Today's From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Florida Baptist Witness
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Unique church events
attract new faces
By Ken Walker
HARTFORD, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- After seeing a larger crowd at its first "Beast Feast" than at Sunday morning church services, Pastor Kenny Rager of Living Faith Baptist Church had to find a larger venue for its next wild game dinner on March 17.
Held at the Family Wellness Center in Hartford, Ky., the event included a special speaker who offered a gospel presentation.
"We had three people accept Christ last year," Rager said. "We drew people from all over the county and helped people get connected with a church. We're excited."
For "Find It Here 2012," Baptists around the country are emphasizing "attractional" events, such as concerts, block parties and other events designed to reach a certain affinity group—hunters, motorcycle enthusiasts, cowboys, classic car collectors and others.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is encouraging individual churches to host special community events leading up to Easter Sunday, April 8.
The spring events will be backed by an advertising campaign similar to one in 2010 that reached 85 percent of all Kentucky households.
"Our goal is always to reach out with the gospel," said Ross Bauscher, leader of the KBC's evangelism growth team. "At these events, we want church members to seek to meet some of these visitors, hopefully so they can share Christ with them.
"It creates a lot of interest. If churches prepare and do them well, they will get a lot of people there."
Also reaching the outdoorsmen and women of Kentucky are the churches of Tates Creek Baptist Association in Berea and Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Corbin.
Tates Creek Baptist Association hosted a Wild Game Dinner in January at Kirksville Baptist Church in Richmond. It attracted more than 300 men and boys and resulted in 26 first-time professions of faith in Christ. The event featured an address by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Patterson refuses to come unless we encourage lost people to come," said Tates Creek's Director of Missions Hamp Valentine. "There were so many people there it was hard to count them all. It was a wonderful event."
The Corbin congregation has gone in a slightly different direction. Its third annual Tri-County Sportsmen's Expo at Lynn Camp High School will be held in late August.
Pastor Kevin Roach said the expo emerged from the church's missions committee following the first Find It Here emphasis in 2010. After first considering a wild game dinner, they decided to sponsor an outdoor expo.
Calvary Baptist invited dozens of vendors to display products, give demonstrations and award door prizes. It also invited Gary Miller, founder of Outdoor Truths, to speak.
Prior to the grand prize drawing, Miller presented the gospel. At each of the first two events, 10 to 15 people responded to his invitations to accept Christ as Savior.
The expo and other attractional events not only have grown in size, they have sparked growth within Calvary, Roach said.
After seeing eight or 10 baptisms annually in recent years, that number reached nearly 20 in 2011.
"There's a sense among our folks of satisfaction, of having done something that pleases the Lord," the pastor said.
"I've had people come to church in the last two years who have come and stayed because they see we're trying to do something to share the gospel. I believe God is honored by this."
Averaging 130 on a Sunday means the Corbin church needs considerable participation to stage its expo. Roach said it takes up to 75 members to contact sponsors, distribute brochures, handle mailings and set up and tear down equipment at the event.
The effort is worth it: Of the 350 people who usually come to an expo, only a fourth of them attend church, Roach said.
"Over the last two years our church has had the chance to share the gospel with a lot of people," Roach said. "How long would I have to preach the gospel to reach 275 lost people? That would be a lot of sermons."
Rager said Living Faith's Beast Feast hasn't dramatically increased church attendance, but the congregation has established better relationships within the community.
"Our church has become a beacon, known in our community for helping people," Rager said. "People are seeing we care."
The church will follow up its dinner with a community-wide Easter egg hunt. Rager said he hopes it will increase attendance at its Easter services, which will be held at Ohio County High School. (KBC)
Ken Walker is a freelance writer based in Huntington, W.Va. This article first appeared in the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Palmetto's 'As You Sow' conference draws hundreds
of potential volunteers for local & global missions
By Carolyn Nichols
PALMETTO, Fla. (FBW) -- During a recent "As You Sow" Missions Conference at First Baptist Church in Palmetto hundreds of potential volunteers watched, listened and tasted the work of mission and community organizations. The March 3-4 event may have been the largest scale event in southwest Florida history to link volunteers to organizations, according to Pastor Phillip Hamm.
"I want my people to become missionaries, sharing the love of Christ. I have told them this since day one," said Hamm, who has served the church 10 months. "We have to be like Jesus who healed and fed before He preached. We want to meet needs like Jesus would."
With that goal in mind, sixty local service organizations and mission agencies manned exhibits in First Baptist's gymnasium Saturday evening when the entire community—including 160 churches—was invited to view exhibits, taste international dishes, and hear testimonies and music from veteran volunteers.
Among the local exhibitors were the Coalition on Homeless, YMCA, CareNet Pregnancy Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Pack-a-Sack, a ministry that weekly packs children's school backpacks with enough food for the weekend. Not all exhibitors were Christian organizations.
"As a general rule, organizations would not have a problem with people sharing Jesus, although some might," Hamm said. "We want our people to be convicted to be Jesus in that area."
Apart from the service organizations, First Baptist also invited ministries sponsored by other local congregations because "there is more going on than just at First Baptist," Hamm said.
A local Methodist church operates an active thrift store and food pantry ministry that serves needy families in the area, and First Baptist members arrived at the conference with canned goods to donate to that ministry. Florida Baptist Children's Homes, whose Lakeland campus is just an hour's drive from Palmetto, had an exhibit, and international mission organizations, including the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, sought volunteers at the conference.
In addition to the Saturday event in the gym, breakout conferences that began at 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning gave more time for exhibitors to explain their ministries and detail the volunteer opportunities. David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention's evangelism group, spoke during the worship service. Citing the Sermon on the Mount, he said Christians are to be "salt and light" in our communities and in our world.
The two-day missions conference required dozens of hours of work by church staff and by members of the church's GO (Global Outreach) Team. The GO Team manages the church's Faith and Commitment Budget for mission giving.
Bill Bennett, First Baptist's maintenance supervisor and one of six members of the GO Team, said a surprise benefit of the event was the newly-made contacts made among the volunteer organizations. Some of the local organizations were discussing partnering for ministry after the conference, he said.
"I was surprised to see how excited they were to be involved in this. These organizations are so often in the shadows, but here they were in the open sharing what they do," he said.
Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness (www.goFBW.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
Denver Hope Center
By Anatoliy Odnoralov
DENVER (Baptist Messenger) -- People who go through the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture quite often get depressed and lose hope.
Hope Intercultural Mission Center is an effective ministry sharing the love of Jesus Christ and provides a welcoming environment—thus the name of the center, "HOPE."
The Hope Intercultural Mission Center serves many local Russian-speaking communities—Jewish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Uzbek, Tajik, Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian, as well as Turkish, Mongolian, Polish, Ethiopian, Iraqi and Hindu.
Their guiding principle is Rom. 1:16—"I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."
Through regular activities and one-on-one meetings, they build trustworthy relationships and friendships, which allow sharing their faith in a personal way, taking into consideration peculiarities of people's backgrounds. In the course of the ministry, people's lives change through biblical truths.
Stephan T. gives a testimony about Hope: "I used to think that I was very decent, self-sufficient and quite a believer. But that was before coming to the Bible study group at HIM Center. I had never thought that the Bible is able to penetrate so deep into my heart, to convict me, to find a lot of discrepancies between my life and the Bible and to start to correct me. Now, that I have dedicated my whole being to serving God, having deep joy and peace, I can only be sorry for the years that I lived without the Savior."
The following programs and activities are offered as evangelistic outreach options:
• ESL Classes (about 70 students each year).
• Conversational Russian (for Russian and English speaking people).
• Basic Hebrew.
• Spanish for beginners.
• Local Bible study groups for new believers, youth, church members.
• On-line Bible school (serving 44 Russian speaking students from many countries).
• Women's ministry (believers and non-believers), including studying the Scripture, mutual help, discussions of family issues and retreats.
• Children ministry (summer camps followed by weekly meetings with the kids and their families).
• Quarterly HOPE newsletter in Russian to stay in touch with our current and former acquaintances.
• "Intelligent Design" newspaper in Russian to communicate our beliefs.
• Quarterly Radio CD in Russian (a one-hour program containing relevant material on everyday and spiritual issues).
• Public events (conferences, concerts, picnics) to start new relationships and strengthen the existing ones.
Within the on-going partnership with Messianic communities in Israel, May 21-30, they are planning to host an evangelistic trip to Israel "From the Ends of the Earth to Jerusalem." Both English and Russian speaking participants will travel together on a memorable tour of this country, visiting the very sights where Jesus, the Messiah, walked and shared the Gospel with people.
If you share the same aspirations and recognize a call to support this ministry, any kind of partnership is welcome and appreciated. Churches and/or individuals desiring to know more on how to partner with this ministry may contact us personally at www.himcenter7.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 720/329-9778.
This article first appeared in the Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net