HYATTSVILLE, Md. (BP) -- "The beauty of the Cooperative Program," as Rolando Castro sees it from a church's perspective, "is that you can be involved no matter how big you are, no matter your location."
Currently serving as interim pastor of a Hispanic congregation in the metro Washington area, Castro added, "You can be involved in reaching the world with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ."
Castro has led Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Maryland from giving zero to missions to 10 percent of their offerings through the Cooperative Program to fund missions and ministry by the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
When a church extends itself beyond its neighborhood through the Cooperative Program, it can become involved in international missions and in planting churches across North America, Castro said, describing its CP giving as "the first step in increasing involvement in missions, in evangelizing."
"I think churches should be spending their resources -- actually God's resources -- to Kingdom first and then to themselves," Castro continued. "This is probably reversed in Christian churches in America. If you are giving to the Cooperative Program in this way, you can say 10 percent of your income is going to missions. That would be a really good point to launch a missional mentality in the church.
"If we are giving, then the next step is to go, and the next step is to participate," said Castro, who also coordinates Hispanic church planting and evangelism for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. "You need to surrender yourself to be missional, and the first thing to surrender is money.
"I don't think God is giving us His resources to pay the bills" solely for church expenses, he said.
About 10 years ago, an average of 200 people participated in Sunday services at Primera Iglesia Bautista, located in Hyattsville, Md. But the number dwindled over time, and for at least two years the church was without a pastor. Castro filled the pulpit occasionally, and when he was asked to serve as a long-term interim, he agreed to do so if they would allow him to lead as a pastor would.
"Because they were ready to change, they agreed," Castro said. "Now it seems like everybody is on the same page. They really want to see something happen.
"And not only evangelizing, getting people involved in church, but being involved in other kinds of missions," said Castro, who is involved with a church plant in addition to his pastoral duties.
Castro would like to see something similar to Primera Iglesia Bautista's transformation take place across the two-state convention, where about 30 churches worship in the Spanish language. Three or four more are in the process of organizing, and one or two are actively planting churches. Read More