CP EMPHASIS: Pastor provides a living picture of the Cooperative Program at work
EDITOR'S NOTE: In recognition of the SBC's October emphasis on the Cooperative Program, Baptist Press will provide readers with extra news and information detailing the scope and depth of the Cooperative Program and its impact for the Kingdom. Using vignettes and profiles of churches and individuals, as well as historical and ongoing accounts, our intent is to explain the Cooperative Program not just as a funding channel but as one of the critical ties that bind Southern Baptists in voluntary fellowship for cooperative ministries and missions.
HOLLIS, Okla. (BP)--Members of First Baptist Church in Hollis, Okla., have an edge when it comes to understanding the work of the Cooperative Program: A living CP picture steps into the pulpit every Sunday.
First Baptist's pastor, Jim Westmoreland, was born and raised on the mission field, the son of now-retired International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries James and Nema Westmoreland who served in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
"I can put faces to the Cooperative Program for my church," said Westmoreland, who emphasizes to the congregation that the Cooperative Program does more than support Baptist entities.
Westmoreland is not the church's only personal connection with the Cooperative Program. Members Jared and Rebekah Motley were appointed as missionaries with Southern Baptists' IMB last year.
"CP takes the Gospel to individual people," Westmoreland said. "It's important for us to do our part even if we are a small church in a community that is not growing." Hollis, population 2,200, is located on the plains of Oklahoma near the Texas Panhandle, where the flat landscape is broken up with canyons. Farming is the community's mainstay. The town boomed in the 1960s and '70s when agriculture was in its heyday.
Today, First Baptist nevertheless gives 27.6 percent of its undesignated receives through the Cooperative Program, in keeping with the way Southern Baptists work together the Acts 1:8 way -- supporting state, national and international missions and ministries at the same time.
The church's somewhat isolated location makes them wary of outside influences, so its members support authentic ways of missions giving such as the Cooperative Program, Westmoreland said.
"Cooperative Program giving has always been important to the church," Westmoreland said. "They recognized their responsibility through the years to join with others and be a part of a worldwide effort."
A strong Woman's Missionary Union and men's ministry have kept missions in front of the people and nurtured CP support over the years, Westmoreland said.
Mission trips to Nicaragua, Honduras, South America and other places also have helped maintain the church's mission passion. Two church members, a pharmacist and a rancher, work regularly with medical missions and veterinary medicine missions teams.
Westmoreland also credits the 112 year-old church's commitment to putting love in action through the Cooperative Program to a long line of pastors who supported it and to the church's contact with missionaries through the years.
Locally, "Mission Hollis," a mission service project to help beautify the city square and struggling businesses, yielded positive results for both the church and community, Westmoreland said. The church averages nearly 170 in worship on Sundays, while a heart for missions is taught to children through the recreation-based TeamKid discipleship program that draws an ethnically mixed crowd of 200 on Wednesday nights.
Marilyn Stewart is a freelance writer and member of at Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.