Cooperative Program giving boosts Alaska church's can-do attitude
Marvin Owen, who also serves as the president of the Alaska Baptist Convention, said his church is a "proud supporter of Southern Baptist mission work through the Cooperative Program."
"It's very important for us to keep missions on the forefront of our ministries," Owen said. "It's a huge part of our heritage."
And the heritage of the Cooperative Program will be at the forefront of many Southern Baptist churches on April 9th, a day designated as Cooperative Program Sunday to highlight CP giving and how Southern Baptists witness to the world about Jesus Christ.
First Baptist Church, Anchorage, was the first Southern Baptist Church planted in Alaska. The church was organized on Sept. 19, 1943, with 17 members, including two civilians and 15 soldiers.
First Baptist has withstood the devastation of fires and earthquakes to become an important part of Southern Baptist ministry in the state. Now located in downtown Anchorage, the church boasts more than 700 members. The congregation has planted eight new churches in the state and supports three missions, including one in Nome.
The church recently started an internationals ministry and is reaching out to the Anchorage community through a disaster relief center.
"Missions is important to us and that's why this church is a solid Cooperative Program church," Owen said. "We continually keep that in front of the people. We tell them that we are just a part of a much bigger ministry."
Even the children and teenagers at First Baptist have gotten involved in "Partners in the Harvest," the nationwide campaign marking the CP's 75 anniversary. "We include everyone," Owen said. "No one is too young to learn about how we reach people for Christ through the Cooperative Program."
And the congregation backs up their talk with action. First Baptist leads the state in Cooperative Program giving. In addition to allocating 10 percent of its budget to CP, the church gives 2 percent of its budget to associational missions. This year the church also exceeded its Lottie Moon goal of $6,500.
The church sends $100 a month to a struggling Baptist congregation in China. "They meet in a house," Owen said. "And they're trying to raise money to build a church. Hopefully, we are going to be sending a team to help them."
And what about that mission church in Nome, just 60 miles from the Russian border? Even its members give to the Cooperative Program, Owen reported.
"They may be the only Baptist church in the country where every church member tithes," he continued. "Of course, there are only five families, but they have 100 percent tithers."
Owen said it's a challenge to maintain awareness of the Cooperative Program in Anchorage because it is a transitional community. "We have a lot of military and oil company people here," Owen said. "And we are reaching a lot of new people, people who've never been to a Baptist church."
As a result, the church sponsors a class called, "How we work together as Baptists." The class teaches new members what it means to be a Southern Baptist.
Alaskan Baptists are excited about mission opportunities, even though they are isolated from their fellow Baptists in the continental states, Owen said.
"We can all be a part of missions," Owen said. "We can all be a part of sharing Christ around the world. That's what it's all about."