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Church sees joy in missions giving
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
July 08, 2011
7 MIN READ TIME

Church sees joy in missions giving

Church sees joy in missions giving
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
July 08, 2011

CARSON CITY,

Nev. — Home mortgages are underwater by

$60,000 or more for many members, but giving to North American missions at First

Baptist Church

in Carson City, Nev.,

is on solid footing.

The church, which runs about 85 in worship each Sunday, gave $59.85 per person

in 2010 through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering — and a total of $5,087.06.

Per-person giving to Annie across the Southern Baptist Convention is $14.78,

according to the North American Mission Board.

“We give to Annie to support family and friends who are like family,” pastor

Thomas Chandler said. “It’s purely by the grace of God that people have

responded so well in an area that’s been so hard-hit by the economy.

“We give to Annie Armstrong to impact people eternally,” Chandler

continued. Referencing 1 John 1:3-4, he added, “The greatest joy we know is

seeing others find the same joy. It’s a joy made complete in seeing others come

to find the joy in Jesus we have found.”

First Baptist’s story shows the

interconnectedness of Southern Baptists, and how Southern Baptist missions

commitment strengthens individuals, churches, state conventions, North American

and international missions and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at

large.

Ministry to carnival workers is one way First Baptist Church in Carson City, Nev., reaches out to its community. The church provides warm clothing, kind words and the gospel message.

Chandler has a “treasure box” in his office

given to him shortly after he became pastor five years ago by one of the church’s

longtime members. In that box is a rolled-up piece of paper — a list of

missionaries the church was praying for on their birthdays. The first name on

that list: “Thomas Chandler (Jennifer), Anglo church planting, West

Virginia.”

“I was blown away when I read that,” Chandler

said. “Long before I came here, this church was praying for me. And when I went

to seminary, I went to Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where the

associate pastor was Mike Holton, who I now know was a former member of this

church. I was in his Sunday School class. He was teaching me. The ministry of

this church was affecting me even then, preparing me to pastor them now.”

Puzzle pieces

Chandler said he has been “blessed

by the Lord” to see “how a few pieces of the puzzle fit together of how

Southern Baptists cooperate in missions, how we support missions and mobilize

churches to pray, give and go.

“When I was a church planter in West Virginia,

I also was a campus minister. I led one young woman to the Lord and later

married her to a young man I was discipling,” Chandler recounted. “I took them

on their first-ever mission trip to Utah, going door-to-door witnessing in an

area that was 90 percent LDS (Mormon). It was a life-changing week for them

that has had a ripple effect that continues to this day. Today, they’re serving

in an ultra-sensitive position through the International Mission Board.”

While that couple and about 10,000 other missionaries are serving across North

America and throughout the world, First Baptist

Carson City continues to pray for them, gives to support them in God’s Kingdom

work and serves like them at the local level.

First Baptist’s local outreach includes a

pregnancy care center, food and other provisions for the needy, nursing home ministry,

grief support and conflict resolution.

All the while, Nevada, which

leads the nation in the number of foreclosures in addition to suffering amid

the nation’s gambling addiction. People who used to travel to Reno or Las Vegas

can now find a “gaming” establishment within an hour or two of their homes.

And, as a result of decreased tourism and gambling, Nevada

had a 13.9 percent unemployment rate this spring, the highest in the nation,

according to Bloomberg’s Businessweek.com.

Despite the economy and the fact that several church members are government

employees with an increasingly uncertain tenure, First Baptist

Carson City has a longstanding commitment to giving, in part because they

understand the need for and the blessing of giving to missions, Chandler

said.

“I have been used by God to refine their conviction,” Chandler

said. “Some people were already giving. Some folks were looking for an

opportunity to be directed and taught. Teaching on tithing was strengthened,

missions and the needs were explained, and they heard about a better vehicle

for their giving,” he said, referring to the Annie offering.

“I led the church to see the benefits of instituting a united missions

offering,” the pastor continued. “We emphasize the four offerings in their

seasons — Annie (Armstrong) for North American missions, state missions, world

hunger and Lottie (Moon) for international missions. We emphasize missions

weekly.”

Each worship service begins with a missions video.

‘Seasons the nation’

“We have tried to teach folks that you give through — not to — the Cooperative

Program,” Chandler said. “It’s that

channel of giving through which you support 10,000 missionaries around the

world.”

First Baptist’s “Great Commission Giving”

offering has been taken up weekly since 2006, Chandler

said, explaining that giving weekly to missions is an idea he got from Paul

Jones, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist

Church in Billings,

Mont.

“When we started the offering, we looked at our giving the previous five years

and used those percentages as the percentages for Great Commission Giving,” Chandler

said. “We found there was 15 percent going to the Annie Armstrong Easter

Offering, for example, so Annie now gets 15 percent of Great Commission Giving.

“The vision God has placed on my heart is that we become a church that

increasingly reflects God’s attributes,” Chandler

said. “God is the most generous giver in the universe. He did not give us just

enough grace to get by. He is not stingy with His mercy.”

Chandler’s commitment to missions

giving through the SBC’s Cooperative Program

(CP) is strong because he has seen it in action. It helped provide his

education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. CP and the Annie

Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions provided him with a

salary as a church planter in Michigan and West Virginia. He continues to have

friends and family members who benefit from Southern Baptists’ missions giving.

“The United States

is not a Christian nation,” Chandler

stated. “I’ve seen a lot of surveys, and I would work out that the most

generous number is that 20 percent of Americans are Christian. But even at that

level, if 20 percent of your food was salt, you should be able to taste it.

“That’s it! Annie Armstrong seasons the nation,” the pastor said. “Annie

Armstrong is a primary tool we have as Southern Baptists to mobilize the salt

out of the shaker — evangelizing and planting churches.”

During his five years as First Baptist’s

pastor, Chandler said he has focused

on unifying the congregation so it can be as strong as possible as it reaches

out locally, nationally and internationally.

“In these economic times, there has never been a discussion about decreasing

our missions giving,” Chandler

said. “We want our giving to reflect who He is. We should give in a manner that

makes much of who He is and what He has done for us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is

managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections

and The Montana Baptist.)