MEMPHIS (BP) – Brown Missionary Baptist Church’s $1,000 weekly anonymous gift to area nonprofits has morphed into a partnership to train such groups for maximum impact and engender church-community cooperation. It began in November 2020 with Brown Missionary Baptist Church anonymously giving $1,000 to every nonprofit honored as a Community Changer in an outreach the church negotiated with local CBS affiliate WREG.
Brown Baptist gave more than $100,000 in the outreach before revealing its identity as the donor in November 2022, WREG reported. “The church is continuing to give $1,000 to each group WREG recognizes in the weekly feature,” Orr said.
“We didn’t want it to be about Brown, but just all of these other great organizations in the community,” Senior Pastor Bartholomew Orr told Baptist Press. “Sometimes, if we’re not careful, it becomes about the organization rather than the greater good.”
According to the Annual Church Profile, the church received $12.5 million in undesignated giving in 2022; Orr said the identity of the Community Changers donor was unknown even to Brown’s membership.
“Our own members didn’t know that we were the ones behind it, as part of our overall outreach that we were doing,” Orr said. But he revealed the church’s identity to the congregation to show members their “giving has been impactful over the last couple of years in this (COVID -19) pandemic, and (to tell members) we couldn’t have done it without them.”
“And then reveal it so that we can go to the next level,” Orr said. The next level is to work with Mission Increase, a national group headquartered in Portland, Oregon, offering free training to help nonprofits operate effectively and to help churches and other nonprofits and para-churches work together to meet broader goals.
“We’re working now to bring Mission Increase to the area,” Orr said in January. “We’re doing this now so that all of the nonprofits in our area can benefit from a company that focuses on making nonprofits more evangelistic, as well as more equipped in building their donor base, and so forth.”
Scott Harris, a Brentwood Baptist Church (Tennessee) member and Mission Increase’s vice president of church and global engagement, is working with Orr to establish a Mission Increase chapter in west Tennessee. Mission Increase will station a coach in Memphis, Harris said, to train nonprofits in subjects including board governance, strategic planning, and fundraising.
Instead of charging the nonprofits for the service, Mission Increase covers the costs through local funders, including individuals, churches, and foundations. Healthy community nonprofits are a benefit to Gospel outreach, Harris believes. “Faith-based nonprofits are a wonderful platform for God’s people to use their gifts in service to their community,” Harris told Baptist Press. “Whatever problem the nonprofit is trying to solve, they provide access — a connecting point — between God’s people and lost people who are in need.”
Mission Increase has 23 chapters in the U.S. serving 3,500 nonprofits, Harris said, including a Mission Increase chapter Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood helped organize in middle Tennessee seven years ago. He said that four of the six churches supporting the work in middle Tennessee are Southern Baptist. “We are now a faith-based biblical learning community of 247 faith-based nonprofits in middle Tennessee,” Harris said, “that gather regularly for teaching, equipping, and coaching, all at no cost.” Harris, former missions pastor at Brentwood Baptist, met Orr through joint mission work between Brentwood and Brown Baptist, a suburban Memphis church in Southaven, Miss.
Orr sees Mission Increase and Brown Baptist’s support of nonprofits as important to the holistic community outreach the church promotes. “Memphis is going through so many different challenges,” Orr said, “and yet, we can be on the forefront to see successful change and set an example for the rest of the country on how things ought to happen.”
“We’re praying and hoping that God will use all of this, ultimately, to bring about a spiritual revival and awakening in Memphis and throughout our country,” Orr said. “Just looking holistically at the pieces, they all fit.”
Harris sees the work as beneficial to nonprofits and the local church, providing healthy para-church ministries for church members to work within. He encourages churches and nonprofits to visit Mission Increase at missionincrease.org to connect with local Mission Increase coaches or launch a local chapter. “There is the beauty when they work together, and they value each other,” Harris said, “it can grow a local church.”
Orr encourages others to support church-community group engagement as a win-win. “As we continue this great endeavor with Channel 3, I pray that we take it to a whole new level, and that is cooperation and collaboration,” Orr said in revealing the church as the donor on WREG. “We need more churches. We need more organizations coming together, banding together, and solving the problem by doing something specific in our community to make a difference.”
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