Chas Rowland was pastor of Duck Hill Church in Montgomery County when he identified what he characterizes as a typical problem in Mississippi Baptist churches.
“Duck Hill Baptist Church is a great church. They are willing to give and give, but they were struggling to go beyond that. They did not know how to be mobilized, how to get personally involved in missions,” said Rowland, who currently pastors Bovina Church in Warren County.
Rowland, a self-styled “military brat” whose father was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, decided to change that situation. He began to pray, and the Lord led him to the Missions Mobilization Department at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) in Jackson.
As the name implies, the department helps Mississippi Baptist churches move members from warming pews to winning people to Jesus with hands-on participation in missions. Ken Rhodes, longtime Mississippi Baptist pastor and associational missions director, heads the department. Although the department is several years old now, it is one of the newest departments at the convention board and was specifically started to get Mississippi Baptists on to mission fields.
Rhodes and the department’s personnel worked to pair Rowland’s Duck Hill congregation with an ongoing mission effort in the Finger Lakes/Watkins Glen area of western New York, between Syracuse and Rochester. The mission effort there is supported by the Send North America ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
Rowland, who holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from Mid-America Seminary in Memphis, recalls the rejection encountered on that mission trip. “There was outright hostility, Doors were slammed in our faces,” he said.
The former youth minister at Harmony Church in New Albany returned to Duck Hill and, undeterred, led the church to organize a missions committee and begin planning a second mission trip to the area. In the summer of 2011, a team headed back to Finger Lakes on a mission trip sponsored this time by the church itself.
They decided to take a different approach on the second trip, Rowland said. They went into the community and engaged in service work, such as washing the plate glass windows of the businesses in town. It was such an unusual gesture that many of the business owners and their employees, as well as passers-by, stopped what they were doing to come over and find out what the Mississippians were up to.
The community service effort resulted in many opportunities to share the Gospel, Rowland said, and energized the team’s members to witness even more. Momentum built and filled the team members with a contagious enthusiasm that spilled over into the church’s local mission work when they returned to Duck Hill, he added.
“We started going into our own community, and it was awesome,” Rowland said. “When I left Duck Hill Baptist Church about a year ago to answer the call to pastor Bovina Baptist Church, they were still going full throttle.”
Rowland and Bovina Church are working toward repeating the spiritual success encountered by the Duck Hill Baptists. “We have started a missions committee now at Bovina, and we’re praying for the Lord to lead us to our mission field,” he said.
Gifts to the Margaret Lackey Offering for State Missions help fund the Missions Mobilization Department, where Rowland first discovered the resources that enabled the church he pastored to become directly involved in missions. The 2013 offering goal includes $700,000 for such efforts through the department.
“We would never have gone to New York to help plant a church, if it had not been for Margaret Lackey funding and encouragement,” Rowland said.
For more information on the Margaret Lackey Offering for State Missions, visit mbcb.org and click on the Unlimited icon.