Published December 16, 2004
Ways Baptist Church in Wrens didn't get the memo.
In order to contribute in a big way to missions, there are certain criteria for your church. Conventional wisdom says that in order to give big, you first must be big. Smaller churches simply don't have the numbers to create much of a ripple, let alone a splash, such logic says.
The picture shapes up something like this: The building must be large enough to dwarf a Wal-Mart. Parking assistants are needed to direct post-Braves-game-like traffic. Both middle and high school youth are given their own wings of the building in which to attract enough students to populate a third-world country.
On top of that, you need the right people in your membership to pitch in financially. You need bankers and large business owners. You need the guy who owns a car dealership.
Ways Baptist sits in the Stellaville Community outside of Wrens, about 30 miles southwest of Augusta. Driving up Campground Road, a visitor would see an old white church on one side and a cemetery across from it. The building would look pretty standard as far as country Baptist churches go. Vinyl siding. Metal roof. Go inside and see the burgundy carpet as well as the stained-glass windows depicting various scenes from the life of Christ.
Ways Baptist has a regular operating budget of $40,000. It averages about 40 in Sunday School. It sits in a rural area. Yet, this small congregation last year voted to raise the annual $36,238 needed to fund an overseas missionary through the International Mission Board's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Last year's sagging economy had left the IMB scrambling for funding. A situation was created of missionaries wanting to go, but having no monetary means by which to be sent.
Ways received its challenge when Mike Jones, a guest speaker from the IMB and brother of WBC member Donna Story, spoke of supporting missions in a big way. The members decided to pray it over for two weeks.
This is a congregation consisting mostly of people already retired. There are several teachers, mechanics and small business owners. Many are farmers. Some are on fixed incomes and drawing checks for disability. At the end of two weeks, the decision was obvious to all.
Find a way to give.
"It was a unanimous vote to go ahead with it," says Story. "At the beginning, $20,000 was taken out of the church treasury to set aside [to get started], but due to the number of contributions, that money hasn't been touched."
In addition to contributions from outside the church, members gave beyond their tithe. People found other ways to raise money. One 74-year-old member came out of retirement as a teacher. Her extra wages don't go to her fixed income, however. They are meant to support someone on the other side of the world.
Peggianne Chalker, the church treasurer, recounts the overall embracing of missions by the church. "We've always been a missions-minded church and carried out what our minds were set to do."
Being the person with closest perception of the church's finances, what was her reaction to hearing about the challenge?
"I was very much in favor of it."
For Leon Zeigler, deacon, it was about time. "We just felt like the last few years we were just there, and hadn't really done anything."
At the time of voting to provide the funding, Ways was without a pastor.
"You see the excitement and enthusiasm about it. For such a small church, it's a really big undertaking," says Wayne Turpin, who became the church's pastor this summer.
In August, the congregation voted to continue being the primary financial support of Kyle and Maya McLane, who serve in Livi, Ukraine with their three boys, Cannon, 6, Isaac, 2, and four-month-old Scotland.
In addition to finances, church members regularly send care packages of food, clothing and other supplies.
With a current "enrollment" of 40, Ways Baptist is learning a thing or two about numbers. It's a lesson in knowing who to trust and listen to in making decisions to impact the world for Christ.
And after all, who really pays attention to memos anyway?
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