American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region (Missouri and Illinois) upended the traditional tithe of 10 percent by giving 90 percent of a recent bequest to the denomination’s International Ministries for overseas missionary work.
The action was reported during the region’s annual gathering Sept. 23-24 in Effingham, Ill.
An estate that had been in limbo for several years was finally settled in the summer, and a check for $298,500 arrived in the Springfield, Ill., resource center to be used at the discretion of the Great Rivers board.
After analysis of local and international opportunities, the board decided to keep only 10 percent ($29,850) for use in Illinois and Missouri and send 90 percent ($268,650) to support select causes of International Ministries.
In a parallel decision, Baptists of the region will soon receive an additional $750,000 from the sale of church property in Belleview, Ill. The board will use $395,420 for church planting overseas, with the bulk of the rest helping start churches in Missouri and Illinois.
“The two gifts totaled almost one million dollars. We have been blessed,” GRR Executive Minister Paul Gibson wrote in his annual report.
Gibson said his initial consideration was to keep 90 percent for the region and send a tithe of 10 percent to International Ministries. But a few days later, “I felt God telling me to keep the tithe and give him the 90 percent, all of it going to missions.,” he explained. “I tried to work out something else, but each time I felt God saying, “You keep 10 percent and give me 90 percent.”
Sharon Koh, executive director of American Baptists’ International Ministries, called the gift radical Kingdom generosity. She was unaware of any similar decision by an ABC-affiliated region. Though final distributions have not been determined, the bulk of the gift will be invested to support the work and the salaries of about a dozen missionaries around the world with ties to Missouri and Illinois.
Additional events over the weekend included presentations by Koh who assumed her role at International Ministries on Sept. 1. She spoke twice to the entire group and held a listening session.
Danny Mullins, associate pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Gilbert, Ariz., led plenary worship focusing on Moses’ face-to-face encounter with God in the Old Testament tabernacle. At the ministers conference before the assembly, he spoke of his experiences in spiritual formation.
Missionary Joyce Reed led a portion of the ministers conference on listening to God and spoke at the Saturday breakfast session about her work in Mexico, Iberoamerica and the Caribbean. She will take a lead in renewed ABC efforts in Cuba.
Great Rivers Region will celebrate its 50th anniversary during its annual gathering next September in Chesterfield, Mo.