by Diana Chandler
Pastor Russ Rathier keeps a world map on the wall of his study at South Shore Baptist Church, in Crownsville, Maryland, with push pins designating states and countries where the congregation is supporting missions.
Pinpointed are Southeast Asia, Pakistan, the Ukraine, and Nigeria abroad and various locations in America, excluding the countless missions initiatives supported through South Shore's commitment to reaching people through the Cooperative Program. Currently the congregation commits 17 percent of its undesignated offerings through CP.
Not all of us are able to go somewhere, so we support through our tithing," Rathier said. "When we're asked to give, we give."
Rathier said the church also supports missions by giving 5 percent of its offerings to its local Baptist association and love offerings to individuals engaged in missions endeavors.
"We feel we continually get blessed by that," Rathier said. "God always meets our goal and exceeds it. God at times has almost doubled what we've set as a goal."
Rathier, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was himself drawn to ministry while on a month-long mission trip to Nigeria in 1999, where he ministered to youth in a community for the blind.
"That was the thing that God used to turn my life," he said. "I've been able to draw on that for years now."
That mission experience led Rathier to spend the last eight years of his Navy career studying part-time to earn a seminary degree. South Shore is the first church where he is senior pastor.
Rathier is leading the church to be ministry-driven, working as God leads.
"God will send people here who need 'X' and we have people God has put it on their heart to give 'X,'" Rathier said. "God made us all different. He gave us different skill sets."
In the year and a half Rathier has led South Shore, the church has taken the first mission trip in its fifty-year history, a five-day youth trip to Louisville with the Kentucky Heartland Outreach at Campbellsville University.
The youth renovated homes of the needy in Louisville, keeping schedules tight with work, worship services, Bible study, and prayer.
"I watched two of the youth completely give their life to Christ. They knew about Jesus, but I saw it click," Rathier said. "They realized how blessed they were."
Not only that, but an adult chaperone on the trip was inspired to start a construction ministry in Crownsville.
"He came back and started a construction program right here," Rathier said, referring to the member as Rick and describing him as shy and preferring to work behind the scenes. The master electrician approached former clients and employers for money and/or materials and is using the donations to renovate homes and complete small construction projects for the needy in Anne Arundale County. In his first project, he built a storage shed for a young widow with two adolescent boys.
"It's a shed that probably would cost about $4,000 if you went out and bought it," Rathier said.
Rathier describes his congregation as "a very honest, country-loving sort of church" that loves to give.
"We'll feed one hundred people at the drop of a dime, just wrap our arms around people," he said.
The Woman's Missionary Union runs a thrift shop in the church's former chapel and regularly donates prepared meals to a battered women's shelter. The church also operates a food pantry and was to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the women's shelter in 2009, Rathier said.
The church's youth participated in a thirty-hour fast to prepare to minister to the homeless. Under the leadership of youth pastor Caleb Horton, the group fasted from noon Friday, October 24, through 6 p.m. the next day, slept on the church grounds in a makeshift homeless community made of cardboard, and fed sandwiches to the homeless before ending the fast.
The experience allowed youth "to feel those hunger pangs that our brothers and sisters are feeling every day," Rathier said. "Instead of criticizing people, look at where they are and try to realize how they feel."
Profiles in Cooperation
by Marilyn Stewart
Across the ocean, and coast to coast, Southern Baptists are responding to the call to make the Gospel known. By putting their love in action through the Cooperative Program, these six churches are demonstrating that no gift is too small, no effort too little when Southern Baptists join together to reach the world to Christ.
It's About Meeting Needs
The rich farming soil in the heart of Illinois is just right for producing a bounty of corn and soybeans. At Highland Avenue Baptist Church in Robinson, discipleship training, financial planning seminars, and a mentoring program for mothers are turning up fertile ground for Christ.
With thirteen baptisms so far this year, the church is taking the Gospel to its quiet Midwest community through venues that meet families' needs.
"When it comes to the Cooperative Program, our people are at the same place I am," pastor Dwight McDaniel said of Highland Avenue's big-picture view of missions. "We see the CP as the most practical and most efficient way to meet the most needs."
Highland Avenue Baptist's total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 333; baptisms, 10; primary worship attendance, 203; undesignated receipts, $362,447; Cooperative Program, $56,539; CP percent, 15.6; total missions expenditures, $106,507.
Staying the Course
It was a meager amount First Baptist Church in Livingston, Tennessee, first committed through the Cooperative Program seventy years ago, church minutes revealed. Today, the small-town church approaches its centennial anniversary with a legacy of nearly thirty years of 17 percent giving through the Cooperative Program.
The church's firm commitment is undergirded by a strong emphasis on praying for the daily needs of missionaries.
"The Cooperative Program keeps our missionaries on the field. If CP dies, our missionaries would have to come home," pastor Don Cobb said. "The more we support CP, the more we see the need around the world and at home."
First Baptist's total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 929; baptisms, 16; primary worship attendance, 269; undesignated receipts, $463,364; Cooperative Program, $83,322; CP percent, 17.98; total missions expenditures, $115,143.
Route 66 and a Missions DNA
Living on the historic Route 66 — "America's Main Street," connecting the Midwest to the West Coast — might put the urge to travel in your DNA. At First Baptist Church of Sayre, Oklahoma, flags from the countries and states where mission teams have served cover two walls of the sanctuary.
Working alongside missionaries in the field has given the church a passion for missions.
"Through our church's ever-increasing commitment to going to the world, we have found a greater need and reason to support Cooperative Program giving," pastor Gary Baird said. "Were it not for our missionaries who are CP-supported, the doors we walk through would not have been open."
First Baptist Sayre's total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 1,046; baptisms, 21; primary worship attendance, 266; undesignated receipts, $432,408; Cooperative Program, $75,684; CP percent, 17.5; total missions expenditures, $131,670.
An Aloha Heard Round the World
Warm seas and a tropical sun make the Hawaiian island of Owahu a prime vacation spot. But at Mililani Baptist Church, the congregation of four hundred that gathers in four worship services on Sundays wants to go to the world.
Beyond its four church plants and missions-oriented discipleship geared to every member — including a large percent who are military personnel — the church is helping to send missionaries around the world thanks in part to its participation through the Cooperative Program. Mililani commits 20.5 percent of its general offerings to reach people through the Cooperative Program.
"When we give through the Cooperative Program, it helps everybody, everywhere, do everything God has called us to do," pastor Derrick Norris said. "It is a proven fact that we can do a lot more together than we can do alone."
Mililani Baptist's total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 1,693; baptisms, 34; primary worship attendance, 389; undesignated receipts, $610,035; Cooperative Program, $125,038; CP percent, 20.5; total missions expenditures, $185,936.
There's an "App" for That
In the working class, down-to-earth community of Miamisburg, Ohio, the heart of Southern Baptists is as unfamiliar as their name. Members of First Baptist Church Miamisburg often are new Christians unfamiliar with the number of mission applications and services the Cooperative Program supports.
When members approach pastor Stephen Spurgin about supporting foreign mission projects, disaster, or world hunger relief, he tells them, "You do that every Sunday!"
"We are committed to the Cooperative Program because we believe there are biblical principles to endorse it," Spurgin said. "CP gives every church, regardless of its size, a tremendous opportunity to be intimately involved with taking the Gospel around the world."
First Baptist Miamisburg's total members in 2008 Annual Church Profile, 902; baptisms, 10; primary worship attendance, 188; undesignated receipts, $407,289; Cooperative Program, $62,640; CP percent, 15.4; total missions expenditures, $111,113.
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship in New Orleans, Louisiana; Marilyn Stewart is a freelance writer and member of Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.