19,000 crosses and CP extend Colo. church's ministry reach
BAYFIELD, Colo. (BP) -- An exhibit of 19,000 white 12-inch crosses rotates among various locations in Bayfield, Colo. The crosses are an outreach of First Baptist Church.
The Crosses Project, seen only in the town of about 2,500 people, vividly illustrates the 19,000 children worldwide who die each day from hunger and poverty. The Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention helps the church respond to the global need.
Randy Ash has served as pastor of First Baptist in Bayfield the past eight years. The church attracts 120 to Sunday worship. Ash said 10 percent of the church's undesignated offerings go to the Cooperative Program. He added that it illustrates a commitment to fulfill the Great Commission.
"God's hand has been on this church because this church has always seen beyond itself," Ash said. "It's the opposite of a fortress mentality. The Cooperative Program helps us be external in its view of ministry."
"We are a small church, and we understand the concept that we can do more together than we can alone," Ash said. "Our bottom line is a passion for Christ."
For Ash, the Cooperative Program is even more about discipleship than evangelism. Ash disciples four to six men at a time, grooming them to disciple others in turn, and thus fulfill the Great Commission.
"It's a passion for Christ; that's the bottom line," he said. "It's being Christ in the community. It's an external view to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community and the world. It's about pursuing, promoting and protecting the passion for Christ, because all ministry action stems from a passion for Christ.
"We're looking beyond ourselves. We give God all the glory and praise for what He accomplishes through His obedient and humble servants."
First Baptist Bayfield ministers locally in a variety of ways, but never loses sight of global needs. The Crosses Project is the brainchild of First Baptist member Gordon Herrick, who teaches math at Fort Lewis College in nearby Durango. Herrick recommended planting the crosses for a month at a time in various locations around southwestern Colorado for maximum impact and visibility.
The visual display is intended to help people understand the reality of poverty and encourage their financial support of such program as the Southern Baptists' Global Hunger Relief.
"It only takes $1 to feed a child for a day," Herrick wrote on Facebook.com/CrossesProject. "It is estimated that if the contributions to combat world poverty were to increase by just 10 percent of their present levels, the problem could be eradicated in 10 years."
First Baptist Bayfield has a long-held reputation in its community for being a help in time of need. An offering for local benevolence is collected the first Sunday of each month for various needs, Ash said.
"Electric bills, rent, food, tires, car repairs … You can almost name it and we've helped with it," Ash said. "A foreign exchange student came to us for help with a $3,000 dental bill. We built a ramp for a lady with a disabled child."
A noon meal is a new church outreach, offered to the public weekdays in the church's fellowship hall. About 350 people participate each week; the church allocated $12,000 for the 2014 summer-long program.
"It was Amy Peterson's heart to do this," Ash said. "With the economy like it is, there's a lot of need. It's a full meal; we pray with people, give out Bibles and tracts. And several points of benevolence have opened up as people coming to the lunch have talked with us."
The church also conducts a prayer ministry in the public square. Several times a year in various locations, the church erects a beach-type canopy with the sign "Need prayer? We will faithfully pray for you." The church last utilized the prayer station at July 4th activities.
"There's nobody standing in line [to be prayed for] but you get a lot of looks," Ash said. "The only grocery store in Bayfield is very open to us putting it up on their parking lot. I'll sit there three, four hours, playing my guitar while waiting for people to stop.
"The ones who do stop are desperate, hurting, and when no one is there, it's a good time for me to spend quality time with God."
Other local efforts include prison and jail ministries, seasonal recreational ministries and, during the school year for the last 20 years, the Bible memorization program Awana, which has drawn as many as 95 students at a time.
"Our church turns out in a big way to do Awana," the pastor said. "We have a lot of adults who turn out because it's such a great blessing."
The church has planned an August disaster relief outreach in northern Colorado to remove mud from peoples' homes that accumulated after spring flooding.
A former First Baptist Bayfield youth pastor is serving at orphanages in Ukraine. The church helps him financially and sends missions teams to support his work, though a trip there this summer was cancelled because of political unrest with Russia.
The legalization of marijuana has created new ministry concerns, Ash said.
"Colorado has become the number one tourist destination in the United Sates because of legalized marijuana," he said. "This summer is different from any previous year because of it. I'm just asking God, 'What do we do?' People are moving here for the same reason."
Ash continues to ask the question, "How does this church minister to this new culture?"
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).