HARRISBURG (BRN) – From roughly the age of two, Pastor John Toone has been attending East Shore Baptist Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
As a child, it was the church his family chose to attend and where he grew up. It became a home Toone left only to return shortly after college and seminary.
“I went away for college and seminary, and ended up coming back on as staff. So, I’ve been a pastor of the church since 2014, so almost nine years, and officially the senior pastor since 2020,” explained East Shore Baptist Church Senior Pastor John Toone.
Through his lifetime, the Lord has grown Toone’s affections for East Shore and for the Harrisburg community.
“The church is a wonderful multi-generational mix of people, who kind of live in the suburb area of the city of Harrisburg…I love the people here [and] I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” said Toone.
Growing up in East Shore Baptist Church, a church a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, Toone gained an early understanding of the Cooperative Program (CP), and has since greatly benefited from the CP.
“The Cooperative Program is how Southern Baptists – together – impact our state, our nation and our world for God’s glory and also the spread of the gospel.”
Toone continued: “Very practically, that means there’s a percentage of our offering each week that we use to fully support mission efforts and God’s work both here in Pennsylvania and around the world.”
Personally, Toone has felt the impact of the Cooperative Program through his early years of education as he served as a North American Mission Board (NAMB) summer missionary during his undergrad years, and then later attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn his MDiv.
“The Baptist seminaries give you half off tuition if you’re coming from a Southern Baptist Church, and, of course, that was a great benefit to make it financially feasible,” said Toone.
“Sometimes I remind people in the church, especially those who’ve been here a long time, that by giving every week they were actually training me to become their pastor. I didn’t know that, but by those gifts, they provided that training for me and, of course, thousands of others.”
The Cooperative Program has not only played an integral part in Toone’s call to ministry, but also in the life of one of his family members.
“Another way it’s (the CP) impacted me personally, is I have a family member who’s currently serving a three-year term with the International Mission Board (IMB), and that is, of course, fully funded through the Cooperative Program,” said Toone.
He went on to share that this specific function of the Cooperative Program gives him and his other family members a great sense of comfort.
“By knowing there’s such a large financial backing provided by thousands of Southern Baptists, then that’s definitely confidence that the other member is being taken care of, those needs [are] met [and] there’s a support structure there.”
He continued: “It also enables that person to focus fully on their mission and where they are serving. In other entities, I imagine, you have to spend at least six months, if not a year, beforehand, raising funds, whereas this way my family member was able to go right away.”
Locally, Toone has also witnessed the CP make a difference by supporting the mission work East Shore is doing in Harrisburg.
“We’ve been really focusing on some outreach efforts in our community and the evangelism grants that have been provided through the Cooperative Program [and] through the BRN have been very helpful in that.”
Last year, through the CP, East Shore was able to host an Easter outreach as well as a large fall gathering for their community.
“We’ve been blown away by the response to that from our community. As well as from the members of our church, and that wouldn’t be possible without cooperating,” said Toone.
Through many avenues, both personal and general, Pastor John Toone has witnessed the benefits of cooperating for the sake of the gospel, and notes that the Cooperative Program is what makes the Southern Baptist Convention “most unique.”
“When I think about what this type of togetherness does, and the impact it can make, that to me makes it more than worth it to be a part of this collection of churches,” said Toone.
“With all the warts and all the issues – that are certainly important to address – being able to support mission to God’s ministry on this scale makes it worth it to work through those difficulties together, because I know what these resources are going toward and that’s more people knowing Jesus.”
Hear more about how your cooperative giving is impacting Pastor John Toone and the East Shore Baptist Church family in this month’s episode of Celebrating Cooperative Missions: