From its birth in 1956, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, has maintained an outward focus that spawns pastors, missionaries, and new churches, as well as a congregation actively participating in missions.
"I've never before been in a church that had that kind of missions heart, and yet that's why it's been a strong, stable church in the Four Corners area all these years," said Pastor Kirby Kennedy, referring to the region where the state lines of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona meet, sixty miles northwest of Farmington.
"When they give, they feel they have a hand in all the mission work Southern Baptists do — in New Mexico, North America, and around the world," the pastor continued. "This church strives to be a church that gives because God has blessed them. God has set the example."
That zeal for doing God's work is reflected in the New Mexico church's commitment to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' method of supporting missions and ministries of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
"My grandmother taught me about the Cooperative Program," recalled Jackie Johnson, who has chaired Emmanuel's missions ministry the last five years and is a charter member of the church. "She said with the Cooperative Program, at least you know where your money is going. I still tell people that same thing."
"We do some pretty spectacular things through the Cooperative Program," Kennedy said. "It's pretty amazing to think you can actually get some forty-four thousand churches to cooperate on anything, yet we do it regularly."
The Cooperative Program enables churches of whatever size to have a part in global missions as well as the ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the training that takes place at Southern Baptists' six seminaries, the pastor added.
"The Cooperative Program is just the life-flow of Southern Baptist churches and the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "It's a beautiful way for our missionaries to have stability so they can focus on their ministry."
Kennedy said he takes no credit for the church giving 16 percent of undesignated offerings to global missions through the Cooperative Program. John Preston, who pastored Emmanuel from 1972 to 2000, led the church to develop its missions heart, Kennedy said.
"When this was a small church, years ago, they taught and practiced giving, and that's what caused this church to flourish," Kennedy said. "When you have people who give, and people who go, it promotes enthusiasm for missions that is self-perpetuating. ... This is a church where people give sacrificially."
Counting another 3 percent for associational missions, 1 percent for state missions, and 1 percent for the New Mexico Baptist Children's Home, plus local missions and seasonal offerings — $58,000 for Lottie Moon (international missions) and nearly $20,000 for Annie Armstrong (North American missions) last year — Emmanuel devotes more than 30 percent of its income to missions, Kennedy said.
It also has had, for the last fifteen years, a school — Emmanuel Baptist Academy and Child Development Center — attended by about 230 students through the seventh grade.
Boxes are left in the foyer most Sundays for specific needs — socks, jackets, blankets, or whatever need a member hears about. Ongoing local ministries include the filling of plastic baby bottles with change for a local pro-life pregnancy center and the storage and distribution of donated furniture for those in need.
Emmanuel members also help with the San Juan Baptist Association crisis closet — stocking it with food and clothing and helping distribute the items on an as-needed basis. Hesperus Baptist Camp in southwestern Colorado is owned in part by the association, and Emmanuel is a key supporter of that ministry as well.
The church lends support to Navajo Ministries, which helps people pay utility bills and housing needs, and to Rice and Beans, a New Mexico/Mexico border-crossing ministry. Members minister at the San Juan County Jail each Sunday for worship and Tuesday for counseling. During the Christmas season, church members participate in Angel Tree, a ministry to provide Christmas gifts for children in the community whose parents are incarcerated.
This year Emmanuel members stocked 141 boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a Franklin Graham ministry. Individual Sunday School classes also find seasonal projects where they can show God's love.
Members participated this summer in a family mission trip to Pass Christian, Mississippi, a community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, where some led in a Vacation Bible School and others built a house. Emmanuel also is in the third year of a partnership with Slovenia in Eastern Europe, one of several overseas interests. Members also have ministered in Mexico several times and in Bosnia, Ukraine, Uganda, Senegal, Japan, and in nations that for security reasons cannot be named.
"Day of Care" was started by Emmanuel member Ronna Jordon after she went on a mission trip to Nairobi as a ministry for children orphaned by AIDS. Emmanuel members now are active in various projects to help in this ministry.
"I'm a hairdresser," Jackie Johnson said, "and one year I went to Thailand to teach the missionaries how to cut their own hair and their children's hair. We've had two teams go to Thailand to do prayerwalking and prison ministry."
The church over the years also has sent out at least eight people as pastors, church staff members, and career missionaries.
"We have some in countries we cannot name for security reasons," Kennedy said. "That continues to bring a vibrant and fresh interest in missions. The stateside and international mission trips have consistently brought a vigor to missions that goes from our adults to our youth."
Emmanuel has started five mission churches: Hesperus Baptist Church in Hesperus, Colorado; New Life in Fruitland, New Mexico; and Northridge Baptist, The Gathering, and Mountain Vista Baptist, all in Farmington. Hesperus has now started a mission church.
The list of members' involvement in ministry could go on and on, Kennedy said. The reason why missions is so important lies in the church's heritage, members say.
"I used to help my mother in Sunbeams when I was twelve years old," Johnson said. "I think missions education is why our church has a heart for missions. We've been grounded in missions ever since we started this church."
As effective and far-reaching as Emmanuel is in its missions endeavors, it still has much to do, Kennedy said. The congregation, which draws 350 for Sunday worship, now is going through the revised version of the Experiencing God discipleship study by Henry Blackaby to see how the Lord is going to reinvest their time and energy, the pastor added.
"We need to figure out a way to get into the Native American population, to minister to them more effectively," Kennedy said. "And I believe we need to figure out a way to be more inviting to people moving into the community — to be seen as opening our arms and welcoming them into our family.
"There is just a lot our members are involved in, and they want to be," the pastor said. "That's where they get their satisfaction. They don't feel they have to have something in return. They want to give — of their finances, of their gifts, of themselves — because God is the greatest giver."
Karen Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.