DEWY ROSE — Three or four times each year dozens of Georgia Baptist state missionaries converge on one of the Baptist associations for a Bridges to Missions Celebration. On the weekend of March 4-5 approximately three-dozen state missionaries traveled north to the Hartwell/Royston area to Hebron Baptist Association, where Steve Ferguson serves as director of missions.
On Saturday evening Deep Creek Baptist Church in Dewy Rose and the church’s pastor, Tim Adams, hosted representatives from more than 30 churches in the association and the mission board staff for a delightful banquet. The evening featured good fellowship, excellent cuisine (with chocolate cake to die for), and an inspiring program of worship and inspiration.
The primary purpose of the weekend activities was to highlight the significance of the Cooperative Program – the lifeline of missions support in everyone’s Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost part of the world.
Steve Brown, state Baptist missionary in Worship and Music Ministries, led the singing with the help of students from Truett-McConnell University.
Bill Barker, missionary from the Appalachian region, brought a testimony on behalf of the North American Mission Board. He mentioned that the United States is the third largest mission field in the world. Barker also commended Ferguson and Hebron Association for helping plant a church in Corning, NY, a city without a Baptist church. He said, “Now, because of this association we have a church planter in Corning ‘trying to carve out a witness’ there.”
Barker also praised Georgia Baptists for initiating the backpack ministry in Appalachia. He stated, “In 2012 we collected 5,400 backpacks in Georgia and took them to impoverished areas in the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia. Last year Georgia Baptist gave 35,234 backpacks. Other states have now gotten involved because of Georgia Baptists’ example and everyone combined gave a total of 54,500 backpacks. From this ministry we have seen more than 4,700 people saved, and not all are children. Many are the parents and guardians of the children.”
Troy Bush, pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker, who served the Lord in Russia, spoke on behalf of the International Mission Board. He indicated that Rehoboth now has 12 different congregations meeting on their campus. Indeed, Rehoboth has one of the most unique and diverse mission fields in Georgia. Bush, however, is not only concerned about local missions, but God’s mission enterprise everywhere. He stated, “There is no way we can do missions on a global scale without partnerships.”
Trying to win the world on a nickel
J. Robert White, Georgia Baptist Mission Board executive director, was the keynote speaker and used Luke 24:47-49 as his text. He indicated that in the year 2000 churches were sending approximately 8 percent of their undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program, but that in the past year that percentage has fallen to less that 5 percent. He exclaimed, “We will never be able to win the world on a nickel.”
White acknowledged that shortly after he arrived in Georgia as the Convention’s executive director that he was invited to preach for the annual meeting of the Piedmont-Okefenokee Baptist Association and he focused his message on the Cooperative Program. He explained, “After the service a man came up to me and told me he was the clerk for his church and also the clerk of the association. He then added, ‘Tonight was the first time I have ever understood what the Cooperative Program is all about.’”
White emphasized to those present, “We need to talk more frequently and emphatically about the Cooperative Program.
“Southern Baptists launched the ‘$75 Million Campaign’ in 1919 to help fund our agencies and ministries. We fell short of reaching our goal, but there was still a lot of money given. After that Southern Baptists started talking about a funding mechanism to support our missions and ministries and by 1925 the Cooperative Program was established. Today our missionary movement and our seminaries are a result of the Cooperative Program.
“David Platt, the president of the International Mission Board, recently said that there are 7,037 unreached people groups in the world. Last year two million people heard the Gospel from our international missionaries and there were 175,290 who made professions of faith as a result of their witness. In addition there were 6,138 new churches planted and more than 6,000 Bible study groups were formed.”
Push back the darkness
White continued, “Our North American Mission Board provides support for over 9,000 missionaries and chaplains. This past year NAMB reported that Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Units served 1,910,985 meals and as a result of their service there were hundreds of people who made professions of faith in Christ.
“In Georgia God is doing a great work through your Cooperative Program gifts. We are renewing our efforts to push back the darkness in this state where 70 percent of the 10,000,000 are lost and without Christ. This spring we are emphasizing The Big Invite, urging Georgia Baptists to visit one million homes between now and Easter to increase our attendance on Easter Sunday in hopes of that Sunday being a great ‘harvest’ day for our churches. Over one thousand churches have already indicated that they are participating in this outreach effort.
“Georgia Baptists have a strong Christian witness on 52 of the college and university campuses in Georgia, and your Cooperative Program gifts make that possible.
“Our three conference centers – Camp Kaleo near Forsyth, Camp Pinnacle in Clayton, and the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa – are doing a great work and we see hundreds of people saved and make life-changing commitments there every year. It might also interest you to know that almost one-third of our budget goes to meet the needs of our children and youth.”
Put into practice
When it comes to Cooperative Program giving, Georgia Baptists’ executive director does not just practice when he preaches, but he preaches what he practiced as a pastor. When he was pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton he led his church to move from 10 percent to 15 percent in Cooperative Program giving. When he was at First Baptist Church in Padcuah, KY, he led that church to increase their CP giving from 10 percent to 20 percent and at the same time led the church into three different building expansion programs and moved into them being fully furnished and debt free.
White concluded his message by proclaiming, “When I see what God is doing throughout our Convention I know I want to support work like that. If we are faithful, God can work a miracle in our lives and in our churches.
“Pastors, if you will lead your people to tithe you will have enough money to do all you want to do; and if your church will give 10 percent through the Cooperative Program we will be able to do all that God wants us to do in our state, our nation and in our world. Please, be in prayer about what you should do.”