Innovation, CP giving spur Oregon church's vitality

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Wednesday, January 03, 2018 (one year ago)

CORVALLIS, Ore. (BP) -- Because Grant Avenue Baptist Church trusts its long-tenured pastor Don Reeves, it was willing to embrace change, Reeves told Baptist Press upon his 23rd year at the church's helm.

The church of 190 Sunday morning worshipers in residential Corvallis, Ore., just added a second weekly service, is contemplating a third, and this school year welcomed about 80 college students, primarily Asian Americans.

"We changed the complexion of the church overnight. It's a phenomenal change," Reeves said of the church founded in 1956. "We became one of the most ethnically diverse churches in town and considerably younger.

Pastor Don Reeves
Photo courtesy of Grant Avenue Baptist Church.
"We changed some things intentionally," he said. "College students are more likely to respond one-on-one than to a public invitation, so we rely more on response cards. We also invited their worship team to take the lead on making our services more attractive to young adults." Reeves shares the pulpit with Bryan Bernard, college student pastor.

Grant Avenue Baptist's core mission remains the same: sharing Christ and building believers, Reeves said.

CP giving

One way the church advances evangelism and discipleship is by giving 12.5 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention's funding mechanism for ministry. Grant Avenue currently ranks 10th in CP giving among the Northwest Baptist Convention's 517 affiliated churches.

"We give it because we want to be involved in all the ministries of the SBC," Reeves said. "We want to be involved in sending people around the world to share the Gospel. We want to be involved with educating students to share the Gospel wherever God sends them.

"Giving to the Cooperative Program is just part of who we are," the pastor said. "Our church is committed to taking the Gospel to places we cannot go."

Grant Avenue Baptist understands the benefit of seminary education because 20 of its leaders, the pastor said, have been students at the Pacific Northwest Campus of Gateway Seminary. The church hires college students to work part time, and members see the benefit of that education as their young leaders mature in effectiveness, Reeves said.

Local missions

Grant Avenue Baptist, like many churches in Corvallis, ministers through the ecumenical Love in the Name of Christ ministries (Love INC). The outreach provides more than a dozen "Gap Ministries" to help fill gaps in services and resources in the community that are not currently or sufficiently being met. Among the many Love INC services are taking people to doctors' appointments; helping people relocate; running a dental clinic; maintaining medical supply and hygiene closets, and visiting those with special needs.

The church itself maintains a food bank available to Love INC ministries, and cooperates monthly with another church to support the Stone Soup feeding ministry, Reeves said.

Asian American college students attending Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Corvallis, Ore., pack and deliver lunches for a feeding ministry to the homeless that is supported solely by student resources.
Photo courtesy of Grant Avenue Baptist Church.
The last four years, college students attending Grant Avenue Baptist have led their own weekly ministry to the homeless. Students purchase supplies, pack 20 brown paper bags with breakfast each morning and deliver them Tuesday through Friday.

"The thing I love about it? These students are doing it on their own," Reeves said, "They're out there at 7:30 in the morning, finding tents in the trees, taking food to the homeless and trying to tell them about Jesus."

Out-of-area missions

Challenged to adopt an unreached people group, seven years ago Grant Avenue Baptist adopted three high-altitude villages in the mountains of Peru. A Southern Baptist missionary suggested Peruvian villages that were unreached and too remote for him to regularly reach.

"We're teaching English in the high school, obviously trying to start a church, trying to help in the community where we can," Reeves said. "Mainly we do Bible studies, try to lead people to Christ and disciple them to the point where hopefully they can establish their own autonomous church."

The church will take mission trips this year (2018) to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and a Native American reservation in Arizona, as well as three annual trips to Peru. The church also plans to send a team about 200 miles south to Medford to help with a church plant there.

"Missions is a major focus of our church," Reeves said. "As a whole our church has seen the tremendous need to live out the Great Commission. We want to be a church that gives and goes, not one that just gives or just goes. We will continue our strong support of CP while endeavoring to find hands-on mission opportunities for our church family."

Several youth and young adult members of the church who took mission trips are preparing for career missions, Reeves said. "One spent several years producing the Jesus film in different languages and another is a career missionary with the [International Mission Board]." Senior adult members of the church have also taken international mission trips, including a trip to minister to the children of missionaries.

Church changes

When Reeves had been pastor for 14 years, the congregation brought in a consultant who determined the church was unbalanced in terms of its members' ages, and was not contemporary enough to effectively reach its community.

"We hired a young pastor (Josh Howeth) to work with young families and music," Reeves said. That was going well, but the need to better minister to college students kept surfacing. It also became obvious that Howeth, who Reeves said was doing an excellent job, was to pastor the congregation's new church plant in Corvallis. About 35 people went with Howeth to start the new church, The Branch, in 2012.

Grant Avenue Baptist rebuilt its base of young leaders through a relationship with the Corvallis Korean Church, a financially struggling ethnic congregation that had met at Grant Avenue Baptist for 33 years.

About 120 students at Oregon State University are part of the Epic Movement, a ministry of Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Corvallis, Ore.
Photo courtesy of Grant Avenue Baptist Church.
As the Korean congregation struggled, Reeves said, its English ministry under the leadership of Bryan Bernard flourished and led to a college church plant at Oregon State University. Within a year the college outreach, Mosaic, grew to 120 in weekly attendance and baptized 20 converts.

But with Corvallis Korean Church unable to continue paying both the salary of its pastor and Bernard, Reeves said, Grant Avenue Baptist absorbed the bill and tapped Bernard as its new minister to young families while he continued to lead Mosaic. In time, Mosaic voted to dissolve and join with Grant Avenue Baptist as its Epic Movement college ministry.

"The students wanted to see multi-generational Christianity in action," Reeves said. "Many of them come from homes of nonbelievers and they wanted to learn from older adult believers, couples and families, and Grant Avenue was excited to add the vitality of the students to our church.

"We are now looking at how we can continue to reach out," Reeves said. "We are willing to do whatever we need to do to reach people for Jesus."

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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