was a vision of Pastor [Hubert] Keefer. But I believe in it.

"To me the Cooperative Program is a dynamic way of supporting Kingdom work at many levels in the church," he explained. "It allows us to support future church leaders through the seminaries, current international and national missionaries through NAMB and IMB, works of ethics and justice through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and educating our local membership through denominational publications."

For twenty-four years, Hubert Keefer was pastor of Hillcrest, which was founded in 1952 in a white neighborhood about fifteen minutes from the U.S. Capitol. A man of European heritage, he led the congregation through its change in the late 1970s to mid-'80s as the community transitioned to predominantly African American.

By the time Keefer died in 2000, the church was giving 30 percent of its undesignated offerings to CP Missions, Southern Baptists' unified giving plan.

Redmond, the church's first African American pastor, is leading the church to reach out to its community as well as around the world.

In 2002, for example, Hillcrest members budgeted 27 percent for CP Missions, but gave nearly 37 percent of its $620,000 budget because income exceeded the budget. Another 5 percent of the budget was allocated for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

"We have a history of giving 51 percent to missions and 49 percent to all else," Redmond said. "It's been that way for a number of years."

A sharpened focus at Hillcrest since Redmond was called as pastor in 2000 is local ministries and discipleship for Kingdom growth, he said.

"We know that intentionally making disciples of the lost outside the church and intentionally growing disciples within the church will multiply the impact we can make for world missions and the Kingdom," Redmond said.

He has led the church to move from percentage giving to a dollar amount in order to fund local and church ministries that weren't being done in the past.

"We have not decreased the actual dollar amount we give to CP Missions," Redmond said. But rather than seeing the percentage basis continue to grow, "we are making an investment in lives we believe will result in a greater dollar amount for missions in the years ahead."

"People can see our neighborhood is a mission field," said Pamela Redmond, Eric's wife, during a conversation the couple had with Baptist Press during the Southern Baptist Convention last year. "By focusing on local evangelism, people [in the church] begin to have the heart that is needed to give what is needed in a cheerful way."

Hillcrest provides the Keefer House — named after the former pastor — as lodging for Southern Baptist missionaries from the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board when they are in the Washington, D.C. area.

At least 500 missionaries have stayed there during the last decade; they often speak during services, which helps keep "the congregation's heart warm toward missions," the pastor said. "That helped the congregation to continue to give large sums to CP Missions in the past," he added.

Redmond's vision is that by getting involved in their local community, the congregation will gain a greater appreciation for the area's missions and ministry needs as well as the opportunities.

"Rather than only giving in the form of a check to the Cooperative Program, by emphasizing local evangelism and discipleship, people's hearts follow through in desiring salvation for the lost the world over," the pastor said. "Local evangelism helps put a face on world evangelization."

"What we're doing is not picture perfect," Pamela Redmond added. "We're doing well with the Cooperative Program, but we have some things to work on. While maintaining our emphasis on CP Missions and supporting international missions, we're hoping to have a social impact in our community. There needs to be that balance that is a hallmark of traditional African American churches.

New this year, Hillcrest has formed six small groups that emphasize discipleship.

"Growing disciples is Jesus' way of expanding the Kingdom," Redmond said. "We want to be a reproducing church."

Hillcrest has had great success in reaching their community through neighborhood block parties. They have reached 300-500 adults in each of the last two years through these July events.

"It's one of our biggest local thrusts," Redmond said. "We'll have typical block party activities-clowns, face-painting, and the like — and will pass out New Testaments, tracts, and gospel message CDs to all who come."

After the first block party, sixty-five people from the event attended Sunday morning worship. Four joined the church that day; others have since. In all, they had about a 10 percent increase in attendance following that first event, Redmond said.

About 350 attend Sunday morning worship, up from 240 when Redmond was called in 2000.

"We were overwhelmed with the response to the block party," the pastor said. "If it weren't for the fact that we're doing [Sunday School ministry and evangelism through] FAITH, we wouldn't have been able to handle it effectively."

FAITH is a Sunday school evangelism/ministry/growth strategy produced by the SBC's publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources.

Hillcrest partners with a local elementary school in a three-times-a-year "Donuts and Dads" breakfast to help fathers be aware of ways they can be more involved in their youngster's education.

"We underwrite that," Redmond said. "We also purchased a large selection of children's books for the local public library. We want to be involved in bettering the education of children in our neighborhood."

Education is "a major deal" for him, the pastor said. He also teaches fulltime — biblical studies and systematic theology — at Washington Bible College in Lanham, Maryland.

"I do it because I think the two go together," Redmond said. "They are twin prongs that support the Kingdom agenda of strong churches and growing disciples."

Hillcrest's vision is to reach every home in its zip code — 20748 — with the gospel, and to participate in Great Commission works around the world, the pastor said.

"We have thousands of unchurched people in our neighborhood alone," Redmond said. "This community is wide open for evangelism and a church that welcomes the lost.

"The mission of Hillcrest is to live for the fame of God's name, so that all people might know and enjoy Him," the pastor added. "This is how we live out the Cooperative Program."