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FROM THE STATES: La., N.M., Fla. 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:

Baptist Message (Louisiana)

Baptist New Mexican

Florida Baptist Witness

Mission church is showing

the Way in Denham Springs

By Brian Blackwell

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (Baptist Message) -- The tremendous burden for the American church was too much for Joshua Spinks.

A student minister at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in 2010, Spinks would experience many sleepless nights wondering how to reach the unchurched.

"In places like China, Africa and India the gospel is spreading like wildfire in the face of persecution," Spinks said. "But here in the states where there is freedom and liberty to serve God, the church is dying, in many respects. The why is what kept me up at night."

Those feelings of trepidation eventually led to the founding of the Way church, a mission of Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge that began with small groups meeting in homes throughout Denham Springs. The church officially launched its first service Nov. 1, 2011.

Spinks' idea for the church began after reading the book Four Soils. One of the book's themes is that discipleship comes through planting churches and training leaders from those churches to plant other churches.

By April 2011 Spinks was visiting the home of close friend Scott Cheatham. Through a conversation there the two men learned they shared the same passion and discovered their calling to start the Way.

"We wanted a church that would be intentional about training up and discipling children of God and sending them out to start new churches," Spinks said. "We wanted to de-centralize the church. Instead of making it about Sunday morning we wanted to make it about Monday through Saturday and just come together on Sunday for a Christian shin-dig. …

"Our goal is not to build a church kingdom here in Denham, but rather be building the Kingdom Church to the ends of the earth," Spinks explained. Two months after that initial conversation about the Way, Spinks and Cheatham organized the church's first meeting.

A core group of 15 to 20 people met inside a home in June and by October that number expanded to 75 people meeting in one of three home groups. The church eventually moved into its own building in December.

However, Cheatham said, the church's goal is not to just have its members meet in one building but to plant a church as soon as 2013. He believes that church will be within 100 miles of Denham Springs.

By 2014 that new church plant could plant another church, a replication process Cheatham hopes will be never-ending and will stretch across the world.


"We want to be very intentional about multiplication and plant churches around the world," Cheatham said. "Our whole purpose behind our church is to raise ministers inside the church and resource them to plant churches around the world.

"I don't want 5,000 people in our congregation on a Sunday morning but 5,000 people out ministering who come from our congregation," he said. "We want to build them up and send them out."

Each week members of the Way execute outreach in its community, such as spending time with nursing home residents, feeding firemen and visiting door-to-door with their neighbors in Denham Springs.

Members also execute a larger evangelistic event each month, such as 10,000 eggs dropped from a helicopter at Live Oak High School football stadium in the nearby community of Watson in April.

About 600 people attended the event and several people indicated a decision to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Four of them were baptized and others from the egg drop joined the Way, which is located in a prime location to reach its lost community with the gospel, Cheatham said.

According to a Louisiana Baptist Convention study, of the 30,000 people who live within a 3-mile radius of the church, only 4 percent of the population attends a Southern Baptist church. Another 6 percent worship in an evangelical church.

"We are serving the community and being the hands and feet of Christ and people are drawn to that," Cheatham said.

Kevin Hand, pastor of Zoar Baptist, called the efforts by churches like the Way exciting and believes the church is in a prime location to reach young families.

"Young leaders have the benefit of seeing things through fresh, creative lenses," Hand said. "To some degree, we're all creatures of habit and the longer we do things a certain way, we tend to think our way is the best way or the only correct way.

"Our mindset can become limited and biased against new strategies," Hand said. "Therefore, I believe it's crucial to plant new churches with leaders who are open to new ideas, methods, and ways to fulfill the Great Commission."

Brian Blackwell is the marketing director for the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.


46 collegiate missionaries

from N.M. sent out

By Josiah R.

"There is no one more qualified to reach the university students of the world than university students who love Jesus."—David E.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- For generations collegiate ministries have been sending college students during the summer and fall semesters to reach the universities of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Similarly, they have traveled throughout their own country with a burden to share with the lost as well as grow in their faith. The result is countless lives changed and the gospel of Jesus being shared in places it has never been before.


College is a unique experience in a variety of ways. For one, it is a defining point in a person's life. For most students, it is the first time in their lives when their decisions are their own. They will, therefore, develop convictions on what kind of person they are going to be in terms of life and faith. The decisions a person makes in college will have a huge impact on what they do and the person they will be for the rest of their lives. Colleges around the world are filled with future leaders who are going to be making a world impact, every one of them facing these same questions. For this reason, it is vital for us as Christians to reach the university students of the world with the gospel of Jesus.

Convinced of this truth and committed to fulfilling the Great Commission, BSU Christian Challenge ministries from the campuses of New Mexico have been sending out collegiate missionary teams around the world every summer and fall dating back to 1993. Many of these students have gone on to serve on two-year terms and even career terms to reach the nations for Jesus. This summer, the BSUs of New Mexico will be sending out 46 student and staff volunteer missionaries to South Asia, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Middle East, South America and Denver, Colo.

The BSU at New Mexico State University will be sending summer overseas teams to South Asia and Eastern Europe and a Project Impact team to Denver. The city in South Asia is predominantly Hindu. In a city of about 5.9 million people, there is also a strong Buddhist, Islamic and Jainism influence. This city is only about 1 percent Christian. Josiah R. and Tierney L. will be leading the team to this city, and their team members are Stephanie M., Mary H., Daniel D., Ian M. and Shannon O.

Josh C. will be going to the same city in South Asia from July through December.

NMSU also will be sending a summer team to one of the former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe. This city has about 5 million people, predominantly Orthodox by religion, and is only approximately 0.2 percent evangelical Christian. Micah E. and Emilie V. will be leading this team, and their team members are Gaelen N., Lindsey W., Mark M. and Aaron C.

NMSU will be sending a group of 14 students and one staff to serve at Project Impact in Denver. Project Impact is a two-month-long leadership-development and evangelism-training program. Each student will be required to find a full-time job and encouraged to live out their faith through personal work ethic and building relationships with co-workers. Evenings are reserved for training participants in all areas of ministry and Christian influence. The students participating are Drake Dalton, Caitlin Elks, Leah Englehart, Taylor Henry, Michael Oliver, Ariella Reber, Shae Reinecke, Sean Richins, Stan Rigdon, Ethan Rutherford, Hunter Stuckey, Chelsea Teague, Carissa Trujillo, Rosemary Woller and Alex Castillo (staff).


David E. is the director for the BSU Christian Challenge at NMSU.

The BSU Christian Challenge at the University of New Mexico also will be sending a team to East Asia and Project Impact.

The people group in East Asia that UNM will be going to has a global population of about 10,779,000. Of this massive population, there are only about 200 believers, with the rest of the population following Islam. The believers in this people group are among the most persecuted in the world. They do not have a translation of the Bible, but the JESUS film has been provided in their language. The city where this team will serve has an enormous need for the gospel. Gayle J. will be leading this team. Her teammates are Maya A., Rhesa M. and Steph R.

Participating in Project Impact from UNM are Tim Moya, Rachel Wright, Shelby Greaser and Heather Allen.

UNM also will be sending people on other assignments around the world. They are Tyler V. and Craig T. going to the Middle East and Ryan S. going to South America.

Bobby E. is the director for the BSU at UNM.

Eastern New Mexico University BSU Christian Challenge will be sending a team to a city in East Asia as well. Keith L. and Kourtney L. are the team leaders, and their teammates are Kelsi F., Zac T., Matthew S. and Cynthia V.

Dag S. is the director for the BSU at ENMU.

These students and staff are committed to working with the Baptists of New Mexico in taking the gospel to the unreached and unevangelized universities of the world. From the statistics shown, these are places that are in desperate need of the Good News of Jesus. These projects will be anything but easy. These volunteers will definitely need prayer the whole summer. New Mexico Baptists are encouraged to pray that these university students would have boldness in sharing the gospel, their teams would work well together, and the Lord would prepare the way for them, with open hearts ready to hear and receive the gospel.

Furthermore, the average length of these assignments is eight weeks. The expenses for the overseas assignments are now typically in excess of $5,000. Project Impact costs about $2,000. Financial support comes from a variety of sources, including missions offerings from the BSUs around New Mexico and the Mission New Mexico Offering. In addition, students are responsible for raising their own financial support to cover the cost of their projects each summer. These funds come from friends, family, churches and their own personal contributions. Those who would like the opportunity to help financially support the students may send contributions to Baptist Convention of New Mexico, State Collegiate Ministries, P.O. Box 94485, Albuquerque, NM 87199-4485.


Due to security issues and the ever-increasing ease of gaining information, specific details of the assignments cannot be published. In addition, last names have been withheld from international assignments for security reasons. Most of these students will be serving in areas of the world with severe restrictions on Great Commission efforts.

Joshiah R. is an assistant for the BSU Christian Challenge at NMSU in Las Cruces. This article first appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.


Asphalt basketball scores

for church growth

By Carolyn Nichols

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) -- West Pensacola Baptist Church is attracting young families because the congregation opted to begin ministries aimed at children, according to Pastor Laddie Pierce. One of the components in its strategy is Asphalt Basketball, a children's league the church began in 2009.

"The program is competitive, but bringing the players and their families to Christ is the main goal," Pierce said.

Boys and girls in grades 3-6 make up eight teams of eight who practice and play Saturday mornings during 12 weeks in the fall. The league plays on two courts on the church's asphalt parking lot, and hundreds of spectators gather with lawn chairs on the church property every Saturday for the fast-paced games, Pierce said.

"The courts are smaller so the children don't spend all their time and energy running up and down a court, and the goals are lowered so more shots are made. It is enjoyable for them and for those watching, and we are through by noon," he said.

Church member Troy Brown, who oversees Asphalt Basketball, suggested a sports ministry four years ago that might begin with playing soccer in the church's back yard. That idea evolved into playing basketball on the front parking lot.

"We figured that people passing by would know this is a kid-friendly church," Pierce said.

The church invested $3,000 to paint court lines, put up goals and buy basketballs. Used risers were purchased from a YMCA that was closing. Each player contributes $10 that pays for a t-shirt, team photo, and a trophy.

The church promotes Asphalt Basketball through its partnership with nearby West Pensacola Elementary School, and the 64 player slots are filled quickly in the multi-racial and multi-economic strata neighborhood, Pierce said.

Team coaches are church members, as are game referees. Assistant coaches are family members of the players. Team members pray together before and after the games, but devotions are not included in the schedule. The seeds of the Gospel are sown through relationships, Pierce said.


"I get a lost daddy hooked up with a saved man, and sometimes the daddy will decide 'maybe we need to go to church there,'" he said.

New Christian Luis Gonzalez first went to West Pensalcola Baptist to watch two of his sons play Asphalt Basketball. Peirce talked weekly with Gonzalez, a motorcycle and diesel mechanic, about motorcycles, the games and his family.

When a car he was working on slipped into gear and sped through the yard—missing members of the family—Gonzalez was spurred to attend church on Sunday, the first day of spring revival. The father of four made a profession of faith soon after, and he was baptized on Easter.

"We are building bridges into lost people's lives. They are looking to get connected, looking for a home," Pierce said.

While planning for the 2012 Asphalt Basketball season, church leaders are busy preparing first for Vacation Bible School June 11-15. The church is expecting more than a hundred children, a long-time goal achieved last year. Many of those attending VBS will have had their first contact with West Pensacola Baptist in Asphalt Basketball. Some team members now attend AWANA regularly, and some will keep coming after VBS to participate in the church's Summer Music Action Camp.

"The music camp brings in loads of families who want to see their kids perform," Pierce said.

Pierce, 65, said he is in his "last church" after serving West Pensacola Baptist nine years in a career that spans 30 years. The church is "the most flexible I've ever been in," he said. With a church staff that includes a minister of worship and a part-time youth pastor, he necessarily depends on church volunteers to keep the children's ministries "rocking and rolling."

"I give away everything I can in ministry. I'm always looking for completers who take of everything including the budgets for ministries," he said. "I tell those in our new member classes, 'we have paid staff and we have unpaid staff. We need you.'"

Many new members find their first place of ministry in Asphalt Basketball. Willing volunteers and a small starting cost make the ministry possible for churches of any size, Pierce said.

"Anybody can do this. We don't have a family life center, but we do have a parking lot. If you have a parking lot, you can do Asphalt Basketball," he said.

For more information on Asphalt Basketball, go online to http://westpensacola.org/

Carolyn Nichols is the newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.


Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net


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