'Multiplication of strength' is reason for CP gifts
GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. (BP) -- So-called snowbirds from the northern United States who seek the sun in winter months help Green Valley Baptist Church minister year-round in this bedroom community 20 miles south of Tucson, Ariz., and 45 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border.
Local challenges include a growing crime rate and declining economic situation, in addition to the spiritual, social and physical needs of area residents.
At the same time, says Pastor John Guillott, because of the congregation's commitment to give 15 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, Green Valley Baptist Church has a global focus. The Cooperative Program is the way Southern Baptist churches support state, national and international missions and ministries.
"The Cooperative Program is one of the most efficient ways and strongest partnership ways we can help accomplish the Great Commission," Guillott said. "We can have an impact literally around the world from our church, and around our nation and our state.
"Green Valley members certainly know the value of working with our two largest mission-sending agencies, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board," Guillott said.
"At the same time, they know the value of investing in seminary training and leadership development that penetrates lostness here in Arizona and around the world.
"They see the value of investing in the collegiate work we have here in the state, and in disaster relief, and they see the value of church planting," the pastor said. "The founding pastor of this church, Jack Miller, just put it into the DNA of the church that they needed to continue to find ways to impact lostness in as many places as they can."
Green Valley is for the most part an unincorporated community consisting of about 60 housing associations, most of which are age-restricted.
Nonetheless, about 100 youngsters attend a weeklong Vacation Bible School each summer. Other community outreaches include sponsoring a hamburger and hot dog cookout and a golf tournament for the high school football team.
"We care about our students," Guillott said. "They're part of our community. They're the future of our community, and we want to invest in our future."
About 320 people participate in Sunday morning worship during the winter; about 225 do so in the summer.
This Easter, for the second time, Green Valley Baptist presented the Living Lord's Supper, which drew about 800 people in two nights to see a dozen men of the church dressed and bearded similar to the Leonardo Di Vinci painting explain their allegiance to Jesus Christ. The church also does a Christmas tribute for the community that draws a similarly-sized audience.
"The challenge is continuing to look beyond our campus in ways we can draw people to Christ," Guillott said. "Though Green Valley is primarily a retirement area, there are more and more families moving in. It's both a challenge and an opportunity for us -- a church made up of many senior adults -- to find ways to reach out to families and to discover additional effective methods to reach the families who live in our community."
Several volunteers from the church minister routinely at -- and Green Valley contributes regularly to -- Caring Ministries in Tucson, a food and clothing distribution ministry that last year gave out more than 3.5 million pounds of food at 58 ministry sites across southern Arizona.
"What we do is not just about giving out food," said Jerry Gollihue, Caring Ministries director and son-in-law of founder Ross Hanna, who started several churches and reinvigorated others, often by providing them with food they passed on to the needy in their communities. "It is about winning people to the Lord. The food is a way to help us accomplish this goal."
In addition to its regular support through the Cooperative Program and Catalina Baptist Association, Green Valley Baptist gives to the Arizona Baptist Children's Services, headquartered in Tucson as a statewide agency of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. ABCS helps with pregnancy centers, foster care and adoption, families in crisis and other social services.
During its 35-year history, Green Valley has partnered in sponsoring at least seven church plants. Most of them have been in Catalina Baptist Association, though one stretches up to the west side of Phoenix.
"Green Valley recognizes we can do more together than we can by ourselves; there's value in partnership," Guillott said. "There's a multiplication of strength, resources and leadership when we partner together. That's another reason the Cooperative Program works so well. It multiplies, not just adds to, that which we do together. God blesses the Cooperative Program."
God also blesses churches that do His work locally and globally, said the pastor, who serves bivocationally as director of missions for the Catalina Baptist Association. The association, founded in 1947, includes 65 churches and missions.
"I think God is bringing a sense of purpose, of unity and determination for Green Valley Baptist Church to be a Great Commission church," Guillott said. "Estimates done by research through several organizations indicate Pima County is 94 percent unevangelized.
"We want people to come to know God because of the opportunity to have hope, have a peace and the assurance of eternity with Him," he said. "You think about living in a community with a high crime rate and the stress of the economy. We have the answer for people who want hope, peace and a future."
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.