It was 1971. First Baptist Church of Milford was a little more than a decade old. At the time, no one knew how God would use this young church for the cause of missions; but God had led Pastor Charles Keen to hold the first-ever faith promise missions conference at First Baptist. The idea of churches supporting missionaries by faith was a radical concept at the time. However, by faith, the church responded incredibly.
Speakers with a heart for missions were invited to preach this inaugural missions conference. Bob Lemmon preached; he founded the Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation. Bob Hayes preached; he was an imposing missionary presence in Africa. Don Fraser preached; he is singularly responsible for directing attention to Scripture publication as a local church assignment. God was about to ignite a passion for missions at First Baptist.
The faith promise goal for those first faith promise commitments was $12,000—an ambitious goal for that era. Dr. Keen recounted, “We thought that goal would knock it out of the park.” But God worked in such a marvelous way in the church. When the faith promises were made, the people of First Baptist Church had committed $37,225.74. Dr. Keen continued, “That meeting started a fire for missions in our church.”
Recently, I asked Dr. Keen about that first faith promise missions conference. His first reaction was, “Whoever thought that it would grow from that to what it is today?” He went on to say, “I didn’t have a vision for what it would become. I just knew I needed to obey what God was showing me then.” From our vantage point fifty years later, it is easy to perceive that Bearing Precious Seed was conceived in this first missions conference. First Baptist began printing Scripture two years later, in 1973.
It is exciting to me to think that our 2021 missions conference marks fifty years of faithfulness in the area of faith promise missions at First Baptist Church of Milford. This is truly a story of faithfulness.