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‘We can’t lose this nation,’ pastor declares
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
February 22, 2011

‘We can’t lose this nation,’ pastor declares

‘We can’t lose this nation,’ pastor declares
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
February 22, 2011

HOUSTON — Champion Forest

Baptist Church leaders credit a year-long emphasis on missions giving for the

fact that its 5,000 members gave more than $175,000 to missions through the

Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) on a Sunday morning.

The amount was $37,000 more than the next-largest giver to the North American

missions emphasis in 2009, the latest year for which individual church reports

have been posted.

“We promote the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering every spring,” said David

Fleming, pastor of the Houston congregation. “But we found people can and would

give more to missions if they would put it in their monthly budget” in response

to a year-round emphasis on missions.

“Having been on the mission field (in short-term missions) and seeing what our

missionaries do, both across America and the world, I am compelled to be a part

of what they’re doing,” Fleming said. “We can’t all go, but if a pastor will

get his people on the mission field, they will give to missions. Suddenly, it

becomes personal.”

The United States is becoming more unchurched, more non-Christian, Fleming

said.

“We can’t lose this nation,” the pastor said. “Our nation is our

responsibility. For us, it’s a balanced approach to missions. It’s those

concentric circles of advance: We’re not going to skip America to get to the

foreign mission field. We’re not going to skip Houston to get to America.

“We start here,” Fleming said. “This is home. We don’t even need a passport to

do missions across America. We should certainly prioritize reaching America as

we seek to reach the world for Christ.”

Some might say large churches like Champion Forest in northwest Houston don’t

need the Southern Baptist Convention to do missions. But one of the first

things Fleming did when he was called as pastor in 2006 was to lead the church —

started by Southern Baptists in 1970 — to affiliate with Southern Baptists of

Texas Convention and to direct its Cooperative Program giving through the state

convention, Fleming said.

Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, as part of its multifaceted outreach locally, nationally and internationally, is

in the midst of a multi-year commitment to missions work on the Navajo

Indian Reservation in Gallup, N.M. In the summer of 2010, Champion Forest members built porches in Gallup, led Vacation Bible School, distributed information for the church on the reservation, involved children in fun activities and cut people’s hair.

“We have learned we can do more together than we can independently,” Fleming

said. “We need the cooperation of all our churches and the coordination of a

mission agency to maximize our efforts. That includes our association, the

state convention, the North American Mission Board and the International

Mission Board.”

Champion Forest baptized 382 people in 2010; has three church plants in

Houston; and also is partnering with church plants in Seattle and in Long

Island, N.Y.

Locally, its evangelistic efforts start with the FAITH

evangelistic Sunday School outreach, now in its ninth semester.

“We’re constantly trying to bring people into the Sunday service,” Fleming

said. Those who visit the church on Sunday morning receive a return visit that

afternoon from one of the 100-plus three-person FAITH teams.

“Our folks just

love it,” the pastor said. “People are blown away to get a visit Sunday

afternoon.”

Champion Forest’s world mission efforts start with a major thrust each

November.

“We typically have a missions fair in the fall, and in December we start

promoting the Cooperative Program and missions giving,” Fleming said. “Throughout

the course of the year, we’ll have video highlights of missions trips, and we

bring in missionaries as guest speakers. We keep missions and evangelism in

front of the people all the time.

“Our goal is to get our people mobilized at the church, in the city, across the

country and beyond the continent,” the pastor said.

The church’s motto is: “Helping

people make sense out of life through Christ-centered living.”

Even shorter,

Champion Forest calls its members to “Know, Grow and Go.”

“Locally, our members are involved in more than 100 local missions and ministry

projects,” Fleming said. “Most of that happens through the small group ministry

of Champion Forest. The Sunday School is the church organized to fulfill the

Great Commission. If you put a project in the hands of the Life Groups (Sunday

School classes), they get it done.”

A missions booth in the church’s foyer each week provides a central location

for people to learn of various missions and ministry opportunities, missions

minister Lezlie Armour said.

She also created a 30-page glossy magazine last

fall with stories and photos from each of the year’s missions trips. The church

brings out flags on special occasions for each of the nations and states in

which the church has a missions commitment.

Church members go on a dozen or more mission trips each year across North

America and around the globe, including multi-year efforts in New Mexico,

Washington, New York, Kenya and Ecuador.

“It changes people forever who go on mission trips,” Armour said. “For them to

come back and tell others what God has done through them — it’s contagious.

There’s nothing so rewarding as seeing someone come to the Lord who doesn’t

know Him.

“Missions means reaching out to someone who needs the Lord,” Armour said. “It’s

the same thing if they’re in Africa or America or across the street. Missions

is missions, and for many people it’s easier to put aside $800 for a mission

trip in America than it is to save up $3,000 for a mission trip to Africa.

Besides, this is our home country and, to me, it’s more and more in need of the

Lord. We need to take care of our own, so we have the strength to reach out

across the world.”

Among local projects, Champion Forest reaches out through ministry partnerships

like “Church Under the Bridge” for homeless people, through the association’s

three Baptist mission centers, and through sending inner-city youngsters — many

whose parents are prison inmates — to summer camps.

Champion Forest also provides major events, such as a “trunk or treat” fall

festival that drew about 10,000 people this year, primarily families, to

discover and experience Champion Forest outside the walls of the church. Its

four major Christmas events — “The Miracle of Christmas” — drew more than

12,000.

One event, entirely in Spanish, drew nearly 4,000 people. Seventy

people made professions of faith in Jesus during the Christmas outreach.

Northwest Houston is a diverse community and growing more diverse every year,

Fleming said.

The church’s thriving outreach to the Hispanic community is

unique in its approach.

“We don’t have a Spanish ‘mission.’ We’re one church in two languages,” Fleming

said. “That has been a major concept in growing the number of Spanish-speaking

members of our congregation. We’ve added Spanish-speaking and also African

American staff to reflect and reach our changing community. When I came, the

church had one African American ministry staff member, and only one part-time

Hispanic minister. Our staff is now growing in diversity, with more than 10

ministers who are African American or Hispanic.

“That is the result of a vision and an intentional effort to reflect our

community in order to reach our community,” Fleming said. “When a person comes

in, they look around and ask the question: ‘Is there anyone here like me?’ When

they see members and even leaders like themselves, that increases their comfort

level.”

Champion Forest’s commitment to reach its community is just more evidence of

its being an Acts 1:8 church that reaches out through multiple circles of

influence that eventually cover the globe.

“We’re building bridges to share the gospel with people from every nation,

right here at home,” Fleming said. “I think a lot of people come here because

of our programs and activities. They grow because of our commitment to teaching

the Bible. They stay because they get connected to something bigger than

themselves. They’re making a difference with their lives, and that matters.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist

Message, Dakota Baptist Connections and The Montana Baptist. The annual Week of

Prayer for North American Missions in Southern Baptist churches will be March

6-13 in conjunction with the 2011 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, with a goal

of $70 million to help pay the salaries and ministry support of 5,000-plus

missionaries serving in North America under the SBC’s North American Mission

Board. For more information, go to www.anniearmstrong.com.)

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