Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
First Covington baptizes
57 in Bogue Falaya River
By Mark H. Hunter, Special to the Message
COVINGTON, La. (Baptist Message)--"I feel clean! I'm clean of all my sins!" proclaimed a joyous Simon Rucker as he waded up out of the Bogue Falaya River on Sunday afternoon, September 11.
Rucker, 8, was one of 57 older children, teens and adults who participated in First Baptist Church's third annual mass baptism at Bogue Falaya Park. Like all the others he had previously prayed to accept Jesus into his heart and was publicly declaring his faith by being baptized.
A small choir set the mood by singing, "Come Just As You Are," and "Let's Go Down to the River to Pray," as the group assembled under shady cypress, tupelo and gum trees.
Several hundred friends and family members lined the muddy river's sandy banks, clapping, cheering and taking photographs as the participants emerged dripping and smiling from the chilly water.
Waylon Bailey, senior pastor of the 4,000 member church, and his seven associate pastors lined up in waist-deep water to baptize eight people at a time. First in line was Bailey's grandson Jake Mizell, 9 years old.
"We've got a lot of people here today and it's wonderful," Bailey said to the crowd, then asked the Lord to bless the entire assembly.
As each set of participants entered the water the pastors announced their names. After each immersion cheers and applause rippled across the river valley.
For one group, David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, joined the pastors to baptize his granddaughter Kate Hankins, 8, who attends First Covington with her family.
Associate Pastor Jay Johnston, who organized the event, said they also regularly perform baptisms in the sanctuary. So far this year, including those on this day, Johnston estimated about 140 have been baptized.
About half were new believers, Johnston said, and the other half were new members or people who wanted to rededicate their lives to the Lord.
"They are doing this because they want to show their obedience to Christ," Johnston said. "It is important to the church and is important to them because it was important to Jesus."
Several entire families were baptized together, including Simon Rucker and his mother Susan Wright, her husband Wade Wright and his 13-year-old daughter Alexis Wright.
"We're happy," Wade Wright said. "It makes me glad," added Susan as the wet family hugged each other. "It was cold but refreshing!" added Alexis.
Chester McComas, 72, said he was baptized 35 years ago but spent most of his adult life away from God. Three years ago some neighbors who attend First Baptist "kept after me" to attend church, he said, and he and his wife finally relented.
I got my life right and now I want to be baptized proper," McComas said prior to the ceremony. "I wasn't real truthful the first time. Now I understand what I'm doing."
Nine-year-old Eli Jones felt just as good as his friend Simon when he came up out of the water. "I feel like my sins are all gone -- like I never did anything!" he declared to his smiling parents.
Eli's father, Charlie Jones, said he was baptized at this church 43 years ago at the age of 10, adding that they led Eli to Jesus at their home. "As a young boy -- he understood."
Theresa Jones said she grew up a Catholic, met Jesus as a teenager and was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean at a Campus Crusade event. "Eli is the youngest of our four children to be baptized; we're very proud of him," she said.
Ken and Kristi Cartwright were Methodists before they started attending First Covington two years ago. "We're joining the church," Ken said. Joining them was daughter Caitlyn Deal, 16, and her friend, Meghan Copeland, 16. "I just got saved Wednesday," Copeland said. "I'm excited!"
Treasure Washington, 15, was baptized by Student Pastor Shane Booker. "This sets a good example for the other students by showing them what it means to be a Christian," Booker said later.
Treasure's parents, Alfred and Janice Washington, took lots of photos and videoed the event. "I'm just so happy," mom Janice said. "We are so proud of her!"
Daniella Aparicio, 6, said "it felt cold in the water" and explained her baptism "is a symbol for accepting Jesus into my heart." Her great-grandmother, Laurie Hall, traveled from Bogalusa and was at the waterside in her wheelchair as Daniella was baptized.
"My whole family is born again," the elderly Hall said as tears welled up in her eyes. "There are 29 of us including 19 grandchildren."
Kevin Harless, children's pastor, baptized Simon Rucker and Daniella Aparicio, along with several other children. "The Spirit is moving in our children's ministry," Harless said. "The parents have gotten the children receptive to the Spirit and they are responding."
Ken Perkins, 60, who sported a large tattoo on his left arm of a bleeding Christ wearing a crown of thorns, was baptized along with his 34-year-old daughter, Jessica Francis.
"This is something I've needed to do for a very long time," Perkins said. "I was sprinkled as a Catholic, as a baby, raised a Methodist and wound up in a Baptist church. This church is what church is supposed to be like - bringing people to Christ! This is what I was looking for."
This story originally appeared in the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Small Town Church
Sees Major Results
By Lonnie Wilkey
Baptist & Reflector
SCOTTS HILL, Tenn.--An evangelistic event which drew 1,500 people and saw 107 people making decisions, including 62 who made professions of faith, would be considered a successful event most anywhere.
But it is especially true for this rural town in Henderson County in West Tennessee with a population of less than 1,000 people, says Tim Buffaloe, pastor at Scotts Hill Baptist Church.
The church held a five-day crusade Sept. 21-25 with Team Impact, an evangelistic team based in Coppell, Texas, that performs feats of strength before presenting testimonies and a gospel message.
Buffaloe noted that Scotts Hill Church normally holds a "traditional" revival each year and will do so again, but "we wanted to do something outside the box" this year, he said.
"We wanted to do an outside the box revival to reach those outside the walls folks," he said.
Ken Broadway, the church's youth minister, agreed. "Traditional revivals are more to revive and reach your own members. This was more of an outreach to those families that will not show up on Sunday morning," he said.
Buffaloe and the church was familiar with the ministry of Team Impact which helped the church launch its Upward Basketball program about three years ago.
That was such a success that "we wanted to have a five-day crusade," added Buffaloe who was youth pastor at the church then. He became pastor of Scotts Hill in January.
He admitted to some apprehension in the beginning but praised the church for latching on to the vision for the crusade. "I can't brag on them enough," Buffaloe said.
They also wondered how the crusade would be accepted by the community and if those outside the church would show up.
Buffaloe noted that the church has a lot of youth who attend on Wednesday nights for youth activities and a message geared toward them. Many of these youth and their families do not attend the church on Sunday, the pastor observed.
"Our focus was reaching as many of their parents as possible," he said.
The church advertised the crusade locally and arranged to get Team Impact into three schools in close proximity to the church.
In addition, the church worked with First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church in Parsons and Corinth Baptist Church in Darden to get into two additional schools in their area, Buffaloe said.
Buffaloe is appreciative to the principals and school officials who allowed Team Impact to come into their schools. The team did feats of strength and talked to the kids about issues they face.
Buffaloe noted the evangelistic team has taken their message all across the world, even into Third World countries. He said that the team shared that they were actually invited into schools in those countries and encouraged to preach and give an invitation.
Compare that to the United States, "the land of the free," where we can't even say the name of Jesus (in our schools)," he said.
Buffaloe and Broadway both were pleased with how Team Impact related to the church and the entire community.
"They are strong men of God, not just physically, but spiritually as well," Buffaloe observed.
He also noted they were an encouragement to him as they prayed for his ministry throughout the week. "It was a revival for me," the pastor said.
Broadway said the event was worth the effort and expense, not just because of the souls that were saved, but because of how it brought their church together to make the crusade possible.
Buffaloe is excited about the testimonies that are coming as a result of the crusade.
"Some of the strongest testimonies that we are hearing are coming from the adults who were saved," he said.
While a few of the 62 professions of faith came from people who indicated they attend other churches, the majority are unchurched people that Scotts Hill members will follow up with, Buffaloe said.
Though they had to use a nontraditional means to share the gospel, it was effective, both men agreed.
Between 300-350 attended each night of the crusade. On the Friday night, two sessions were held at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. The second session was for the youth and adults who attended the local high school football game.
Buffaloe estimated that 75 percent of the people who came would not have come to a regular Sunday service.
"It's sad to say, but you had to have some form of entertainment to get them to come in," Broadway noted.
The men said they hope this has shown everyone "that you don't have to do things the way you always have."
It also has taught the church the importance of being relevant, Buffaloe said.
He noted that he has asked the question, "Should our doors shut tomorrow, would someone in the community miss us?"
That's a tough question, he observed. "It makes you think about what you are doing and why. If we can't have a kingdom impact, we don't want to do it.
"Our goal is to be a beacon in this community," he stressed.
Though appreciative of all the hard work done by the Scotts Hill congregation to make the crusade a success, Buffaloe said nothing could have happened without God's "vision and blessing upon it."
Rocky Mount church takes
ministry outside walls
By Dianna L. Cagle
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C.--Before it was part of Transformational Church, First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount was pursuing "God's unique will for us," said Bill Grisham, pastor.
Grisham called the effort grassroots at first, but said the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina helped members discover their unique giftings.
"It was a good journey for us," he said. "Too often we pastors decide what ought to happen and shove it down everyone's throat."
The Convention helped identify eight burdens to tackle. A new facility allowed the church to offer a lot more to reach its surrounding community.
Before, the church had rented a local facility for youth and children's programs.
"It was fun to watch the church make decisions off what the burdens of the church were," Grisham said. "It's refreshing to have a building driven by ministry need."
The church discussed the building with North Carolina Baptist Men to determine what kind of facilities would be helpful. Not only can it be used for a disaster relief staging area, but 80 percent of the building is flexible educational space.
"It makes our ongoing ministry to our own people much easier and it has birthed several ministries," Grisham said. "We now have an after school tutoring program for kids who are at risk."
The children have recreation time and some Bible education, but also some concentrated tutoring time. The facility has also allowed the church to do sport camps. This summer 50 percent of the children were from the area around the church.
"We were not touching those folks before," said Grisham, who described FBC Rocky Mount as a downtown church in a depressed area.
Part of the process was a listening weekend to identify the church's values. David Moore, a BSC senior consultant in leadership development.
Moore helped the church identify three values: high value for scripture, making committed disciples and missions.
Grisham, who has led the church 21 years, said the church has been more intentional about missions involvement.
They are making multiple trips to Ecuador in efforts to plant a church there. Other mission teams have also gone to Cambodia, Belarus and Brazil.
"Ten years ago we were not nearly as engaged," Grisham said. The church has also put more money from its budget toward missions.
"All of that is in part the help we got in helping the church thinking through where we need to be," he said.
Working with the Convention has been helpful, Grisham said. Mainly the Convention has asked questions to help the church think through different possibilities.
Before Grisham came to the church, members had decided to stay downtown, so Grisham said the question shifted to how do we do ministry here?
Many of the ministry ideas are bubbling up from the congregation.
A member approached Grisham about the possibility of holding a bike clinic.
"I could not believe how many people brought bicycles that needed to be repaired," he said, "the thing I thought was crazy."
Grisham said he arrived 30 minutes before the clinic was to begin and there was already a line. One of young adults in church is serving as an intern and a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He began to invite guys to play basketball after the normal Wednesday night activities. He started more than a year ago.
They have anywhere from 25-35 older teens or guys in their younger 20s come to play. "We haven't had professions of faith or attendance at church but it is interesting the engagement," Grisham said.
Someone leads a short Bible study. "We've watched over the year; the longer we've gone with it they've started asking questions," Grisham said.
Because of the church's location they hire uniformed police to be on campus for its programs. One of those officers said some of the guys that come play are in gangs.
"I think a lot of us who've been in church our whole lives we don't realize how many people know nothing about the Bible," Grisham said.
Studies have shown that "the longer you're a believer the less effective you are at evangelism," Grisham said.
"We have to constantly be intentional."
One of the members, a former missionary with the International Mission Board, suggested a servant evangelism project.
Because of the church's connections with the students they were tutoring, members contacted parents to see if they needed window insulation. Two to three people would go to the home to install insulation and look for a chance to share the gospel.
FBC Rocky Mount's transition period is continuing. Grisham is retiring at the end of the year.
Moore has been called in to help them during another upcoming transition. He met with the Executive Committee more than a year ago. "Because he has worked with us in several settings he has a feel for the church," Grisham said. "We've got a lot of people here that haven't done this."
Because of the relationship the church has with the Convention, asking Moore back was a way to give members a person they trust to guide them through this next time of transition.
This article originally 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.
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