Mission Lab 2018

First Rockwall’s missions offering climbs

January 8th, 2018 / By: Karen L. Willoughby | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

ROCKWALL  Members of First Baptist Church in Rockwall gave $1,206,000 for their annual World Missions Offering at the end of the year.

Seventy percent of the offering is sent to the International Mission Board, 20 percent to the North American Mission Board, and 10 percent to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for its Reach Texas state missions offering.

In addition to its World Missions Offering, First Rockwall allocates 18 percent of its operating budget to missions through the Cooperative Program.

“It’s a big world, and it takes lots of money to even try to reach it for Jesus,” pastor Steve Swofford wrote in a Baptist Press column. “God blesses the church that tries to bless the world. I know of no better way to do that than the Cooperative Program.”

In 2005, when Swofford received the M.E. Dodd Award at the SBC annual meeting for his efforts in supporting Southern Baptist missions, he said he felt the strong leadership of the Lord that he had to be one of the guys on the home base who helped to support missions. “I just believe very strongly in missions, both at home and abroad,” he said.

First Rockwall’s budget is about $70,000 a week, and the Sunday of the missions offering people gave $120,000, so the one doesn’t affect the other, Swofford said, adding that about 1,500 people gather in one of three worship services each week.

“Our people are in that kind of giving mood,” he said. “They don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. They just give.”

Beyond giving, their hands-on missional approach includes a variety of local and regional activities, such as the work of the Yarn Angels, who make hats, scarves, mittens and more for NAMB’s Appalachian Regional Ministry and a local hospital. Church members go on several national and international and mission trips each year.

Church programming includes support groups such as Grief Share for those who have lost loved ones. Mosaic is an inward and outward ministry that promotes adoption. The group visits orphanages in other countries and makes day trips to area shelters and children’s homes. Mosaic also promotes hands-on ministries to those who have adopted or foster children.

“Can’t go? Can’t give? Take a meal, mow a lawn, host a shower, write a card, PRAY,” are suggestions given on Mosaic’s page on the church’s website, FirstRockwall.org.

Reviews on Facebook and Yelp attest to members’ appreciation for the church.

“The pastor has a way of letting you know exactly what he believes,” wrote Dala Harvick Reick on Facebook. “He’s not afraid to give his opinion about the state of our country, either. Refreshing to hear someone who is not afraid to say the things that need to be said.”

Cathy H. wrote one of 26 reviews on Yelp: “Ya wanna know something? This place rocks! We by far have the most amazing, loving, non-condemning, straight-talking pastor this side of the Mississippi. You wanna come here and hear something about God that you can take with you for the rest of the week.”

Swofford preaches in all three Sunday morning services and Wednesday evening. Swofford has served as president of the SBTC, as a trustee for the International Mission Board, and currently serves on the SBTC’s Executive Board.

When Swofford came to the church, he led them to combine the three seasonal missions offerings into one World Missions Offering, as he had at two other churches he pastored. Rather than promoting one offering three times a year, he wanted to make a huge thrust for one early December offering.

That first year, the offering was about $13,000. Last year was the first time the offering exceeded $1 million.

First Rockwall also has been in a building project for the past five years, which receives designated offerings by church members.

But it’s the steadily-increasing World Missions Offering that grabs the most attention.

“It’s amazing that our people are doing what they’re doing,” Swofford told the TEXAN. “It’s a big deal to them. It’s a big deal for us. It’s one of the biggest days of the year for us. It’s special that they’ve caught the vision.

“I try to be very careful to show our people where the money goes,” he said. “I think it’s just an educational process. … I’m very grateful to have a church that has people who are willing to give.”