By Benjie Shaw,
BCM Director, University Of Tennessee Health Science Center
My introduction to McLean Baptist Church in Midtown Memphis was unremarkable. McLean was one of the many churches across the state the Tennessee Baptist Convention wished to recognize for uninterrupted contributions through the Cooperative Program since its inception in 1926. As a TBC staffer in Memphis, I had several churches with whom I was to make contact and, if possible, arrange a Sunday morning presentation to thank the church for their commitment to the Cooperative Program.
Being new to my position with Baptist Collegiate Ministries in Memphis, I was eager to make new contacts in the area and to express my gratitude to churches who contribute to the Cooperative Program. You see, Baptist Collegiate Ministries across the state of Tennessee are one of the myriad of ministries that receive funding from the Cooperative Program. While the details of each BCM’s funding vary somewhat, the vast majority of BCMs across the state receive funds for staffing and facilities from the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. Making contact with a church that had such a rich history of Cooperative Program giving that also called Midtown Memphis home was a tremendous opportunity.
The presentation that Sunday morning lasted all of three minutes, including a photo op with the pastor and the presentation of the nice plaque the church received from the Tennessee Baptist Convention. That morning I encountered an older congregation of about 30 folks who were extremely warm, friendly, and interested in learning about my work with BCM in Memphis. One member, Dianne Greenhill, introduced herself as an alumnus of both the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the two campuses on which the BCM is active in the metro Memphis area. Dr. Greenhill expressed an interest in the BCM’s work on the campuses of her alma maters, so I took her information and told her I would be in touch.
Our BCM is governed by a local board of directors. Knowing Dr. Greenhill’s connections with both local campuses we serve, I arranged a breakfast with her to invite her to serve on our board of directors. She accepted and has proven to be a valuable and knowledgeable contribution to our board.
That was last summer. Recently, Baptist Collegiate Ministries of Memphis (BCMM) held our annual fundraising banquet. While Cooperative Program giving provides most of our staffing budget and facility stipends for both of our campuses, the ministry budgets at both of our campuses come from local sources. BCMs across the state are funded similarly and receive funds from a variety of associations, churches, individuals, and fundraisers. Locally, seven churches include BCMM in their annual missions giving. With our eyes on expanding to additional campuses in the metro Memphis area, we chose to ask attendees at our banquet to go back to their churches and ask them to include us in their annual missions giving if they were not already doing so.
Two weeks later I received an e-mail from Dr. Greenhill informing me that McLean Baptist, the inner-city, elderly congregation of 30 or so folks, would soon be voting to include BCMM in their annual missions giving. Several members attended our banquet and came away encouraged by the work we were already conducting in the area. Consequently, they wanted to support our efforts to expand our ministry efforts to the best of their ability.
I am greatly encouraged and challenged by the example of this small congregation. In their heyday they were a large, vibrant church with thriving ministries. As time has passed, their numbers have dwindled. It would be so easy for them to circle the wagons, protect what they have, and shake their fists at the young folks who don’t seem interested in joining them anymore. Instead, they have resolved to selflessly and sacrificially support collegiate ministry in their area with a kingdom-first mindset by contributing over and above their ongoing Cooperative Program giving.
Thank you, McLean Baptist Church, for your kingdom mindset and your testimony of generosity. May the Lord raise up more churches like you across both our state and our convention.