Delaware Valley Baptist Church has doubled its participation in Cooperative Program (CP) Missions, from 5 to 10 percent to reach people in New Jersey and around the world, and tripled in attendance, from 100 to 300, in the six years since James Betner was called as pastor.
"We believe in the Cooperative Program. We believe that together everybody accomplishes more," Betner said. "… As a first-time pastor, the more I went to [association and state convention] meetings and really understood what we do and how we help churches, missionaries, and pastors, the more I knew we wanted to invest in CP Missions.
"I grew up in a very small church that unfortunately did not have access to the kind of helps the Cooperative Program provides — summer missions workers who will come to your church to conduct Vacation Bible School or do training for your teachers; access to seminary education and continuing education for bivocational pastors who may not be able to go to seminary; even reasonably priced retreats for pastors who otherwise may not be able to afford them," the pastor continued.
"I have seen the many helps that I personally get and other pastors get when guys like Bob Reccord or Jimmy Draper spend time with us and love on us and encourage us to continue," Betner said in referencing the presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
"These are the kinds of things that inspire me about the Cooperative Program," the pastor said.
That inspiration translates into action at Delaware Valley Baptist Church in Willingboro, New Jersey, which baptized at least fifty people in 2004, up from thirty-four in 2003. With an emphasis on prayer and discipleship, the congregation's ministries reach out to the community and the world.
Willingboro consists of about 40,000 residents about fifteen miles northeast of center-city Philadelphia and eighty miles south of New York City. Delaware Valley Baptist Church, founded in 1966, was a plateaued and probably declining church when he was called in 1999 as pastor, Betner said.
"I'm a man of prayer," he said. "God has taken me through a lot of things in life, and I've found out that the real victories are won on your knees, because the power belongs to God — the power to pastor belongs to God, and we access His power when we pray.
"There is no secret formula to our growth — it's a God thing," the pastor continued. "Through much prayer, practical preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and building genuine loving relationships, the Lord has grown our ministry."
Twice a year church members gather for what the pastor calls "Forty (consecutive) Days of Prayer" at 6 a.m. to intercede for the community, the church, clarity of vision, and God's will.
"It doesn't take a whole army," Betner said. "It just takes a few committed people and that's what we have — we have some faithful people who pray, and the entire body benefits."
The church, discipled in small groups, ministers locally through partnerships with area schools and surplus food distribution centers at an area nursing home and homeless shelter. Its global missions focus, meanwhile, is directed at Haiti, Liberia, and Nicaragua.
In addition to reaching people through CP Missions and special seasonal offerings, the offering at one evening service a month for the last year has been earmarked for a mission trip to Haiti in 2005.
"As I listen to the Lord, I believe we are being called to be a regional church that will meet holistic needs — body, soul, and spirit, to restore people who are broken and fallen, people who are struggling," Betner said. "We will simply love them and point them to Jesus, and at the same time give them practical help."
The urbanization of Willingboro is a major challenge for the church, the pastor said.
"Where people are driven to financial success, a lot of families dissolve," Betner said. "The priority changes from my family to my career and what I own. A lot of the kids here are taking care of themselves, and that's where the problems start."
The solution starts with the church, the pastor said. "It is found in a new life in Christ, and we have a great responsibility to get the word out that there is help for the helpless and hope for the hopeless."
Among Delaware Valley Baptist Church's strongest assets are its members who tell their friends and co-workers where they will find answers to life's challenges, the pastor said.
"The people are the best evangelists," Betner said. "As they are blessed, they tell others, and all the glory belongs to the Lord."'