John Mark Caton
Pastor, Cottonwood Creek Church
Baseball is my sport. I enjoy every aspect of the game. Hitting, running the bases, goofing off in the dugout… I enjoy it all. I even love the smell of a freshly cut field and the look of a neatly raked diamond. I get excited hearing the crack of the bat and the cheer of the crowd and the screaming third base coach as he waves a runner home. There’s nothing like it.
Some of you who are not baseball fans might not have caught what happened in the description I just gave. Yes, I described one of my favorite things in the world, which is baseball and how much I enjoy it, but did you “catch” what I left out? I left out a very important part of baseball which is playing defense in the field. Baseball isn’t just about hitting the ball and scoring runs. It’s also about playing defense and fielding the ball and keeping the other team from scoring. It’s crazy to think of baseball without the fielding aspect of the game.
Just like it’s crazy to think about baseball without fielding, it is absolutely crazy to think about being missional – Great Commission/Matthew 28:19-20 driven – people and churches without being involved in local missions and local missional partnerships. Remember, the Great Commission has an international, regional (national and state), and local aspect to it. It’s been my experience in ministry to see a church family get really excited about sending a team to the Dominican Republic to help a local pastor meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in that country. It’s also been my experience as a pastor to see a church family get excited about going to a far-off place in our own country to help churches get planted and reach those communities for Christ. However, it has also been my experience as a pastor to see how we can lose our zeal for evangelism and missions in our own neighborhoods and in our own cities. This is the part of the Great Commission that is the easiest to forget and one that plagues us all from time to time. So, what are we do? Simply put, get out in our communities and reach people for Christ and build them up through our church’s ministries. And secondly, get involved in local missional partnerships.
The Bible reminds us of what a successful missional partnership looks like in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. A successful partnership is one built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and the Gospel first and foremost and not on a certain personality, church, or association. Verse 6 also reminds us that a successful partnership involves parties working together to sow the seeds of the Gospel, but it is the Lord that provides the growth and the harvest and is to get the glory for the results. So, if you have 2 parties who agree in Christ as the foundation and on the importance of the Gospel and the Great Commission, then you have the beginnings of a successful missional partnership. So, how do you go about seeking someone locally to partner with in gospel ministry? Easy. We’ve got the CBA Church Network.
The CBA Church Network exists “for the day when every girl, boy, woman, and man within our reach experiences a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The way they work to see this day happen is through the networking “… of Great Commission churches and organizations who connect, collaborate, and engage in the work of the Gospel in Collin County and beyond.” So, it’s easy to see that we’ve got a ready and willing partner to do local missions right here in our area. Cottonwood Creek Church has renewed our commitment to partnership with the CBA Church Network. This renewal of commitment is happening specifically in two areas. The first area is with the reThink Student Apologetics Conference.
The CBA Church Network and Cottonwood Creek Church partnered together last year to bring Stand to Reason’s (see http://str.org) reThink Student Apologetics Conference to our area. This conference is a unique conference bringing senior pastors, student pastors, parents, grandparents, middle school and high school students, college students, and even seminary students together to be trained and equipped to defend the faith in a culture that is increasingly becoming more and more non-Christian. The conference is also unique in that it is set up to be used by senior pastors and youth pastors as a “kick start” or as a “booster shot” to their own churches year-round apologetics ministry. Stories have come in how students have been bold witnesses for Christ in lunchrooms, hallways, and even in classrooms based upon the training they received at the conference. Other stories have come in how parents and grandparents have been able to have deep and meaning conversations with their students about the material presented at the conference and how they as a family can be committed to being ready to give a reason for the hope that is within them at every opportunity the Lord gives. This fruitful partnership has been a wonderful addition to Cottonwood Creek’s ongoing apologetics ministry to both adults and students.
The second area Cottonwood Creek Church has renewed our commitment to partnering with the CBA Church Network is through the new church planting ministry called Send North Texas (see http://sendntx.org). You might be familiar with the Send City initiative that quite a few of us participate in that seeks to plant churches in areas of our country that don’t have enough Bible believing evangelical churches to reach the population. Well, that Send City initiative has come to North Texas. Why? The Send North Texas website states, “Today, the population in North Texas (Collin County and Denton County) is 1.8 million with approximately 216-member churches. Government estimates indicate that in 10 years, our population will increase to 3 million people, which means the need to start 344 churches in the next 12 years to ‘hold our own’… that roughly translates to starting 28.6 new churches per year.” We all have been hearing about the recent shift of corporate national headquarters to our area and the jobs they bring and the housing shortage it has caused by people moving in from other parts of the country. And now, we’re experiencing people from other countries coming to this area in increased numbers to work and to raise their families. All of these factors have created a wonderful ministry partnership opportunity here locally for us to band together and reach North Texas for Jesus Christ.
It’s truly an exciting time to be involved in local mission work and local ministry partnerships. The Lord has provided us with opportunities to get into the work of local missions. Cottonwood Creek Church seeks to do its part, as best as we can, to join these efforts. My challenge to every pastor and church leader in this area is this… will you prayerfully and honestly evaluate your church’s missional efforts to see if you’re missing out on a part of the Great Commission? Will you prayerfully and seriously consider researching and joining us in these and other local missions and ministry partnerships with the CBA Church Network? My prayer for you is that you will take on these challenges like we have at Cottonwood Creek and seek to partner with us and the CBA Church Network in these exciting new ministries as we plant and water the seeds of the Gospel while praying and looking to the Lord to give the increase.