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FROM THE STATES: Miss., Ark. & N.C. evangelism/missions news

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Press today launches From the States, a new feature each Tuesday relaying news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also will be an integral part of From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in From the States as originally published.

Today's From the States includes items from:

Baptist Record (Mississippi)

Arkansas Baptist News

Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)

Director of church planting named

for Mississippi Baptist Convention

JACKSON, Miss. (Baptist Record)--The executive committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) has tapped Johnny Ervin of Madison to serve as transitional director for church planting at the convention board. He replaces Ed Deuschle, who retired at the end of 2010.

"The (church planting) work needs to move from a denominationally-driven to a congregationally-driven platform if we are to realize significant growth in church planting capacity for the future," said David Michel, MBCB associate executive director for mission strategy, in recommending Ervin to the executive committee. "Johnny Ervin is a key leader who surfaced during the research and planning phase of our church planting transition."

Michel told the executive committee that Ervin's assignment will last from 18-24 months as he coordinates strategic development of a new Mississippi church planting system.

Ervin holds a bachelor of science in industrial engineering degree ('71) from Mississippi State University in Starkville. He also attended the Edison Electric Institute's Executive Leadership Program in 1992, The Aspen Institute in 1996, and Harvard University Business School's Advanced Management Program in 1997. He retired in 2004 from Entergy Services, Inc., as vice president for customer service support, after 33 years with the electric utility.

He has served as church planting catalyst, small group coordinator/team consultant, and finance team leader for LifeBridge Church in Madison. He also served as hurricane relief coordinator for Crosspoint Church in Gulfport from 2004-2008.


Ervin and his wife of 41 years, Marsha, have two adult sons, Matthew and Mark, and three grandchildren.


Called a 'spontaneous movement of God':

Prayer revival continues to spread

By Tim Yarbrough

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News)--What started as "a spontaneous movement of God" and prayer revival in North Little Rock appears to be spreading to more churches in Central Arkansas.

Bill Elliff, pastor of Summit Church, North Little Rock -- where 65 people have been baptized since April 3 -- said a major "reconciliation event" in the life of the church occurred May 2 when Summit members met at First Baptist Church, Little Rock.

First Baptist was starting a "First Monday" prayer meeting and wanted to know more about what God was doing at Summit, said First Baptist pastor Jim Lagrone.

Summit was founded more than a decade ago as a result of a split with First Baptist.

"The pastor (Lagrone) asked me to share, and after giving a report of God's activity in the city and at the Summit," said Elliff, "we opened up the microphone."

It wasn't long before a member "stood to confess that she had been critical and a part of the problem that led to the division of the two churches," he said.

"It was a beautiful moment of reconciliation, which opened the door for multiple people to come and express their hearts," said Elliff.

The Summit Church pastor said he had personally forgiven those involved in the split, "(but) I had not loved as Christ desires and sought the church's forgiveness for that."

"We had a wonderful spirit, … nearly three hours of confessing and repenting and getting our hearts together," said Lagrone. "It was an awesome night." Like Elliff, Lagrone said he is a "student of revival movements" and sees God's hand clearly in the meeting of the churches.


"Before the night was over, there was love and grace poured out upon us all," Elliff said. "(It was) a wonderful beginning of reconciliation and healing. I wonder, if God chooses to spread His work of revival and spiritual awakening around the city, if we would not see many more meetings occurring between churches."

Nehemiah Network grows

For about 15 years, according to Elliff, a large group of evangelical pastors in Central Arkansas - known as the Nehemiah Network - have been praying for revival. Each year for a number of years, the group has joined together for a three-day prayer retreat, with this past year being "unusually intense."

While a number of the churches hold their own prayer meetings, quarterly meetings conducted by the network specifically focus on revival and spiritual awakening.

On Thursday, May 5, members of area churches met at Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, for a citywide prayer meeting attended by more than 500 people. May 5 was the National Day of Prayer in the United States.

In addition to Elliff, Immanuel pastor Gary Hollingsworth and Kevin Kelly, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Little Rock, facilitated the prayer meeting.

"Three different churches led worship, which was phenomenal, and the prayer times were out the roof," said Elliff.

Immanuel hosted the citywide prayer meeting as part of its involvement in the Nehemiah Network group, Hollingsworth said.

"It (the Nehemiah Network) has grown to include a handful of projects within the community," said Hollingsworth. "The prayer gatherings happen to be one of those projects."

He said the group is considering holding monthly prayer meetings instead of quarterly meetings, "based upon comments from a large number of laity and pastors regarding the positive impact the gathering had."


Elliff said he is humbled that God is allowing Summit and other central Arkansas churches to be a part of what He is doing among His people.

"There are several churches holding prayer meetings or opening up their services for extended ministry times," he said. "I think it's growing."

Elliff is writing a periodic blog about occurrences at Summit Church at www.thesummitchurch.org.

Tim Yarbrough (tim@arkansasbaptist.org) is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.


TIM continues to bring water, spiritual relief

RALEIGH, N.C. (Biblical Recorder)--Drought is gripping 17 of the 39 districts in the Indian state of Bihar. In many of Bihar's 45,000 villages the only water source is a deep water well bored by Transformation India Movement (TIM), a Christian ministry led by Biju Thomas and supported by many North Carolina Baptist churches.

Thomas, a regular speaker at the North Carolina Baptist Men's annual N.C. Missions Conference, said villagers blessed with TIM wells say, "Yeshu Baba" (Lord Jesus) bore wells are working."

Wells dug in Jesus' name and that declare Jesus as the Living Water provide an entry point for church planters trained by TIM. Times of drought demonstrate the perilously thin margin between survival and catastrophe to many millions of villagers.

In one village, Rajput's, or higher caste people, opposed drilling a well to which poor people would have access. Now Rajput's wells are dry and they are glad to use water from TIM bore wells, wherever they are dug.

Thomas reported in his most recent newsletter that 19 wells were dug in April. Well drilling was temporarily suspended when the TIM well drilling truck was confiscated by police to transport police and election personnel.

It was only released after "much request and prayer," Thomas said.


To North Carolina Baptists, Thomas said, "The wells you sponsored are life giving as well as a great relief in high temperatures for villagers in Bihar."

The well drilling success has created demand for more wells, which is the cycle Thomas was anticipating. Each well is a key to open the door to a village or the gospel.

Other TIM ministries changing lives

More than 150 women are training at seven sewing centers offered by TIM.

Gaining the skill to sew offers these women an economic opportunity they would not normally have. It makes them more attractive as a potential spouse, and they have gained the currency to begin their own business.

Several students have received Christ as savior while they were in training, reported Thomas.

Typically, each graduate receives a sewing machine just like the one on which they trained.

TIM currently does not have the funds to provide the machines to all graduates, which cost $100 each. They are foot-powered machines so they can operate anywhere.

To buy a machine for a sewing school graduate, send your gift designated "sewing machine" to N.C. Baptist Men, 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511.

50 baptized in April

Fifty new believers were baptized in April, most from a Hindu background, Thomas said. They could not be baptized in a river as is the custom because drought has dried up area rivers. Many new believers endure threats and excommunication from their families as a result of a public stance for Jesus.

Ajit Kumar Singh, who is from a high caste, was excommunicated from family for his faith in Christ. He is staying in a coaching center and his situation is similar to others who are told, "If you go to church or any Christian prayer meetings, we will not attend your marriage or social functions."


Thousands curious about Easter message

TIM church planters found positive response as they organized Easter meetings in villages and shared about Jesus' death and resurrection.

"Many people were convinced of their sins and received Christ," Thomas said. As many as 2,000 heard the message in one field, many of them for the first time.

TIM church planters are witnessing to villages that have never had a Christian outreach. Church planters peddle their bicycles many miles to share the gospel, Thomas said.

They are getting prayer meetings started among several previously unreached groups.

Some 50 children have gained admission to public schools because of training at TIM literacy centers in past months.

Students leave the literacy centers prepared for school and having heard the message of Jesus.

Thomas is planning two-day discipleship training events for new believers -- 50 at a time -- and would like to conduct 60 such training camps. Cost is about $150 each.

Training and encouragement is very important for new Christian believers in a hostile environment. It can be discouraging when families and communities disown them.

Hindu priest converts

One recent convert is Kashinath, formerly a Hindu priest.

He used to conduct prayers and rituals for other people but his own life and family was a mess. Thomas said. He had no peace and evil spirits tormented his wife. He found no relief in more intensive Hindu worship. One day a TIM church planter visited his village and shared the gospel with him. He received Christ, as did his entire family.

Today, Kashinath is a Christian priest, traveling to villages and sharing his new life in Christ.

"Praise God for the transformation the gospel can bring in a person's life," Thomas said.


To support the work of Transformation India Movement, send your gift designated TIM to N.C. Baptist Men, 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511.

TIM currently operates out of 5 rented buildings, including an orphanage and training and sewing centers. Its largest need is to build a facility in which it can consolidate its ministries on land it already owns.

The most efficient design on the precious land calls for five floors, at a cost of $100,000 per floor. Thomas is praying for donors for that project.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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