Arkansas Baptist News
SHERWOOD – “A lot of your people want to go on a mission trip, but they are never told they live on a mission field.”
That was the message Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., shared with more than 100 pastors during a luncheon and workshop at the close of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention 2015 State Conference on Evangelism and Church Growth at First Baptist Church in Sherwood Jan. 27.
Gaines, who came to Bellevue Baptist following the tenure of longtime Pastor Adrian Rogers, told pastors, “You need to be able to tell people about Jesus at home before you go on a mission trip.”
He said since becoming the church’s pastor, he has led Bellevue to intentionally reach out to its community, as well as Memphis and the surrounding region. Gaines said activities of the church have been carried out through its Bellevue Loves Memphis program and funded in part through the church’s annual love offering, which was started when the church was located in Midtown Memphis by then Pastor R.G. Lee.
Gaines said included in the church’s activities is a quarterly work day, prison ministry and a host of other community-focused outreach events all designed to reach people for Jesus – whether or not they ever darken the door of the church.
“I want to be like the first responders that ran into those building at 9/11,” said Gaines, adding that social ministry and evangelism are a “marriage made in heaven” for the local church in the 21st century.
One of the activities Bellevue has undertaken is cleaning and repairing city schools, he said, adding that “community renewal” leads to renewing lives and reaching people for Jesus.
“Forget separation of church and state,” he said, pointing to the welcome the church received during its initiative to assist city schools.
It is important for churches to practice “intentional hospitality,” said Gaines, adding the church should be quick in “welcoming everyone who walks through the door.”
Gaines said that he initially received some criticism regarding the community outreach strategy, adding it was a tough period for him.
“You’ll lose some people, but you’ll gain more than you lose,” he said, adding later in his talk, “Not everyone was exuberant about it when it started, (but) we worked with the ones who were.”
Gaines emphasized to pastors that community ministry doesn’t require a lot of money, just willing and committed volunteers.
“Don’t let the money thing prevent you from getting involved,” he said, adding that the money will come as the church serves.
Contact Tim Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.