by Karen L. Willoughby
CLEARWATER, Idaho (BP) –- First Baptist Church of Clearwater only draws about 40 worshippers Sunday mornings, but makes a global missions impact through the Cooperative Program.
Bill Horn, bivocational pastor of the Idaho church, extols the Cooperative Program as unique.
“There’s nothing out there like it. The Cooperative Program takes a rural church like us that doesn’t have a large budget or mission teams we can send, but we can send our money and see evangelism done around the world through us,” Horn said. “That makes us missionaries too. Whether we’re giving our money or helping people in the community, when we realize we’re missionaries, we are more serious about being one.”
About 10 years ago First Baptist increased from 19 percent to 21 percent its contribution to the CP, Southern Baptists’ mechanism to support the missions and ministries of state conventions and the International Missions Board.
“We actually had a business meeting where we were looking at reducing it,” Horn said. “At the end, the folks decided rather than back up, they decided to see whether or not it would work to give more.
“I’m not saying He’s blessed us because we gave,” Horn said. “I’m just saying God’s blessed us.”
Perhaps 3,000 people live in the rural area First Baptist serves, sitting at the edge of the Nez Perce National Forest. In part because of Horn’s long tenure, the church is a blessing to its rural home, hosting weddings and funerals, assisting families after house fires and other personal tragedies, cleaning chimneys, giving people rides or picking up items at the nearest Walmart some 110 miles away on the Washington border.
“They look to us as their pastor even though they’ve never darkened the door of the church,” Horn said. “It’s an opportunity to see how God works in the rural setting. It’s kind of a typical thing for the number of people who should be there, but aren’t.”
“People [elsewhere] can get discouraged, but for us, we are where we are, and it is what it is.”
Horn strives to present Scripture in a way the congregation can understand and relate to. After a 35-year career at a sawmill, Horn butchers cows and pigs and does carpentry. Twice a month, he works with the prison ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cottonwood, Idaho, about 40 miles west of Clearwater.
The work keeps Horn in touch with the community.
“Our biggest opportunities are still to keep reaching out to people — the young ones and the old ones,” Horn said. “We don’t have a praise band or musical instruments on stage, so there are people going to other places if they’re looking for entertainment.”
The church tends to draw the middle-aged and elderly who perhaps aren’t as energetic as they once were, Horn said, but mission outreaches remains important.
“Every opportunity we can, we have missionaries come in to tell what they do, and we just had a missions fair” in conjunction with Whispering Pines Baptist Association, Horn said, with which the church affiliates. “The church has always been involved in missions. Though sometimes they look at it [seasonal giving goals] like it might be over what they’re able to do, God has never let them down.”
In 2006, First Baptist expanded its aging 26-by-50-foot building, demolishing part of its “L” shape and adding to the main structure. Today, the church is 44 by 50 feet, handicap-accessible, and has a 12-by-12 foyer and bell tower.
The construction project provided “day care” space for two developmentally delayed sisters, 79 and 80, and their health-care providers, and to ease the strain on relatives with whom the sisters live.
“It gives them a place they’re able to go to, no matter the weather,” Horn said. “It’s something God has been in, and He’s blessed it.”
The project led to an increased awareness of the needs of seniors in the area, and recently money was given to start a senior lunch program.
Other churches have exhibited the Southern Baptist cooperative spirit by helping First Baptist Clearwater, Horn said. A missions team from First Baptist Church in Powell, Tenn., built a new roof, Mountain View Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn., helped with Vacation Bible School, dry wall installation and painting, as did churches in the Whispering Pines Baptist Association.
First Baptist supports the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, and an individual missionary in Eastern Europe through a relationship began in the 1950s.
In 2013, First Baptist gave an offering to help print 11,000 copies of the New Testament in Turkish. Also last year, the church doubled to $100 its monthly contribution to a national pastor in Turkey who distributes the New Testaments.
“They’re going through a lot of persecution,” Horn said. “We don’t have a lot of folks, but we’re debt-free and we give what we can.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.
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