4 decades of CP Missions key to church's growth & outreach
MECHANICSBURG, Penn. (BP)--"We are what we are because someone took the effort and commitment to found us 41 years ago," says pastor Chuck Teague of Country & Town Baptist Church.
Passing on the church planting legacy is part of the 700-member Mechanicsburg, Pa., congregation's commitment to missions -- globally through Cooperative Program (CP Missions), plus the Keystone Baptist Association the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey and other avenues, the pastor said.
"The Cooperative Program is an efficient way to do missions," Teague said of Southern Baptists' method of reaching people with the gospel nationally and internationally by maximizing the efforts and resources from local churches.
At home, Teague said, "The transformation of lives primarily comes through local churches," in explaining his congregation's interest in helping other churches get started and get growing. "There needs to be a local church for everyone in every place."
With a constant focus on kingdom growth, the church known as "C&T" balances outreach and inreach. In its 41 years it has helped start seven churches and shored up several more as they needed help. C&T in that same 41 years also has built thriving ministries to children, teenagers, and college students, as well as adults from young singles to "seasoned."
About 125 people attended Sunday morning worship when Teague was called as pastor 19 years ago. Today, more than 500 attend -- either an early traditional or late-morning contemporary service. Two Sunday Schools also are offered.
Sunday evenings include discipleship classes for adults and youth and Bible club and choir for youngsters. Midweek activities start with a church dinner; age-graded missions activities, choir, praise team and prayer groups fill out the evening.
About a dozen members of the youth ministry have made a commitments to vocational Christian service in recent years, while "seasoned" adults stay active with a variety of service-oriented options, such as once-a-month meals served at an area homeless shelter.
As another outreach of the church, its Early Childhood Center has ministered to families in greater Mechanicsburg for more than 20 years. About 60 children are enrolled in the full weekday program; another 50 participate in a twice-weekly Mother's Day Out program.
The church has launched preparations for a small-group ministry, a new approach for children's ministry and a master plan for facilities development.
Country & Town currently is sponsoring Cross Point Fellowship, a church start in a middle-class community about eight miles northwest of C&T, midway between the state capital and the county seat. C&T also helps an inner-city church in nearby Harrisburg and is in the talking stage of supporting a Hispanic church start in Harrisburg. They also host a Korean Bible study twice weekly.
Almost 20 percent of the church's budget is allocated for missions; 13 percent is committed to global outreach through CP Missions. In addition to church planting and service ministries, other causes include the Keystone Baptist Association, campus ministries and direct support for members who take short-term mission trips. This summer members served as volunteers in China, the Ukraine, Poland, Alaska and Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania.
"We try to be diligent in serving the Lord," Teague said. "Our resources are limited. We try to be good stewards of them." Each year, he said, "we crunch all the numbers and all the needs" to reach "what we feel God's will is for us to give this year. We strive to give well beyond the tithe to missions.
"One of the things I emphasize is we give real dollars," the pastor continued. "The key to our percentage giving is that we give in real dollars that are used by real missionaries as they do God's kingdom work around the world. Our world missions ministry budget is well over $100,000 to needs beyond ourselves. CP Missions is the bulk of it -- almost $84,000 -- because of its global scope."
Betty Garner, chairman of Country & Town's missions development council and former Woman's Mission Union director, said, "I believe the Lord blesses churches that look beyond themselves. I think that's why our church has been so blessed over the years -- because of the missions outreach.
"The Cooperative Program is a good system that was worked out to give money in one place and it would be divided up and go where it needed to go," said Garner, who joined the church 34 years ago. "I just think it was a matter of practicality to do it that way. It is a way we can be involved all over the world."
And locally the church's concern for the spiritual growth of its members is clear from even a cursory look at its website -- www.ctbc.org.
The church's motto is "Come Grow With Us." Jeremiah 17:7-8 is its scriptural watchword: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord... He will be like a tree planted by the water... its leaves are always green and it never fails to bear fruit." Located in one of the nation's premier apple-growing regions, C&T's logo is an apple tree.
"Country & Town seeks to be a nurturing congregation where members can grow closer to the Lord in a desire to serve him," said C&T webmaster and church treasurer George Porterfield. "We receive our nourishment from Christ, who enables us to grow to become more like him."
Its Discipleship Training focuses as much on inreach as it does outreach. As noted on C&T's website, "We seek to worship God in spirit and truth. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires us and the Word of Truth that teaches us. A church will thrive only as it submits to the guidance of both."
Carrying through with its tree theme, "root" courses in Discipleship Training are designed to assure assimilation into Christianity and the local church, such as New Members, Survival Kit and How to Study Your Bible.
"Trunk" classes are intended to strengthen and mature a person's faith: Seven Promises of a PromiseKeeper, Parenting by Grace, Experiencing God and more.
"Branch" classes equip mature Christians for service, such as Leading a Small Group, Decision Time and Teacher Training.
"Fruit" classes enable participants for evangelism and missions: Building Witnessing Relationships, Starting a New Work, Short-Term Missions Training and more.
Church members have responded by increased involvement in church and community ministry, and in participation in mission trips near and far.
"We sincerely want others to feel a part of what God is doing in our midst," Teague said. "What you see today is not the culmination, but a further milestone in the journey of faith we have traveled together. The Cooperative Program is more the global ministry that also helps support our state convention, but these things all support one another, and that's the essence of cooperation."
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SPREADING THE WORD and FOOD FOR GROWTH.