Month: April 2015

Keller church realizes “the more we give, the more we have to give”

KELLER—Keith Sanders, pastor for the last 10 years of First Baptist Church in Keller, describes the church’s love for missions as “almost a wildfire out of control.”

Nearly every month, a First Baptist Keller member participates in a short-term mission trip; the congregation is about to begin its fourth church plant; and its Cooperative Program giving has more than tripled over the last seven years, Sanders said.

“The Lord has blessed our church tremendously, financially,” Sanders said. “We see a relationship between our willingness to give away and God’s blessings. We have found the more we give, the more we have to give.

“I believe in the Great Commission. The Cooperative Program is simply a tool to obey the Great Commission. We have seen from our mission trips that when the missionaries have the ability to stay on the field—rather than returning to the U.S. to plead for more financial support—how much more can be accomplished for the Lord.”

When Sanders became senior pastor in 2005, he hired Lawrence Duhon, a former missionary to Albania, as associate pastor of missions and evangelism.

“He has a great heart for missions,” Sanders said of Duhon. “He developed a unified strategy we’re still working with. We went from a Christmas offering to a year-round Global Impact Offering. That increased our mission giving 10-fold within just a few years.”

The congregation of about 1,300 Sunday morning worshippers also adopted an unreached people group in West Africa and has ministered and evangelized there as often as six times a year.

“We’ve seen many, many of those people come to faith in Christ,” Sanders said. “It was great for our church because we asked [the congregation] to pray, and upon [the mission team’s] return, the church heard what God had done. That led to a real spark in interest in missions.”

First Baptist Keller’s interest in planting churches has also grown with its commitment to missions.

“Church planting in the West is originally what I thought the Lord wanted me to do,” Sanders said. “But in God’s sovereignty, he has me holding the rope for others.”

So far, those “others” are First Keller’s church plants that have grown into Blue Mountain Baptist Church in Baker City, Oregon, where about 120 people attend Sunday services; Desert Ridge Baptist Church in St. George, Utah, where more than 80 attend; and Foundation Baptist Church in North Euless, Texas, launched in September 2014. Additionally, a church plant scheduled to begin this year in St. Marie, Montana, will be the only church in the town.

St. Marie was known as the Glasgow Air Force Base until it closed in 1976 and its 10,000 residents scattered. The nearly abandoned site is being utilized to meet the need for housing for Bakken oilfield workers, and about 600 people have moved there so far.

First Baptist Keller is in the process of purchasing an abandoned church for the price of taxes owed. Members plan to renovate the building in time to launch services in the fall of 2015.

“Our goal is to plant a church every three years,” Sanders said. “Our M.O. is that we don’t want to have satellite churches; we want them to be autonomous churches.

“We don’t rush in, because we don’t have all the answers, but our people are very open to be used by God,” Sanders said. “We’re ahead of the one-every-three-years pace we set nine years ago, and I hope we will continue to outstrip that.”

Strong relationships with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary help First Baptist Keller expand its Kingdom growth, Sander said.

“One of the best decisions we ever made as a church was to go to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” Sanders continued. “SBTC has always given more than 50 percent of its receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program. That is the thing that most attracted us.”

For 15 years, the church has hired seminary students as interns, to give practical experience that complements the theological education they receive. Sanders himself was a seminary intern at First Baptist Keller years before his pastorate there.

“We feel an obligation to these young men, to help them, because all of us on this staff [have] been assisted by others,” Sanders said, adding that with the church’s proximity to the seminary, “we feel God expects us to help.”

In the last 10 years, First Baptist Keller has produced pastors who have served in 14 states, Sanders said, and the congregation is energizing its emphasis on discipleship.

“You’ve got to keep the base strong so you can send people out,” Sanders said. “We’ve been going through the book of Acts for three years here on Sunday mornings. That’s where you really see missions. I don’t have to be the Holy Spirit to tell people this is what they ought to be doing. The Holy Spirit will take the words [of the message] and apply it to people’s lives.”

Young couples discover tithing as one of “marks of a disciple”

HUNTINGTON Before approving a budget for the coming year, members of First Baptist Church of Huntington know that they must commit to give as God has directed them. “It’s one of the marks of a disciple,” explained Pastor Darryl Smith as he led a panel discussion on tithing last year in preparation for a vote on the 2015 budget.

The East Texas church traces its history to 1901 after a revival team from nearby Lufkin held a brush arbor meeting on Main Street. A week later a group of people met to organize a Baptist church that has remained focused on the task of making disciples ever since.

“The way we deal with money is an accurate barometer of how we deal with God,” Smith shared. “Tithing is an acknowledgment that God is Lord over all our life.”

The church’s steady commitment to giving 13 percent of undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program extends its ministry well beyond the local community of Huntington to reach around the world.  The church’s contributions in 2014 placed it among the top 100 CP contributors in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention which recorded $78,529 in undesignated gifts.

This year Smith invited several couples who are in their 20’s to offer testimonies of how they had adopted the practice of tithing in recent years. “The future of the church is dependent upon this generation,” Smith told the congregation. “If we as a church do not teach and encourage and inspire the 20-somethings and 30-somethings to say, ‘God needs to be God of my finances,’ then you look at the church 20 or 30 years down the road and we are in trouble.”

The young adults acknowledged the value of incorporating a tithe into a family’s budget. “When we get paid and then we spend it and let it go out of the checking account and don’t pay attention, that’s when it seems to be tight,” one man noted.

“If I’m complacent it just goes and I don’t tell my money where to go. But when I budget, it goes in line with how God wants us to be good stewards of our money,” he shared.

Good stewardship is encouraged through the testimonies of missionaries invited to speak to the church. This year’s world missions offering goal surpassed the $10,000 goal to raise $18,000 for international, North American, state and associational missions.

In addition to local ministry and mission trips to Mexico and Muldova, First Baptist Church of Huntington adopted a people group in West Africa four years ago. “We go four or five times a year with two or three people,” Smith told the TEXAN. “

“Missions involvement is a key for getting them to buy into missions giving. “They know where the money’s going,” Smith said.

“Our members feel more invested as far as supporting the Cooperative Program.”

Taylor named “Man of the Year” by Grand Saline Chamber of Commerce

GRAND SALINE—The Grand Saline Chamber of Commerce awarded Southern Baptists of Texas Convention church planting associate Richard Taylor with its “Man of the Year” award during the chamber’s 58th annual banquet March 27.

Taylor has served as interim pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Grand Saline for about a year, and the congregation has flourished under his leadership. Taylor’s ministry at the church has been a model for racial reconciliation and was featured in the August 20, 2014 edition of TEXAN Magazine.

Lubbock pastor Jon Randles dies after battle with cancer

LUBBOCK—Jon Randles, pastor of Victory Life Church in Lubbock, died April 1 after an extended battle with cancer. He was 58.

Randles was known for his passion for evangelism, discipleship, missions, church growth and student ministry.

Randles co-founded Paradigm Bible Study in Lubbock in 1997, which has reached thousands of college students at Texas Tech University and other campuses. He traveled for many years giving talks at public and private high schools as well as businesses. He was also a sought-after speaker for college athletic teams, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) events, Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) conferences and student camps.

Randles pastored three Texas churches between 1977 and 1993 before starting the Jon Randles Evangelistic Association. He served as director of evangelism for the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 2007 to 2010 and became pastor at Victory Life Church in February 2014.

In March, Randles was privileged to serve as chaplain for both the Texas Senate and the U.S. Congress. He was a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Funeral services are being finalized but are tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, April 6, at First Baptist Church in Lubbock.