Growth Through Missions
By Nathan Sheridan
First Assembly in Richland, Missouri struggled with low attendance and lack of finances for many years. In the mid-nineties the congregation dwindled to three people. To say that the church has had problems is an understatement. The longest any pastor has stayed is three and a half years. With lack of finances, most of the pastors were part-time or retired.
My wife and I were voted in as pastors the last Sunday of September 2005. The evening service in which I accepted the pastorate, we announced that the following Sunday we would take a missions offering. I told the church during my interview that we would be a missions church in two ways - giving and going. The missons offering that first Sunday in October was almost $800.
At that time, we supported four missionaries at $25 a month. The church never had taken a missions offering other than for a missionary speaker.
When we decided to conduct our first missions convention, we contacted Benny and Sherri Ferguson, the facilitators for Missions Awareness Team at Assemblies of God World Missions, and Ron Morein, pastor of Oak Grove AG in Springfield, Missouri. We set the date for Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 2006.
As the convention drew near, we met with the Fergusons about how to make missions a priority in our church and how to conduct a convention. As I look back, we never would have made it without them. They were a great blessing! I had no idea how the congregation would respond, so I set a goal of $7,000 for that year. I was blown out of the water when the congregation doubled that goal and responded with faith promises of $14,000!
That was the beginning of great things at First Assembly. We began supporting more missionaries and increased each one to $35 a month, and we set standards for what we do for missionaries when they minister in our church. Our attendance grew from 18 to 40, our general fund increased 25 percent, and our missions giving increased 600 percent.
This became a faith-building year for us. We moved our missions convention to March and asked Benny Ferguson to come again to preach at that event. I still remember how foolish and immature I felt when I told the church during a Sunday morning service, "We're believing God for $24,000 this year."
That afternoon I got so sick I couldn't eat. I really thought I had missed it. I went back to the church that afternoon and prayed and cried. It was a turning point for me. I can't put into words what happened but a calm and warmth from the Lord settled over me.
Our missions convention was a great success. As of March 31, 2008, when we closed the books for the fiscal year's missions income, the church had given $33,905, almost $10,000 more than what was pledged! Wow! This is a God thing.
Since we have increased our involvement in missions, we have watched God perform some incredible miracles. Cancers have been healed, blood pressures have lowered, blood sugar problems and migraine headaches have gone away, and marriages have been restored.
This is a fulfillment of Mark 16:15-19: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. ... These signs will accompany those who believe ... they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
We now have nearly 35 missionaries - including local missions projects) that we support at $50 a month. We not only give to missions, we also go. In 2007, four of us went on a 10-day missions trip to Colombia.
During 2007 our attendance increased to 55 for Sunday morning worship with an average of 30 people for Wednesday nights. We had about 18 missionaries share in our church. Our general fund increased 19 percent and our missions giving increased 155 percent.
We are making plans to go to two Sunday morning services because we only have seating for 79. Since January, we're avenging 67 in Sunday school and 70 in morning worship. What a great opportunity! (It's not really a problem.) We are planning another missions convention with a great speaker and some awesome heroes (our missionaries).
2008 Missions Convention
We hosted six missionaries in early April for our third convention. During one service, a Mexican minister taught the congregation a chorus in Spanish, and the evening's message was in Spanish with English translation. With tears in her eyes, a church member said, "Thank you, Pastor, I felt like I was on a real missions trip."
The WMs prepared food from around the world for a "Taste of the Nations" banquet that also included a 40-minute "question and answer" session with missionaries and James McHaffie, district missions director for Southern Missouri.
Believers at First Assembly took another stop of faith Sunday morning when "faith promises" were taken. Our goal was $38,000, however when the pledges were totaled, the amount was $56,000.
I want to tell pastors and congregations that if God can give us this growth and miracles in Richland, Missouri, where the population is under 2,000, He can truly do this for anybody. I love the statement, "If God can get it through you, He will get it to you."
Nathan Sheridan is pastor of First Assembly of God in Richland, Missouri.
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