CLARKSVILLE, Tn. – A large Tennessee-based Southern Baptist Convention congregation adopts the Cooperative Program missions to fuel the Kingdom building efforts.
The First Baptist Church of Clarksville, the eighth largest Tennessee based SBC church averages 2,280 in worship and 1,760 in Bible study each week. With the CP missions as a foundational component, the First Church strives to gain intra and international success in missions and outreach.
"CP Missions is our handle on the world," Freeman, pastor at First Clarksville since 1993 said. "It's the way the Lord allows us to touch the world at all levels of the Acts 1:8 commission."
Essentially, the CP is the SBC’s outreach strategy that helps train future pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders. It provides resources regionally to help local churches grow.
"This summer we had people in short-term mission projects on five continents," said Bill Graham, associate pastor for missions and ministry at the church in Clarksville, 40 miles northwest of Nashville. "We had more than 150 volunteers going on mission trips.
"It's an opportunity for folks to see missions up close and personal," Graham said. "They get to see where their Cooperative Program giving goes, and they see the need."
CP missions are held at First Clarksville once a month. A missions-related Scripture reading and prayer followed by CP offerings and a 90 second mission’s video sums up the monthly meeting. The Sunday bulletin also includes an insert on from the International Mission Board or North American Mission Board.
"The impact of this shows in our giving," Graham said. "We've not been behind in our budget at all this year. We're ahead of budget even as we go into December.
"I believe it is because the people see the need and they see how much the Lord has blessed them," Graham continued. "They're willing to give -- generously -- of their time, resources and money."
"Giving to the CP and missions comes first," he noted, "but when we do that, God always provides for us to minister to the needs of the people here as well."
Locally, the First Clarksville offers baptism, bible study, discipleship training and missions programs to guide the nearly 5,000 members for serving God’s Kingdom. One of the church’s 2004 goal is to have at least one team a month involved in short-term missions project somewhere in the world.
First’s community investment is as astounding as its international participation. The Good Samaritan Medical Dental Clinic, housed a block from the church, is sponsored by the church. About 1,800 patients visit the free clinic annually, where 200 doctors and nurses volunteer their services. Here, the patients hear of God’s love and provision for them, concurrently to their visits.
Other community ministry include financial and volunteer support for the local Loaves and Fishes ministry to the homeless and the local crisis pregnancy center, and tutoring at a housing project; care and compassion at several area retirement centers and nursing homes; and a once-a-month meal for area college students.
A couple of years ago, First Clarksville opened a deaf ministry that includes singing during worship services, Bible study and mission’s opportunity. Next spring, the group will travel to an Appalachian part of Kentucky where they will assist a NAMB Mission Service Corps worker who is setting up a school for the deaf.
Since Clarksville is located near Fort Campbell, Ky., where the first military group was deployed to Afghanistan, the congregation’s members recently put together morale-boosting shoeboxes for 150 deployed soldiers filled with packets of hot chocolate, beef jerky, and a New Testament supplied by the North American Mission Board.
"We have had as many as 50 of our members deployed overseas," said Graham, who retired after serving 25 years as an Army chaplain. He is one of the five people in from the church known to have served in career missions.
First Clarksville continues on its church building strategy by helping to start a church in New York City and another in Buffalo, N.Y. Previously, the church had constructed ministries in Chicago, Iowa, Brazil and Canada. They're involved in the partnerships between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Iowa Baptist Convention and the Rio Baptist Association in Brazil. As the congregation becomes increasingly multicultural with many African Americans, Hispanics and Koreans members, it hosts Hispanic congregations in its buildings.
"The people are well-fed and well-led," said pastor's secretary Rosina Seay.
These community projects not only help the people they help, but also the pastors who partake in it. Pastor Freeman who served in ministry for 30 years had a life-changing experience at the CP mission at Rio.
"Leading people to Christ every day, seeing the need and the poverty, he was changed by it," Graham said. "When he came back, he told the congregation about an opportunity. A pastor in Rio had told him of a building in one of the slum areas that cost $14,000 U.S. that he wanted to use for a church”
"Roger said, 'Folks, we have the opportunity to do that,'" Graham recalled. "One lady gave all she had: a gold coin. The congregation bought back that gold coin and raised the entire amount for the church in Rio on that one day."
10 percent of First Clarksville’s receipts have been given to fund the CP missions program. Every month, members are encouraged to give in support of the Annie Armstrong offering for missions in North America, the Lottie Moon offering for international missions, and the Tennessee state missions offering.
In 2001, the $140,000 goal was exceeded by 42%. The 2002 goals were set for $198,800, and the 2003’s goal was recently set for $250,000.
"I would describe our church as a blessed church who wants to be a blessing to others," Graham said. "The pastor's vision is as long as we are faithful to the Lord in missions -- in giving to CP Missions and in world mission offerings -- the Lord will continue to bless."
First Clarksville moved into a $13 million worship center complex in February 2001. The congregation funded $9 million for the building so far.
"We have very strong lay leadership who are willing to follow the pastor's lead and we have a good staff," Graham said. "We're very cooperative both among Southern Baptist circles as well as community circles."
"It all comes down to being kingdom-minded," Freeman said. "I look at the Cooperative Program for a church as obeying Matthew 6:33 - Seek ye first the Kingdom of God."
By Pauline J.