Nev. — Home mortgages are underwater by
$60,000 or more for many members, but giving to North American missions at First
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
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
“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.”
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
“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
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
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,
“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.)