DETROIT – Travis Whittaker of Mile City Church encourages the Detroit-area church plant “all the time” to give.
“Every Sunday before we have our time of generosity, we always say, ‘Hey, 11 percent of every dollar that comes in goes right back into planting more churches like us,'” he said.
That 11 percent includes the church’s gifts through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified missions and ministry giving plan. Cooperating churches give a percentage of their undesignated tithes and offerings to support the work of their respective state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention causes.
With Mile City Church among Michigan’s top Cooperative Program supporters, Whittaker said he and the leadership team consistently cultivate generosity by sharing how the gifts are used to change lives and multiply churches.
Church members see a video of a new Christian nearly every week sharing “what God’s done in their lives for them to come to know Christ,” Whittaker said. “So we always say, ‘Because of your generosity, stories like this take place. Thank you for investing and building the Kingdom and helping multiply new churches. When you give to Mile City, you’re not just paying the light bill. You’re a part of something way bigger.'”
Mile City, based in Plymouth in western metro Detroit, has a second location in South Lyon 15 miles to the northwest and has planted two other Detroit-area churches, the latest on Sept 8. Two more are being prayed for and planned.
All this in just four years.
The Cooperative Program is one of the “way bigger” things Mile City Church participates in. Whittaker, who grew up in the area, has led the church to give more than $30,000 through the Cooperative Program so far in 2019, said Tony Lynn, director of missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. The church ranks No. 3 in CP giving among Michigan churches.
“Humility and generosity are traits evident in Travis Whittaker,” Lynn said. “Those traits have been embedded within the culture of Mile City.”
Whittaker said he reminds members that “bigger” things also include supporting ministries far from Detroit, including “what Send Relief is doing across the nation when hurricanes come” and crises occur. Send Relief is the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry, which offers resources and training to help churches engage in and support domestic relief efforts.
Mile City also directly funds local church planting with an additional 5 percent of its tithes and offerings, Whittaker said. The church participates in church-planting movements of Send Detroit and Send Network Michigan, as well as NAMB’s Send Network nationally.
“From the beginning,” Whittaker said, “we’ve tried to be a church that plants churches. We launched with a church planter on our team then we sent him out two years ago.” Then, “Five months ago we launched another location of Mile City.” And on Sept. 8, church planter apprentice Roland Caldwell launched The House inside an inner-city Detroit high school.
“We sent out The House and their team to go plant in an underserved part of Detroit,” Whittaker said. “To put that planter on our stage and we were able to write him a $20,000 check, it just inspires people to give.”
Caldwell and his family joined with the Mile City team for a year after going through Send Network Michigan’s church planter assessment process. “Mile City has definitely been a blessing to what we’ve been trying to do in Detroit,” said Caldwell, who was born and raised in the city. “My family is here, my friends are here, so we understand the desire and the need in the city.
“Our vision for our church is just simply helping people build up our values” – faith, family and future – and to “show people what the Kingdom looks like even when hope has been lost for many people,” Caldwell said. The House wants to “give back to the community and lift people up and show them what Jesus Christ looks like.”
The House’s Kickoff Sunday Sept. 8 “was an amazing kind of time,” Caldwell said. About 100 people attended the service at historic century-old Pershing High School. “We were blessed,” he said, to have a group from Mile City, including Whittaker, attend and show support.
“A lot of people in that area just wanted to come out and see what was going on because it’s the start of school in that community.” So the church offered free school supplies. “We were able to definitely make an impression,” Caldwell said.
After his message about faith from the story of David and Goliath, eight people responded: four who expressed their faith in Jesus and four who rededicated their lives to Christ. “That was awesome,” Caldwell said.
Whittaker, in summing up Mile City’s journey so far, said, “[We] wanted to plant churches. It’s just been crazy to see how God has brought these planters on my team. And they’ve been willing to be a part of our Send Network through Southern Baptists.
“We need a lot of good healthy churches in Detroit. It’s the right scenario where you just need more good churches to reach people in the next generation.”
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.