The Journey to "Go" Into All the World
First Baptist Church Benicia has a rich legacy that dates back to 1942: to see lives transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and the good of our world. It’s not a distinctive goal, and it’s not a revolutionary idea. But it clarifies our focus and keeps us passionately on mission.
We have four core commitments that we regularly emphasize as a church: worship, connect, grow, go. By far the greatest challenge is the commitment to “go.” It’s such a huge calling to engage needs of the world with the gospel—where do we start??? Our hearts are there, but at times it is hard to know how to accomplish this. We seek to live this out in our local context, but we want to “go” on a global level, too. We don’t always have the tools to do that.
In our quest to find ways to “go” I spoke with some pastors in the area. One solution came from the leadership of a large church. They have a focused effort—and what they do seemed scalable for our smaller church of 200 members. I was intrigued. And the more I heard, the more interested I became.
This church described a partnership they have with an indigenous church in Uganda. The two churches leverage their strengths to minister together. The U.S. church is well-resourced; the Ugandan church is well-positioned in a poor community. The Ugandan church knows the neediest families and serves them through a child development program the church deploys. The program helps alleviate the generational legacy of material poverty but also addresses the spiritual poverty by introducing the children to the gospel of Christ. The children are helped, and benefits spill over to their families. It is simple and sustainable spiritual impact through the generations.
This resonated with me because FBC’s values align with this church partnership model. This immediately seemed like a great opportunity. I went home and pulled up the website, compassion.com, and asked someone to contact me. What followed was an Ephesians 3:20 experience—God doing immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.
Lorie, a member of Compassion’s Church Engagement team, contacted me, and we started a conversation about how FBC and Compassion could do ministry together. My wife, Amber, and I have sponsored a child with Compassion for years, but I learned so much more about Compassion’s ministry philosophy as Lorie and I talked over several months.
The indigenous church invites neighborhood children to participate in the child development program that the church hosts. Compassion provides the program’s curriculum, and the church provides the staff who invest in each child spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally, and even economically. Compassion trains the staff and holds them accountable for programmatic outcomes, financial stewardship and child protection.
Meanwhile, in Benicia, we embraced this vision of partnering with a church in the developing world. We understood the great need in West Africa, and Compassion was excited about a particular church in Togo who was ready to launch a child development center.
Through the generosity of our congregation we had some additional funds set aside for missions, so we invested in the start-up expenses for the child development center through Grace Baptist Church in Dauora, Togo. This in itself was already exciting for our church! The fun didn’t stop there, though. Next we planned a Compassion Sunday at FBC to find sponsors in our church for the kids at the new Daoura child development center. We planned for weeks and set the bar high. Our goal was to sponsor 50 kids at the Dauora child development center.
Depending on God
I still remember how I felt the morning of our Compassion Sunday. I’m usually hesitant to set goals with specific numbers, so it was a little scary for me to put this goal out there. But our missions team was on board, and our staff and board of directors were excited about it. We just didn’t know what the response would be. This drove us to prayer.
Tim Keller says, “To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.”
This is exactly how we felt. We had done a lot of work and promotion to prepare for the day but ultimately we knew the results were in God’s hands. We knew that whatever came would be because of His power and grace.
The response that day at FBC was overwhelming. It was probably one of the moments in my leadership journey so far that has brought the most joy. Because we focused on a specific village and a specific church in that village, there was a tremendous sense of being on mission together. It just connected with our members. This was a slam-dunk, practical way to live out our core commitment to “go,” in Jesus’ name!
To say we met the goal would be an understatement. It’s more accurate to declare God’s incredible faithfulness to the kids in Daoura by saying the response at FBC far exceeded what we asked or thought—by 50 percent! We ran out of child packets long before our Compassion Sunday was over and we had to request more for the next Sunday! People had this sense of “Our church is doing this, and I don’t want to miss out. I want to be a part of this!” People were eager to respond and sponsor a child, impacting their lives forever. God is so faithful and our congregation is so generous. The sense of unity and joy this act of giving brought to our church is beyond explanation.
We're Just Getting Started
We continue to look for ways to encourage Grace Baptist Church in Dauora as they invest in the children—our sponsored children—at their child development center. What started out as a need-based transaction with a church in Togo has become a relational connection with the members of our church in Benicia. The fact that we are reaching into Dauora—together as a church—is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhilarating. It’s truly been a rallying point, and it has given a new dimension to our core commitment to “go.”