It's always harvest time at Green Acres Baptist Church.
Short-term missions trips are as apt to take place in January as in December — and every month in between. At the same time, the church gives 15 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program — (CP) Missions — to reach people in Texas and around the world.
"The Cooperative Program is the best way for churches to prove that you can't outgive God," said David Dykes, pastor of the Tyler, Texas, congregation. "Although our gifts to CP Missions have been more than $1 million each of the last three years, God has blessed us with an amazing budget surplus every year," Dykes said. "I believe if churches would give away more, they would see their total offerings increase."
Currently more than 10,000 Southern Baptist missionaries are scattered around the globe spreading the Good News of God's love, supported by Southern Baptist churches' gifts through the Cooperative Program (CP) to fulfill the Great Commission.
"I believe the Cooperative Program was born in the heart and mind of God," Dykes said. "We see it as the best way to promote missions and evangelism throughout God's world. Every church that claims to be a mission-minded church should be a strong CP Missions supporter."
Green Acres' missions pastor, Dale Pond, said the church has a specific strategy to reach the biblical mandate of Acts 1:8, encompassing the east Texas church's "Jerusalem" (Tyler and Smith County), Judea (U.S. and Canada), Samaria (international areas with open access to missionaries), and the ends of the earth (areas without access).
"There is such a joy here that our people want to share [the gospel]," Pond said. "We have a good fellowship, a Spirit-filled worship, and an excitement about our community and our fellowship that it's just natural for us to want to share it — and we want to share it beyond Tyler."
About 6,000 people participate in one of two worship services Sunday mornings at Green Acres in a city of about 100,000, and approximately 8,000 people from all over east Texas celebrated Easter at the church.
"It has been said that our world is getting smaller and smaller," Pond said. "Because of technology, that seems true in some ways, but as Christians charged with carrying out the Great Commission, the opposite is true: The world gets bigger and bigger as the population grows. Our job is great, but with God's empowerment, I believe Green Acres Baptist Church is up to the task."
Twenty missions trips were planned for this year to locations including South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Canada, New York, Montana, and Oklahoma.
Local missions efforts include assistance with seven mission churches in Tyler; six outreach points at multi-housing entities in Tyler; six ways of reaching out to prison inmates and their families — including playing basketball and softball with inmates; food, clothing and friendship at the Good Sam outreach center, which also provides a hot meal four nights a week; and a portable ministry unit called the Fun Wagon that takes VBS to mission churches and block parties to the multi-housing sites.
A $1.5 million addition to the student ministries building that will include a 500-seat auditorium for the youth and development of a sixty-acre recreational campus ten miles south of Tyler are the church's two major construction projects currently underway funded by the annual budget surplus.
The as-yet-unnamed recreation site will include soccer and softball fields, a lake stocked with fish surrounded by a half-mile walking trail, rock climbing and a water spray area, among other things, to be used during church picnics, concerts, and the like.
"That's just some of the exciting things happening here," Pond said. "The church is growing, the Lord is blessing the work, we have a wonderful pastor who preaches verse by verse through the Bible, and our praise and worship is among the best anywhere."
Green Acres has been designated a Global Priority Church by the International Mission Board because of the church's commitment to missions and a Key Church by the North American Mission Board for Green Acres' commitment to partnering with church starts for Kingdom growth.
"In today's economy, it is impossible for one church to meet all the needs of these ministries," Pond said. "By partnering with others, Green Acres hopes to be able to involve others in the vision we have for Kingdom growth. The Cooperative Program is perhaps the best example of what can happen when people partner together in God's work."
Dykes said Green Acres is "so much more than a series of buildings where people meet to worship, study, and pray. The church is comprised of the people who make up this family of faith," he continued. "Our buildings and programs are simply tools that enable us to reach people for Jesus Christ and to train Christians to become fully devoted followers of Jesus."
When he was called as Green Acres pastor in 1991, God gave him a vision for a church that would build strong relationships so that Jesus could build a great church, Dykes said.
"The word 'relationship' is the most important word in the human language," the pastor said. "Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ is primary. Second, we take seriously our obligation to build relationships among the members — we pray for, encourage, and care for each other. And third, we understand the importance of building bridges to those friends without Christ so they may be brought to Christ."