Today's From the States features items from:
Oklahoma Baptist Messenger
Christian Index (Georgia)
A change of mindset:
Becoming a missional church
By Glenda Schoonmaker
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (Arizona Portraits)--In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner played an Iowa corn farmer seeking to build a baseball field. The movie premise was, "If you build it, they will come." Many American churches have the same belief — build a great church and the people will come to seek Christ.
Calvary Baptist Church of Lake Havasu City, led by Pastor Chad Garrison and Co-Pastor Sean Haynes, doesn't believe this model works to attract either unsaved or unchurched people.
Fifty years ago, people were drawn to churches as a safe place. With changes in society and media attention on a few negative instances, too many people distrust churches, seeing them as institutions only looking out for themselves. Calvary is changing that perception in Lake Havasu.
"The old model was to hand out tracts and give a sermon or preach — otherwise, it's not spiritual," says Garrison, Calvary pastor for more than 18 years. "The new model is to love the people and build relationships so that we (the church) can be trusted. We don't presume they will trust us. We want to create relationships so they will ask us questions."
In 2004 when Calvary started Crossroads, a Sunday morning service held at the local high school due to space needs on the church campus, it created an influx of people wanting to know about the church. Almost with the first service, Crossroads attendance equaled each of the Sunday morning services at the main church site.
Soon the Havasu community asked Calvary to help with a food distribution program to the needy. Then, Interagency, a social services organization for Lake Havasu City, asked Calvary to help renovate a dwelling for a low-income, single mother of two.
The Lake Havasu business community asked Calvary to combine the church's Hell House and Children's Fall Festival activities with the downtown community October events. Calvary also partners each year with the public school system to provide renovation of buildings during summer breaks, manpower and donations for school carnivals, and teacher appreciation breakfasts on each public school campus.
As Calvary became an integral component in helping meet community needs with a "no-strings-attached policy," people started seeking various Calvary services and questioning members about why a church would be so willing to help others when it seemed there was no benefit to the church. That was the opening to spread the message of Christ because a personal relationship had been made with those asking.
"We took the church experience out into the community," Garrison says. "Being missional is evangelistic, because everything we do is tied back to leading people to Christ."
However, he says, changing from a traditional to missional church model is not easy, because it's a whole different way of thinking for most church members.
But the end result is worth the change. By not insulating themselves from the world and instead being obedient to Christ's message to "go and seek the lost," the unsaved and unchurched are, in turn, seeking Calvary and responding to the gospel.
Glenda Schoonmaker, a freelance writer living in Lake Havasu City, is a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Lake Havasu.
--Instead of waiting for people to come to you, prayerfully consider what your church must do to be more missional in reaching people.
--Church staff must see the vision of being a missional church before anything else can be done. Staff and church leaders need to talk about what needs to be changed and why. Without vision from the leaders, the members won't see the need for change.
--Churches must realize not everyone will agree with this type of change and some members may leave.
--Church leaders considering making this transition will find it helpful to find out what has worked and what hasn't worked from other churches that have become missional.
--Want to know more? Make plans to attend Chad Garrison's sessions on "Making an Impact in Smaller Communities" and "Becoming Valuable to Your Community" at the ACE Conference, Nov. 12 at North Phoenix Baptist Church. Pre-registration, which will be available at www.aceconference.org Aug. 1, is required.
This article first appeared in Portraits, official journal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
Sand Creek continues
By Bob Nigh
Oklahoma Baptist Messenger
ANADARKO, Okla.--Jackie Jackson has gone on several mission trips with her church, Wetumka, Sand Creek, including Pine Ridge, S.D. last year.
This summer, she was happy to come to a place much closer to her heart -- Rock Spring church, four miles north of this county seat town in Caddo County, the home of the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians, the Southern Plains Indian Museum and the Apache, Delaware and Wichita tribal complexes.
Jackson, a sixth-generation Christian, considered the June 21-26 trip an historical one -- even though some would consider teaching Vacation Bible School to a few children less than noteworthy.
A student of history and obviously passionate about her Muscogee (Creek) heritage, Jackson realized the opportunity to carry on a long-standing tradition established by John McIntosh -- the first Christian missionary to the plains tribes in Oklahoma -- was one she couldn't ignore.
"This is the first time our church has come here as a mission team, but our association has been very involved with Rock Spring because this church is a member of our association. It is the only one in this area; all of the other ones are either Creek or Seminole churches," she explained, referring to the Muscogee-Seminole-Wichita Association.
"Our direct relationship with this church is because of John McIntosh, who is from Eufaula. Our association started in that area with the Creeks, and then we added the Seminoles and later, the Wichitas.
McIntosh, a descendant of the famous Creek chief William McIntosh Jr. of Georgia, became a Christian and was baptized in 1866. He was ordained two years later, and in 1874, Texas Baptists agreed to support McIntosh's missionary work among the Wichita. Loading up his horse with supplies, the intrepid preacher set out, eventually riding 216 miles to reach the Wichita Agency on the western plains at Anadarko in August.
"In the 1840s, it was against the law to be a Christian in the Muscogee Nation," Jackson said. "We had formal government when we got here (In what was to become Oklahoma); with traditional old ways, and a traditional religion. So, when John McIntosh was converted, he felt the call and the need to tell other native people that there was a different way, and that there was Jesus Christ. So, his calling was to come to these people."
Jackson added that, ironically, "It was McIntosh's family that established the law that made it against the law to be a Christian in the tribe."
Fast forward 140 years.
Sand Creek Pastor Harry Anderson and M-S-W Association Director of Missions Fred Lindsey visited Rock Spring earlier this year, and were asked to bring a group back to teach VBS this summer.
"When our pastor came back and told us the church at Wichita said they would like for us to do VBS, we said, 'Yes, we'd love to go because of the historical relationship we have had,'" Jackson said.
The Sand Creek group totaled 10 adults and four young people.
The site where McIntosh preached a two-hour sermon on John 3:16 -- with the help of a Delaware named Black Beaver as interpreter -- was an encampment located a little more than a mile away from the present site of Rock Spring church, which was established as a result of McIntosh's ministry in 1874.
That connection is not lost on Jackson.
"For us to come here is historical," she reiterated, "and also for me, it's a demonstration of God's faithfulness. He has been faithful to these people and to my people. It's very meaningful for me, personally, to be here.
"God has blessed us and He wants us to spread the Word -- just like John McIntosh did -- and that's why we have come."
Although Rock Spring's members didn't expect more than 15 or so children to turn out for their VBS, more than double that number came.
Jackson said she wasn't surprised by the attendance, which seemed to grow larger every day.
"No I wasn't surprised, even though it seems like we're in the middle of nowhere," she laughed, referring to the large trees which obscure the church from the county road one has to travel to get to it. "But, word spreads, and people know we are going to be here."
Anderson, who has served as Sand Creek's pastor since February 1990, and was raised as a child on the grounds of Sand Creek, said the VBS mission, "Is a way for us to give back to this church. It was a great opportunity for us. I had never been here before last Spring when Fred Lindsey and I visited here.
"But, this has really been a blessing to us to come. We have had more children than they expected, and they have been having a swell time."
The "floater" on the teaching team, Anderson enjoyed leading the children and adults in singing songs in native languages -- including the Creek language.
"That brings back some old memories for the older ones," he said. "They may not speak the Creek language, but some of them can understand some of it."
As for the children, it's his way of passing on his heritage to them, he said.
A bivocational pastor -- he is a general contractor as well—Anderson said he was having a great time, and bragged on his church members, both those who joined him on the mission trip and those back home.
"I have a great church. They support missions very well. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to come down here," he said.
Bob Nigh is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Redeemed and they
love to proclaim it
By Joe Westbury
The Christian Index
EDITOR'S NOTE: Georgia Baptists look for ways to be involved in rehabilitation centers in Russia. The centers have become fertile ground for ministry.
RABOLOVO VILLAGE, NEAR ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA--The old farm buildings have clearly seen better days. Some of the boards are warped, naturally weathered through decades of deep snows and legendary harsh Russian winters.
A few years ago they were falling into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance and a little TLC - tender, loving care. There was no one to hold back the ravages of time that were taking their toll.
Yet these days there are signs of life that hint to a new beginning. The fertile ground has been ploughed and planted with fall and winter vegetables, new lumber is stacked in piles and ready to replace old boards, and a new two-story building sports a fresh coat of green paint.
The complex is part seminary, part working farm, and part psychological boot camp for rebuilding lives shattered by chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol. But it's more than just a rehab center for teens and adults wanting to get back on their feet.
In many ways it's becoming a farm league where the country's next generation of pastors and church leaders are being taught doctrine and a Christian worldview so they can help transform other lives with the power of the Gospel.
To many, the graduates of the ministry are the surprise blessing that the Russian church needs to grow. Leadership is the Christian church's most pressing need, Southern and Russian Baptist leaders agree. Many of them are coming from such hidden centers like this one, tucked away into the countryside far from the temptations that are so easy to find in their hometowns.
"We have about 25 rehab centers here in the St. Petersburg region and a little more than 100 throughout Russia," explains Pavel Sennikov of the Russian Baptist Union. Sennikov serves alongside International Mission Board missionary Clint Stewart in the partnership between the RBU and the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Men and women who need help - and it takes a very, very long time for many to come to that point of surrender and brokenness - call a toll-free number for assistance. If accepted they are sent to one of the centers far from where they currently live to break all contact with their former life."
Some churches have their own rehab centers, as they are known, with most located in rural settings away from stores where vodka sells for half the price of a soft drink and where drug dealers ply their trade. The RBU launched the outreach program 10 years ago; the first center opened in the St. Petersburg area about six years ago.
The approach is similar throughout the network, Sennikov says. Clients are not charged for the service but must adhere to a strict program to overcome their addiction. They participate in two months of mandatory Bible study and are mentored by another individual as part of the discipleship process. The commitment to full immersion in Scripture is the foundation of the program that results in such a surprising success rate.
"Clients do not receive any medical help while they are here. They go 'cold turkey' and are healed of their addictions," he says. "But they are completely immersed in Scripture reading and memorization so they are transformed from the inside out."
Talking with those in the program bear out Sennikov's claims. Clients readily say they have little or no withdrawal pangs and rarely crave their previous drug of choice … whether it is alcohol, heroin or cocaine.
The individuals in the before-and-after photos the soft-spoken minister shares bear little resemblance to the person who has graduated from the ministry. Many enter the program literally in an alcohol or drug-induced stupor, knowing little more than their name. Their eyes are glazed over; their clothes are ragged.
The final photos show the same individual - man or woman - six months or more later with a clean suit of clothes and equipped with a skill to provide a living wage outside the walls of the center. Many in their 30s or 40s have never worked and have no vocational skill, having been an addict since before their teenage years.
But the most surprising outcome is the number of clients who surrender to the ministry, having experienced the transforming power of Christ firsthand, Sennikov explains. And therein lies the future hope of the Russian church and its struggle to develop leaders for new church starts.
The program has met with its detractors to be sure, Sennikov says. One is sitting across the table from him at lunch at the rehab center in Rabolovo, about 30 miles southwest of St. Petersburg.
Lubov Anatolievna serves as mayor of the village of about 400 residents, and one thing she knew is that she didn't want a group of drug addicts living in her community. Lubov gestures toward a clean-cut young man sitting at the table with her and says, "The first time I saw him after he completed the program I couldn't believe he could have come from such a terrible background of drug abuse and committing robberies.
"It's tragic that he has had such a hard life at such a young age, but I'm convinced now that the work that is going on here is good. It's turning lives around and making men and women productive members of society."
That's a strong endorsement from someone who fought strongly to prevent the program from moving into the village once a church found affordable land with some farm buildings.
"When I first heard about the program I gathered many people against it, partially because it was not a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. There were two attempts to start the ministry before it was allowed to begin in 2005, but we were not happy with that decision," she says.
"We did not want those kind of people in our town."
But after watching the ministry closely through its first year she could not deny the effectiveness of the group of Baptists, who she had been told were members of a cult. In 2006 she accepted Christ and was baptized. Today, as the ministry's strongest supporter, she volunteers to help in any way that is needed.
"Now I consider these men to be my grandchildren," she says with a smile.
Igor Kuznetsov serves as pastor of the 90-member Baptist Church of Pavlovsk, a town of 14,000 and whose members sacrifice to support the Rabolovo center as an outreach of their church. Climbing a ladder to a second-story in a yet-to-be-completed dormitory, he talks about his vision for hundreds of such centers scattered across the county - each one a testimony to the power of God.
Igor is optimistic that Georgia Baptists will be able to help their Russian brothers expand the ministry through a variety of ways - through helping to build new structures such as the dormitory at Rabolovo or renovate existing buildings. Volunteers are also needed to help teach doctrine for those going into the pastorate; plumbers and electricians and others are needed to teach vocational skills to those seeking secular employment.
"We need seminary professors to teach us about the Bible and how to organize churches to be more effective. We need carpenters, electricians, and chefs to teach us their skills.
"The very reason some of these men fell into drug or alcohol abuse is because they had no skills to earn a living for themselves or their families. We want to return them to society to be self-supporting in their community and to be strong leaders in their churches," Igor says.
That last point is one of the more difficult for many Russian Baptists to accept, but they are beginning to be more open when they see the changed lives. Many of the graduates are moving into pastoral and church planting roles and, due to the theological training they have received, are better qualified than many lay leaders.
But the main reason for the rehab centers, Igor says, "is to show our countrymen that God is working in this area of life - among those who have been the outcasts from society. It is encouraging to see Him working in such a powerful way, changing lives in ways that hospitals have not been able to do as effectively.
"It would be a sin for us not to join Him when He has shown Himself to us in this way."
How to be involved
Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in Russia but churches have found a ministry niche that is receiving widespread acclaim - redeeming those caught in substance abuse.
What are rehab centers?
Rehab centers are ministries where substance abusers live, free of charge for six months, to break their addictions. Churches sacrificially purchase land in rural areas to build new facilities or, in most cases, renovate old farm houses.
Clients are immersed in Bible study and Scripture memorization and go "cold turkey" with no medical intervention. The success rate is astounding, leaders say, and is drawing the attention of the secular community.
How can Georgia Baptists help?
Crews are badly needed to help construct new buildings or, in most instances, renovate old structures. As the crews work, they can teach their carpentry, plumbing, or electrical skills to the clients to help them learn a vocation.
Volunteers with a variety of skills, from chefs to mechanics, are also needed to teach clients their skills. Pastors, church staff, or seminary personnel can teach classes to equip clients who surrender to the ministry.
How can I get more information?
Contact the office of Mission Volunteers at the Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth at (770) 455-0404 or toll-free (800) 746-4422.
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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