Darin Ulmer, who became pastor of the Marion, Iowa, church later that year, said he can't take any credit for the increase to 10 percent in CP giving.
"What we saw was that we had been blessed greatly by the support of other Southern Baptists, and as the Lord blessed us as a church, it was suggested -- I don't remember by whom -- and the unanimous agreement was that yes, we could give more to the Cooperative Program," Ulmer said. "The next year it came up again and that year we increased our support of the association because of the way the association had supported us as a church plant.
"We wanted to give more so more of that could take place across the Southern Baptist Convention and in our association," Ulmer continued. "Us supporting mission efforts locally and around the world comes back to us in generous giving."
Ulmer compared the church's giving -- and its receipt of multiple blessings -- to the clothing his children wear.
"We have seven children; our oldest is going to be 19 and our youngest is 7," said Ulmer, who formerly was a bivocational pastor. "Throughout the years the Lord has given us clothing by the bucketsful. We have seen blessing in our personal life, in our faithful giving. How is that any different in a church? I believe one of the reasons we're financially healthy as a church is because we've been faithful in our support of missions efforts both locally and around the world."
In addition to giving to state, national and international missions through the Cooperative Program and to Cedar Rapids-area outreach by Northeast Iowa Baptist Association, Community Baptist has made a commitment to financially support a local Hispanic church plant.
"We as Southern Baptists are not the only ones proclaiming the Gospel but I believe we do it in a very effective manner, one that supports our missionaries in a way other organizations don't," Ulmer said. "I believe the Cooperative Program is an incredibly effective tool and I support the concept wholeheartedly.... By working together we can accomplish a lot more."
About 70 people attend Sunday morning worship at Community Baptist -- a church that has grown as members share Christ with their friends and invite them to church.
"Planting a church is hard work, and especially in areas that are not historically Southern Baptist," Ulmer said. "Here, where it's predominately Lutheran and Catholic -- very different from Baptists and Southern Baptists -- you can't just start a church, hang out a sign and expect people to show up.
"It takes effort and commitment."
But Ulmer has an edge: He's a Cedar Rapids native and knows the culture.
"Most of those we have seen come to Christ have happened because a friend has shared Christ with a friend, and that's the way our church has grown as well," Ulmer said. "Our city parade comes right by the front door, and we hand out flyers, but that hasn't done much.... We encourage personal evangelism because that's the most effective tool anyway -- people sharing what the Lord has done in their life."
Community Baptist's outreach also extends to two care facilities, a jail and a women's halfway house.
"What I didn't know was, when inmates leave jail, they don't have anything. Having someone bring them a sack of toiletries -- shampoo, makeup -- brings a very positive reaction," Ulmer said. "On a regular basis we provide support for those in that situation, and ... one of the great blessings to a pastor's heart is to see people in a gentle and loving way bring new believers along in their faith. To see people exemplify Jesus' heart with people, watching people surround somebody and gently love them, rather than being harsh and pouncing on somebody , it's just a joy to watch."
Community Baptist's youth have gone on an inner-city choir mission trip to Minneapolis each year that also includes backyard Bible clubs and clothing distribution.
"It's exciting to see how it's affected them," Ulmer said. "Just watching these teens learn to share their faith -- they do it in English and Spanish -- and watching these young people who have never shared their faith before, sit down and show kids what Jesus did, it's very pleasing to a pastor's heart."
The church, which constituted in April, meets in a storefront that formerly was an antiques store.
"Our seating capacity is 125, and we're past the point the statistics say you need more space," Ulmer said. "We have Sunday School in every corner of the building and even a hallway. Everyone has been gracious and worked together and been patient about it, but the fact is, we need a bigger space. But we don't want a bigger space to have a bigger space; we want to have the right space to continue to be effective in our community.
"One of the wonderful things about our church is there's a lot of wisdom in our congregation," the pastor added.
"There are a number of people who have walked with the Lord for many years; the concept of giving to the Lord is part of their lifestyle.... They're Kingdom-minded people, and we're just one part of the Kingdom. It's a blessing to be a part of that."
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message and Dakota Baptist Connections, newsjournals for their state conventions. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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