Nearly every time First Baptist adds to its building or acreage, it increases its commitment to reaching people through Cooperative Program (CP) Missions.
This keeps the focus on Kingdom growth, said Fred Winters, pastor for seventeen years at First Baptist in Maryville, Illinois, a church started by one couple in 1941.
"The needs in Maryville are tremendous," Winters acknowledged. "But who's to say there aren't greater needs elsewhere? We believe the Cooperative Program is the best way to meet mission needs around the world. It doesn't matter if there's a direct benefit to us, because it benefits others."
Maryville is a rapidly growing community about fifteen miles northeast of St. Louis. At the outset of World War II, however, the town had a population of about 800 — and twenty-four taverns — but no churches. Fred and Norine Martin changed that when they mortgaged their home to build a picturesque white clapboard Southern Baptist church.
Over the course of three property acquisitions, six building programs, and seventeen years of positive growth — from thirty to about 1,000 in attendance in Sunday morning worship — First Baptist has doubled its giving through the Cooperative Program — from 5 to 10 percent — and, in the last three years, has become the top giver to CP Missions in the Illinois Baptist State Association.
It bothered him that the church was giving only 5 percent to CP Missions when he was called as pastor in 1987, Winters said. As a step of faith when they purchased six acres of land, he led the church also to increase its CP Missions giving by a half-percent.
"God affirmed the principle that it is better to give than to receive," Winters said. "We discovered the blessing of not thinking of our own needs, but to think of the needs of others.
"We thought that six acres was all the land we'd ever need," the pastor continued. "But within eight years, we saw we needed more."
They bought thirty-five acres, built a 1,000-seat worship center, and recently added another thirty-five acres, with plans next year — or as soon as the first $1 million is raised in a $3.5 million capital stewardship campaign — to build a family life center and student center.
With all this land acquisition and building construction, CP giving is now at 10 percent at First Baptist, with additional percentages given to Gateway Baptist Association and Baptist Children's Home.
"We give to the Cooperative Program because it's right, and it benefits others," said Winters, vice president of the state convention. "As we learn the discipline of giving, we step into the abundance of God."
First Baptist makes it a ministry priority to think of others. The Maryville church shares its building with the community for interdenominational Bible studies as well as meetings of various support groups. The church sponsors a twice-weekly Mothers Day Out program for about 150 preschoolers and, this year, added a kindergarten.
Beyond its two worship services and three Sunday Schools, the church's ministry includes an accountability group for high school students; church outreach through LifeWay Christian Resource's GROW strategy involving home visits, phone calls, and letters; Life University discipleship training; and a variety of sports, such as "Sack the Pastor" flag football.
With a new family life center, the church plans to start Upward Basketball, Soccer, and Cheerleading. A walking trail also is to be developed among other steps to better reach the community.
"Our purpose statement says we are to exalt the Savior, equip the saints, and evangelize the lost," Winters said. "We've had that for about fifteen years now, and the vast majority of our people have a strong understanding of our purpose and are very supportive of it."
Over the years, First Baptist has started four churches elsewhere in Illinois. This year a new thrust sent about 150 members on short-term mission trips to Zambia, Greece, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Joy, Illinois.
"This year we made it a priority to get on-mission," Winters said. "We felt like our people were good at giving, but needed to experience giving their time.
"What we're seeing with the people who went on mission trips is a real enthusiasm for missions giving and going," the pastor continued. "We're doing a lot to be involved in other opportunities to further the gospel so people might have the hope of Jesus and the hope of eternal life."
At its current location, First Baptist is surrounded by five cornfields. "But on the other side of the cornfields large subdivisions are coming our way," Winters said.
"We have almost unlimited potential for growth. Our people want to baptize 200 next year." By the end of October they had baptized about seventy and anticipated baptizing another twenty-five during a special baptism-focused Sunday morning service November 7.
"It is often said, 'Build it and they will come,'" Winters said. "That's the reality here at First Baptist Maryville. We're building it, and they're coming."