Members of Amite Baptist Church believe in missions because they do missions, pastor Terry Booth says.
"It is my conviction that we [the Southern Baptist Convention] will not be able to sustain Cooperative Program support without direct involvement," said Booth, pastor of the Denham Springs, Louisiana, congregation since 1985. "There's just a difference when people come back from mission trips; it puts a fingerprint on their giving."
Amite Baptist gives 13.5 percent of its undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program because it's a loyal Southern Baptist church with a strong belief in missions, Booth added.
"The connection is pretty easy for the congregation to grasp," Booth continued. "As [former Amite member] Derrick Thornton plants churches among Muslims in Atlanta, our CP missions dollars are helping him .... When our members see this, it's easier for them to digest the concept of giving to missions, and to capture it and support it."
Booth said he returned in 2000 from a mission trip to Thailand with a fresh understanding of the need for personal involvement in missions, which he has been sharing ever since with his congregation, which numbers about eleven-hundred in two Sunday morning services.
"This generation doesn't have any innate conviction that the Cooperative Program is fundamental to who we are," Booth said, "so I have to help them understand the connection. What I have found is, if you put your people on the front line of missions, you have a story easier to tell about the cooperative venture."
Missions is an Acts 1:8 local-to-global, Kingdom-building venture for Amite Baptist. A preschool through second-grade program reaches about three-hundred-and-fifty youngsters — and their families — five days a week; the evangelistic Upward Basketball program touches another three-hundred-and-thirty ballplayers and their families. AWANA and youth programs, in-home small groups, a battered women's shelter, abortion clinic, and various other entities provide more ways of reaching the community.
So do the church's two elaborate drama productions each year — in the spring and fall — which together result in eight-hundred or more decisions; each person receives personalized spiritual counsel and a Kingdom-building connection with the church of their choice.
"One thing I teach my people: 'Pray every day,' I tell them. 'Lord, let me so live today that when I go to bed tonight, somebody else will be better off because I was alive.'
"I see so much of their ministry carried out almost spontaneously if not actually spontaneously," the pastor continued. "What I see in my people is that heart that causes them to find ministry opportunities on their own .... They really see themselves as being essential communicators of the Gospel through their gifts and talents and God-given abilities. They want to be a part of making a difference."
Since the pastor's return from Thailand, when he challenged the church to be directly involved locally to globally in missions, members have ministered in Uganda twice, Mexico twice, and once each to Idaho, Baltimore, Mississippi, and Florida, plus numerous mission trips throughout Louisiana. At least twenty former members of Amite Baptist are serving on a church staff; several others are involved fulltime in missions initiatives of the SBC's International Mission Board or North American Mission Board.
With direct involvement, Booth said, "we start to see people through God's eyes, and that changes us — changes our actions, our giving — and changes our heart. We start loving people with God's love, and I will live and die for the fact that you've got to love people into the Kingdom. The Cooperative Program extends that love, expands that love."