“The Cooperative Program is critical for helping revitalize pastors and churches in Missouri,” said Gary Mathes, pastoral ministry strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). “In the short time I have served in this position, I have seen how difficult it can be for pastors ministering in declining churches or struggling communities. They need resources to help them succeed. They need encouragement to inspire them to continue serving faithfully.”
Mathes joined the MBC staff in January, after serving for 13 years as associate pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph. He was called to Green Valley following nine years of pastoring in more rural communities. Having received both his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary personally experienced the benefit of attending a Cooperative Program-supported educational institution that provides a substantial tuition subsidy for Southern Baptist students.
“God was shaping who I am today,” he says. “He was directing my ministry through those years in ways that provided experiences that I now draw upon to help others.”
Mathes’ ministry responsibilities include church revitalization, transitional pastor training, men’s ministry, and minister relations. His background in congregations of various sizes has provided a unique understanding of the broad spectrum of needs and challenges facing Missouri pastors today.
This newly staffed position is in line with a goal set forth by Executive Director John Yeats in his first convention address, emphasizing that “every (MBC) church have a pastor, and every pastor have a friend.”
Mathes’ desire to assist pastors in leading healthy churches is demonstrated by his leadership role in mb125, an annual retreat that provides an environment for pastors of churches with 125 or less in weekly attendance to receive fresh training and be encouraged by members of the MBC Church Strengthening Team.
“This is one of the highlights of the work I do,” he says. “Currently, around 90 percent of our churches run less than 125 in attendance. I cannot tell you how many of the 66 pastors and families that came this summer told us they were greatly encouraged by coming. It was a joy to see their faces light up as they joined with peers and shared their stories. It’s a great event that I hope can be a blessing to small church pastors for many years to come.”
The retreat is funded largely through the generous support of Missouri Baptists through the Cooperative Program. “Gifts through CP not only help advance the kingdom of God through new work,” says Mathes, “they also help churches and leaders become more effective in their efforts to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.”