Today's From the States features items from:
Kentucky Baptist Convention
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
'Go Metro' Partnerships Help in
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Home
By Danna Prather
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Kentucky Baptist Convention)--Kentucky Baptist associational leaders who have enlisted in Go Metro USA say planting churches in other states can help strengthen congregations in Kentucky.
"We can see the gospel expanding not only in Pittsburgh," said Stan Lowery, director of missions for Nelson Baptist Association. "If the Lord blesses, this initiative could spread into the Northeast. One of the things I'm praying for is it will strengthen our churches and our convention."
Launched in the fall of 2010, Go Metro USA is a church-planting initiative of the Kentucky Baptist Convention that matches partnering associations from the commonwealth with church planters in metropolitan areas where there are few evangelical churches.
Currently Kentucky Baptists are helping plant churches in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. A partnership in West Virginia is in the works, and Elkhorn Baptist Association in Lexington has announced a partnership with Metro Columbus Baptist Association in Ohio.
Through Go Metro USA, the KBC helps associations identify potential partners and facilitates contacts among directors of missions. KBC also assists the Kentucky associations in developing a strategy that will best support church planters and existing evangelical congregations in the partnership areas.
The Pittsburgh partnership was formed by churches in Nelson, Lynn, Severns Valley and Oldham-Trimble associations. The goal is to help start 30 churches in the Steel City over the next three years.
"I think (church planting) is being faithful to our call to spread the gospel to other areas," Lowery said.
In western Kentucky, Bill Patterson expresses similar enthusiasm for a four-association partnership with Greater Cleveland Baptist Association.
"It may open people's eyes to possibilities we may have not seen before," said Patterson, director of missions for Green Valley Baptist Association. "We now see how doing work for other churches opens doors."
The newest partnership involves four associations from eastern Kentucky—Pulaski, Lincoln, Freedom and Wayne.
Malcolm Cheek, director of missions for the Pulaski association, said the four DOMs will recommend to their associations later this year a partnership with West Virginia Baptists and church planters serving the area between Huntington and Charleston.
There are many missions possibilities in the region, Cheek said.
"Basically, we want to try to invite and encourage our people to reach beyond the walls of the church, where the lostness is great and the work is small," he said.
Ray Van Camp, director of church planting and development for Elkhorn Baptist Association, said the Metro Columbus partnership was approved by both associations in January. Some mission trips to Ohio are already scheduled for June.
"This will be a partnership in which we seek not only for Elkhorn churches to minister in Columbus, but for Metro Columbus churches to minister to churches in the Lexington area," he noted.
PLANTING IN THE FOREST CITY
Last December, Kevin Litchfield, director of missions for the Cleveland association, met with his Kentucky counterparts to assess the progress of the first Go Metro partnership.
"Our heartbeat is to see what it's going to take to change the lostness of our city," Litchfield said. "The Kentucky partnership is an extra help with that task."
Congregations in Green Valley, Little Bethel, Daviess-McLean and Ohio Valley associations sent more than 250 volunteers on multiple trips to the Cleveland area in 2011.
Litchfield said Kentucky Baptists have provided prayer and financial support, manpower, and a morale boost for church planters.
This and other partnerships that are developing give Litchfield the hope of seeing 250 new churches started in northern Ohio by 2020.
He said that would lower the ratio of SBC churches from one for every 46,000 residents to one for every 6,000.
News of the assistance that believers in Cleveland are receiving from churches in Kentucky and elsewhere is reaching pastors and recent seminary graduates.
Patterson said that when the Go Metro partnership began, Litchfield reported only two church planters expressing an interest in serving in Cleveland. Today there are 20.
Renovations recently made to a downtown Cleveland church will provide accommodations for up to 100 volunteers at a daily cost of $10 per person. A portion of that fee will help support a coordinator in the local association who will work with visiting partners on a variety of projects similar to those undertaken by Kentucky Baptists.
-- Last year a team from Hyland Baptist of Henderson helped the Cowboy Church in Painesville, Ohio, with building renovations and also hosted sports camps and a vacation Bible school.
-- Zion Baptist of Henderson is helping Abundant Life Community Church of North Royalton, Ohio, plant Lifepoint in the nearby suburb of Strongsville. The new congregation is holding monthly preview services prior to its launch in March.
-- First Baptist Church of Henderson has a partnership with Gateway Church, one of the few evangelical congregations in downtown Cleveland. First Baptist has helped plant trees to beautify the downtown area and assisted with two other congregations that the five-year-old Gateway has started in recent months.
"That's one thing that impressed us so much," Patterson said. "Their vision is not just to plant churches, but to plant churches that plant churches."
BUILDING BRIDGES IN THE 'BURGH'
The Pittsburgh partnership was formalized last September at the annual meeting of the Severns Valley Baptist Association.
The ceremony was the second time that leaders from the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey had visited the commonwealth as part of the partnership. Members from the central Kentucky associations have been to Pittsburgh twice.
Relationships produced by these exchanges are growing, helped along by a Facebook page promoting Kentucky's connection with the Steel City, Lowery said.
"There's an excitement about it," he said. "I definitely see it growing. It's been very easy sharing the need."
Church planters in Pennsylvania express similar enthusiasm, according to Barry Whitworth, multiplying churches team leader for the Penn-Jersey convention.
"At this point this relationship … is affecting (local) churches," Whitworth said. "We feel this has a viable connection. We're getting calls, asking what churches can do here."
There are only 52 Southern Baptist churches in a nine-county area around Pittsburgh, most outside the city. One of the first projects is to renovate a guest house to accommodate the many out-of-town volunteers needed to help support the church-starting effort.
Despite the size of the challenge, Whitworth foresees great progress.
Just as the Kentucky partnership was getting underway, three church planters were making plans to move into the Pittsburgh area.
These days, church planters are contacting the convention. "We don't have to go looking for them," Whitworth said. "I think it's part of the environment God is creating."
After serving 17 years in the Pittsburgh area, Mission Service Corps missionaries Melanie Hart and her husband, Larry, are pleased to see the new partnership.
"There is a huge yearning from established church planters," said Hart, who oversees partnerships for the Baptist Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
"We have so many communities and neighborhoods that lack an evangelical presence. We're excited about what God is getting ready to do here."
For information on Go Metro USA, visit www.kybaptist.org/gometro or contact the KBC Missions Growth Team by e-mail at email@example.com or (502) 489-3528 or (866) 489-3528 (toll-free in Kentucky).
Each association mentioned in this story also is making plans to participate in the Kentucky-St. Louis Partnership, a three-year emphasis launched in January to start new churches in the Gateway City.
For details on the St. Louis partnership, visit www.kybaptist.org/stlouis or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (502) 489-3529 or (866) 489-3529 (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, ministry training and support, church development, evangelism and more.
For more information, visit the KBC website at www.kybaptist.org find "Kentucky Baptist Convention" on Facebook or follow "kentuckybaptist" on Twitter.
This article was released by the Kentucky Baptist Convention (kybaptist.org). Danna Prather is a marketing and media relations associate for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
By Connie D. Bushey
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector)--They have served in Iran as short-term missions volunteers so it may not be surprising that recently they served in China, another country which is not completely open to Christianity. In fact Ann Davenport and Carolyn Outland have served in China twice.
They just returned from serving there a couple of months ago.
The duo, long-time friends and ministry partners who are known for their conferences on evangelism, went to China at the invitation of some Baptist missionaries, both times, and returned after the first time because of some amazing Chinese Christian women, they reported.
Though it had been more than a year and their church had been closed by the government, some of those women spent time with Davenport and Outland again. They had nearly begged the Tennesseans with tears to return, explained Outland. "They broke our heart," added Davenport. "We knew in 2010 we would come back in 2011 because of them."
Some of the Chinese women had seen their church closed, but that is not an uncommon occurrence there for the underground church, said the Tennesseans. They were warmly welcomed by women who came to see them in large numbers for the situation, said Davenport and Outland, who are members of Belle Aire Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.
The Tennesseans taught the Chinese women in two gatherings. One was for women who traveled to an apartment from their villages and stayed at the apartment, which also served as a church, sleeping on the floors on thin plastic mats over night to participate. That meeting drew about 80 Chinese women.
Many of those women were too poor to travel very far, the Tennesseans explained. Of course, big crowds of Christians are not possible in China anyway because of government restrictions. So the missionary arranged for Outland and Davenport to teach in two different churches which meet in apartments.
The other apartment which hosted a meeting had been expanded by a homeowner to allow for a church. In China families can worship together in their homes, which is how the apartment churches exist.
Another way the Christians work around the restrictions there is that they arrive and leave at varied times so it does not appear that a meeting is being held, noted the Tennesseans.
Most of the women were "beaming" much of the time, recalled Outland. They were "so anxious" for the meeting and "so excited" to be there. "It puts us to shame," she noted, referring to Christians in America.
Their teaching, as requested by the missionary, was to help the women grow spiritually. Davenport and Outland tried to consider the culture, they explained. For instance, they used the metaphor in Jeremiah of the potter or God who makes pottery or the Christian. They used it because of the history of pottery-making and ceramic-making in China, they said.
Another reason for the conferences was to help the women in their personal lives, said the Tennesseans. They learned that the Chinese people have very dysfunctional families. Most of the men have mistresses though they are married. Extended families live together and mothers-in-law often abuse daughters-in-law. There is even violence toward children, said Davenport and Outland.
The one child rule in China leads some women to divorce and marry another husband in hopes of keeping the child or commit other types of fraud. The rule certainly "takes an emotional toll on women," said Davenport, as authorities come and take a pregnant woman to the hospital where she is forced to undergo an abortion.
Another social problem of the residents is poverty, said Davenport and Outland. For instance, Outland went into one apartment's kitchen to take a photo of the cooks for the group and noticed that they were eating the food left by the Americans and missionaries. The Tennesseans added that the food was good.
Davenport and Outland reported that the Christian women there can make a great difference in their spheres of influence as they go about their daily lives just as American Christians should.
Their trips to China came about as they attended a Missions Get-Together of Tennessee Woman's Missionary Union one year. While there they met a missionary who saw that they had written a book on spiritual growth for women and challenged them to demonstrate their commitment in China. He noted that the women there, like in the United States, are leaders of the church.
Thankfully on this most recent trip they were able to combine it with a WMU-led trip to view the WorldCrafts ministry in Cambodia and Thailand. That saved them a lot of money, they noted. Davenport added that they would advise folks to never make a decision concerning a missions trip based on financial issues. They have served as missions volunteers in 14 countries often when at first it seemed impossible, they reported.
"If God has called you, He will provide," said Davenport.
Their experiences in China included reminders that they were in a communist country though they were never fearful, they reported. The situation included some risks just as it does for the missionaries because, strictly speaking, it is "illegal to teach any kind of religion," noted Davenport.
Culturally, they noticed that people weren't as friendly towards them as they had been just the year before. The Chinese are very intelligent, they said, because they invent ways to work in their changing business climate and "are very hard-working people," noted Davenport. Thankfully, a "benevolent capitalism" is being allowed by the government, she added.
Overall, the experience had "to be a God thing," said Outland. "It went so far beyond what we ever thought."
The Chinese Christians are so thankful for the visit, they noted. They know we live in an "open country" and don't have to visit China, said Davenport. Now "we have sisters in another part of the world. We tell them we're praying for them," said Davenport. "We're so blessed to be here … in the U.S.," said Outland.
To ask the ladies to speak at your church, contact email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie D. Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
Northpoint revival turns
church inside out
By Sharon Mager
NORTHPOINT, Md. (BaptistLIFE)--Northpoint Church leapt from plateaued to revival. Attendance doubled in two years. The church is moving out into the neighborhood and is now reflecting the Northpoint community.
The church called Pastor Mark Swan in February 2010. Swan began ministering to a wary congregation. They'd been without a pastor for six months. The mostly senior congregation was declining. The were in a rut. Like many churches, they wanted to advance God's kingdom, but had lost their vision along the way and were inwardly focused, Swan said.
Swan led the church towards an outward evangelistic mindset starting with reaching children. He began calling the kids to the front during services for their own special story time. Everyone loved it, the kids, parents and seniors.
"This was a way of communicating that children are important to their pastor and that this church cares about young people," Swan explained.
The church then began examining current ministries and how they could be more outwardly focused.
VBS was a great place to start. "We got someone with a pickup truck, filled it with pop and bottled water and went into Northpoint Village. We knocked on doors, invited them to VBS and gave them cans of pop. Their defenses came down when we did something nice for them," Swan said. Besides those who answered their doors, church members chatted with neighbors who were mowing their lawns, working on their cars and sitting on porches.
"We had a great response. Over 100 kids came to VBS. That's because we were intentional," Swan said.
The church was also intentional about registration and follow-up, sending out letters, postcards and visiting. They followed that success with a back to school blast in August, serving up a 10-foot-long banana split and inviting all the kids from VBS. In October they had trunk-or-treat. They also had a bike rodeo, inviting neighborhood kids to bring their bikes and skateboards and play in their large parking lot. Families responded and began visiting the church.
Sunday attendance was 70 when Swan arrived. They hit 137 in December. There are also more African Americans attending the church in addition to Anglos, better reflecting the community God has placed Northpoint Church.
"It's the Lord blessing," Swan said. "And it's us being intentional. Gone are the days when people wake up on Sundays and say, 'Where will I go to church this morning?' People don't seek it out. We're not living in the 1950s. We must go to them and tell them Christ loves them and died for them," Swan said.
"That's what John (Smith) has done with concerts and his big 4th of July celebration," Swan said. Swan was referring to John Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Essex. FBC Essex has more than tripled their weekly attendance. Smith and Swan came to the area, just a few miles from each other, a week apart in 2010. FBC Essex planted Northpoint Church in 1953.
"It's neat to see both churches turn around and grow," Swan said. "We're encouraging each other."
Northpoint Church also offered part of their facility to Stauros Ministries, a drug and alcohol addiction ministry, for counseling. Stauros also has monthly worship at the church on Sunday nights. The seniors have been ministering at local assisted living and nursing homes. Now the church is looking at the large Hispanic population and making plans for offering English as a Second Language classes. There are even early discussions about planning a church.
Last year the church adopted the mission statement, "Accepting Jesus, Receiving Mercy, Showing Compassion."
Swan was born and raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ when he was 10 years old. He knew from the time he was young that he wanted to be an artist and went to art school for five years, majoring in painting and photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art. God called Swan into fulltime ministry while he was serving as a summer missionary in 1994. He received his Master of Divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as a missions pastor and as a senior pastor at two churches in Kentucky.
The Swans' call to Baltimore was a beautiful answer to prayer. In addition to showing the couple the incredible potential for ministry at Northpoint, God was also opening a door for their son to receive the medical care he needed. Swan and his wife Amy, a school nurse at Chadwick Elementary School, adopted their son Andrew from Russia. Andrew has cerebral palsy and needs regular medical care. In Baltimore, they have easy access to Johns Hopkins Hospital and other medical facilities. The Swans also have a daughter, 5-year-old Gracelyn.
This article originally appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org/), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net