Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
The Christian Index (Georgia)
The Alabama Baptist
Tennessee Baptist Convention staff to
model strategy for reaching the lost
By Lonnie Wilkey
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector)--According to results of a survey conducted by the Tennessee Baptist Convention last fall, Tennessee Baptist pastors and church leaders are understanding the reality of lostness in Tennessee.
What's more, they want to do something about it, says Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the TBC.
To help Tennessee Baptists reach the estimated 3.5 million in Tennessee who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the TBC is launching "More Life" in 2012.
Information and materials for the emphasis will be distributed to churches during rallies scheduled around the state beginning this month and continuing through May (see page 8 for complete list of rallies).
More Life is "tailor made in Tennessee by Tennesseans for Tennesseans," Welch said.
More Life also is a unified TBC strategy designed "to equip and empower all sizes of churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention to do more discipleship and evangelism which is reflected by more baptisms resulting from lives transformed and committed and churches empowered and healthy," Welch added.
He observed that the strategy is "an innovative, comprehensive equipping approach that is extremely simple.
"It is designed for all size churches but especially for the majority and average size churches in Tennessee, many of which are often limited in staff help and funding," Welch continued.
Such a strategy is what pastors and laity have asked for, Welch noted. "The common cry we heard is that we need to do something together to reach lost people."
The need is obvious, he continued. "We are losing the battle."
TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis agrees.
"The greatest desire of the TBC Missions and Ministry staff is to walk alongside the associations across Tennessee and assist the local churches in impacting lostness in our state," he said.
"More Life is the simplest discipleship and evangelism method that I have seen in a long time. It is going to be an effective and efficient tool in helping the pastor equip his people," he observed.
Davis also noted that More Life "compliments and expands our GPS strategy to introduce every citizen of our great state to Jesus Christ by 2020."
Welch explained the More Life strategy to the staff of the TBC during their monthly staff meeting on Jan. 4 at the Baptist Center in Brentwood.
He noted that the emphasis will work hand-in-hand with the North American Mission Board's GPS (God's Plan for Salvation) initiative. "More Life is an excellent companion to all GPS efforts and when used together can actually make both better," Welch observed.
In explaining More Life to the TBC staff, Welch noted it offers a variety of options for time, place and procedures that allow it to be customized to fit into all sizes and all types of churches and schedules," he said, noting that it should require between two and two-and-a-half hours each week.
"Most churches will easily absorb much of this time into their regular schedule, thus minimizing extra time required," he observed.
Welch noted there are four uniquely interlocking and overlapping components that provide an "out of the box" experience for churches that use this strategy.
The materials were prepared by members of the TBC Kingdom Growth Group.
More Life will utilize a three-person team. The teams will first take an evangelism class. "While these lessons are on evangelism, this is actually where relational discipleship begins," Welch observed.
After the evangelism class, participants will take a class on discipleship. Both classes will be taught in eight one-hour sessions.
"These discipleship classes are designed to lay a spiritual foundation to discipleship relations," he said.
After the two classes, the three-person team will go out into the community and among acquaintances, "spending time in the joy of practicing relational discipleship and lifestyle evangelism based upon their previous class instruction," Welch said.
The team will utilize a "transfer guide." "This is a unique element that eliminates all memory work and serves as a hub of direction," Welch said. He noted that the transfer guide will be available also as a free application on an iPhone/iPad.
Welch introduced the materials to the TBC staff so they can begin the process of learning about More Life and putting it into action.
"We are not going to ask anybody to do anything that we won't do ourselves," Welch said.
More Life is positioned to be an unsurpassed approach to eight weeks in the fall and eight weeks in the spring for TBC churches to strengthen, unify and mobilize themselves in both relational discipleship and lifestyle evangelism while they are winning the lost and growing their churches," Welch stressed.
"The Bible says that we may have life more 'abundantly' (John 10:10) and our battle cry should be, 'Get more life to give more life,' " Welch said.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
conversation ... and Christ
By Joe Westbury
MARSEILLE, France (The Christian Index)--Kimberly Prescott and Hillary Smit leave their apartment, walk a few blocks to a subway and then emerge a few miles away. They walk down a half-dozen blocks and enter a storefront where others begin to gather for an evening of playing board games.
What appears to be a casual outing with friends is a ministry opportunity for the two Valdosta students serving through Georgia Baptists' semester program through Baptist Collegiate Ministries.
As the evening progresses the conversation runs the gamut from the most popular board games in France to comparing social customs in the U.S. The only ground rule is that participants must speak English and not lapse into their native tongue.
Only when -- and if -- relationships develop outside the groups do the girls bring their faith into the conversation. Moving the discussion toward matters of faith is never overt or invasive; it usually flows naturally out of a comment someone else has made about a belief system. Sometimes such transitions occur when conversation begins around a news event.
Playing board games, a popular French pastime, is just one way to build a sense of community with strangers and develop relationships that can lead to an invitation to a Bible study or worship service, both girls agree.
A few nights later a dozen college-age adults crowd into a small two-bedroom apartment in downtown Marseille. Through the large, open windows flow the sounds of everyday life; two ambulances rush through the neighborhood within 10 minutes. Cars stop and start in the traffic, horns honking at slow drivers.
But the light-hearted laughter coming from inside the fourth-floor apartment serves as a counterpoint to the street sound below. Once again, mostly total strangers meet to play games and learn English.
Prescott and Smit work through Michael Harrington from Dayton, Ohio, and his wife JoeJoe, from Murray, Ky., who operate a French service enterprise called Autour d'un Café. Through its website and personal contact, French-speaking people come together for a variety of social events tailored to individual needs, generally centered around the provided service of English conversation.
The couple, who are Southern Baptists, operate the organization as their personal business. They share their faith as situations allow with those who they meet through a variety of contacts.
"Autour d'un Café simply means 'around the coffee' and creates the sense of community that people experience when they come together in a casual setting," Michael Harrington explains. "We offer a variety of events such as English clubs, game nights, movie nights, picnics, and a Bible study."
The organization -- one of thousands in France that build a sense of community among the population -- distinguishes itself as offering opportunities to learn English in a casual setting.
Typically an individual will go to a site like OVS that is the larger Marseille hub that serves as a clearinghouse for numerous social networking groups. At OVS, which means "Let's Go Out," individuals can search for an event that appeals to them, register, and then attend.
"It's almost a cardinal sin for French people to be bored. That's why the networking sites like OVS are so popular because they bring people together around a variety of shared interests," Smit says. "There are sites for cooking, martial arts, music; there is no limit to the variety that is offered."
It is, Smit and Prescott agree, sort of like Facebook on steroids. The difference is that it offers social events to bring people together.
That's why the two Valdosta coeds find themselves in France, honing up on their French-speaking skills as they share their South Georgia English accents with the locals. They are part of an annual group of BCM students who serve from Brunswick's Golden Isles Ministries of Southeast Baptist Association to many of the 50 states, territories, and foreign countries.
Back in the upstairs apartment the guests arrive, some bringing snacks to last the evening. It's not unusual for such events to begin at 7 p.m. and not begin to unwind until 1 or 2 a.m.
Clemence Gaidon, a local believer who the Valdosta girls met through the network, greets Paula Ribeiro and introduces her to others who arrived earlier. Ribeiro, who arrived in Marseille two days earlier from her native Brazil, learned about the event from a poster at the University of Marseille where she is enrolled.
"I thought, wow, this is a great opportunity to learn English in a relaxed setting that is fun. This is so much more practical that sitting in a classroom … and it's free which is important to young people," she said in explaining her attraction to the game night.
Thomas Bazatte, a Marseille native, said he also wanted to brush up on his English language skills to broaden his employment opportunities. That's a common response from young people in an increasingly tightening economy.
And it's the perfect platform for the coeds to build relationships on which to share their faith.
"The French have had a bad experience with the Church being in control for so long and the abuses they endured. When the French Revolution ended the Church's reign, humanism was waiting to fill the void," Smit explains.
The people they meet are not opposed to talking about all religions as abstract principles, but they are hesitant to commit.
"They see all faiths as fables with little real-world relevancy." Prescott explains.
"Hillary and I did some surveys on local campuses here and asked about what conversational topics would be of interest to be offered through Autour d'un Café. 'Spiritual discussion/spirituality', not even focusing on Christianity, was chosen by only one out of 62 respondents -- and those were only a weak 'maybe.' They are just not that interested."
But that doesn't deter the girls from being faithful to the call in Acts 1:8 to reach Georgia, as well as the world, for Christ.
"The most important thing to Kimberly and I is realizing that it's not our job to lead them to Christ but to share the Gospel with them."
She pauses for a moment, gathers her thoughts, and then gives a real world example.
"One of the most important moments I have had involves a young man who came to one of our spiritual discussion groups - basically a Bible study. He was very quiet and I thought he was bored but he later told me that he almost decided not to attend but did out of curiosity.
"It turned out to be the first time he had ever read from a Bible. He returned a second time and I hope he returns for a third discussion. That's a huge step for a person to take in French society and we are praying for his continued interest."
Prescott has a similar view on why the two girls are ministering so far from home and why they are representative of so many other BCM missions-minded students.
"This is all about taking very small steps in people's lives, directing them toward Christ. Many times it takes the form of a picnic or a game night, getting to know people and their getting to know you to build mutual trust.
"Jesus spent a lot of time doing just that -- eating and talking to sinners before He shared the deeper truth of Scripture. That's what we are all called to be as Christians ... to be little Jesuses, little Christs, to share His love."
This article originally appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.
FBC Pelham opens its doors, arms
to Hispanic congregation
By Lindsey Robinson
PELHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist)--A few months ago, Pastor Jorge Camacho was leading Jesús El Buen Pastor Iglesia Bautista (Jesus the Good Shepherd Baptist Church) in a strip mall in Hoover. The church was facing a rent increase and an uncertain future.
But thanks to a few devoted members of Jesús El Buen Pastor and First Baptist Church, Pelham, the congregation of about 60 now has a place to worship rent-free.
Every Friday night and Sunday morning, the choir room of First Baptist Pelham is alive with Spanish music. Children from the two churches attend Sunday School together. And though the language spoken by each church's adult members is different, their devotion to Christ is the same.
"This church opened its doors, opened its arms to us," Camacho said.
Cary Hanks Jr., the Central Alabama Baptist Hispanic Ministry Coalition catalytic missionary and a member of First Baptist, facilitated discussions in late June about Jesús El Buen Pastor's relocation.
"All said and done, they started meeting at on the first Sunday in November," Hanks said.
For First Baptist pastor Mike Shaw, offering the space rent-free was a no-brainer and an opportunity to expand his church's witness.
"We were glad to let them use our building. We thought we could take the burden off them," he said.
The move was convenient for Jesús El Buen Pastor, but it was also a strategic logistical relocation, said Osvaldo Padilla, an assistant professor of New Testament divinity at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham who is a member of and regular preacher at the church.
"The partnership is more of a 'missional' partnership. wants to have an impact on the Hispanic community in that area, and, of course, we want that, too," he said.
By moving to Pelham — where there is a high concentration of Hispanic residents — Jesús El Buen Pastor, along with First Baptist, has a golden opportunity to reach a new community.
"I'm glad to see the witness expanding to Hispanics in Pelham," Shaw said.
"It's a blessing really," Camacho said of the move to First Baptist. "We really give thanks for this church, this pastor and this congregation."
And for him, it is a blessing that couldn't have come at a better time. The rent on his church's location in Hoover was going up to $2,000, and he lost sleep over how he would cover the cost.
"We knew we couldn't go on anymore," Camacho said. "I think God came in on time, exactly when we needed Him."
Since the move, church member Joyce McKay has noticed a lighter spirit at Jesús El Buen Pastor.
"I sense more enthusiasm. I sense a feeling of being supported here," she said.
This article originally appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Lindsey Robinson is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net