By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
Two years ago, the church adopted a mission strategy that focused on taking the gospel “across the street, across the states and across the seas.” The local component of the plan has led to a dramatic increase in the church’s giving through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions — from $805 in 2016 to nearly $17,000 this past year.
“We knew we needed to be greater partners in terms of taking the gospel to our neighbors who live in our state,” said pastor Clay Hallmark, who initiated the strategy shortly after arriving at FBC in February of 2016. “With all the different unreached people groups in our own state, we had to approach it just like we’re doing overseas mission work.”
Since Hallmark’s arrival, the church has started hosting an annual missions banquet in the fall. Each October, in the days leading up to the banquet, the church promotes GOTM from the pulpit and numerous other outlets.
The “across the street” emphasis also features several other wide-ranging ministries, including multiple evangelism training programs, divorce counseling, grief counseling and an addiction recovery group that meets at the church.
“It’s been exhilarating to see how the people of the church have bought into the strategic missions strategy and how they responded,” he said.
Hallmark noted that over a seven-day stretch in July, the church put all three parts of the plan to work. On the home front, FBC was hosting Mission to Lexington (which included Backyard Bible Clubs, sports camps and other events for children). At the same time, the church also sent teams to do mission work in Seattle and in Guatemala.
“Inside that one week, we were literally spreading the gospel across the street, across the states and across the seas,” he said.
FBC has a proud legacy of being a missions-minded church, Hallmark noted, especially in regard to the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon.
But Hallmark felt the church wasn’t giving enough attention to GOTM, and he was determined to change that.
“We really moved (GOTM) to the forefront and made it a priority,” he said.
“Anything the church staff prioritizes inside the church — and leads and promotes and gets the information out to the people — the people will respond. They just have to have some leadership. So, we’ve just made a point of emphasis to make the Golden Offering as important as Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon at First Baptist Church while maintaining our 12 percent giving to the Cooperative Program.”
In regard to GOTM, Hallmark said that when the church began to learn more, it subsequently began to give more.
“Part of the reason for the increase has just come from providing the congregation with information,” said Hallmark. “Our people had heard of the Golden Offering — mainly through WMU’s promotion of it — but I made it a church-wide emphasis to make sure that our people understand what we are doing through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. I wanted our people to understand the ministries that we are able to provide and other churches are able to provide through the Golden Offering.”
Hallmark said his church was able get a firsthand look at GOTM dollars at work during a recent “Men’s Night Out” at FBC. Roughly 300 men attended the event, and there were nine professions of faith during the evening.
Hallmark noted that such an event would likely not be possible at his church without the GOTM, which helped offset some of the costs of the meal and door prizes. Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the TBMB, partnered with FBC to help host the event.
Hallmark also referred to a recent missions fair at the church in which John 3:16 tracts were passed out. The tracts were paid for through the GOTM, he said.
“Our church has seen the personal benefit of the Golden Offering, and that’s exciting,” said Hallmark. “And when we shared with them that 10 percent of everything we give to the GOTM comes back to our local Association for the work that we’re doing to reach people for Jesus, they got even more excited about giving.”