BY Win Dolan
Highlights of Our Story First Baptist Church: 1867-2007
A year long series that originally appeared in the Tidings (article #3)
From the time of the apostle Paul, churches and individual Christians have sought to carry out Jesus’ command to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel.” Our own church has always been a mission- minded body, but the focus of interest and participation has changed greatly. The recent visit here of Glenn Chapman, from Congo, illustrates how modern missionaries see their task. They seek to meet the needs of the people for medical care, education, agricultural advancement or community development. Among other things, Glen operates a boat service on the Wamba River, carrying people and goods to villages not reached by roads, and providing a gospel presence as well. Not forgetting the spiritual side, such missionaries leave as much as possible in the hands of well-trained local pastors. In a real sense, missionaries in such areas are trying to work themselves out of a job as local organizations and pastors take responsibility.
This approach contrasts with the frequent failure of early missionaries, some of whom tried directly to convert the people to Christianity and a whole new kind of life without regard to the existing culture. An excellent book called ‘Things Fall Apart’ shows how a Nigerian tribal community was essentially destroyed, although with the best of intentions, by a misunderstood mission effort along with the civil authority of colonizing Europeans.
As early as the 1880’s our church made several inconclusive efforts to plant outposts or new churches in Dayton, Whiteson, Gopher Valley, Sheridan and perhaps other places. None of these appear to have developed into lasting organizations. It was not until 1907, forty years into the life of FBC, that the Rev. Charles Rutherford was designated as ‘our’ church missionary when he was voted full support by the church for his ministry in India. With additional denominational backing, his work continued successfully until his retirement in 1943.
Our church now supports the Unified Budget of American Baptist Churches, USA, which includes mission work both in the United States and abroad. We have tried with some success to maintain a designation of 12% of our annual budget for this purpose. In addition, we encourage members to contribute to four annual special offerings (America for Christ, One Great Hour of Sharing, World Mission Offering, Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering), as well as designations for a great variety of special mission interests. A recent summary of such gifts in the Annual Report lists thirty-five causes, both within the budget and individually, to which our people have given in 2006. It appears that mission support is alive and well in our 140th year.