Selmore Baptist Church goes on mission as Missouri/Colorado partnership continues
DENVER – It is an honor and a joy to pastor a church that obeys the Great Commission. Even before the Acts 1:8 Challenge was issued by the Southern Baptist Convention, our people at Selmore Baptist Church were taking that important verse literally, and doing our best to live up to it. Even though our church averages only 150 in attendance, we’ve set a God-sized goal of being a worldwide missions center.
In recent years, our members have conducted missions to: inner-city Springfield; West Memphis, Ark.; Jackson, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Berea, Neb.; New Orleans, La.; Mexico; Nicaragua; Turkey; Romania; and Belarus. We’ve also done mission projects in our local community and association. It is amazing to me how God uses simple pastors, and simple people!
I want to tell you about our most recent missions adventure. Maybe it will encourage you to begin an adventure of your own.
The last two summers, our church took 18-20 youth and adults on “World Changers” trips through the North American Mission Board. The first summer was awesome; the second was OK. After the second trip, our youth pastor approached me and said, “I think we can plan and carry out a trip ourselves, but let’s do something inner-city, something that will get us out of our box.” I told him we ought to look into it.
We examined the Missouri Baptist Convention’s partnership with Colorado Baptists by calling our director of missions, who revealed that our local association is in partnership with Mile High Association in the Denver area. It was perfect. Our director of missions gave me the telephone number of a pastor in Denver who could get us started. A couple of telephone calls were put in, a quick scouting trip was made, and suddenly we had a host church to stay with and an inner-city black congregation to work with on our mission trip.
While on the scouting trip we took lots of pictures, so that we could make a nice presentation to the church when we got back. Our leadership made a well-organized video presentation to the church, and not only did the church approve the mission trip, they later voted to budget $5,000 toward the cost. We also asked each participant to contribute $100 toward the trip, promoting personal investment and requiring a degree of sacrifice, which is central to missions. Nearly 40 of our people signed up to go.
After a month of witness training and briefing about the trip, 37 short-term missionaries left the parking lot of our church at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to begin the long van ride across Kansas and eastern Colorado. After 15 hours we finally pulled in to our host church, Christ Baptist in Lakewood, which had set aside its downstairs for us to use for sleeping, eating, and meeting throughout the week. We also reserved a bank of hotel rooms down the street for our older members.
We woke up Sunday morning and led worship in the church we came to help. Our people greatly enjoyed the experience, including the differences in our worship styles, and I enjoyed preaching to a congregation that continuously interrupted me with applause. The rest of Sunday was spent preparing for the week ahead. We closed the day by worshipping with our host church and getting a good night’s sleep.
Monday started the serious work. Our group was divided into three teams: construction, Vacation Bible School (VBS) and street evangelism. One-half of the construction team stayed at the host church and used the week to install two showers so that future missions groups would not have to shuttle participants elsewhere to get clean. The other half reported to the inner-city church to do some much needed dirt work, install a sprinkler system for their future lawn, and construct and install a new sign.
We wanted to bless this church through construction because it has practically no income and no men in their congregation are around to work on building projects. They are largely dependent on outside help, and we were happy to provide it. We were all especially proud of our teenage boys who moved dirt tirelessly without complaint in the 100 degree heat.
While the boys were moving dirt at the inner-city church, our ladies conducted a VBS in their parking lot. The first day only two children came and the ladies were a little discouraged. But the street evangelism team did a good job of getting the word out, and the next day we were blessed with 37 kids. Before the end of the week, six children prayed to receive Christ.
There were always four to six people on the streets, doing community surveys, distributing 250 New Testaments, handing out refrigerator magnets with the inner-city church’s information on them, and looking for opportunities to share the Gospel. When we were planning for the trip, we were told that Denver was 80-90 percent unchurched. After spending a week on the streets, I believe it.
We encountered just about every belief system there is. One man, an atheist, told us Jesus is a myth, “just like Paul Bunyan.” Another man, a postmodernist, told us there is no absolute truth. He pointed to a tree and said, “To me, that’s a tree. But to someone else, it may be something entirely different.” One lady had us evicted from her apartment complex, because it turned out we were witnessing to her female partner, and she was afraid her partner would be converted and leave her.
One man asked if I had a Koran. My response was, “No sir, I have the Word of God,” which drew angry words from his companions. Upon taking loaves of bread and Bibles to homeless people in a park, we were sworn at, screamed at, and told we were “treating them like animals” by bringing them only dry bread. It was an interesting experience to say the least, and for much of the trip our hearts were heavy with the lostness and rejection we encountered. But God was faithful and blessed our work with ten more salvation decisions.
Thursday afternoon was a welcome respite from our hard work as we took half a day for rest and relaxation. Some went white-water rafting. Others drove into the mountains for sightseeing. Some simply went to the local mall. Originally our plans were to depart Saturday morning, but it was determined by our van drivers that with rotational driving and plenty of stops we could drive through the night and get home Saturday at lunch time. We arrived back at the church at 1 p.m. to a parking lot full of our families. I’ve never been so happy to see my wife and little girls!
Everyone who went said they had the time of their lives—that they had never felt closer to God and that they had never felt closer to their church family. We brought home 37 who are hooked on missions. Already they are spreading their newfound passion to the rest of our congregation.
The adversary did not sit quietly while our church caught fire for missions. Two of our participants’ parents were admitted to the hospital while we were in Denver. Another parent called with a diagnosis of severe cancer. There were issues with the hotel, and a house directly across the street from our VBS caught fire. A bloody fight broke out between roving bands of teenagers in a park where we were doing backyard Bible club. And there was record heat, which made all of our jobs harder.
With God’s help, the adversary was defeated. And this story is not about him. This is a story of a great God who blessed a simple church in the Ozarks that was simply willing to go. Will your church be next?