Like many churches on the economically depressed Western Slope of Colorado, Trinity Baptist struggled to make ends meet.
Located on Orchard Mesa — the high desert end of Grand Junction that, despite its name, does not have groves of the region's famous peach trees — Trinity ministers in an area of blue-collar and transient workers.
But the church's finances changed when its longtime pastor, Larry Mallett, was elected in 2001 to a position on the Colorado Baptist General Convention's executive board.
"We've always given through the Cooperative Program — it's the best program out there — but we haven't always given 10 percent," Mallett said. "When I went on the executive board and saw all that we were doing with that money just in our state alone, I thought we needed to be giving 10 percent. In the past, we had problems paying our bills, but since we started giving 10 percent to the Cooperative Program — we've not had that problem."
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' chosen way of combining the efforts and resources of local churches to make a difference in the lives of people across the nation and around the world. More than 95 percent of CP gifts forwarded to the SBC go toward training, supporting, and sending missionaries, pastors, and other ministry leaders.
The missions thrust of the Cooperative Program "doesn't mean Southern Baptists are any more spiritual or have any less ability to raise funds," Mallett said. "It's just that the work of a missionary is more than just preaching the Word. It's life to live, people to help, and difficulties to go through. With the Cooperative Program, you've got some support there; otherwise, you'd have to do that — raise your own support — on top of everything else."
About sixty-five people — a multicultural congregation of Anglos, Hispanics, Koreans, and African Americans — attend Sunday morning worship at Trinity, which also is signed for the deaf. Church finances have grown to a point that Trinity added a second staff person last summer to concentrate on local outreach, all the while maintaining its overarching Kingdom mindset that starts with the Cooperative Program.
"I like the fact that we're able to reach people in places its impossible for us to travel to," said Kevin McChesney, who now serves as Trinity's executive pastor. "The ability to serve the Kingdom of God at a distance is a wonderful thing."
In addition to giving through the Cooperative Program, Trinity gives to the Grand Valley Baptist Association, to the SBC seasonal offerings for international and North American missions, and to an orphanage in Daya Vihar, India, via special offerings taken up the second Sunday of each month. The church also has completed a four-month project to raise $6,700 for the JESUS film project to pay for a screen, a projector, shipping, training, and production in the local language where a missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board is at work.
Locally, Trinity's biggest challenge is getting people inside the church during an era of declining worship attendance nationally, McChesney said.
"We've grabbed onto a new vision here," McChesney said. "That's part of why they brought me here. They want to become more mission-oriented; they have a heart for reaching Orchard Mesa."
Beyond a fresh coat of paint for Trinity's interior and exterior and some landscaping to make the facility more attractive, plans are being made for a summer block party — complete with the Colorado convention's recreational trailer (which was purchased with Cooperative Program dollars for use by churches and associations). The event will precede a Vacation Bible School that church leaders hope will attract one hundred and fifty youngsters.
After a local food bank initiative collapsed, Trinity stepped in to re-start it. One room of the church was renovated for its use. The church pays eighteen cents a pound to the Food Bank of the Rockies for food items that it passes on to Orchard Mesa residents.
"They get about fifty pounds of food for about nine dollars," McChesney said. "Trinity is the only place on Orchard Mesa where this type of help is available."
Trinity's red brick and tan stucco building is located across from the fairgrounds. The church's steeple, which stretches forty-five feet into the air, was lit several months ago to draw attention to the congregation's location. Transportation is provided to Trinity's services via three church vans, including one for the handicapped.
"Much of Orchard Mesa was built in the early 1970s," McChesney said. "Now again there's revitalization, a ton of new homes going in, and a sidewalk shopping mall going up across the street from the church. There's a lot of traffic that comes by us. We're praying for ways to effectively reach them."
As the church grows, so will the amount Trinity gives to missions through the Cooperative Program, the pastor said.
For Trinity, "this is a new day," Mallett said. "We're in a new mode, to see if we're in God's will. One thing I know: God blesses the churches that support missions and missions giving through the Cooperative Program."