"Perhaps" Leads Church to Set Giving Records
A pastor's heart to reach the nations leads a Tennessee church's missions giving to new heights.When Randy and Nancee Carter began pastoring Northside Assembly of God in Jackson, Tennessee, 26 years ago, the couple came with a strong passion for missions. Over time, their passion became the church’s passion. This year, as Carter prepares to retire, the church met one of his secret bucket list goals — giving $100,000 to missions in a single offering.
In the early years of Carter’s ministry, the church did well to see $10,000 a year given during its annual missions convention.
But then Carter listened to message given by former General Secretary Jim Bradford (now lead pastor at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri) on the peculiar topic of “perhaps.”
“Dr. Bradford spoke on 1 Samuel 13 and 14, where Jonathon went up on his own to fight the Philistines with no one but his armor-bearer and a single sword. He took a step of faith, stating, ‘Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf,’” Carter recalls. “Sometimes we wait so long and become so afraid, that we never do anything. Jonathon decided to do something and God responded.”
That sermon led Carter to set a missions convention goal of $30,000 for 2009 — a goal that represented roughly triple the church’s historic average. “My thought was if we don’t try, we’ll never know,” Carter says. “It was pretty scary at times, as the church was in a difficult season at that point . . ., but we took a step of faith and the Lord honored it.” The church beat the goal, raising $36,000 for missions.
Since that time, the church has seen regular increases in giving to missions. One of the reasons for continued growth, Carter believes, in addition to God’s blessing, is how they conduct their annual missions convention.
What’s unusual about their missions conventions is that the missionaries may very well spend more time eating and socializing than sharing about upcoming projects and needs.
“During the missions convention, we host four meals a night on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday,” explains Susan Hodges, whose been organizing the meals for the past six years with an 11-person missions team. “Each night the meals are hosted by different church members at their homes. The host home provides the meat, while several other members attend, bringing side dishes, with a missionary/missionary couple being the guest of honor.”
Hodges says that in these more intimate settings, congregation members get to personally know and connect with missionaries. The missionaries, who are at different houses each night with different congregation members present, share about their ministry, but the relaxed atmosphere allows for bonds to form.
On the Wednesday night, the four missionaries speak at the church — one to the adults, one to youth, one to children, and one to Royal Rangers and Mpact Girls.
“I spoke to one missionary couple who told us the only problem with what we do is that they end up eating too much as there’s so much good food,” Hodges says with a laugh. “But the connections made during the meals go both ways — missionaries also the learn the heart of the church.”
In 2018, the church broke its missions convention single-offering record with $67,000 given. This year, they had set a goal of $70,000.
“With our size congregation — we run about 300 to 350 on any given Sunday — $70,000 is a challenge,” Carter says. “But I have a spiritual bucket list, and my prayer was that we would give $100,000. In the natural, it’s not possible. But God did it.”
The concluding Sunday night of this year’s convention, held Sept. 8-15, was quite literally fun and games. Missionaries were only allowed to tell funny stories from the mission field as the church joined together in playing games. The total giving for the convention was also announced, with the money divided amongst the four guest missionaries.
“The original total for Sunday night was $96,000,” Carter says. “When the people heard how close we were to $100,000, they gave even more. As of today (Sept. 18), more than $106,000 has been given, allowing us to support another missions project.”
But the church doesn’t just give to missions once a year. Each month, a missionary is invited to speak, with a love offering taken and given to them. In addition, the youth raise money for Speed the Light and children give to BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge). In the Carters' tenure at the church, more than $4.3 million has been given to missions.
“Our giving (to missions) has increased nearly every single year, but never like it did this year,” Carter says. “I’m happy to say that I’m leaving the church debt-free and financially strong, but I attribute that all to following God’s directive in making missions a priority.”