By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Dizzy Dean, a baseball great who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s, was known for his wit as well as his pitching.
He once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
Bragging is bragging, but of course it does help when you can back up your talk with actions and Dizzy Dean could do that.
Proverbs 27:2, however, cautions: “Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips” (KJV).
But Scripture also tells us: “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31, RSV).
As a long-time member of Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, I am going to boast on what the Lord has done in our church.
On Aug. 3, Tulip Grove held a major celebration to mark the occasion of being debt-free. It probably is the first time in the almost 40-year history of the church that we can make such a claim.
We burned the note on our office and educational building which was constructed in 2003.
Other than the original sanctuary which was constructed in 1976, all of the additional construction (including a new sanctuary and Christian Life Center) was built under the leadership of Ken Clayton, who retired in 2007 and is now serving as pastor of Pine Eden Baptist Church in Crossville.
Three years after current pastor Gerald Bontrager joined the staff in 2009, he led an intensive effort to pay off our debt.
Aug. 3 was the culmination of that effort.
What I am most proud of is that since the church began its three major building programs in the mid-1980s, Tulip Grove continued to give 10 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.
Trust me, there were times during those years when money was tight and we were not meeting our budget. I remember business meetings when discussion took place on whether we should cut back on our CP giving and increase it when things improved.
We were blessed to have leaders in the church then who were wise enough to know that if we reduced our percentage we likely would never return to the 10 percent level.
That’s a lie Satan likes to use often, not only in churches but our own personal giving as well.
“You had that extra expense of the transmission going out in your car. God won’t care if you deduct that money from your tithe this month.”
Follow that logic and soon you will stop giving to the church. But guess what, those “emergency” bills continue.
We have to resist those lies from Satan and give our tithes and offerings to God as Scripture instructs.
So, even through the lean years, we continued to give 10 percent through the Cooperative Program.
God blessed in a mighty way. Not only did we continue to pay off our note, we found additional money for church-sponsored international mission trips as well as mission projects in Tennessee and across the nation.
All of this took place while we joined with thousands of other churches to support missions and ministry endeavors in Tennessee, across North America, and round the world by giving through the Cooperative Program.
During our celebration service, Pastor Gerald paid tribute to Bro. Ken and founding pastor John Kurtz for their visionary leadership. Most of all, however, he “bragged” on God for what He accomplished at Tulip Grove.
“We” couldn’t have built three major buildings and given hundreds of thousands of dollars to missions in Tennessee and worldwide had it not been for God’s hand upon us.
Members of Tulip Grove trusted God to provide and were faithful to obey and God blessed abundantly.
Pastor Gerald made it abundantly clear that this major achievement in our history was totally God. And it was.
When it appeared that we would likely pay off our mortgage this year, the stewardship committee only planned for six months of payments this year.
But our church, under our pastor’s leadership, approved a recommendation to add $22,000 (one month’s mortgage payment) to our church mission project’s account even though we are behind in our budget giving for the year thus far.
There’s no doubt in my mind that God will provide and by year’s end we will have met our necessary expenses and have the extra $22,000 for missions.
I have heard it preached all my life that “you can’t out give God.”
And you can’t.
I’m proud of Tulip Grove (and what God has done through our church).
Tulip Grove Baptist is living proof that churches can have major facilities, fund their own mission projects, and still give a significant amount through the Cooperative Program to support missions and ministries around the world that no one church can do alone.
To Him be the glory!