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FROM THE STATES: Calif., N.C., S.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: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays 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 are included in 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 Baptist Press as originally published.

Today's From the States features items from:

California Southern Baptist

Biblical Recorder (North Carolina) -- two items

The Baptist Courier (South Carolina)

Mission offering helps with

church start in the desert

By Amanda Phifer

INDIO, California (California Southern Baptist)--California has some fast-growing regions in need of new churches. Few top the charts like the once-average town of Indio, in the desert east of Palm Springs, which has grown more than 70 percent in the last 11 years.

And so it was that when Mark and Kristi Salazar agreed to pray about changing careers -- from coaching to church planting -- at their annual time-share getaway to Indio, they hardly suspected they'd be buying a home in this desert outpost a mere three months later, and launching a new church plant a mere 14 months after that.

But Kristi could tell when Mark returned from a prayer-walk around the town.

"She looked at me when I walked through the door and she said, 'We're moving to Indio aren't we?'" Mark recalled. "I said, 'Well, we should pray about it,' but we both knew God was already working on our hearts."

In fact, the couple had been exploring a call to church planting for some time, starting with a conversation with their pastor, then church planter training offered through the association and state convention, and conversation with a California Southern Baptist Convention church starting strategist.

"(They) had told me the Lord wanted me to start a church in Indio, that they'd been praying for God to call someone there for five years already," Mark said. "I thought that was awful bold, so even though I agreed in my heart, all I said was, 'Well, I'll pray about anything.'"

When the Salazars returned to San Diego and their home church, they embarked on a 40-day fast, and by the end of it were committed to plant a new church in Indio, starting that fall. They had two months to raise prayer and financial support. In August 2010 they moved to Indio, with 50 percent of their funding needs pledged from various churches, associations and CSBC. Two months later one of their key supporters dropped out.

"We moved from 50 percent funded, and us willing to get a job here if needed, to 30 percent funded," Mark said. "I thought, 'Now Lord, isn't it supposed to go the other way?' But as usual the Lord knew what He was doing. God just brought people to us."

Now Cross Community Church, or C3, is fully funded through a far-reaching network of support: California Southern Baptist Convention, two associations and six churches from San Diego to Bakersfield to Atlanta.

C3 started, as most church plants do, with a Bible study in the Salazars' home.

"We thought we were moving to Indio without knowing a single person, but then found out through Facebook that we both had a friend here, who wasn't going to church anywhere but said she'd try ours," said Mark, who continues to coach at the local high school while pastoring. "So she came, invited another couple, and it just went from there."


Mark said this -- inviting people to C3 -- is his favorite part of church planting -- "just the freedom to go out and invite people. Everywhere I go I'm inviting people I don't know to come to our church. It's a lot of fun."

C3 began meeting at the high school weekly on Easter weekend, but Mark said a more official launch is planned for this fall. In the meantime, the Armstrongs -- a couple from San Diego who had been volunteering each week -- planned to relocate to Indio in August.

"The challenge is knowing what to do next, how to balance the focus on reaching the lost with building the core of disciples," Salazar said.

With the boots-on-the-ground of couples like Mark and Kristi Salazar, the challenge for California Southern Baptists is to continue providing funds for such church plants. One of the two focuses for this year's California Mission Offering is church planting -- church starting strategists estimate CSBC needs to start as many as 300 new churches annually to reach California with the gospel.

"God really affirmed that He would bring exactly what we needed, nothing more, nothing less," Salazar said. "We can't do that without the churches who are being faithful, and giving back to the Cooperative Program, giving back to the state and giving back to the association."

This article first appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.


Be intentional, strategic

in sharing gospel

By Dianna L. Cagle

Biblical Recorder

JACKSONVILLE, N.C.--Joe Cappar knows the average church member is not involved in evangelism.

But the New River Baptist Association's interim director of missions hopes the upcoming association-wide emphasis will be a catalyst for change.

"People rely on magic feeling that now is the time to" (evangelize), Cappar said.

In September the association will have a night for training on personal evangelism with time scheduled the following Saturday to put their plans into action.

Evangelism and baptism are keys to church growth according to Don McCutcheon, executive leader for evangelization with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

McCutcheon began to study how churches become intentionally evangelistic when he worked with the Florida Baptist Convention. He was inspired by a book by Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay's president. McCutcheon, said each of the Great Commission verses (in all four Gospels and Acts) deals with evangelism and the commissions were directed toward the body, not a specific individual. Evangelism came first; then a church was started.

The five-part Intentional Evangelism Church Strategy (IECS) began in a pilot church in Florida and has since been used in more than 200 churches in Florida and North Carolina.

Statistics show that 40 percent of those churches doubled in baptisms in two years or less after introducing IECS.


One church McCutcheon worked with in Florida went from two baptisms one year to 17 the next after an IECS training.

"The major method is relationship," McCutcheon said. "The gospel is still the same. The method is still the same: person-to-person. They find what works for them."

In all his years in ministry, McCutcheon said he's only had one man ask to be removed from a prayer list.

"People pray for everything except non-believers," he said.

Whatever churches do should be evangelistic, he stressed. "Be very clear about who you are and Whose you are," he said.

The BSC evangelism staff work closely with congregational services to strengthen churches. McCutcheon said the BSC is about helping churches focus on the Great Commission.

"An effective evangelistic church will on average baptize and retain about 10 percent of their Sunday morning worship crowd," he said.

In the New Testament, baptism wasn't tied to a building. McCutcheon said outdoor baptisms "give people an opportunity who wouldn't come to a building."

Based on Acts 2:41-47, the IECS was built off insights from more than 100 pastors "who are effectively and consistently evangelistic," according the BSC web site.

It is based on four principles:

* every Christian is called by God to be involved in the Great Commission,

* evangelism begins with the local church,

* churches are different and must find their own way to evangelize their community,

* and God wants to bless Christians in reaching nonbelievers.

McCutcheon said the strategy is based on five pillars: evangelistic leadership, evangelistic prayer, assimilation, personal evangelism and event evangelism.

New River leaders plan an evangelism event each year including the IECS.

Some of the events were rallies that were motivational in nature but those have become less popular, Cappar said. With the emphasis on discipleship from the BSC's Find It Here, Cappar believes the association needs "to be equipping our church members to be able to do evangelism."

Training believers in evangelism is a part of that discipleship.

While the Sept. 22 event's breakout sessions on specific faith-sharing techniques has not been finalized, Cappar said the leadership is working to include a variety of evangelism techniques.

"The churches will take that into their own communities," Cappar said. After the training, leaders are working with the churches who sign up to plan a Saturday evangelism outreach for their church. The goal is for members to get out of the church building and share Christ with their community.

"(The churches) seem to be embracing the idea that it's important," Cappar said.

The DOM would love to have all the association's 34 churches involved in training but knows that won't happen. He hopes that those who do participate are inspired to do more than pre-evangelism events.


The training should remind people who God is and why they should be sharing Christ with their neighbors and non-believers.

Evangelism Resources from Don McCutcheon

* Effective Evangelistic Churches: Successful Churches Reveal What Works and What Doesn't by Thom S. Rainer

* High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret for Keeping People in Your Church by Thom S. Rainer

* Total Church Life: How to Be a First Century Church in a 21st Century World by Darrell W. Robinson (and workbook)

* Anything written by Alvin Reid

* Drawing the Net: 30 Practical Principles for Leading Others to Christ Publicly and Personally by O.S. Hawkins

* Friends Forever: Studies in Relational Evangelism by Jack R. Smith

This article first appeared in the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Dianna L. Cagle is assistant managing editor of the Biblical Recorder.


Pinetops wants more

people in PEW

By Dianna L. Cagle

Biblical Recorder

PINETOPS, N.C.--Seeing a bank manager surrounded by five prayer warriors is not a normal sight when you enter a bank.

But Brenda Boberg said it encouraged her heart to know the effects of challenging Pinetops Baptist Church members to pray.

"It's like with anything else in our lives," said Boberg, missions coordinator for the church. "Prayer takes different focus depending on what's going on in our lives."

Part of Pinetops journey deeper into prayer has been a result of the Bobergs' -- Brenda and husband Tom -- involvement in church renewal as eastern regional coordinators for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

"It had to do a lot with how our church has grown in their faith," Boberg said Pastor John Melancon has been praying for 17 years that "this church would become mission minded." Three years ago, 36 people went on the church's first mission trip.

"People have seen it's more than coming to church," Boberg said. "It's living your faith outside your church walls, outside of your family."

The church has since been on two other mission trips, including a recent trip to Red Springs.

Members prayer walked around Red Springs, going into businesses like banks and visiting emergency personnel (fire, police, etc.). They asked if they could pray and how they could pray for the people.

"They had a great response as it opened the door for many people to hear the gospel as well," Boberg said.

Preparing for the trip, the church held a 24-hour prayer vigil and brought Chris Schofield, director of the office of prayer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), to teach about Kingdom-focused prayer.

Boberg said she has used much of the material available from Schofield and the BSC to share with her church members.

The church went through 30 days of prayer before holding a solemn assembly a week before its Prayer Empowerment Weekend (PEW).


"We spent a lot of time looking at our own lives," said Boberg. "We had weaknesses as a church. We had personal weaknesses."

One night there was a specified time where families came together in their homes for a time of prayer and devotion.

The members at Pinetops had always prayed during services but Boberg said the church has added a prayer room with a large cross and a place to kneel.

"It's not an individual or a committee but God alone who is working in the church body," Boberg said.

Two of the Royal Ambassador boys at church saw the room and started asking questions. As a result both boys have accepted Christ as Savior.

One of the areas Pinetops has been exploring is reaching beyond the boundaries in their diverse small town.

Some of the members were prayer walking by a church and asked if they could come in to pray. There was a choral group practicing for the next day's services.

"We're seeing God work," Boberg said, because of that experience, that church is now wanting to participate in prayer walking the community with Pinetops.

"It's powerful what He is doing."

Boberg said the attitude used to be to say "I'll pray for you" but now members are taking time to stop and pray at the moment a request is made.

"Prayer has taken on a whole new focus at our church," Boberg said. "The exciting thing is that it's come outside the doors of our church."

On the recent Red Springs trip Boberg said they visited everyone of the schools and went room to room praying. Members also helped with home repairs and led Bible school at a local apartment complex.

"God was definitely working," Boberg said.

A couple of years ago Boberg lost a daughter to a nine-year illness. She said she cried out in distress to God as well as questioned Him.

She sees now that through that difficult time God would lay her on someone's heart to give her a call or provide a verse to encourage her.

She was with a group that included a 14-year-old that went into a business to pray. Boberg said the youth's prayer was "one of the sweetest" as each specific area that the men had mentioned was lifted up to the Father.

"I could see so clearly how God took my daughter's death and placed me in a ministry position," as one of the men shared that he had lost not only his mother but his daughter too.

"Do I like that she died? No," stressed Boberg, "but do I see how her death can be used to be Kingdom-focused? No matter the pain, the hardship, God can make it absolutely beautiful."

Prayer Resources

* Handle with Prayer by Charles F. Stanley

* Praying God's Word by Beth Moore

* Prayer by Billy Graham

* My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This article first appeared in the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Dianna L. Cagle is assistant managing editor of the Biblical Recorder.



7-night revival meeting

turns into 7 weeks

Pastor: 'This is an absolute work of God'

GREAT FALLS, S.C. (The Baptist Courier)--Second Church in Great Falls (Chester Association) began its annual seven-day revival on June 26. Forty-nine days later, on Aug. 14, the meetings finally ended, but only so that the church could get on with the business of discipling 50 new Christians who made professions of faith during the revival, said pastor Zack Williams.

"The daily meetings have stopped, but the revival continues," Williams told the Courier. "The spirit of God is moving all over Great Falls."

Every evening during the seven-week period, members of Second Church and other community believers met for a time of worship, dispersed, and then came back to the church for a midnight prayer time that typically lasted another hour and a half.

"This is an absolute work of God," Williams said. "We just sit back and let work and are glorifying the name of his Son, Jesus. It has been amazing." Williams, who began his ministry at Second Church on April 17, is quick to point out that the revival hasn't been the work of one man — or one church, for that matter.

Patrick Blackmon is the pastor of Trinity Church, which is located about a mile down the road. Blackmon began praying with Williams for the revival before it began, was at all of the worship and midnight prayer meetings, and even cancelled Wednesday and Sunday night services so that Trinity Church members could participate.

"I am privileged to be a part of this experience. It has been unfathomable," Blackmon said. "This was birthed through midnight prayer on our knees and calling out to God, and he has responded in and through this revival. I never dreamed it would have ever taken place in Great Falls. It is exciting to watch the hand of God at work in our community."

Several hours after each evening service, around midnight, people returned for a prayer time that took place beneath a stained-glass image of Jesus illuminated above the baptistery. After that prayer time ended, some stayed for another half-hour, talking and sharing.

"I really believe that during this time of revival and prayer we've been able to care about others and carry each other's burdens," Williams said.

Williams tells of a man who hadn't set foot inside a church since 1953 but became a Christian during the course of this revival. "Another man's family prayed for him to be saved. He became a believer and has been at the church every night since praying for other family members to be saved," Williams said.

That man is Charles Dickson, an injured military veteran. Dickson still struggles after having had brain and reconstructive surgeries for injuries he sustained during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Dickson said he knew about God and prayed for his family while he was deployed, but he had never experienced Christ. He described himself as a man full of anger that was affecting all of the relationships in his life.


His wife and three children told Dickson about the revival services, and, in late July, he agreed to go. "It was unreal, the church was packed, and I could tell something was different there," he said.

Dickson's injuries sometimes affect his short-term memory, but he is quick to recall what happened to him on Saturday, July 30. He went to Williams' house to share some prayer requests, and ended up praying to receive Christ. "I've never known peace and contentment like this in my life," he said. "If I'd known it would be like this, I would have done it a long time ago."

Ted Hughes, director of missions for Chester Association, said he is thrilled about the Great Falls revival. "It's been phenomenal to see the number of adults who are making professions of faith," he said. "Both Zack and Patrick are sensitive to the Spirit. I am so excited and hope this will impact our entire association."

Williams said prayer has fueled everything, and God is hearing the prayers of his people. "Great Falls is hungry for the Lord," he said. "We are a former mill town and have a lot of poverty, drugs and addictions. The people are hungry for hope. Jesus is hope, and we are presenting Jesus to the community. They are responding, and their lives are being changed by the gospel."

This article first appeared in The Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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

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