When a woman returned for a second week to Sunday morning worship at Richland Baptist Church, a greeter asked her what brought her back.
"Someone told her that Baptists tend to reverence the Lord, and that's why she came here," said Stanley Hughes, who at Easter will have been pastor of the congregation in Richland, Washington for twenty years. "We want people to know we love Jesus and if you come here, you're going to be loved." The church, with about 500 people participating in two Sunday morning worship services linked by Sunday School, shows its love for Jesus in many ways.
"There are a thousand things to occupy people's time," according to Stanley Hughes, pastor of Richland Baptist Church in Richland, Washington. "We've made a decision to keep evangelism in the forefront, in obedience to the Lord's command…. We [humans] tend to do what we plan to do. God said to go, and so we're going to go. The fruit is His business."
In addition to a full slate of church programs, including massive Vacation Bible School and outreach via block parties, Richland produces a Judgment House each fall for the community that results in 60 to 80 professions of faith, which Hughes calls "Kingdom fruit" because other churches often reap the benefit.
Other community ministries include weekly visits and Bible studies at the Twin Rivers Group Home, the Juvenile Justice Center, and the Union Gospel Mission; Good News Clubs at two elementary schools; and an English as a Second Language program at the church with participants from Chinese, Russian, Hispanic, and Ukrainian backgrounds.
It also helped start Reata Springs Baptist Church about 12 years ago. Richland was the first church in the Northwest Baptist Convention to utilize the FAITH process of evangelism through Sunday School. Richland continues to use FAITH, a curriculum produced by the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources.
"People like to be a part of furthering God's Kingdom," Hughes said. "I think most people get on board when they understand what it's going for." That takes intentional education, the pastor said.
Giving through the Cooperative Program "does not benefit [church members]… if it is not made known what the Cooperative Program is," Hughes said. "It's just dollars out the door if they don't know. We help our new members understand where our CP dollars go," Hughes added.
Richland Baptist contributes 16.5 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' channel for supporting state, North American, and global missions and ministries. It also sends five percent of its undesignated offerings to the Columbia Basin Baptist Association. Richland members consistently are among the top contributors to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and the Northwest Baptist Convention state missions offerings as well.
"There are times churches struggle and can't give as much, while other churches at the same time might be in a period of strength. It's all of us working together that makes the Cooperative Program work… It's about being faithful in every area, not just overseas," Hughes said. "All mission outreach arms… are equally important, and we should not do one to the neglect of the other.
Missions and ministries for Richland Baptist include regular mission trips to the Colville Indian Reservation in north-central Washington near the Canadian border and international trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Past mission trips have included LaGrande, Oregon; Lewiston, Idaho; Tacoma, Washington; and an international trip to Brazil.
Several Richland members are actively involved with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the church has been active in supporting individual members who have felt God's call to participate in mission activities. As part of Columbia Basin Baptist Association, Richland has shared significant dollars and time with sister churches that are seeking to reach their communities. "We're team players and we certainly believe in furthering God's Kingdom, and this is a great way to do it," Hughes said of assisting struggling churches. "The Bible speaks about loving your brothers and sisters, and that you can do more together than you can individually.
I think our big Baptist word is 'cooperation,'" the pastor said. "The Corinthians were challenged to take up an offering for the believers in Jerusalem following the sacrificial example from the churches in Macedonia. In Galatians they were told to 'bear one another's burdens.'… It's all a picture of cooperation."
Planting for a Harvest
In the midst of giving and going, the church remodeled the worship center and built new education space.
"I think part of our building program is to say to our community we intend to stay here," Hughes said.
Hughes lends his time and expertise to the local association, which is moderator-led and organized into five teams. Hughes is team leader for interchurch fellowships, which creates opportunities for connections between churches.
"One of the benefits of more people leading is that it causes more involvement among churches," Hughes said. "Greater involvement results in greater ownership. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent me, John 17:21."
As he leads Richland Baptist Church and as he works alongside others in Columbia Basin Baptist Association, Hughes said he is continually reminded of the value of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"I am thankful for Southern Baptists because part of what causes us to stick together is our belief in sharing the Gospel," Hughes said. "Jesus used the words, Occupy 'til I come. They are taking care of the responsibility where they have been placed, and we're doing the same. If we do the things He told us to do and remain faithful, God will continue to bless us and work through us to reach people who need to hear Him."