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Shades Mountain Baptist completes missions vision plan, increases CP givingcomment (0)

September 30, 2010

By Kristen Padilla

What happens when a church casts a God-sized vision?

“If it comes to fruition, then only God did it and God gets the glory,” said Tom Boston, a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills.

So when the Birmingham Baptist Association church fulfilled a vision this year that many members thought was impossible and crazy when Pastor Danny Wood first proposed it in the fall of 2001, the congregation gave all credit to God.

“The vision was out there, but whether or not it could be accomplished (was the question),” Wood said. “God has gone beyond what I can imagine.”

And with the fulfillment of that vision, Shades Mountain Baptist might be mistaken for being an official arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB) because of how involved church members are in the United States, Canada and IMB’s focus areas worldwide.

Wood also led Shades Mountain Baptist to go one step further — the church increased Cooperative Program giving while enhancing and expanding its missions emphasis — modeling how churches can be involved at all levels of missions and ministry in Southern Baptist life.

The so-called 2010 Vision came about after Wood went to a conference in the fall of 2000 put on by Global Focus, an organization that helps local churches develop a strategy for global evangelization. After hearing conference speakers talk about the personalization of missions, he wanted Shades Mountain Baptist to partner with Global Focus.

“In the midst of that, I began to pray about what we needed to do as far as missions for our church,” Wood said. “Keep in mind that at the time, we averaged eight missions trips a year with about 250 participating and had two (family) units with eight people on the missions field.” Shades Mountain Baptist had approximately 7,000 members.

In the fall of 2001, Wood led the church through 40 days of prayer and fasting. It was during this time that God solidified the vision.

“I had already put together some of the ideas, but as I prayed through [the 40 days], God seemed to clarify it and said, ‘This is what you need to do,’” Wood said.

At the conclusion of the 40 days, Wood presented to the church the six parts of the vision: send missionaries to work in all 24 time zones, plant churches in every IMB region, do missions work in all 50 states, adopt a strategic focus city, plant at least five churches in the United States and plant at least one church in Canada.

“When the 2010 Vision got cast, I think I was like anyone else at that time,” Boston said. “I walked out of the worship conference and thought, ‘That guy is crazy.’”

But as Shades Mountain Baptist, along with Global Focus, began the personalization process by having a Global Impact Celebration (GIC), people began to catch the vision.

“Through [the first GIC] week, our people began to get it and connect with some of these missionaries,” Wood said. “Once [church members] began to understand their hearts, they realized there was something they could do to help them.”

Shades Mountain Baptist began offering about 35 missions trips a year and invited the missionaries with whom members would work on these missions trips to its annual GIC. Sunday School classes would adopt a missionary and host him or her for the week of GIC. As people began forming relationships with the missionaries, they would go on missions trips. When they returned, they would share their story with others. In this way, more and more people caught the vision and the number of people going on missions trips grew, Wood said.

From 2002 to 2009, 9,800 church members participated in 300 missions trips — 185 national and 115 international — and 144 people — 44 family units — were sent as full-time missionaries. (2010 numbers won’t be added to this list until later this year.)

“The challenge to plant a church in what was then the 11 regions for IMB and to do missions work in the 24 time zones really challenged people to get out and get their feet wet, and it just changed the mentality of the church to be more outwardly focused,” Boston said. “It’s been a powerful thing for us.”

Wood admits the vision was a shotgun approach (a strategy in which the aim is to cover as wide an area as possible), but it served its purpose in getting people out from behind the walls of the church.

“Even more impressive than coloring in the states and checking off the boxes is that our church has a missions mind-set,” he said of accomplishing the vision. “Missions is the DNA of our church. If you cut us, we will bleed missions.

“Within six years, we had a 100 percent increase in giving to missions,” Wood continued. “We also increased our Cooperative Program giving from 8 percent to 10 percent in 2003. At this point, we’ve given $13 million to missions.”

And this increase in missions giving continued despite having two capital campaigns for renovations and expansions to the church campus during this time.

Even the children’s and youth ministries saw a change in focus. Now if someone begins at Shades Mountain Baptist as a sixth-grader and continues until he or she graduates from high school, then he or she will have 11 opportunities to go on a missions trip, including four international trips.

On Sept. 20, the last trip connected to the vision concluded in Salt Lake City. The church had planted churches in every IMB region; done missions work in all 50 states; adopted a strategic focus city, New Brunswick, N.J.; and planted seven churches in the United States and one church in Canada. The only part that was not completed was sending missionaries to work in all 24 time zones; the church sent long-term and short-term missionaries to work in 21 time zones.

“The only three time zones that weren’t met were in the Pacific Ocean (area),” Wood said. “(But) we believe that we covered about everything. … It’s just truly amazing to think in eight years, that we’ve been able to cover those areas all around the world.”

Boston, who had only been on several Builders for Christ missions trip prior to the 2010 Vision but has since taken numerous missions trips to places like Thailand, Spain, Indonesia and South Africa, said had it not been for the 2010 Vision, he probably would have never had these opportunities.

“Had [the 2010 Vision] not been cast, I don’t think I’d have been exposed to all these areas of the world,” Boston said.

“Had we not challenged people to go out to these different areas, I don’t know if we’d have been exposed to these different ministries and feel the need to be more involved.”

So what’s next for Shades Mountain Baptist?

On Oct. 3, Wood will present the next vision, Touch the World 2015, to the church.

While the 2010 Vision was a shotgun approach, Touch the World 2015 will be more like a rifle approach (a strategy in which the aim is to concentrate efforts on a narrowly defined area), he said. For the next five years, the church will zero in on some of the relationships and partnerships formed as part of the last vision and go deeper with them.

The focus will be evangelism with compassionate justice, adding more hands to justice-type ministries.

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