Faith abounds at supporting N.C. Missions Offeringby Mike Creswell
Sunday by Sunday Pastor Joe Smith announced the week's new total for the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).
When the $3,000 goal was met late in 2012, members silently cheered.
When the total passed $4,000, they were delighted -- and cheered some more.
The $4,178 Faith Baptist Church members ultimately gave to NCMO last year was a significant amount for the church, which has an average Sunday morning attendance of about 250.
That the church surpassed their NCMO goal by a whopping 39.5 percent was not surprising to Smith.
Everybody in the church has "bought into" the concept of missions, he explained: Members do missions, pray for missions and give for missions.
Faith members have come to understand that their mission field begins just outside their front door and extends to the ends of the earth.
The small town of Faith from which the church takes its name is situated just south of I-85 near Kannapolis, northeast of Charlotte. As most towns in the state, Faith's population has changed greatly in recent years.
"Now people from many lands are living in our area and some are attending services at Faith Baptist," said Smith.
However, it took a visiting speaker two years ago to put their local situation into the larger context of North Carolina's changes.
Chuck Register painted a huge missions challenge for Faith members when he told them their state's population is one of the fastest-growing ones in the nation. The growth of the Hispanic population here has also led the nation, he said. Further, today's North Carolina population represents a big swatch of the planet's population: more than 230 language/culture groups now live here.
Register is executive leader for the Baptist State Convention in church planting and missions development. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulfport, MS, and taught at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA, before coming to work in the convention's Cary office.
Register reminds North Carolina churches every opportunity that their state has 5.8 million lost and unchurched people who urgently need to be reached with the gospel and ushered into strong, Bible-believing churches which will disciple them for further missions and outreach.
Merely adding new churches is insufficient amid so many lost, Register says; rather, multiplying churches will be the only way to reach so many: new churches must start more new churches as quickly as possible.
Many of the 101 new churches Register's staff helped start across the state during 2012 are doing just that.
Beyond Register's message to the church's Baptist Men, Smith took Register's printed and digital materials on population and the dire need for new churches and shared it with his members.
"It really impacted them to understand the growth of North Carolina's population, the number of languages now spoken here and the great need for new churches in our state," Smith said.
Further, they understood that one immediate way Faith could help start more new churches and also support the many missions projects they took part in through North Carolina Baptist Men, was to support the North Carolina Missions Offering.
NCMO is the main funding source for the 14 ministries of NC Baptist Men and also provides about a third of the Baptist State Convention's budget for starting new churches. (The Cooperative Program provides the balance.)
Faith has kept its Cooperative Program support at 10 percent of its undesignated receipts and supports the Southern Baptist international and North American missions offerings. Locally the church supports Rowan Southern Baptist Association, a fellowship of 40 Baptist churches in the Salisbury area.
Soon after Register visited Faith, Smith made contact with Jonas Perez, who was committed to starting a new Spanish-speaking church in the town of Faith. The church let the Perez group use a chapel for their services and offered other support; he also became one of about 125 church planters the convention supports on a limited-time basis as they are launching new churches.
Seeing a new church birthed right in front of them brought the need for new churches even more vividly to members, Smith believes.
Promoting NCMO is only part of what's needed to keep missions alive in his church, Smith said.
One big ingredient was prayer, he said. "We needed to pray that the Lord would lead us individually in what He would have us give," he said.
"A second was promotion. We've tried to promote NCMO through everything we do media-wise: in the church bulletins, in the church newsletter, in our church Web site. I talked about it from the pulpit as often as I could," he said.
Missions participation is the other big element to having a missions-minded church, Smith said. On the church's annual missions emphasis day, Dec. 2 last year, members marched into the sanctuary carrying flags from 38 nations, indicating Faith members have served in that many overseas countries.
"We have so many people who are participating in missions trips, whether partnerships or whatever, that our people feel they are part of the life of our Baptist State Convention and the life of our North Carolina Baptist Men," he said.
Through Baptist Men, two teams have served in relief ministry in New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy last year; thousands of men and women volunteers have prepared more than 600,000 meals in the two states since last November.
"We've had several people who have gone to Cuba, some more than once. We got involved and adopted a village in Bihar, India, where Baptist Men have supported wide range of ministries, along with starting many new churches. Our people have provided money for seven or eight water wells to be dug there; I was there last October," Smith said.
"I think our people give to missions because they have participated in these missions ventures, they know the need and they come back and tell our other members about what they saw and experienced," Smith explained.
The Faith congregation commissions each missions team, whether one person or a whole team, so the trip is endorsed and backed by the entire church. A church wide missions fund provides seed money for teams to serve, he said.
"As a church we gather around them and pray for them. We call upon people to commit to pray for them while they prepare to go and while they're gone. Everybody has a part in either holding the ropes from this end or being on the field, serving out the call," Smith said.
"I think that makes a lot of difference in support," he said, "because it's not 'them,' it's us."
While Smith is quite happy with Faith's 2012 giving level for NCMO, he said, "I hope we can do better next September!"