Small, remote church reaches world with CP
Only 200 people live within a 25-mile radius of the church in Lindrith, N.M., that draws 30 to Sunday morning worship, but the congregation does mighty works in its own community and across the globe.
The cooperative work of Southern Baptist churches through CP is key to the church's national and global reach, according to pastor Chuck Self.
"Lindrith Baptist has a longstanding belief in the Southern Baptist principle that working together we accomplish great things for God," Self said. "We give to the Cooperative Program and then out of our blessing we also support the individual causes we share as Southern Baptists."
The first 10 percent the church gives through CP is simply obedience, the pastor said, and the giving has not hindered Lindrith Baptist in repaying a financial debt nor in serving its local community.
"For me as pastor, this 'easy' step of obedience as a church can serve as an example for the individual members. At this time of year we will take advantage of the opportunity [of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions] to thank our folks for remaining obedient and not stealing from our privilege of giving back to the Lord to pay debt," Self said. "We will continue to trust in God as we go forward and look to Him for provision.
"We have incurred a debt for the first time in the history of the church, borrowing $97,000 to replace a parsonage which was found to have mold. We have trusted in God's provision for this debt and He has already provided help from not only our members but from other generous givers around the U.S."
Though the members have a global vision, they also see the need for people in the area to have as durable a relationship with God as they do with the hardscrabble sagebrush-sprinkled land in which they live.
Ninety percent of the regular Sunday morning worshipers were involved in mission projects over the last couple of years, including renovation and expansion of the worship center, servant evangelism at Apache and Navajo reservations in Arizona, and pastoral support at a church located on a garbage dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
They also participated this year with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico in evangelistic ministry at the New Mexico State Fair and are regularly active in associational activities.
Participation in the Cooperative Program has another benefit for Lindrith Baptist, the pastor said.
"A lot of times people feel, 'We're not doing anything,' but when we see and hear about what is being done [through the Cooperative Program], we are reminded it happens because churches like us are working together, and we have a part in that," Self said.
The church is located 14 miles from the one road that passes through town and 11 miles from the state highway that would take them to either Albuquerque or Farmington in about two hours. Lindrith is also 7,400 feet above sea level.
"We are the community church," Self said. "We are known for providing assistance when needed, the place for meeting for various events -- funerals, weddings, showers and the like -- and our people are heavily involved in the community through the volunteer fire department, the local charter school, the rodeo association and the water co-op.
"All are used as avenues to share the love of Christ," Self said. "We are striving to be known as the church that cares and where everyone is welcome. And globally, we share in Southern Baptist causes with prayer and through the Cooperative Program."
The center of Lindrith is comprised of the Baptist church, a Church of Christ, a post office and the charter school educating 23 students this year.
"That's town; that's it," Self said. "The next-closest church is about 20 minutes away, and it's 30 minutes to a Baptist church. About 40 people live in the center of the community; the rest are within the 25-mile radius from the community center.
"My goal is to know and be known as the working pastor, a man who cares about people," he said. "That provides me with a great opportunity to share and live out my faith before people.
"My focus has been to get involved in the community, get to know people and let them get to know me," he said. "It is through this kind of 'relational evangelism' that we have made the small steps we have."
Recently, such relational one-on-one evangelism has included outreach to a recently baptized teenager, a Jicarilla Apache woman who is seeking God, and couples who have returned to the area in either retirement or to care for aging parents. Three people have been baptized so far in 2012; two more are hoping for a Christmas baptism to allow family to attend.
"This is just one of those places where God is working," said Self, who is a member of the governing council of the local charter school, where he will be teaching a Dave Ramsey financial course in the spring. He also serves with the volunteer fire department, has worked with the local rodeo association and helps as needed with work on the local water system.
His background includes 17 years as an auditor for Amoco in Tulsa, Okla., and nine years as executive pastor of First Baptist Church in Owasso, Okla. He also has served churches in Texas and Arizona.
"I think as long as there are people here, the church will be here," Self said. "The kids move away for the most part after they graduate, but there's almost always some who move back to live and work on the family property.
"So many things make the work hard, but I feel like God called us here for a purpose," Self said. "The people need someone in whom they can see God's love, and that's what we are trying to do."
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, the newsjournal for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.