EDITOR’S NOTE – The Missouri Baptist Convention currently has a missionary partnership with churches at the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.
HAVRE, Mont. (BP) – Chris Richards’ job for 28 years was to protect America. Since retiring from the US Border Patrol in 2015, he has focused on the shepherd of Immanuel Baptist Church in Le Havre. And in 2018, he added the Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church, 30 minutes south of the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in north-central Montana.
As a border patrol officer, Richards has caught illegal immigrants, drug dealers, criminals, and even terrorists.
As a teacher and now Southern Baptist pastor, Richards reinvigorated a dying church, led efforts to reach out to communities in Le Havre and the neighboring reserve, started a church boxing club and trained others. people to become Christian leaders.
“Leaders who earn the love and respect of their people will have people who are invested in helping them succeed,” said Richards. “Leaders also need to project vision and direction. “
Since the origin of the co-op program in 1925, it has earned love and respect for what it has produced, said Richards. The cooperative program is how Southern Baptists work together in state conventions and around the world.
“I understand how much more we can do cooperatively, and I can’t help but support that,” the pastor said. “Southern Baptist missionaries don’t have to worry every month about losing support like other missionaries do. Our missionaries are free to focus on the ministry to which God has called them.
His congregation, which now numbers about 60 people, allocates nearly 12 percent of unnamed donations to missions through the cooperative program.
“The co-op program is coming back to us through the Montana Southern Baptist Convention and the Triangle Baptist Association to support the Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church,” said Richards. “I see the start of church and house church plantings and I realize that it is the co-op program funding that makes them possible, and this is how God is using the Southern Baptists to do to grow his kingdom. “
While Richards spent two years in Washington, DC, in his role as a border patrol officer, Immanuel Havre was in decline, withering to a handful of families.
“We [the church] were too poor to pay the electric bill and the pastor, ”said Richards,“ so the pastor was leaving. We had a ‘What are we going to do?’ meeting and decided we had our Bibles, so why not just open them up and learn? So I started by teaching adults in Sunday school.
“We were a small, sad little church, with random supply pastors, and then a young couple walked in. He was a new highway patrol officer, and one Sunday we talked and I said to him: is okay with that, you take charge of the Sunday school and I will preach.
The church has slowly rebounded over the past decade, said Richards, as God has brought in people who have a desire to hear the Word of God.
“One family at a time,” he says. “We are a verse-by-verse teaching ministry, so it is the Word that arouses convictions. Every week I prepare a sermon, I discover a new truth for myself. More than anything, I don’t want to be wrong. This is God’s message, not mine.
In addition to Emmanuel’s active small group ministry and outreach to students at nearby Montana State University-Northern, the church launched the Rock Hound Boxing Club in 2019.
“A Rock Hound is someone who searches for gemstones or rough diamonds,” Richards said. “It reminds us to seek out those who may come from difficult circumstances in the hope of showing them their worth in Christ.”
The idea for the boxing club ministry came from his youngest daughter, Taylor, who began training with Ted Reiter, a former professional boxer and church member.
An oversized room on the upper floor of the church has been transformed into a gym, complete with a boxing ring, punching bags, gloves and related items. It started as a youth reservation ministry, picked up weekly on a newly purchased church bus for the 30-minute ride to Le Havre church, and gained momentum as we went. as the news spread.
“It has real potential as an outreach,” said Richards. “We want our fighters to see themselves as fighting for Jesus. It’s also a question of character because club members don’t just represent the Immanuel Baptist Church, they represent the name of Jesus.
Chief Cornerstone Community Church was founded by Southern Alabama Baptists Carl and Rose McElrath in the mid-1990s in Box Elder, and the church sits among the poorest villages on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation . Yet a building constructed by mission teams in 2001 paid for itself in seven months.
Earl and Lorna Shetler followed after the McElraths retired in 2010, and led Chief Cornerstone for six years. They were followed by a series of short-term substitute preachers until Richards was called to assume the ministry.
After preaching to Emmanuel on Sunday morning, Richards heads to the reserve to preach at Chief Cornerstone. Services for an average of eight adults and a dozen youth begin at 1 p.m. each Sunday, followed by a fellowship meal.
“There is a lot of spiritual opposition here,” the pastor said, including both Havre and the reserve in his statement. “Sometimes I feel like we are on the front lines of the battle, and there is always the temptation to be discouraged.
“The gospel is the only answer, and I have seen it enter hearts under the most unlikely of circumstances. At a baptismal service on a Sunday night, I preached a little verse in Romans 6, and amid the chatter and the crying of the children, a young mother heard the gospel and was saved. The Word of God triumphs. It just takes prayer and people do what they want them to do.