SBC Life Articles

No Glamour, No Glitz

Grove Level Baptist Church, where about fifteen hundred people worship on Sunday mornings in Dalton, Georgia, reaches out to its community and beyond in a variety of biblical ways.

The congregation's outreach starts each week with giving 18 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unparalleled way of reaching people and supporting missions across America and around the world.

"The Cooperative Program provides a structure for missions that I find maturing believers are attracted to," pastor Charlie Bridges said. "What the Cooperative Program tells these people is that we have a safe way — a tried and tested, most effective way — of partnering in missions in North America and around the world that they can be a part of."

"We're committed to it," Jim Bledsoe, associate pastor for missions, evangelism and administration, said of the Cooperative Program. "It works. It brings unity and keeps us focused on what we're called to do. Two can do more than one is the basic fundamental, and when you talk about millions pointed in the same direction, think of what God can do with that."

In addition to giving 18 percent of its undesignated offerings through CP Missions, Grove Level adds to its Kingdom focus with hands-on ministries and by partnering with smaller churches.

"I pastored small churches in the beginning of my ministry, and … we knew we could touch every continent and every state by giving through the Cooperative Program," Bridges said. "We still get to do that and to also help smaller churches in that partnership."

Building from a foundation of biblical inerrancy in the framework of its solidly traditional setting, Grove Level has gained a reputation as a healthy church that can provide healing for hurting Christians — and a church with Christ-centered power to accomplish God-sized tasks, Bledsoe said.

"We have mentoring groups, men's and women's — older ones helping the younger grow in their walk with Christ," the associate pastor said. "By pouring our lives into younger Christians, we're also growing in our walk with the Lord."

As part of its missions focus, Grove Level proactively develops maturing Christians, Bridges said. The church has made the word GRACE into an acronym: Growing up; Reaching out; Assimilating in; Caring for; and Exalting God. Each of its multitude of ministries is specific to one of the GRACE points.

Grove Level members minister in a variety of ways locally and regionally, such as a weekly outreach to Whitfield County jail inmates and their families. The church also is among the leaders in a marriage enrichment campaign to strengthen marriages and therefore families in Whitfield County, which so far has resulted in a $20 lower cost for marriage licenses to couples who go through qualified premarital counseling.

Members also minister through construction and disaster relief skills and training in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia, and — since the summer's Gulf Coast hurricanes — Mississippi.

"We provide the labor; the city provides the material," Bledsoe said about an arrangement the church has with the city of Dalton. "We help needy people by repairing porches, sheetrock, or whatever needs to be done." In similar work throughout Whitfield County, the men provide both labor and materials, Bledsoe added.

About the Gulf Coast: Every couple of weeks, people from Grove Level and six other churches in the Northwest Georgia Baptist Association travel for eight hours to D'Iberville, Mississippi, where Grove Level has adopted First Baptist Church, which was completely destroyed. That church had been averaging about seven hundred at Sunday morning worship.

So far the Grove Level group has replaced six roofs and sheetrocked and provided electrical repair for several homes.

Unable to find lodging in D'Iberville, Grove Level connected with Brodie Road Baptist Church in Biloxi, Mississippi, another six miles south. They've roofed that church and now use it as a staging site. Despite minimal accommodations — air mattresses, sleeping bags, and cold showers — the fifteen or more construction volunteers refer to it as a bimonthly blessing.

"Each trip our people get more excited," Bledsoe said. "They are able to see the impact they can have on people's lives for eternity."

"The sum total overall is that the church is reaching out to many different groups of people," Bledsoe said. "One of the finest qualities of Grove Level Baptist Church is that we're very basic; we're a very basic church trying to do Great Commission things. No glamour; no glitz. Just straight line, and God's blessed. We're a church where God's people care for each other and work together for God to accomplish Kingdom things."



"Holding the Rope" for SBC Missionaries
by Karen L. Willoughby

The Cooperative Program "makes it easier for our missionaries to know their needs are met," said Travis Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama.

"While they're out serving, we're holding the rope for them, providing resources so they can be busy about what they're called to do: share the Gospel and continue the work," said Coleman, who has led the church since 1989.

For the last dozen years or more, First Baptist has given 13 percent of its undesignated offerings through CP Missions, alongside its associational and other gifts to missions endeavors and its active missions and ministries programs.

"We are believers in the Cooperative Program," the pastor continued. "More is accomplished when we cooperate together, and I think it's important to see the wider influence we can have" through Southern Baptists' unified support of missions and ministry efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention and state and regional conventions.

First Baptist's influence spreads from its red brick structure with four white columns out front across the community, region, nation, and world. Locally, the congregation perhaps is best known for Vacation Bible School, which enrolled 820 last summer.

The church's location helps — in a Montgomery-area bedroom community near Maxwell Air Force Base and its officer-heavy contingent of War College students. The base also is the center of chaplaincy for the Air Force and Civil Air Patrol.

"One of the benefits of the military is that when you get officers in the church, they come with commitment and discipline," Coleman said. "They want to be part of the community. We find we benefit greatly from that mature leadership that steps in and assists us."

An annual emphasis on spiritual gifts helps the congregation two ways, the pastor said. It helps the members know where they fit best in ministry, while the promotion of ongoing and new ministries helps stimulate interest and involvement.

Where do members get involved? FAITH and GROW methods of Sunday School evangelism help explain a ten-year average of at least sixty baptisms a year. More than nineteen hundred people attended the church's recent Christmas pageant; a similar number flocked to the church for Easter. About three thousand attended the Pumpkin Patch in October — a block party type of Halloween alternative for adults as well as children and youth.

A Korean church was started last May, with First Baptist serving one of four sponsors. The Prattville congregation also sponsors an ESL program for Spanish-speakers.

Coleman first introduces people to Southern Baptists' CP Missions focus through the church's new member class. As they get more involved over time in the church's multiple ministries, they can see with ever-increasing clarity the benefits of giving through the Cooperative Program, the pastor said.

"I try to share with them the broader use of the money," Coleman said. "There's a reason Southern Baptists have become the largest evangelical denomination. It's because of our organization through associations and state conventions and the way we share our funding."