First Baptist Church of Farmersville is a Southern Baptist church. That is very important to some of our members. Others may be members of our church in spite of this affiliation. It is hard to know how all of our members feel about our denominational affiliation. It is also hard to know how much information each of our members has about our partnership with other Southern Baptist churches. Once we are all well informed about the breathtaking scope and depth of our Southern Baptist partnership, that partnership might be more important to you than you realize.
The purpose of this edition of Wider World is to acquaint you with the ministries of FBC Farmersville that take place through the family of Southern Baptist entities with which we are connected.
The Cooperative Program
Of every dollar that you put into our offering plate (unless you specify another use for it), we give 10% through the Cooperative Program to fund the ministries of the SBC. Why 10%?
Not because anyone forces us to give that much. Like every Southern Baptist church, our local church is autonomous. What we do with our money is a decision made by this congregation and this congregation alone. We have freely chosen to support the ministries of the SBC at this level.
We give at this level for several reasons. First, we believe in the worldwide ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention and we want our church to have the privilege of taking part in them. When I hear about churches planted, converts baptized, and believers discipled around the world, I feel great to know that FBC Farmersville played a part in it.
Second, we know that many of our members have embraced the biblical principle of tithing, and we give through the Cooperative Program at a level that is something of a "tithe" for our congregation. The Bible doesn't require that we do this, but we believe that it sets a good example for each of our members. When we ask you to give sacrificially, we're only asking you to do what our congregation is already doing: Taking 10% off the top of our receipts and giving it immediately to others instead of spending it on ourselves.
Third, the worldwide need for the gospel is tremendous and a lack of money is often one of the key obstacles preventing the further spread of the gospel. Although we face obstacles in spreading the gospel throughout Farmersville, our obstacles could be overcome while we live on 90% of our offerings and send 10% for the nations.
|The Cooperative Program|
Paying a missionary you'll never meet to share the gospel in a language you'll never understand in a place you'll never go with people you've never heard of at an event you'll never find out about-that's just not very self-gratifying. But our mission is not about self-gratification. It is the opposite of self-gratification; it is for the glory of the Lord. The Cooperative Program is the best way to obey His Great Commission that I've ever encountered. That's why we support the Cooperative Program.
Acts 1:8 and Our Southern Baptist Identity
You already know that FBC Farmersville is an Acts 1:8 Challenge
congregation. This means that our congregation is committed to being involved in a comprehensive strategy to fulfill the Great Commission locally, across our state, throughout the United States of America, and around the world. Acts 1:8 was obviously written long before the birth of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we could be an Acts 1:8 sort of congregation without being a Southern Baptist church, but being Southern Baptists makes it easier for us to be an Acts 1:8 Challenge church. Here's how.
First, before we talk about the individual elements of the challenge, I should mention that our sister churches in the Southern Baptist Convention serve the important purpose of reminding us in the first place that we need to be a church living out Acts 1:8. Where did we come up with the idea of the Acts 1:8 Challenge? It is an emphasis of the Southern Baptist Convention (see here
Our "Jerusalem" is Farmersville. How does it help us to reach Farmersville that we are a Southern Baptist church? Our partners in planting Iglesia Bautista Immanuel were sister Southern Baptist churches within the Collin Baptist Association
. The association has provided funding for the church, helping it to stand on its own two feet.
The ministries of our local church have been profoundly affected by the Cooperative Program. At least five people at this church, including our four pastors, have studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Fort Worth. For the past century, the majority of our pastors have had some sort of a connection with SWBTS, and the past three lead pastors have been engaged in doctoral studies there while serving this church. We have also sent many people out from FBC Farmersville who have studied at SWBTS, going back at least as far as Bo and Dick Baker.
If we have had good preaching, we can partly thank SWBTS for it. If we have had good pastoral care or administrative leadership, SWBTS deserves some of the credit. The quality of our youth ministries and the content of our teaching ministries have been affected by this one school too much for us to calculate it. What's more, being close enough to the seminary for people to be able to commute from here to Fort Worth has, down through the years, affected whom we've been able to call to serve here. Because of the Cooperative Program, everyone who goes to SWBTS from our congregation pays approximately half-price for his theological education.
Also, we have sent students to Southern Baptist camps and on Southern Baptist mission trips. We have heard Southern Baptist preachers coming on special occasions to preach in our pulpits. When we sought to launch a special-needs ministry here, we sent workers to the Southern Baptist retreat center in Glorieta, NM, to receive training from Southern Baptists.
We've had some great opportunities to see first-hand what the SBTC is doing. Chuy Avila, with whom we worked in Laredo, is an SBTC missionary. Our church participated with Chuy in a city-wide outreach in Laredo in March, and what we saw of his ministry there made me thankful that, through the Cooperative Program, we are making his ministry possible.
Many of you will also be familiar with the SBTC newspaper, The Southern Baptist Texan
. In my opinion, it is the best newspaper in Southern Baptist life. Anyone who wishes can receive this newspaper for free, thanks to the Cooperative Program. If you aren't receiving The Southern Baptist Texan
at home, just click this link
and email your address to the staff to subscribe at no cost to you.
Our state convention does, in my opinion, the best work of any state convention in the USA, and it does it while operating on the least CP percentage of any other state convention. Only 45% of our Cooperative Program dollars remain in Texas; the remaining 55% are forwarded to national and international missions needs. This is in contrast to a competing state convention in Texas that keeps 80% of its CP dollars while forwarding only 20%. I'm so thankful for our partnership with the careful stewards at the SBTC.
There are two Southern Baptist churches within a mile of one another in Farmersville, as well as some other congregations who are preaching the New Testament gospel. Every hamlet in Eastern Collin County has its very own Southern Baptist congregation. You could very easily conclude that the United States of America is over-churched.
But not all of the United States is like Eastern Collin County.
A friend attended a prestigious university in the Ivy League and had to drive 45 minutes just to find an evangelical church to attend. You have a better chance of meeting a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ in Beijing, China, than in Boston, Massachusetts. Enormous swaths of the American population live in areas virtually untouched by the ministry of a gospel church.
Aware of this profound need, our church partners with the North American Mission Board
of the Southern Baptist Convention to proclaim the gospel and plant churches throughout the United States and Canada. The NAMB is supported by our Cooperative Program gifts.
|Revive This Nation|
We have directly pursued mission partnerships in Kansas and Arkansas in the past decade. Also, through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
, members of our church have responded to some of the most serious disasters of our era, including Hurricane Katrina. From Ground Zero to ice storms in Oklahoma, Southern Baptists are present quickly when people are suffering to provide relief. When you give to our church, you are giving to the third-largest disaster relief organization in our nation (behind the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army). Over 90% of the meals that the American Red Cross serves at disasters are actually provided and served by the Southern Baptist Convention.
Right now we are exploring a possible opportunity to support a new church start in Montana. When there are places as near as the confines of our own nation where everybody speaks the same language as we do and where the gospel need is as profound as it is in foreign lands, we have an obligation to do all that we can to share the gospel in those areas. The Southern Baptist Convention provides a strategy for doing so into which we can easily fit, knowing that our work is coordinated with that of other congregations to reduce duplication and to make sure that we are as effective as we can possibly be.
The Uttermost Parts of the Earth
Since 1845, we have made international missions the central focus of our work through the Southern Baptist Convention. Our largest entity is the International Mission Board
. It receives half of the Southern Baptist Convention's national budget. It was the first entity that the Southern Baptist Convention created when it organized. We are a Southern Baptist church because we want to see people of every tribe and tongue accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
Yes, our church is involved in direct international missions. But our international effectiveness would be greatly blunted if we were not partnering with our sister Southern Baptist churches. We go to Macau, but when we go there we work with Southern Baptist missionaries trained in Southern Baptist seminaries working to accomplish a Southern Baptist strategy to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in China.
The job of global missions is simply larger than our church can possibly accomplish. We are in China, but what about Tibet? We are in London, but what about Paris? Can one church really spread the gospel throughout the world?
As a part of a partnership of more than 40,000 churches, we can. We support more than 5,000 missionaries laboring in every conceivable place on the planet. Many of them cannot publicize their names or their locations because their assignments are too dangerous to reveal.
Because we are serious about spreading the gospel throughout the entire world, we are a Southern Baptist church. The 10% that we give through the Cooperative Program may be the most effective money that we spend, viewed from God's perspective.
If you are new to the Southern Baptist convention, perhaps you're thinking, "I sure am glad that he wrote all of this. I didn't realize everything that FBC Farmersville was doing through the Southern Baptist Convention!" What you may not realize is that a lot of your fellow members who have been Southern Baptists all of their lives are probably thinking the same thing.
We're busy preaching the Bible and doing the local work of our congregation. We don't take a lot of time to blow the Southern Baptist horn around here at FBCF. Many of us are under-educated about our partnership with our sister churches. In one way that's good, because preaching and working are more important than denominational promotion. In another way, it's bad, because you deserve to know how much more you're accomplishing than you may have realized before.
Southern Baptists are far from perfect. I could have written just as lengthy an email about our many flaws of yesterday and today. But even with all of those flaws in full view, I have no reservations about our partnership through the Southern Baptist Convention. This is where we belong, and I am convinced that God is glorified through and pleased with our Southern Baptist family.
First Baptist Church of Farmersville
Not Ashamed of the Gospel
There are many sound practical reasons why we are a Southern Baptist church, and many of those are listed in the column at left. The Southern Baptist Convention is, after all, a task-oriented body-a para-church ministry that exists to assist our church to accomplish important jobs. The practicality of our convention matters greatly.
But our partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention arises as much out of what Southern Baptist churches believe as it arises out of what the Southern Baptist Convention does. We belong in this family of churches because we share a common core of beliefs.
Southern Baptists preach the New Testament gospel. We are evangelical churches. We point people to the cross of Jesus Christ. We believe that every human being is lost and destined for eternity in Hell until he or she repents of sin, trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, and is converted. We embrace it as our task to confront people with this truth and to invite them to respond. In a world full of liberalism and pluralism, Southern Baptists are not ashamed of the gospel.
Southern Baptists believe in the inerrant truth of the Bible. At First Baptist Church of Farmersville, we teach the entire Bible from Genesis to the Revelation to be the revealed, perfect, inerrant word of God. No matter which human he employed for which particular book, God is the author of every word in the BIble. In this belief, we are not alone in the Southern Baptist Convention; this is a key aspect of our shared confession of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message.
Southern Baptists believe in the importance of New Testament churches. The Baptist renewal movement is, at its heart, a movement to renew the nature and organization of the church. The Bible reveals what every church's mission ought to be, who its members ought to be, who its leaders ought to be, what its message ought to be, and how it ought to conduct itself. Departing from this New Testament pattern leads to decadence in the churches.
Southern Baptists believe in the biblical pattern for families. The heart of a society is its families, and our society is stabbing itself in the heart. Families are weaker today than they have ever been in the history of our land. The solution is found in the teachings of the Bible. God's plan for families will obliterate the ills of our society. Southern Baptists stand for traditional family values against the radical feminist and homosexual agendas that are victimizing our children and destroying the fabric of our communities, and we are proud to stand with them.
Southern Baptists believe in religious liberty.
All people deserve the chance to hear the gospel. All people deserve the chance to receive the gospel. All people deserve the chance to live out the teachings of the Bible. All people deserve a chance to reject the gospel and to follow a lie. If people can't say no to the gospel, then their yeses are meaningless. Southern Baptists have consistently defended the religious liberty that we enjoy today. As our liberties are threatened more and more in the future, Southern Baptists like Dr. Richard Land and his colleagues at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
will be a voice advocating for our rights.
Southern Baptists believe in the sanctity of human life. Few groups have been more consistently supportive of the rights of babies to live than has the Southern Baptist Convention since 1979.
"Can two walk together unless there be an agreement?" the Bible asks. We are in agreement with The Baptist Faith & Message. We are in agreement with Southern Baptists. For these reasons, we are thankful to identify ourselves as a Southern Baptist church.