Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Ark. aims for 'high survival
rate' in church planting
By Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.--While the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) aggressively supports church-planting efforts in the Natural State, the goal of the convention is not just to plant churches -- but churches that have a lasting kingdom impact.
Emil Turner, ABSC executive director, feels it is important for a new church start to thrive -- not just to survive. He said supporting church planters and their efforts with training, leadership tools and financial resources is a big reason why church planting in Arkansas is successful.
Southern Baptist church planting has been in the headlines a lot lately due, in part, to the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) renewed emphasis on starting new churches.
On May 27, NAMB announced, for example, that it is setting aside $15 million for church plant loans, in addition to continuing to make loans to existing churches.
Arkansas does not make loans for new church starts, but supports new work with funds provided by Cooperative Program giving and the Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering.
"The ABSC starts nearly 30 churches a year, and we give money to new church starts, rather than loaning it," said Turner. "Our survival rate for new congregations is one of the highest in the SBC."
'Biblical' church planting
With NAMB's renewed emphasis on church planting, how will it affect church planting in Arkansas?
"We will continue to help start churches in Arkansas and North America using the biblical, proven methods that God has blessed," said Turner.
"A 'mother church,' associational involvement, a commitment to missions giving and to the Baptist Faith and Message are all implanted in the DNA of the new congregations we help start," Turner added.
Phill Hall, member of the ABSC missions ministries team and coordinator of church planting, said the convention has a close partnership with local churches and associations to discover, enlist and train Arkansas church planters.
A new church planter training and coaching process is being developed for Arkansas.
"We are currently developing a church planter 'farming system' that will aid in finding and enlisting new planters through referrals from lay people, pastors and associational missionaries," said Hall. "As a part of this initial phase, there will be personal interviews, pre-assessment, evaluation and formal assessment. The heart of the process is an equipping component of skills development."
A candidate for planting a new church will have the advantage of being mentored by an Arkansas pastor in performing the practical side of ministry (baptism, Lord's Supper, pastoral care, etc.), as well as a coach who is a successful Arkansas church planter, Hall explained.
"The coaching process will include the challenges and opportunities of planting a new church. This part of the plan will be an apprenticeship for about six months to one year. Finally, there will be a deployment of the new church planter in conjunction with a local church partner, the association and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention," said Hall.
"We are excited about the possibilities of this process helping us increase the number of church plants from the current yearly level of about 28 to 30 new churches a year to 35 or 40 a year."
Hall said an increase in the number of churches in the state is key to reaching Arkansans with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every church planting pastor or church that receives assistance from the ABSC is required to support the Cooperative Program and Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering, he said.
Presently, new churches in Arkansas worship in nine different language groups.
"And we are planning to strengthen our number of churches in various ethnic groups within the state," said Hall, who added an orientation and educational institute has been developed for working with pastors who may not understand Southern Baptist life but who have a desire to connect with the Arkansas Baptists and participate in the mission efforts of the convention. The institute will include weekly classes on topics relevant to the education of potential new planters.
ABSC church planting strategists have rewritten the materials for training church planters called Essentials for Church Planters, said Hall. "(Training materials are) specifically designed to meet the needs of Arkansas church planters. Training is offered twice each year and is financed by the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering."
An advantage of having Arkansas-centric church planting training materials and instruction and carrying it out with churches and associations is to "address planting needs with an Arkansas perspective," said Hall.
Task is huge
The Great Commission task in Arkansas is huge, said Hall, as there is an estimated 1.6 million lost people living in the state.
"Local churches, associations and the state convention have a passion for reaching those folks because they are our neighbors and friends. God has blessed Arkansas with the opportunity for Arkansans to reach Arkansans with the gospel through church planting, and we support that effort through our giving to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering."
Currently, the ABSC supports five church planter strategists in Arkansas to resource individuals, churches and associations in church planting.
"We have specialists in traditional church planting, innovative church planting, cowboy church planting, African-American church planting and various language church planting," said Hall.
"We have helped organize an innovative church network, a cowboy church fellowship and continue to network planters and their wives for fellowship and education. We partner with other state conventions to resource their church planting efforts in North America as we share the gospel with a kingdom perspective."
While not all churches can plant a new church alone, nearly all churches can be a part of church planting efforts through partnerships, Hall said. "One of the greatest needs in Arkansas for planting new churches is for partner/sponsor churches to see the vision of expanding the kingdom of God by helping start new churches to reach people that are not in any church," he said.
"We believe everyone in Arkansas needs the opportunity to hear the gospel and personally meet Jesus. That means sharing the gospel with them where they live and establishing a church in their area and context."
Tim Yarbrough (email@example.com) is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
In Atlanta partnership,
two are better than one
COLUMBIA, S.C. (Baptist Courier)--South Carolina Baptists are using their gifts and talents to partner with new church plants to reach the urban Atlanta area with the gospel. The Urban Atlanta Church Planting (UACP) cooperative effort has a goal of starting 100 new churches in the densely populated area within the city's I-285 perimeter by the end of 2014.
"This partnership was born of the vision of Jim Haskell, a native South Carolinian and UACP leader. He provided the framework for the vision tours that offer our churches and associational leaders their initial connection with Atlanta church planters," said Ronnie Cox, Acts 1:8 strategist with the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC). "Our partnership has proven to be a mutually satisfying relationship in kingdom work."
The UACP is a cooperative effort of the Georgia Baptist Convention and local associations, North American Mission Board and LifeWay whose stated goal is to intentionally plant relevant, reproducing congregations that produce community transformation. As of August 2010, there are 16 new churches in some phase of development and nine planters either connected with a church or assigned to locations or people groups.
First Church Powdersville pastor Brad Adkins, described the partnership as doing more together than one church could do alone. "Our church could never have an impact in the Atlanta metro area, but through Midtown we do. Just like we could never fully support a foreign missionary, but through the Cooperative Program we support thousands of missionaries. Partnerships allow our church to be involved in missions that we could not impact otherwise," Adkins said.
Midtown Church began meeting last August in an older church building nestled in an affluent and desirable metro Atlanta neighborhood. At the time, surveys indicated that only five percent of the community's population attended church. Pastor Todd Briggs has leaned on ministry teams like those from Powdersville to renovate and help with physical church needs. Powdersville has also pledged to support Midtown with one percent of its undesignated offerings.
"South Carolina church members have resonated with what God is doing here, and these churches and pastors understand that planting an urban church is unique," Briggs said.
With the help of Anderson Mill Road Church in Moore, Midtown has reached out to the community with a book signing event, Palm Sunday activities, and an Easter egg hunt. South Main Church in Greenwood has given support toward Midtown's mission work in Zimbabwe and other church leadership development.
"We have been commanded to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. Ninety-eight nations live in Atlanta, and we can reach them in less than three hours. We can pray and give, but when we partner and serve side by side, we see God work in and through us," said Tom Capps, the Greer Association Missions Mobilization coordinator and a staff member at Victor Church. Capps has been a part of ministry teams from Greer Association that have helped Midtown with community outreach and many physical improvements to the church facility.
"We would not be where we are without the partnerships we've had with South Carolina. There have been tough times, but these guys have really buoyed us to help," Briggs said.
Another new church planter, Martez Andrews, said the South Carolina partnership has lessened some of the pressure he has experienced while starting Connect Church in Atlanta. "Too many planters are alone in the harvest. South Carolina churches have said 'we'll partner with you; we're here to help you claim the harvest that God has already promised,'" he said.
Connect Church conducted a survey with the SCBC which revealed that 90 percent of the roughly 200,000 people living within a five-mile radius of the church do not know Christ. "We asked 'what does it take for a person to get to heaven?' and not one answered anything about trusting in Christ. That told us there is a lot of lostness in our community," Andrews said.
Connect Church has focused ministry efforts on some local schools, which have been open to Andrews' ideas for engaging the community. The church adopted 20 families from the school system at Christmas and hosted a teacher appreciation lunch. When Andrews approached the administration about allowing an Upward basketball program to meet on school property, they were quick to agree.
South Carolina churches have helped Connect Church with many aspects of the new Upward program. Riverland Hills Church in Columbia purchased basketballs and goals and sponsored several players, Browns Chapel in Pacolet purchased sound equipment, and First Church Columbia helped with community surveys and home visits.
Andrews said the first Upward season was a success - 80 children from the community participated and 15 children and five adults were led to Christ. This summer, Charleston Church and First Church Columbia will help with two Upward camps, and teams from the Laurens Association will lead an additional Vacation Bible School there. Andrews reports that since January, there have been 40 salvations through Connect Church.
Tim Brown, a member of Riverland Hills Church's vision team, said it is exciting to see God working in another area. "Part of being an Acts 1:8 church is being involved locally in ministry, in our state and beyond. Nothing's more important than doing things that will last for eternity."
"The great value of this agreement has been that Atlanta is close enough to allow more frequent travel to and from ministry sites. Planters have spoken in our churches and our pastors have spoken in the new church plants. It is a real win for South Carolina Baptists, Georgia Baptists, and especially for the kingdom," Cox said.
For more information or to become involved in UACP efforts through short-term trips or ongoing support, contact the Missions Mobilization Office or go online to www.scbaptist.org/northamerica/opportunitiesinatlanta2011.htm.
N.C. Baptists begin
partnership with Moldova
CHISINAU, Moldova (Biblical Recorder)--Every day at school John was told God did not exist. He remembers when youth in his village were taken off to prison after soldiers finally discovered they had printed portions of the New Testament.
Growing up in Moldova, when it was part of the Soviet Union and being a Christian was not allowed, did not make life easy for John Miron, his seven siblings and parents. In his village there was no church, so his family met with other believers in what they called underground church. The government forbid them to meet publicly, so they met privately in homes throughout the village. John could never tell anyone he was going to church or that he had been to church.
John's parents did not have much, but they worked hard to provide for their family. One day his dad's cow — the family's main source of food — got sick. His dad refused to try and sell a sick cow. So for 12 days the family prayed and fasted.
"God healed the cow," John said. And that became the moment John said will be forever etched in his memory when he knew God cared about their family and would always provide for them. God used that experience to teach John to trust Him. John knew when he received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior that his faith may bring persecution. Yet, God took his fear away and replaced it with a great desire to serve.
"I knew when I grew up I wanted to serve Him," he said.
John is now president of the Baptist Union of Moldova and pastor of a Baptist church in a country with an evangelical population of less than two percent. About 3.5 million people live in Moldova and the predominant religion is Eastern Orthodox.
Moldova, situated between Ukraine on the north, east and south and Romania on the west, experienced great spiritual revival in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed, the country gained independence and its citizens their religious freedom.
"People were thirsty for the gospel," John said. "The people were looking for hope; they were looking for God."
Things are different now. John described Moldova as a country growing more and more interested in secular, worldly things as the interest in God and spiritual things is less and less.
At least 700 villages in the country are without a church or evangelical presence of any kind, while at least one Orthodox church is in 99 percent of all villages.
Moldova is a poor country, the poorest in Eastern Europe, and agriculture is the country's main economic source. Many people living in Moldova — John estimated as many as 1.5 million — actually work outside Moldova because they cannot find work in the country. While some who work outside Moldova only do so for periods of time and then return home, others never return, leaving nearly 190,000 children as orphans.
Earlier this year the World Health Organization named Moldova as the world leader in alcohol consumption. Human trafficking is also very prevalent in Moldova.
Despite all this, John is not discouraged. He has not left to do ministry anywhere else, nor will he, because he said God gave him a responsibility to share the gospel with the people of Moldova. "We go every month by faith," he said. "We are like the Israelites coming out of the wilderness. Every month we make it a step of faith."
John began his ministry working in youth ministry in one of the largest Baptist churches of Moldova. After several years of ministry training in Bucharest he returned to Moldova and helped organize a Bible college. He also got involved in church planting and ministry with the Baptist Union.
As president of the Union, John is working closely with the Baptist State Convention (BSC) as the Convention begins a partnership between Baptists in North Carolina and Baptists in Moldova.
The partnership, organized by the Convention's Office of Great Commission Partnerships, is set to be at least a three-year partnership in which North Carolina Baptists will help the Baptist Union in three strategic efforts: evangelize, congregationalize and disciple the residents of Moldova; strengthen their ability to train, send and support an international missions force; and provide leadership development opportunities for pastors.
"We praise God for the opportunity to be in this partnership and for Him to give us this hand of help," John said. "We appreciate North Carolina Baptists who are part of God's plan in Moldova."
Moldova is uniquely situated to not only impact Moldova with the gospel, but the rest of the world. "Moldova is involved in the mission outside of Moldova," John said. "We are blessed to be in a special context."
For example, the Bible college in Moldova is training many students who are from countries that are resistant to the gospel. These students will take the gospel back home once their studies are complete.
Though they may be few in number, the Christians in Moldova are hungry to learn more about God.
Yet, the opportunity for training and equipping is rare. To kick off the new partnership, the BSC recently sent a team to Moldova to lead in conferences for pastors, women and youth. One pastor who attended the conference said, "Pastor John, I'm going home with a new strength, a new hope."
"God has already used North Carolina Baptists in Moldova," John said. Michael Sowers, consultant for Great Commission Partnerships, said one goal of the partnership is to send a North Carolina team to each of the 33 districts in Moldova. North Carolina Baptists who come to Moldova will be involved in leading an evangelistic outreach on Friday and Saturday nights in the main town or village in the district they are serving that week.
Teams will also be involved in various outreach activities, such as day camps in order to teach the Bible, sports and other children's activities. Teams can host a medical clinic or minister to senior adults who often live in poverty.
"We are praying God will use this partnership to advance the gospel not only throughout Moldova, but throughout the world," Sowers said.
"Our Moldovan brothers and sisters are ready to do whatever it takes to see the name of Jesus Christ glorified. We pray for God to send out many North Carolina Baptists as workers into His harvest field."
Believers in Moldova are ready for a great revival to once again sweep across the country. "I'm praying the people of Moldova may hear the beat of God's heart," John said. "And that their hearts may feel like God's heart for unsaved hearts."
To view a photo gallery of North Carolina Baptists' work in Moldova, go to http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/galleries/2011Moldova.aspx.
Moldovan women hungry
for spiritual truth
CAHUL, Moldova (Biblical Recorder)--When Nadea Dunas began a women's ministry in her church she did not have anyone to show her what to do or how to get started, and she did not know who to even ask such questions. Dunas, whose husband is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cahul in southern Moldova, said starting the ministry was very hard.
Dunas grew up in a church that lacked leaders to teach the congregation how to study the Bible, or women to teach and mentor other women — which she wanted very much.
Dunas recently attended a women's conference at Emmanuel sponsored by the Baptist State Convention (BSC). The BSC sent a team to Moldova to lead in women's conferences in different parts of the country, as well as pastor's conferences and a youth conference.
The conferences were part of the BSC's launch of a Great Commission Partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova. Dunas called the conference and partnership "a new beginning;" an opportunity for believers in Moldova, men and women, to grow closer to Jesus Christ.
One of the things she learned from the women's conference was how to share her faith with others. "Sometimes you think it's so hard to share the gospel," she said. "But today I understand that it's so easy to begin." Dunas learned that opportunities to witness often come through small acts of kindness and simply being willing to get to know people.
Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women's Missions and Ministries, led the teaching time on evangelism, speaking from John 4. Allen shared how the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well that day went and told others about her encounter with the Savior. Many came to faith in Christ because of her testimony.
"We've experienced Jesus ourselves," Allen said. "We can be like the woman at the well and share Christ with others."
Pam Blume, who has served on the International Mission Board's (IMB) Board of Trustees and various BSC committees, and Bobbye Rankin, wife of Jerry Rankin who is president emeritus of the IMB, joined Allen on the women's teaching team. Blume spoke about leaving a spiritual legacy, and Rankin shared about missions.
Allen and the teaching team heard over and over again women saying, "I will take this back." What they learned that day they will take back to their homes, churches and communities. With the start of this new partnership comes many prayers — from this side of the world and from Moldova — that more training and equipping will take place in Moldova, as well as more laborers to join in helping Moldovan believers advance the work God is already doing.
Immediately after Allen spoke at the Cahul conference the women went into a special time of prayer. Allen said Eugenia, the women's ministry director for the Baptist Union, sensed God was working in hearts so she asked the ladies to stop and take time right after the message to pray.
"Women were praying aloud and they were praying so passionately," Allen said. "Knowing those ladies were making a commitment right then to do more when it comes to evangelism was very humbling." Revival also came in the hearts of women during the conference in Chisinau. Rankin spoke from Exodus 15 about how when the Israelites came to Marah they could not drink the water because it was bitter.
Yet, they cried out to God, and He answered their cries and made the water sweet. Rankin asked the women to get into groups of two or three and pray. Throughout the room, women lifted up prayers to God in Russian, Romanian and English.
"It was a sweet time of holiness as these women interceded for lost family members and friends," Allen said. "I can still so clearly hear the sound of a woman sitting behind me and just weeping and weeping." Eugenia Podoleanu works with the Baptist Union of Moldova and helps churches across Moldova learn more about how to develop an effective women's ministry. Podoleanu said the women have longed to be taught and trained, and the more they learn, the more they will take ownership of ministry.
Podoleanu saw a great spiritual revival sweep across Moldova in the 1990s after Moldova gained its independence. Now, she said, although people are still open to the gospel, the interest is not as great. Podoleanu has come to realize, like other leaders in the Baptist Union, that the best, most effective means of evangelism is one-to-one. Building relationships with other women and offering special events very specific to a specific group of women has proven quite effective.
During the conferences Blume used Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and 5:32-33 to encourage women to begin thinking about the spiritual heritage they want to leave for their family.
"You may not be from a long history of Christians," Blume said. "But you can be one who starts your spiritual heritage."
Blume asked women to remember that God created them to "proclaim the praise of the one who called you out of darkness. He has given us the assignment to spread the gospel." That assignment begins at home, and Blume said that assignment cannot even begin until mothers and fathers commit to praying for their children.
"Obeying God does not rob the joy of life," Blume said. "Show by your life that a life obedient to God is a joy."
To view a photo gallery of North Carolina Baptists' work in Moldova, go to http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/galleries/2011Moldova.aspx.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net