Rodeo Week- Thursday

I am going to put all the opening day rodeo information on my final rodeo page. Because, I want to focus on the day’s events before the opening night’s activities. Paul, Christine, Cody, and Tiffany have done so many things right when I look at the first two full years of their lives in Livingston. They came with a sense of calling and servant hearts. It is easy to see they love Montana and the people. The lead  in (pre-deployment) phase paid off. The time spent in prayer, visiting the area, and building partnerships allowed them to accomplish most of what they have done. This week is a great example.

Work crew removing the renovation debris.

Work crew removing the renovation debris.

Spotswood Baptist Church from Fredericksburg, Virgina, sent a mission team to help with rodeo week. Spotswood is Paul and Christine’s home church prior to their enrolling at SEBTS. This has become an annual mission trip for the church. They arrived on Tuesday and helped reset the tent after Monday’s storm. Since that time they have picked up trash each morning at the rodeo grounds, hauled out the debris from my going berserk on the new location’s interior, and anything else that needed to be done.

Cody and Paul will be the first to tell you that they would not have the respect and acceptance they enjoy if it were not for mission teams. In Acts the apostles were faced with a ministry decision, would they do a good thing and take care of the widows and orphans, or would they stick to their main responsibility. Church planters have only so much time and energy, especially when they have to work another job as Paul and Cody are now doing. Church planting is labor intensive; survey work, block parties, sports camps, construction projects, and other projects are beyond the resources of most plants. Projects that would take  the planter and his wife weeks to do are done in days. The planters can burn out doing good things, and fail to do the job they came to do. The Spotswood team pick up the trash around the rodeo grounds in about an hour. It would take a whole day otherwise.

Spotswood work team manned the hospitality tent serving the rodeo cowboys.

Spotswood work team manned the hospitality tent serving the rodeo cowboys.

I have always recommended to my planters that they develop partnerships with multiple churches. The partnerships should be beneficial to both parties, have a known life span, and prioritize prayer and participation over finances. I would rather have a church’s prayers and people than its money. A  check will help for the short term, but a mission team and prayer will help the planter find people who will become part of the plant. Of course, if the partners are praying and participating they will usually also help financially.

Partnerships help the church planters in another way. I had several families in my church in Soldotna, Alaska, who joined from an independent church background. They often asked why we were Southern Baptists. I tried to explain but it never clicked. Then we had a mission team come to help us build our new facility. Those guys came from Mississippi and worked twelve hour days to raise our roof and side walls. They stayed with our church families and many became our good friends. After the first team left both families separately came to me and said almost the same thing, “Now we know why we are Southern Baptists. We have never had another church ever help us do anything.” Churches working together to accomplish what one can not do alone is at the heart of the Cooperative Program.

I love the Cooperative Program and I am afraid that a new generation of SBC ministers do not appreciate the gift that it is. Our men and women recieve a quality seminary education at 1/3 the cost of other schools and then some go out and start churches that have little involvement with the SBC and the Cooperative Program. My church in Alaska was blessed by financial and prayer support from the HMB through the Church Growth Assistance program. It was a blessing to recieve the frequent cards from fellow Christians who were praying for our work. My brother, Don, and his family served for ten years in the Philippines with the Foreign Mission Board (IMB’s old name). His daughter, Shannon, and her family served in South Asia with the International Mission Board. They did not have to spend the majority of their time fund raising as other denominations’ missionaries must do. And, I appreciated the manner in which IMB took care of the family after the death of my grandnephew, J.D. There are some good organizations involved in missions and church planting, and some mega-churches are accomplishing great things. But, as good as Acts 29 and other groups are, they will never be able to match the work of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program. SBC churches fund over 5,000 international missionaries and 5,000 ministry positions in North America.  The Cooperative Program will wither on the vine in the next several decades unless the younger generations understand its uniqueness. Today’s younger generation of Southern Baptist are looking for “value added” organizations. Don’t expect them to support a program just because it is the denomination’s.  They want to know that they are going to benefit from the participation. They do not support  impersonal programs. The mission education ministries of the SBC: Mission Friends, R.A.s, and G.A.s have been replaced by AWANA and other approaches that do not focus on missions. Partnerships can revitalize mission giving through the Cooperative Program. When a mission team works with men like Cody and Paul and sees the lostness of North America putting names and faces on the 210 million plus unchurched of North America, they increase their giving to missions. When that is connected with the realization that because of the Cooperative Program they are not only helping the work in Montana, but the U.S., and the world; missions becomes personal. I believe that participation in our mission organizations needs to benefit the contributing churches, but our churches also need to remember that they are needed by ministries in Montana and other tough places. Sometimes you need to give without demanding a “return.”

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