This year-long, every-member mission trip called KOH2RVA isn’t the way we’ve always done missions at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.
When the church was founded in 1780 I’m guessing that its mission was to provide a place of worship for Baptists moving to the new and growing city of Richmond.
As the Baptist mission moved west, onto the American frontier, I’m guessing that the people of Richmond’s First Baptist Church supported that movement (I really need to ask our historian, Virginia Darnell, about these things. She will know).
When the Triennial Baptist Convention was formed in 1814, it provided a new way for Baptists to work together to support the foreign missions effort. By collecting offerings that would send missionaries to places like China and Africa, Baptists from many different churches could cooperate in a common venture.
When Baptists split into two groups in 1845, largely over the issue of slavery, Richmond’s First Baptist Church became a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and for the next 150 years we did missions the SBC way. In fact, the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was “born” in the basement of First Baptist Church.
Baptists “split” again in the early 1990’s, but this time First Baptist Church kept its tent big, making a way for its members to support missionaries through the Southern Baptist Convention or though the newly formed, and more moderate, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
It was around that same time that short-term, volunteer mission trips began to be so popular. “Ordinary” church members (not professional missionaries) began to come home from mission trips to faraway places talking about the work they had done, the things they had seen, and the people they had met. When I came to Richmond’s First Baptist Church in 2008 there were 18 mission trips on the church calendar.
At our annual staff retreat in May 2012 Lynn Turner suggested we take the whole church on a mission trip, and the only place we could get everybody to—physically—was Richmond, Virginia.
And so, in some ways, a year-long, every-member mission trip seems like a natural next step in the evolution of missions at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. But let me point out what may not be obvious:
• We haven’t stopped providing a place of worship for people who live in the Richmond area.
• We haven’t stopped supporting missions on the American “frontier” (we take up a special offering every year for North American missions).
• We haven’t stopped praying for, raising money for, or sending foreign missionaries (in fact, the amount of money we give to global missions each year is staggering).
• We haven’t stopped supporting missionaries through the Southern Baptist Convention.
• We haven’t stopped going on short-term, volunteer mission trips to places beyond Richmond.
But we have started doing this other thing, inviting every member of First Baptist Church to find a way, this year, to help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia—this place where we live, this place that we love. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever been directly involved in missions, in a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-your-hands-dirty way. And for many of them, it’s been love at first blister.
I think Jesus wants us to worship, and pray, and love, and serve, and give, but I also think he wants us to go. Thanks to KOH2RVA we don’t have to go very far to get a taste of what his mission is all about.