'More for Christ' commitment lifts rural church to new heights
MEXICO, Ky. (BP) -- Members of Mexico Baptist Church in rural Kentucky decided in the early 1940s to begin increasing their Cooperative Program giving toward 25 percent of their undesignated offerings. By 1978 they had reached that goal, which they maintain to this day.
Now they're rallying to do "More for Christ."
Pastor Tim Burdon, who has led the Kentucky church 10 years, describes its members as "gracious and giving."
"I prayed about it and decided I wanted to present a concept to the church: Doing more than we've ever done before," said Burdon, who first heard the motto during the Kentucky Baptist Convention's annual meeting.
"The Lord has blessed us," Burdon reasoned. "Let's give more to missions through the Cooperative Program."
The church, which draws 225 people to worship on Sundays, adopted a seven-point plan in 2011 with a goal of achieving it in three-five years. Cooperative Program giving "was number one of our seven-point plan" to support missions and ministry throughout the state, nation and world.
"It's a basic plan that all of us as believers ought to be doing," Burdon said. "It's not anything new, but whenever we put it into this More for Christ framework and asked the church to adopt it, everybody just caught the vision. It just challenges us to do more this year than last year."
In addition to giving more annually to the CP, the plan includes:
-- Each member giving $3 a week more through the church;
-- Having more members involved in the church's visitation and outreach through G.R.O.W. (God Rewards Our Work) evangelism aids;
-- Providing more witnessing training to better equip members to reach others for Christ;
-- Members spending more time alone with God in prayer, Bible reading and Bible study;
-- Increasing Sunday School attendance and
-- Increasing mission work.
Now in its third year of doing "More for Christ," Mexico Baptist has started additional ladies' Bible studies, gotten more men involved in disaster relief and home repair ministries, and has edged its Sunday School to within 25 of a year-end goal of 200 active participants.
"That group of folks in the 1940s had a vision that we're carrying forward," Burdon said. "If we grow the church, win the lost, disciple them, teach them the importance of giving, the Cooperative Program and the total giving to the church will increase naturally."
Burdon said he personally and Mexico Baptist as a congregation are strong proponents of the CP.
"More churches grouped together can do more than one church alone," the pastor said. "A small rural country church that doesn't have much, it's tough for them to do missions by themselves, but when they realize that by pooling their money with other churches, even though it's a smaller amount, it's still important.
"Our church is a very conservative, Bible-believing church that believes in tithing and believes in missions," Burdon said. "It's all part of being obedient. The Cooperative Program is part of the ingrained belief system of the church."
Mexico is an unincorporated community in western Kentucky near the Ohio River and six miles south of the Crittenden County seat town of Marion. Mexico was established when US Steel started mining for fluorite. The mine has since closed and today the area is primarily agricultural, with fewer than 10,000 people living in the county.
"By far the biggest challenge," Burdon said, "is reaching the many who are lost in our community, but at the same time, we're in a rural setting. We visit sometimes the same people over and over. We could double our congregation if we reached everybody we've visited."
Also in community outreach, Mexico Baptist hosts four annual events, such as each February's Wild Game Supper. On Mission Night once a month, the church's Woman's Missionary Union and Baptist Men meet to decide on their upcoming local projects, such as taking food to those recovering from surgery, cleaning people's yards and "being in a rural area, somebody may be down and we go feed the cattle," Burdon said. The church also has a clothes closet.
Mexico Baptist is debt-free and has a building fund in place for expansion.
"In 2006 we provided additional education space, kitchen and fellowship hall," Burdon said. "Sanctuary seating is very tight right now. We've renovated it already and it's at max. These are exciting things.
"The people have really had a mind to work," Burdon said. "They're missions-minded but they're also evangelistic; they care about the lost."
The church was cited during the 2013 annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention as one of the top three churches in the state for per capita giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.
Burdon at that same gathering received the state convention's CP Distinguished Leadership Award.
"Tim Burdon serves a church that has always exhibited a sacrificial commitment to reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ, KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said. "Tim has led Mexico Baptist to maintain and strengthen that commitment and is very deserving of this award."
Associate Executive Director Curtis Woods added, "Tim Burdon is a man of conviction. He stands head and shoulders above most in his commitment to, and confidence in, the genius of the Cooperative Program."
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press. Ken Walker contributed to this report. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).