Flexibility and preparation are important to Little Cypress Baptist Church, located in a hurricane-prone zone less than twenty miles north of the Gulf of Mexico.
Nicknamed the "biggest little church in Texas," Little Cypress Baptist is committed to winning souls for Christ by giving through the Cooperative Program—the way Southern Baptists maximize missions and ministries in state conventions and throughout the world—and emphasizing personal evangelism. The church also focuses on preparing for an uncertain future.
Cooperative Program Giving
"Even though I've been the pastor for sixteen years, our Cooperative Program giving doesn't have anything to do with me," said David Turner, pastor of the rural church where about 220 people participate in Sunday morning worship. "The church decided if the Great Commission was the main point of what we were doing as believers and Southern Baptists, we wanted to tithe and we wanted to give an offering.
"I have been blessed to carry that commitment forward," said Turner of the 14 percent Little Cypress Baptist gives each week of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program. Even while the church was building a $1.3 million Family Center debt free, it did not change its CP giving. "Henry Blackaby's [study called] Experiencing God had a major impact on this church," the pastor said. "God is at work around us and we can do something to be a part of it. We can get in on what He's doing everywhere else by giving to the Cooperative Program."
Training in evangelism is a major focus of the church.
"Our church is good at teaching witnessing techniques," Turner said. He listed strategies such as FAITH, People Sharing Jesus, GROW, Share Jesus Without Fear, and Fort Worth, Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill's Shooting the Bull—"and then we did a big campaign that was a homegrown thing: 'I Wrote Mine,'" Turner said.
Each member was asked to write their testimony, after which the writer was given a sticker to wear that said, "I wrote mine."
"We wanted to make sure everybody had a testimony," Turner said. "It's basically Paul's testimony: What my life was like before Jesus, how I knew I needed Jesus, and what my life has been like since."
These testimonies gave the writers something they could use as they talked with people about receiving Christ. Having written stories provided the pastor with illustrations to use during sermons (with permission) or even at the writer's funeral.
"Are we blowing the doors out on evangelistic results? The answer is, 'No,'" Turner said. "For a lot of people today, there's the challenge of motivation. The challenge of sharing your faith has pushed people to being cautious about this being a divine appointment. I love Share Jesus Without Fear because [author] Bill Fay directly addresses that."
Preparation for the Future
Another focus of the church is readiness for an uncertain future.
Little Cypress Baptist, organized in 1937, is in the process of updating its seventy-seven-year-old constitution and bylaws to better protect the church from potential disruption.
"We know we are facing challenges that are more cultural-dynamic," Turner said. "We're being faced, like everybody else, with, 'What are we prepared to do as a church when faced with issues that at one time would have resulted in someone dropping out of church?'
"We're in a time when the church really needs loving, redemptive discipline," he continued. "We put ourselves in a really bad spot in our churches because we have tolerated without comment divorce, people living together without marriage. . . . Those in the world who are sharp enough to watch what we're doing say, 'And you're yelling at us, telling us we can't do what we want to do?'"
The church came to realize it needed to be in a redemptive rather than punitive stance as it confronted a growing cultural immorality that increasingly is antagonistic to Christianity, the pastor said.
Little Cypress has agreed as a church family to abide by and support The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and it's working with Peacemaker Ministries, a non-profit Christian conflict resolution organization, as the church updates its organizational documents.
"We’re still scratching our heads and saying it's going to get more difficult, not less, to be a church that honors God in all we do," Turner said. "We need to do something now to protect the church as well as we can, for as long as we can, until we get to the persecution level."
Another of the church's readiness ministries is the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana Christian Preparation Expo. The fourth annual expo took place in February on the grounds of Little Cypress Baptist.
Its genesis was in Turner and a friend talking about their experiences as a result of the devastation of Hurricanes Rita and Ike. This led to a meeting attended by a dozen pastors and leaders.
"We said, 'How do we help each other?'" Turner said. "We started a grassroots movement to find people who knew how to teach people to garden, raise chickens, deal with being without electricity. . . . This last expo we had thirty-eight classes: beekeeping, canning, water, sanitation too."
The one-day expo also included forty-two vendors this year. About five hundred people attended the event, which draws survivalists, 'doomsday' preppers, and a curious public. "We also had support from the Red Cross and the National Weather Service," Turner said.
Little Cypress Baptist is the primary sponsor of the expo, and most of the volunteers helping in various ways are from the church. "We have hot dogs, links, something to drink, and people go from class to class," Turner said. "Our church's vendors share the Gospel at their booth; it's really kind of a fun thing to do."
Much more could be said about the church that has adapted to the realities of life in a hurricane-prone region, and in a nation with a waning Christian culture.
"God gradually changes the church a little at a time as the years go by," Turner said. "He allows us to understand that certain things are things He honors."