I have a soft spot in my heart for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). There are a few reasons for this. One, I grew up in a denomination where the churches did not cooperate or collaborate. So, when I was introduced, as a Southern Baptist, to our cooperative method of missions and ministry I thought it was a great thing. Not growing up Southern Baptist has allowed me the advantage of not taking our cooperative spirit for granted.
For five years I worked as a staff member for the MBC. I loved my time there and everyday I went home, I felt good about my job and what we were trying to accomplish as a collection of churches working together to spread the gospel throughout Missouri and the world. Recently, I left the MBC to be the Missions Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Springfield. For years, I have heard that the state convention doesn’t have anything to offer big churches. I somewhat accepted this as truth. It was generally felt that smaller churches were the ones who benefited from the convention. Two things happened recently to disprove that notion.
In my office hang two large wall maps. One is a map of the USA and the other is a map of the world. On that map I have several circles and question marks. The circles notate where we support a ministry or have started a new church. The question marks notate where I am considering involvement in the future. I am a visual person and the maps help me stay focused and be strategic.
There are several circles and question marks on my maps. However, when you view the whole map it doesn’t look like there are that many compared with how many places have nothing. My son, Sam, was in my office with me recently. He commented that it was pretty sad that we aren’t in more places. His feeling was that there are so many places and people groups that have never heard about Christ that we should have stuff everywhere. I tried to explain to him that we are just one church and we have limited resources and can’t be everywhere. His 11-year-old mind did not accept this explanation. To him, there was no excuse for us not having a gospel expression everywhere in the world. Again, I tried to explain to him that even though Second Baptist is a larger church, we just aren’t that big to be able to do it alone. No single church is.
After church as we got in the car to head home, he began to tell his mother what he had been telling me. She tried the same tactic I had with no success. Then it dawned on me, the Cooperative Program (CP). I told Sam that he was right and that we are helping in all those places. I told him that when we put our offering in the plate at church that a portion of that goes to the MBC in Jefferson City and from there it is used to support missionaries and do ministry throughout the whole world. I also said when we give to the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings that those funds are used to support missionaries in North America and the whole world.
The very next day, I was reminded that larger churches benefit from the CP and not just support it. We, along with a handful of other MBC churches, are sending some folks from our church to support an International Mission Board (IMB) meeting overseas. The purpose of this trip is to support a cluster meeting of IMB personnel in a particular region. We are going to help take care of the missionary kiddos while their folks are in meetings. Some of these kids have had a rough time with things that are happening in the world and we have an opportunity to serve and minister to the kids of our missionary families.
Needless to say, this trip is rather expensive. I don’t know if you have shopped for international airfares recently but take it from me it isn’t cheap. I can’t afford to cover the expenses of our members for these trips so our people raise their own funds to go.
On May 14, I received a call from Rick Hedger with the MBC. Rick mentioned to me that he was willing to help with some scholarship money for our folks going on this trip. This trip is planned through the MBC’s Partnership Missions office. I was amazed.
These two things disprove the notion that big churches can’t benefit from the MBC. I have not even mentioned how Ben Hess and his staff on the MBC Church Planting team have helped us with our church planting efforts. You see, we are not islands unto ourselves. I do not care if a church has 30 or 3,000 members. We are all part of something that is bigger than we are individually. That is the beautiful thing of being part of the MBC.
I know we aren’t perfect but I believe that when we cooperate and collaborate to spread the gospel and minister to people then it pleases the Father. I think that is how He designed His body. We all bring something to the table and He makes something beautiful out of it. At the end of the day we only have five loaves and two fishes to offer Him anyway.
I want to say thank you to the MBC for providing a way for us to work together. The next time you hear someone say that big churches can’t benefit from being part of the MBC would you please kindly, lovingly and gently inform them that they are mistaken.