Pastor Josh Wyatt of Charles River Baptist Church in Boston identifies with the Apostle Paul, who began a letter to the church at Philippi by thanking God for his relationship with them. Wyatt feels the same way about First Baptist Church in Big Spring.
Although separated by 2,000 miles, the churches in Boston and Big Spring enjoy “a Philippians 1 partnership,” he said.
For two years, First Baptist in Big Spring has encouraged and strengthened Charles River Church through consistent prayer and financial support and by sending two teams to serve in Boston. Through Wyatt’s leadership, the two churches are seeking to make a Christian impact on Boston.
“Our philosophy is not to go to try to minister for Josh,” Pastor Mark Lindsey of First Baptist in Big Spring said. “We are walking in his vision, and he is leading and guiding our church in how we can partner with his ministry.”
At the 2011 Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in Amarillo, Lindsey talked to Texas Partnerships representatives, thinking they might point him to an international Hispanic partnership for his church. However, after he learned about Charles River Baptist Church, he began praying about the possibility of a partnership with the Boston congregation. An exploratory trip to Boston confirmed God seemed to be leading that direction.
Lindsey has been encouraged by the way his West Texas congregation has responded in partnership alongside the Boston church. Young adults and senior adults alike have embraced Wyatt during the two times he has visited Big Spring. An elderly couple in the congregation sends $100 each month to the partner church, and other families have planned summer vacations around serving the church in Boston, Lindsey noted.
Both churches benefit from the partnership. During its Awana program, children at the Big Spring church periodically have the opportunity to communicate with a “real-life missionary,” as Wyatt fields questions from the inquisitive youngsters.
Wyatt noted he has been blessed by the way the whole congregation in Big Spring has rallied around his church and taken ownership of the partnership.
“For them, it has not been just write a check, send a check up there, and call it ‘missions,’” he said. “It’s really encouraging to see how they are engaging in missions holistically.”
One unintended consequence of the partnership with Charles River Church has been the way members of the Big Spring church have learned from Wyatt how to do community ministry effectively.
Kathryn Wiseman, a justice of the peace and member of First Baptist in Big Spring, served on both teams the church sent to Boston the past two years. On the most recent trip this summer, she helped the Boston church of about 75 members serve in a local low-income housing project.
Wanting to serve
“Instead of approaching people about Jesus, they just approach people and want to serve,” Wiseman said.
Wyatt preaches a relationship-first mentality when it comes to serving the community.
“We have to be the church to them and bring the church to neighborhoods,” Wyatt said. “Your ministry is right there in your neighborhood.”
Lead a friend to Jesus
Wiseman summed it up: “In a nutshell, find a friend, make a friend, and lead a friend to Jesus.”
In three years, Wyatt’s relationship-building strategy has led to 44 professions of faith in Jesus Christ and 25 people involved in discipleship. The church focuses on serving people in a local low-income housing project, providing biblical counseling to residents and leading Kids Connect, a Saturday outreach program that involves about 30 of the children who live there.
“Most of these kids are unchurched kids, but they are coming, memorizing Scripture every week and hearing the gospel,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt knows the partnership with First Baptist in Big Spring plays a critical role in any success Charles River Church sees in ministry. The Big Spring church “further enables us to do (ministry), and it has been a tremendous blessing to us,” he said.