A Local Emphasis on a Grand Vision of the Kingdom Works

( [email protected] ) Jul 06, 2003 02:18 PM EDT

Eric Redmond, Hillcrest Baptist Church’s first African American pastor, took no credit for the 30 percent of undesignated offerings that his church gave to the Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program.

"I inherited this," Redmond said. "A strong missions-giving emphasis was a vision of Pastor [Hubert] Keefer. But I believe in it.

For 24 years, Hubert Keefer was the pastor of Hillcrest, which was founded in 1952 in a white neighborhood about 15 minutes from the U.S. Capitol. A man of Caucasian origin, he led the church through its change during 1980’s as the congregation transformed to predominantly African American.

When Keefer died in 2000, the church was giving 30 percent of undesignated offerings to CP missions. Now Redmond is leading the church to reach out to the community as well as the world.

"To me the Cooperative Program is a dynamic way of supporting Kingdom work at many levels in the church," Redmond stated. "It allows us to support future church leaders through the seminaries, current international and national missionaries through NAMB and IMB, works of ethics and justice through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and educating our local membership through denominational publications."

On a sharpened growth of ministries and discipleship, Redmond led the church from giving percentages to dollar amounts in support of local and church ministries that was not done before.

"People can see our neighborhood is a mission field," commented Pamela Redmond, Eric's wife, on a conversation during the Southern Baptist Convention in June. "By focusing on local evangelism, people [in the church] begin to have the heart that is needed to give what is needed in a cheerful way."

Hillcrest provides the Keefer House, named after their former pastor, as a lodging for SBC missionaries for North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Over 500 missionaries have stayed there during the past decade. Often the missionaries would speak during services, which in turn encouraged the congregation to continue to donate large amounts to CP missions.

Redmond envisions the congregation gaining greater appreciation for the area’s missions and ministry needs and opportunities through the involvement of the local community. "Rather than only giving in the form of a check to the Cooperative Program, by emphasizing local evangelism and discipleship people's hearts follow through in desiring salvation for the lost the world over," Redmond stated. "Local evangelism helps put a face on world evangelization."

Six small groups in Hillcrest were newly formed this year to focus on discipleship. Last year a late July party took place newly where 341 adults and numerous children attended. This year is preparing once more with prayer striving for 500 adults on July 26. After the block party last year, 65 people from the event went to Sunday morning worship the next day. In total about 10 percent increase of attendance was noted in one year as result. There were 350 that attended the Sunday morning worship compared to the 240 when Redmond was called in 2000.

FAITH is a Sunday school evangelism/ministry/growth strategy produced by the SBC's publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources. Hillcrest partners with a local elementary school in a three-times-a-year "Donuts and Dads" breakfast to help the fathers be aware of the ways they can be more involved in their youngster's education. To Redmond, education is ‘a major deal.’ Redmond also teaches full time in biblical studies and systematic theology at Washington Bible College in Lanham, Maryland.

For Hillcrest, their goal is to reach every home in zip code 20748 with the Gospel. On this great commission from God to the world, Redmond commented, "The mission of Hillcrest Baptist Church is to live for the fame of God's name, so that all people might know and enjoy Him," the pastor continued. "This is how we live out the Cooperative Program.”