By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
STANTONVILLE — When Pastor James Stophel joined four other pastors and the director of missions of Shiloh Baptist Association recently to hear a Tennessee Baptist Convention staff member, he didn’t hesitate to ask how a small, rural Baptist church could respond.
Stophel said he was glad for the challenges presented by the Five Objectives of the TBC but initially his opinion was that the $3 million goal for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions “will scare most of our churches to death.” In other words, most churches need the statewide goals broken down to “realistic numbers they can understand,” he noted.
Stophel asked Willie McLaurin, the TBC staff member leading the meeting, how many churches were in the TBC and learned there are about 3,000.
So, said Stophel, for instance, the goal to increase giving to the GOTM to $3 million by 2024 could be broken down to 3,000 churches each giving $1,000.
Stophel admitted that after looking at a report on his church, West Shiloh Baptist Church, Stantonville, whose GOTM giving had declined over the years, his church had a long way to go to help meet the objective.
Last year West Shiloh Baptist only gave $75. But the pastor went home from the meeting and soon decided to accept the challenge.
“The Lord began to break my heart. I messed up.”
So he presented the challenge to the congregation and West Shiloh Baptist, which draws about 140 people to Sunday morning activities, accepted the challenge.
As Stophel thought about it, he decided the offering had to be taken up on more than one week because people are likely to miss giving and not make it up.
He also thought about the fund-raising done by companies which use visuals such as charts to help folks monitor the progress and buy into the challenge and the Salvation Army which collects money, mainly change, at Christmas.
Then Stophel came up with the slogan, “Reach for Change to Change Our Reach,” for the GOTM challenge at West Shiloh Baptist. To collect the money, mainly in the form of coins, church leaders put a big jar near the altar of the sanctuary so all could watch their progress and be motivated by it.
This year the church’s goal is $944 or 25 percent higher than the highest gift given in recent years. That is near the $1,000 that Stophel identified as the “sweet spot” for reaching Objective 5.
Only 13 weeks after the meeting and 10 weeks after the GOTM offering challenge was accepted by the church, members have given $750, reported the pastor. Members still have until Aug. 26, when the church will send in their total offering to the TBC, explained Stophel. It will go for the 2014-15 GOTM offering which concludes each year on Aug. 30. The church’s offering challenge is for 13 weeks.
Reports from members of the church are that they “are really not missing” what they have given, Stophel notes, and they are giving “above and beyond” their regular offerings. Students of the church have responded well to the challenge because it is easy to understand, added the pastor.
Though July offerings were down some, partly because of varying attendance during that summer month, the pastor is “optimistic” that West Shiloh Baptist will meet its goal.
He also expects the TBC to meet Objective 5 before 2024.
“It should not take us that long if we have a plan. We have a big God and I believe we can do beyond what we think we can do.”
Of course, not every TBC church can give $1,000, but there are medium size churches and big churches who will give more, he explained.
“It’s our community reaching other communities here in Tennessee.
“When I look around us I see a missions field,” observed Stophel.