By Martha Perusek
After graduating from Furman University with degrees in music and religion, Alan Miller had an important decision to make — to go into full-time ministry or go on the road with his blues and rock band. In the end, he followed God’s call into ministry and in 2008 began using his musical gifts as the minister of worship and music at Orange Baptist Church in Orange, Va.
As a CBF Leadership Scholar, Miller attended Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond and became the pastor at Orange Baptist in early 2017.
“CBF was instrumental to my education,” Miller said, “and through General Assembly, the Seminarian Retreat and other experiences, I was able to develop close connections and resources.”
What Miller has found at Orange Baptist is a church with a long, rich commitment to both global and local missions. With an average Sunday attendance of 130 people, Orange Baptist’s reach extends far beyond the church walls and membership.
“We want to tell the Gospel story and share the love of Christ with people who would never come to church,” Miller said.
The annual CBF Offering for Global Missions is a major focus for the congregation, with special offerings collected during both the Lent and Advent seasons.
After working through the CBF Dawnings process, the congregation developed a focus on missions and spiritual formation.
“This church has always been very involved in missions, but all of our groups were doing different projects,” Miller explained. “We knew that if we focused our collective efforts, we could have a bigger impact.”
From the Dawnings discernment, the congregation made the commitment in 2016 to become an Encourager Church, providing financial gifts, prayer and hands-on support for CBF field personnel Greg and Sue Smith who minister among the Latino immigrant community in Fredericksburg, Va., and Eddie and Cindy Ruble who focus on human trafficking and disaster response in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
“Being an Encourager Church is still new to us, and we’re still learning how to support and engage with our field personnel,” Miller said. “We find a deeper connection of the hearts of our congregants and the stories of our field personnel. We want to deepen that heart connection.”
The Smiths and Rubles are highlighted during worship, church members send care packages, field personnel updates are included in church communications, and Greg Smith participated in Vacation Bible School with the children of Orange Baptist this summer.
The church has come up with many creative ways to share the Gospel in their community — Orange Baptist is best known for its annual Easter egg “drop,” where a helicopter flies overhead and literally drops thousands of Easter eggs to a crowd of nearly 3,000 excited children and parents. The church is also known in the community for the “Upward Basketball” league, reaching close to 2,000 people who would not otherwise come to formal worship on Sunday morning. During the halftime of the faith-based basketball league, Miller leads a devotional and the church creates other ways to share God’s love.
Miller emphasized Orange Baptist’s long-time commitment to and passion for missions, even when times were tough for the church.
“Our church was in financial hardship, and we became over a year behind in our missions commitments. But we kept track of every dollar we owed our missions partners.”
He added that their financial position changed through an influx of new members and reducing their budget, which led to the opportunity to pay back in full all of their missions obligations within six months in 2017.
“It shows the heart this congregation has for missions and for living up to their commitments,” Miller said. “The congregation deeply values giving. It is who we are.”