What do an electrician, printer and insurance executive have in common, besides all being part of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mitchell, S.D.?
Pastor Calvin Jones asked each one last year to bring a five-minute daily video devotional for church members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The messages were a way of keeping in contact with church members and offering support in the uncertainty of 2020.
“The Lord led me to these three men because of their walk with the Lord,” Jones said. “They’re all three different in terms of styles of preparation, delivery and content, and that’s a good thing.”
One of the lay leaders, Ted Christianson, joined Cornerstone Baptist soon after he retired from an insurance firm in Pennsylvania and moved to Mitchell with his wife Linda.
“I look forward to it [giving a video devotional] every week,” he said. “I have to do the research and get a real feel for God’s wonders on earth. It grows your faith to study God’s Word and to be involved.”
Christianson also teaches adult Sunday School and brings the Missionary Messages as part of the Sunday morning service.
“We make sure our people understand where our mission money is going,” he said. “I highlight one missionary story each Sunday. We hear from international missions, North American missions and Dakota Baptists in an effort to show where the Cooperative Program giving is being utilized and how Jesus is being shared with the lost.”
Cornerstone Baptist allocates 12% of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptist churches work together to provide for God’s kingdom work throughout the world.
“We started giving 10% in 2012,” Christianson said. “That was what was indicated we should strive for. The next year we increased to 11% then to 12. Why? We have a commandment from the Lord to participate in the Great Commission.
“We have the heart but we don’t have the funds to travel around the world and see what needs to be done. The Cooperative Program lets us do more than we can do on our own.”
God blesses Cornerstone Mitchell for its faithfulness and stewardship in supporting missions, Christianson said, adding: “We have to be supportive of the Lord’s church. We are His body of believers here.”
When the church’s basement flooded from heavy rains in 2019, members were blessed by God with funds to replace flooring and walls and install a new pumping system.
That turned out to be the beginning of a major renovation and more of God’s provision. In April 2021, the congregation dedicated its renewed worship area to the Lord’s work.
“Where does the money come from when you have 35 people? It’s all the Lord’s doing,” Christianson said. “We’re debt-free. We don’t owe anything.”
Pastor Jones concurred. “God gets the glory for it all. We praise His name! He has been wonderfully amazingly at work here.”
Like most congregations across the world, the pandemic brought unexpected challenges to Cornerstone.
“COVID shut us down in March ,” the pastor said. “In struggling to find God’s direction as to ‘what do we do?’ He led me to do a 5-minute video on a Sunday morning. This video was uploaded to the church website. This was a first as we had never videotaped or live streamed a service. Then I realized we could videotape services and upload them to the church website, and that this would help keep our people connected and encouraged. God opened the door and we simply followed.”
A volunteer recorded the pastor, pianist and special music team on Thursdays and Fridays, and uploaded the video Sunday mornings.
The Siouxland Association of Southern Baptist churches helped purchase equipment for better video production, as the church worked toward live streaming.
“Before COVID we were regularly using a call-out system for phone messages to church members and friends,” said Carol Jones, the pastor’s wife. “So we adapted the call system to offer encouragement and scriptural insight on a daily basis.”
Christianson and fellow members Mike Baker, an electrician, and Kenneth Hoffman, a printer, were making the two-minute daily phone calls Monday through Friday, which turned into five-minute daily video devotionals.
“The Sunday service videotaping was blessed by God, and He showed us we could expand to doing daily devotional videos instead of phone calls,” Jones said. “Now we continue to offer the devotionals on the church Facebook page and on the church website.
“Encouragement, scriptural guidance and prayer are all part of what’s included. Personal experience of God’s blessing and guidance come through as well. The men study and speak from their hearts as God leads them.”
A recurring theme in the devotionals is the daily need to trust and to look to the Lord for direction.
Vacation Bible School (VBS), after being canceled last year, is being planned for August.
“Kids relate to us doing VBS,” Carol Jones said. “With us doing the school, it makes it easier for the kids to come back and be part of church. It’s about building relationships that grow over time.”
The pastor is careful to give “all praise to the Lord Jesus,” he said. “He has seen us through and has blessed us and is enabling Cornerstone Baptist Church to be a light in the darkness of today.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)