FBC, Lebanon, sets pace as Acts 1:8 church
By Allen Palmeri
July 20, 2004
|BACAU, Romania – First Baptist Church, Lebanon, members Randal Perisho and Lendall Beushausen, left, join with Romanian Baptist loan Cioanca and Pastor Gary Longnecker, right, in a song at a church service at Frist Baptist, Bacau. Photo by Allen Palmeri|
Global focus now includes Romania
BACAU, Romania – First Baptist Church, Lebanon, is involved in so many countries as an Acts 1:8 church within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that Pastor Gary Longnecker has trouble remembering them all.
Sitting in a restaurant in Bacau, where he was cultivating a new partnership with Pastor George Dumitrascu of the Baptist Church of Bacau, Longnecker kept adding countries to the list of those in partnership with First Lebanon.
“And Guatemala – did I tell you about Guatemala?” Longnecker said. “We have a missionary couple there.”
That addition bumped the list to 12 nations, plus Puerto Rico. Based on its fruit, First Lebanon would be considered a leader in the newly launched Acts 1:8 Challenge Partnership that is tied to the local church. The International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Missouri Baptist Convention and Tri-County Baptist Association all came together for a pioneering conference July 10-15 in Branson that helped kick off an overall Acts 1:8 emphasis in Southern Baptist life.
The list of countries from “the uttermost part of the earth” that First Lebanon is evangelizing is as follows: China, India, Mongolia, Brazil, Mexico, Niger, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Romania, Canada, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Longnecker, 64, explained that he is personally involved in training house-church pastors in China. The congregation at First Lebanon, which averages about 550 in Sunday worship, understands that its pastor is passionate about that particular nation.
“The Chinese people that I’ve talked to personally have been so open to the Gospel,” Longnecker said. “It’s like turning on a light. They have been taught all their life there is no God. They don’t believe it, because they know there must be.”
Longnecker came up with a way to multiply his global vision though something he calls “The Champion Program.” Before First Lebanon will commit to a missionary partnership with another nation, a “Champion” from within the church must rise up as the point person. Longnecker models this by personally committing to China; the “Champion” for Romania is a layman named Lendall Beushausen, who accompanied Longnecker and another layman from the church, Randal Perisho, on the Missouri Baptist Convention-sponsored trip to Romania May 18-25.
“He (Beushausen) volunteered to become the ‘Champion’ before we ever had the project,” Longnecker said. “We ask people to pray. We believe that God can lead each individual to be on mission with God, either locally, nationally or internationally. We want to provide opportunities, but we will not do something until we have a ‘Champion.’
“We commission ‘Champions.’ If God is leading you, and you are willing to volunteer, that’s all we want.”
The “Champion” concept creates an atmosphere within a church where a large number of lay leaders catch a vision for mission partnerships worldwide. That’s why Longnecker has such a hard time remembering all of the global relationships. With “Champions” like Beushausen stepping forward to excitedly claim ownership of Acts 1:8, partnerships within the local church blossom.
“I may come back (to Romania) and I may not, but the work here won’t be tied to me,” Longnecker said. “Our church will be involved. Our people will be involved. But he (Beushausen) will be the one that will work out the details.”
Right now those details involve going through First Lebanon’s budget process for 2005. A reasonable goal would be to return in June with a team of 15-20 short-term missionaries from the church, Beushausen said.
“I kind of hope that we get involved here like we did in Brazil,” he said, referring to a church mission trip he led in 2002. “We have to turn people down now to go to Brazil, we have so many who want to go. Romania is similar to Brazil. I see a lot of open doors.”