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FROM THE STATES: Mich., Ala., Ky., Tenn. evangelism/missions news

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
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 Beacon (Michigan)

The Alabama Baptist

Kentucky Baptist Convention

Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)

CEC gives tools

to Michigan churches

By Karen L. Willoughby

ROSEVILLE, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) -- More than 700 Michigan Baptists participated in the recent Church Equipping Conference, which took place on a mid-September Saturday at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville.

The eight-hour instructional event was designed to provide (or sharpen) tools for pastors and other church leaders as well as those sensing God might be calling them to more involvement in His kingdom work.

"The Church Equipping Conference was one of the best conferences I've seen in SBC life - well-organized, passionate leaders and good focus," said keynote speaker Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn. "I'm thrilled to have been a small part."

The eight-hour event started with an hour of worship. Sixty-one unique workshops followed; they covered the three priority resourcing areas of Michigan Baptist life: church strengthening, church mobilization, and church starting.

"I was so encouraged and inspired by attending," said Kyla Gurganus of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, where she is a kindergarten Sunday School teacher and Operation Christmas Child coordinator. "I learned so much. It was amazing to be around so many people who shared my same beliefs and were there to reach people from Michigan for Christ."

Lynn is pastor of Raisinville Baptist Church in Monroe. The day went by quickly because he was busy absorbing a variety of new information in every area of ministry, he said.

"From discussions on social media to reaching unreached people groups around the world, I returned home with my mind whirling with new initiatives that I wanted to start," Lynn said.

That's exactly the response state missionaries were wanting, when the statewide need for training surfaced during a staff retreat in March 2011, said Bobby Gilstrap, BSCM lead state missionary.

State and associational missionaries agreed then to work together in developing an event that would draw people from throughout the state.

An 18-member steering committee was formed; it represented 14 of the 15 Baptist associations in Michigan.

"It is our vision as a convention of churches to be 'partners in advancing God's kingdom,'" Gilstrap said. "The CEC helped us fulfill that vision and our mission of 'doing whatever it takes to see lives transformed for Christ through starting, strengthening and mobilizing churches.'"

By fall of last year, after talking with pastors and other church leaders across the state, to see what their needs were for training, suggestions surfaced for more than 100 workshops. Partners were enlisted - Christian Law Association, Alabama State Board of Missions, LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC's North American Mission Board and others - and highly-regarded presenters were contacted.

"Eventually the workshops were winnowed down to 61, with training for virtually every key leader in the church," Gilstrap said. "More than 70 churches participated, in 14 of the state's 15 Baptist associations, and 702 people registered.


"This was the largest gathering of Michigan Baptists we're aware of in possibly the entire history of our convention, and certainly the last 25 years," Gilstrap continued. "It was a landmark event. It hopefully provided valuable training and resources for leaders in our churches to achieve their God-given leadership capacity, which will ultimately impact the church and community where they live and serve."

Some of those responding to an online survey of the CEC said the event was "awesome, great, life-changing" and more.

"It lit a fire in my belly," said Teresa Thomas, a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Ida, where she is an assistant leader in women's ministries.

"The CEC provides an opportunity for members to increase their knowledge, gain understanding and become further inspired to share with others the mission before us," said Derrick McDonald, pastor of Prospect Baptist Church in Pontiac.

"It was the most effective meeting I have been to with our state convention," said Karen Villapando of Memorial Baptist Church in Sterling Heights, where she is a mission team leader, weekday childcare administrator and adult Sunday School teacher. "It was like a big family reunion with the potential to make us collectively and individually better equipped to reach our state and serve in our own churches and communities."

As keynote speaker, Ed Stetzer hammered home the point that all members of a church - not just the pastor - should be representing Jesus as they go about their daily lives.

"Share your faith the way Jesus shared his," Stetzer said. "Be intentional about it. Jesus made a huge difference in your life, and He can make that same difference in the lives of your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers."

Kim McQuestion, women's ministry leader at Monroe Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe, said she understood what Stetzer was saying.

"It was a refreshing conference, very helpful in shedding new light on ways to reach, teach and keep people," McQuestion said. "I felt very inspired and challenged to continue thinking big for our Savior and Lord."

Mark Zdawczyk, a member of Kingdom Life Church in Lansing, said the Church Equipping Conference gave participants "a lot of tools.

"The real key is that now we should go and make disciples," Zdawczyk said. "Now that we've got these tools in our hands, now we need to go and do something that Christ has called us to do with them."

This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan ( Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Beacon.


Birmingham's Dawson

helps Sudanese village

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham, has taken a costly new step in its nine-year commitment to the South Sudanese village of Akot.

On Oct. 7 the church voted to enter a five-year partnership with Living Water Community Transformation (LWCT), a 501(c)(3) organization founded to minister to the approximately 12,000-member community in Sudan. Dawson will provide $500,000 over the coming years to help build and operate two primary schools, train pastors and provide work for women in the area. In addition the church will continue to send specialized missions teams into Akot.


Those specialized short-term missions trips actually were the seed of Dawson's commitment to the village. In 2003, Southern Baptist representatives in the region near Akot invited American teams to do missions work there. The need then was massive: extreme poverty, damage from the Second Sudanese Civil War and an almost complete lack of children's education, employment opportunities and health care. The first missions teams into Akot set up medical clinics in the bush and conducted evangelism. Ongoing trips led to the creation of the Akot Medical Mission, a medical facility still in operation today.

After the Southern Baptist representatives left the region, Dawson -- in partnership with several other churches -- formed LWCT to keep working in the area.

LWCT has founded two primary schools that meet under trees and grass-roof shelters. About 650 students -- 90 of whom are orphans — are taught between the two schools. LWCT also has created a training center to raise pastors for the 14 Baptist churches in the area, facilitated the drilling of several water wells and employed Sudanese women in a vocational sewing center.

Grants from organizations like Baptist Global Response have provided vaccinations for the schoolchildren and a daily nutritious meal Several young adults also are receiving scholarships for secondary or college-level classes.

Ben Hale, minister of missions and evangelism at Dawson, spoke of the responsibility the church is taking for the Akot region. "God called us to Akot originally and seems to be leading us to a deeper level of commitment," he said. "We now know the names and circumstances of many of our Christian brothers and sisters in South Sudan."

Because LWCT is not an independently funded group, it is in serious need of financial assistance from Dawson and from others.

"If we do not build and fund the schools in Akot, the children will not be educated. If we do not give and go to Akot, the women will very likely be left to fend for themselves. If we do not give and go to Akot, the pastors' training will very likely cease," Hale said.

Hale and Dawson leadership hope this partnership "will provide ... a renewed sense of responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission," he said.

Dawson Pastor Gary Fenton said members and leadership are excited about being part of "such a strategic ministry at such a crucial time."

"This appears to truly be a divine appointment as needs and by faith we are believing God will provide the resources to meet the needs," he said.

For more information on how to get involved, contact Ann Rao at or Ben Hale at For more information about LWCT, visit

This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.


Collegiate ministry uses

10-11-12 to share Christ on campus

By David Roach

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Kentucky Baptist Convention) -- An international student hears the name of Jesus for the first time....

A young woman considers the cost of committing her life to Christ....


An agnostic agrees to meet with a Baptist campus minister weekly to discuss spiritual questions....

These were just a few of the results when hundreds of Kentucky college students participated in Engage24, a national, 24-hour evangelistic push on college campuses Oct. 11 organized by the Baptist Collegiate Network, a group of college ministry directors from Baptist state conventions across the country.

"We were looking toward Oct. 11 as a big push," said Mark Whitt, campus minister at Murray State University. "But what I have seen is that the specific day gave students the opportunity to be intentional and that it has been more on their mind to pray for their peers and share the gospel with them since that day."

Kentucky Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) students shared their faith that day through servant evangelism, spiritual surveys, evangelistic gatherings and informal, one-on-one conversations. Engage24 also involved concerted prayer for those in spiritual need on campuses around the state.

At the University of Kentucky in Lexington, more than 100 BCM students participated in the outreach, receiving evangelism training in advance and sharing the gospel with nearly 200 fellow students Oct. 11. A 24-hour prayer chain ensured that at least two students were praying for the campus at all times Oct. 10-11.

"One of the main purposes of Engage24 was not to do a day-evangelism event and feel good about ourselves," UK Baptist Campus Minister Daniel Berry said, "but to truly engage people with the gospel and continue the journey for them to have a personal faith with Christ.

"The story of 10/11/12 may not be completed for years," he added.

One UK student named Chris had hoped to talk with a friend about the gospel that day. But when the friend was unavailable to meet, Chris began a discussion about Jesus with an international student and discovered that the student had never before heard the name of Jesus.

Another student named Natalie was considering a commitment of her life to Jesus before Engage24 and on Oct. 12 told two BCM students that she wanted to be saved but was afraid of the consequences. With encouragement from her friends, Natalie was still considering salvation.

At Murray State, 300-400 students heard the gospel through Engage24. BCM students handed out hot chocolate, donuts, lemonade and cookies on a main campus walkway and talked about Christ with those who stopped to ask why they were showing such kindness. An event called "Telling Our Story" featured three BCM students who came to know Christ either in late high school or college sharing their personal testimonies of salvation.

Engage24 impacted faculty members as well as students, according to Whitt.

"I have had several conversations with some professors … that have encouraged me that Engage24 was also a catalyst for some of our staff and faculty to develop a heart for their peers in education," he said.

At Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, campus minister Brian Combs encouraged BCM leaders to read Tim Keller's book, "The Reason for God," over the summer to prepare to share their faith this fall. Then Combs and evangelist Dennis Pethers trained students in evangelism after the semester began.


As students started spiritual conversations on Oct. 11, one learned that a friend he thought was a Christian was actually an atheist—despite the fact that he led worship at a local church. The student and Combs were attempting to follow-up.

At Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, servant evangelism, spiritual surveys and evangelism using the visual arts were among the ways students shared their faith during Engage24. They also held two prayer times during which they asked God to help them love people just as He does.

BCM President Alyson Cooke bought a freshman coffee at a campus hangout for Engage24 and told her that she wanted to show the love of Christ. Upon learning that the student had not attended church since coming to college, Cooke invited her to attend with her.

While taking spiritual surveys, campus minister Tommy Johnson met a student who said he was unsure about the identity of Jesus, if God exists and whether there is a higher purpose in life. The student agreed to meet weekly with Johnson to discuss his spiritual questions.

For the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Engage24 fell during fall break. So the BCM chose Oct. 1 as a special day of prayer for the campus and planned strategic evangelism events throughout the semester. Through a series of events, approximately 1,200 students heard the gospel.

When evangelist Tony Nolan spoke Oct. 22, 19 students professed faith in Christ for the first time and 19 recommitted their lives to Jesus.

In the wake of Engage24, campus ministers across the state agreed that the event had more than a one-day impact, encouraging students to be more active in witnessing every day.

"The day of Engage24 was really good," Berry said, "but it has been the after-effects and the continued emphasis of sharing the gospel that I'm most excited about. Students are sharing their faith and living the gospel out in front of their friends."

Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministry gives focused emphasis on evangelism, discipleship, leadership development, missions and church involvement. These areas are further emphasized in the 1:8 Leadership Experience, a BCM summer missions initiative working with churches and missionaries that involves approximately 50 students annually.

For additional information about Kentucky Baptist Convention ministries to college students and other young adults, contact the department by e-mail at or call (502) 489-3345 or 1-866-489-3345 (toll-free in Kentucky).

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperative missions and ministry organization made up of nearly 2,400 autonomous Baptist churches in Kentucky. A variety of state and worldwide ministries are coordinated through its administrative offices in Louisville, including: missions work, disaster relief, ministry training and support, church development, evangelism and more.

For more information, visit the KBC website at or find "Kentucky Baptist Convention" on Facebook or follow "kentuckybaptist" on Twitter.


This article, from Kentucky Baptist Communications, was written by David Roach, a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.


Tennessee BCM

students 'Engage'

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- Baptist Collegiate Ministries on campuses across Tennessee took on the challenge of Engage24, an effort to mobilize college students to reach other students for Christ on 10-11-12 (see

While each campus BCM approached this emphasis differently, the journey and the results have been more than encouraging, observed Bill Choate, Tennessee Baptist Convention collegiate ministries group leader.

The BCM at the University of Tennessee, Martin, focused their events during the entire week around preparing for and praying over students and their witness opportunities.

Students at Walters State Community College developed a Twitter witness movement they call Testimony 140 that has now been used by students across North America. They also used Soularium cards as an outreach tool. The night before Engage24, in Midtown Memphis, students from multiple campuses gathered on the rooftop of Playhouse on the Square for a night of praying and worshiping over their city.

Vanderbilt University students worked with Baptist Collegiate Ministry TBC mission partners in Cincinnati preparing for Engage24 there.

Steven Johnston, BCM campus minister in Cleveland, said, "We did an evening of intentional Viral Evangelism training, emphasizing the urgency of sharing the gospel. As a result, one of our school athletes began to take the message seriously and began sharing her faith with other athletes, using a video about faith to open team mates to the possibility of becoming believers."

Tennessee Tech BCM, as on many campuses, expanded the emphasis beyond a single day. Tech held a fall retreat for 145 students and focused the whole retreat around preparing students to be missionaries to the campus and Engage24.

Like other BCMs, outreach with the gospel is an ongoing effort. John Aaron Matthew, BCM campus minister, stated he believes about 100 students shared the gospel on 10/11/12, with about 150 general student contacts that day. Over the one month leading up to Engage24, there were approximately 250 gospel presentations and 1,000 outreach contacts. While he did not know of any students making first professions of faith on Engage24, four students had accepted Christ during the weeks prior.

In Knoxville, University of Tennessee students were involved in multiple events to encourage them to witness personally. The weekly worship event we centered around training and encouraging. Students met at 6:30 a.m. to participate in a "rooftop experience" to pray over their campus, and then prayer walked the campus.

"We utilized the TBC More Life Student tracts throughout the week, with other things we handed out on campus," said Stacy Murphree, campus minister at Austin Peay State University. "Many of our students who shared on Engage24 had never verbally shared their faith. It was a huge thing to have them at the end of the day understand even more clearly how important and how natural that can be," she said.


"We had one student who felt God convicting her to share her faith with her dad as a result of praying and preparing for Engage24," explained Murphree. "She shared with him and, as a result, her dad accepted Christ on 10/11/12."

As a result of Engage24, hundreds of Tennessee students have been sharing their faith on campuses, some for the first time.

"We are getting reports of students coming to Christ. We are getting reports of students having the surprise of discovering other believers out there on campus. Students have been telling about Jesus in dorm rooms, classrooms, while they workout and as they walk across campus," Choate said.

One student told her fellow BCM students that she wanted to tell her father, an unbeliever, about Jesus. On the morning of Engage24, over breakfast, she led her father to Christ!

"We are seeing a movement of God in BCMs across our state. Young adults on our campuses need to hear about Jesus. Young believers need to learn to share their faith and to lead kingdom ministry.

"Baptist Collegiate Ministry needs the prayers of Tennessee Baptists to continue to have a powerful impact on young adults across Tennessee," Choate added

This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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