HARRISON – First Baptist Church believes its purpose is to be a bridge to Jesus.
The church where about 350 people participate in Sunday morning worship reaches out in Harrison and spans the distance across Arkansas, north to Canada and other international locations to tell people of God’s love for them.
In addition to the way First Baptist members serve hands-on and financially in their community and state, they generously support missions and the cause of Christ through the Cooperative Program (CP), the way Southern Baptists work together in state conventions and throughout the world.
“For me and our church, it’s important we’re part of the bigger picture,” Rob Davis said. He’s been pastor of First Baptist since April 1999. “The Southern Baptist Convention with the Cooperative Program has the best system for the financial support of global ministry.
“I think the Cooperative Program is the design God has for us,” Davis said. “It’s for every person no matter what their social or financial status is, to become effective in God’s work worldwide.”
First Baptist’s support of missions through the Cooperative Program equates to 11 percent of the church’s annual budget, but is a line item rather than a percentage, and 25 percent of over-budget income also goes to missions through CP.
“Part of my responsibility is to teach the younger generation about the Cooperative Program and what they’re part of by giving to the local church,” Davis said. “If they’re systematically giving, they’re systematically giving to places they’ll perhaps never go to.
“If pastors like me don’t teach the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program model, people don’t understand what they’re a part of globally, and they’ll stop seeing it as needed and stop participating,” the pastor continued. “It’s not a sacred cow. It’s a vital ministry opportunity we can’t do without.”
First Baptist maintains a cross-generational ministry with a next-generation focus. Midweek activities reach about 80 children, plus youth, and there are Bible study and missions opportunities for all adults Wednesday nights and throughout the week.
“God created us to be a bridge to Jesus. Jesus came to be the bridge to God,” declares the church’s website, fbcharrison.org.
First Baptist has become part of the city’s solution to homelessness by its participation in Hope Cottages, an eight-unit complex designed to help homeless women with children. The church has adopted one of the cottages, which involves stocking it with furniture, housewares and helping the tenant with the bureaucracy that is part of re-entering mainstream America.
“This is only a drop in the bucket of Harrison’s homelessness,” Davis said. “But if we can over the course of a year’s time get two mom-led families stable … we’re going to have a tremendous opportunity to minister long-term while they’re here, get them involved in our church, and let them grow in the Lord too.”
Other outreaches: hosting a summertime “We Love Harrison” pool party at a public swimming pool, constructing wheelchair ramps as needed and partnering with another Harrison church to provide backpacks stuffed with a weekend’s worth of easy-to-prepare meals for students in area schools who might otherwise not have much to eat on days school is not in session.
Short term missions
Youth from First Baptist have traveled each summer for the last four years to participate in inner-city missions in St. Louis. Internationally, they have gone to El Salvador the last two years.
Every year the church participates in the Arkansas Baptist Convention’s Acts 1:8 One Day Missions Trip, when people from churches across the state focus all their attention on one locale, spreading the gospel as they labor in a variety of ways.
First Baptist recently completed a six-year commitment to Haiti, where each year they would minister via healthcare and construction projects. For the last two years, members have also been going to Suriname, on the northeast coast of South America.
A former member called to minister in the Quebec City area in Canada, led to the church’s involvement there, and the North Arkansas Baptist Association’s partnership in Manitoba precipitated First Baptist’s involvement in Winnipeg. A couple from the church responded to a call to help with a church plant in Herriman, Utah, a bit southwest of Salt Lake City, so the Arkansas church is helping there too.
All the partnerships involve prayer, financial support and hands-on mission trips.
“Going on short-term mission trips gives us a broader picture of the spiritual need,” Davis said. “I’ve never had someone come back from a mission experience – especially to a third-world country – who didn’t have a better perspective on their life and the church.”
“The reason mission trips are so great is there are no distractions,” the pastor continued. “Once they go they’re more likely to buy into Great Commission locally as well as worldwide.”
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.