SBC Life Articles

A Vital Part of a Worldwide Missions Thrust

Planting churches and giving to the Cooperative Program are two sides of the same coin, pastor Ron Mitchell said.

"We've become focused on planting churches, but we've done this with a firm commitment that we not reduce our CP giving," Mitchell said of First Baptist Church of Huber Heights' support for Southern Baptists' worldwide missions and ministry. "Now we're in a building program that's costly for us, but we're not going to reduce our missions giving because of it."

The Cooperative Program does what the local church cannot, Mitchell noted.

"It's all about the Great Commission," said Mitchell, pastor of the suburban Dayton, Ohio, congregation since 1991.

"We go on mission trips," he said. "We've gone to Brazil, Uganda, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Romania since I've been pastor here, but the only way [for us] to fulfill the Great Commission — to go into all the world — is through the Cooperative Program.

"We're partnering together with other Southern Baptists and extending our mission throughout the world with CP Missions," Mitchell said. "When we bring our tithes and offerings every Sunday, that makes us part of a worldwide missions thrust."

About 400 people attend Sunday morning worship, though more than 600 participated in the church's recent Easter services. Its annual budget is about $750,000.

In addition to helping plant twenty churches in the last nine years, and despite being in the midst of building a second campus, First Huber Heights gives 13 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program (CP) Missions, plus another 4 percent to the Greater Dayton Baptist Association.

A.H. Sampley, the church's minister of missions since 1995, works with the missions development council to determine likely locations for new churches and to identify seminary students with an interest in church planting.

"In some cases we brought in other churches to partner with," Mitchell said. "The church planter develops a core group around Bible studies and holds the first worship service when the Bible study grows to fifty people."

As methodical as he is visionary, in the first six months of his pastorate Mitchell led members of First Huber Heights through a long-range planning process, which helped the church to realize "we were at the point of burnout and drop-out" and to regain a focus for ministry and missions.

"We determined that God's purpose for us was to populate Ohio with strong, scriptural churches," Mitchell said. "We could look back to a time when the church was aggressive in planting churches and doing evangelism, and we needed to recapture that vision."

First Huber Heights celebrates its forty-seventh anniversary this year. Its current era of church planting efforts began in earnest in 1995; two years later, Mitchell was named president of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.

"For three years, I challenged the congregations in Ohio to have 2,020 churches by 2020," Mitchell said. "We actually refer to it as 20-20 Vision. …We had probably 450 churches in Ohio at that time. I think we have 660 right now.

"New work grows much faster than existing works, and we can do evangelism much better by planting new churches," the pastor explained. "Planting churches is like putting lighthouses out in the community. This is carrying out the Great Commission, and that's what the church was designed for."

First Huber Heights also carries out the Great Commission locally with a variety of activities and events designed not only to minister to people in the community but to engage them in relationship-building dialogue.

About 120 members are involved in the G.R.O.W. program of evangelism — "God Rewarding Our Work." A product of Southern Baptists' LifeWay Christian Resources, G.R.O.W. involves a four-week training period and a fifteen-hour-a-year commitment to connect with members, visitors, and people new in the community. In any given week, about twenty-five G.R.O.W.-trained members participate.

"We don't think of ourselves as 'soul-winners'; we're God's witnesses," Mitchell said. "The Spirit will draw them to Christ. God does the saving. … Anyone who shares his faith is not a failure because that's all God calls us to do. Knowing this takes off all the pressure. We succeed just by sharing."

First Huber Heights contributes money and volunteers for a food pantry operated by the congregation. The church has a counseling ministry for crisis intervention as well as marriage and family counseling. It also ministers through several small-group Bible studies — one was at a local hotel for travelers — and through summertime block parties to reach children and, through them, their parents.

For the last three years the church has sponsored a fall health fair and blood drive; this year they added a spring cardiovascular screening that was so successful it also will be repeated annually.

"We call this indirect marketing — anything we can do to pull people into our church for any reason," Mitchell said. "If we can get them in church for any reason, we help them see what we have to offer to the community. We reach a lot of people that way."

"Missionary Moments are part of each Sunday morning worship service," the pastor said. A world missions offering in October this year aims to bring in about $20,000 — half of which will go to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, with the rest given to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions and Ohio's state missions offering.

"[W]e're gathering mission money all year long," Mitchell said. "[W]hen we bring our tithes and offerings every Sunday, because of the Cooperative Program, that makes us part of a worldwide missions thrust."