Today's From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Kentucky Baptist Convention
New partnership to target
New England, 'impact lostness'
By Melissa Lilley
CARY, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- On any given weekend, less than 3 percent of New England's 14.3 million people will attend an evangelical church. Studies show that 97 out of every 100 New Englanders do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The six New England states are all among the top eight least religious states in America; religious including both Catholic and Protestant churches.
North Carolina Baptists have committed to helping carry the Gospel to an area that is mostly unchurched and unreached with the message of Christ. The Baptist State Convention of N.C.'s (BSC) new partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England includes a specific focus on Boston and the interior of the I-495 loop around Boston.
This area is home to 4.5 million people, about 100 Southern Baptist churches and cities as large as 100,000 that have no Gospel-preaching church.
Boston's North Shore, which extends all the way up the I-95 corridor to the New Hampshire border, is also a focus area.
Joe Souza, church planter and North American Mission Board (NAMB) lead church planting catalyst for the Baptist Convention of New England, serves in the North Shore city of Saugus. He is praying that as new churches are started, they will become church planting churches.
"We need churches raising up churches from within and having native New Englanders plant churches. That's ideal," he said.
"New England is a whole bunch of little towns clustered together. It has a community feel. People will not drive an hour to get to church.
"The churches that will thrive are those that reach that town; that attract people from the 2-1/2-square-mile radius from the church."
Souza said church planters and leaders are learning from each other how to better impact the city, and gaining insight from things in the past that did not work well. In 1998, the survival rate of church plants was 36 percent. Since 2008, the rate has been 100 percent.
Better assessment of potential church planters has helped with the survival rate.
"It's not the same deal planting a church here that it is wherever you are from. Some planters are coming here under the impression that you can buy land and build a building and the people will come. That has not worked here in recent years," Souza said.
Support for planters is also improving. "A lot of the guys coming here were lone rangers. They were well intended, coming here with prayer support, but that was it. You have no idea how vital it is for planters to come here with a support network. It's the encouragement and knowing someone has your back."
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships, is praying that N.C. Baptists will consider adding Boston to their comprehensive missional strategy. "It is critical that church planters have partnering churches come alongside them in prayer and with resources. Churches have a great opportunity to be used by God to impact lostness by linking arms with a church planter," he said.
Church planter Curtis Cook came to Cambridge in 2003 and started Hope Fellowship Church. Cook is also city coordinator for NAMB's Send Boston initiative.
Cook described Boston as a city of great influence. He speculated that one in four future world leaders work in Boston.
More than 250,000 students attend the nearly 80 colleges and universities in greater Boston. Cook said Boston is known for being highly educated, secular and agnostic.
Since 2003, Cook and Hope Fellowship have helped start and support churches such as City on a Hill and Redemption Hill and know the importance of partnership.
"We need North Carolina Baptists to participate in a way that serves the local church and leaves the strategy to the local church planter. Ask the planter what he needs," Cook said. Cook encouraged churches to take seriously praying for partner churches. "It's not just praying for Boston; it's knowing the planter by name and their real needs."
Stephen McDonald and Mill City Church in Lowell is one example of a church where Cook and Hope Fellowship continue to invest. Mill City started in 2009, and 10 months ago McDonald moved to Lowell with his wife to become the full time pastor.
"I never thought church planting was something I'd be doing. I saw it as a trendy thing," McDonald said.
But when God called, McDonald faithfully obeyed, and he has seen God work through Mill City.
Lowell is not a town with people moving in and out; most are native to New England. "Our growth will be slower because we do not have as many believers, but the fruit and impact will be really substantial. Indigenous planters could come from places like Lowell," McDonald said.
In New England, almost 90 percent of the Christian population receives Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior through established relationships with other believers.
Church planters and ministry leaders have learned that for almost 70 percent of these new believers it took more than one year of faithful witnessing to result in a profession of faith in Christ.
"You have to earn their trust and willingness to hear you out. It's being alert and looking for those opportunities," McDonald said. Through community outreach and partnership with a local elementary school, where Mill City helps during parent-teacher events and other school events, McDonald and church members are building relationships.
"We have learned to have a desperation for the Spirit of God to work through us. You can't manufacture things up here," he said.
Tim Buehner, mission mobilization and ministry evangelism coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England, never thought he'd end up in full-time ministry, either. In the 1980s, Buehner moved to New England from Cleveland, Ohio, to "chase my dreams of becoming a graphic designer."
He resisted several years after he knew God was calling him into ministry, but finally responded in faith and headed to seminary. Before coming to the Convention he served as a pastor and associate pastor.
"God changes journey paths at all sorts of ages and generations," he said.
Since Buehner began serving in New England five years ago the number of churches has increased from 125 to more than 300.
"There's something special going on in this place," he said. "It is a dynamic place to come and serve."
To learn more about opportunities in Boston, visit ncbaptist.org/boston or necpcoalition.com.
Melissa Lilley is research and communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Kentucky Baptists respond to
new reality of mass evangelism
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Kentucky Baptist Convention) -- Mass outreach events have long used the same format: an evangelist presents the Gospel to a crowd then invites people to be saved, and many commit their lives to Christ on the spot.
But that traditional format is changing to accommodate an increasingly post-Christian American culture, according to Keith Inman, the Kentucky Baptist Convention's collegiate evangelism strategist.
Because many non-believers lack a basic Judeo-Christian worldview that allows them to process the Gospel the first time they hear it, organizers of mass outreach events in the 21st century should understand that inquiries or interest in Christ may not immediately translate into decisions for Christ, according to Inman.
He added that such interest should be celebrated, and then those inquiries followed up.
In recent years, a prime example of this new reality in mass outreach is a series of evangelistic illusion shows across Kentucky for youth and college students.
The shows, featuring a performance known as Ma?e (pronounced "maize"), involved a series of illusions followed by the personal testimony of magician Jim Munroe. At the end of each event, attendees were asked to fill out cards indicating their openness to further conversation about spiritual matters.
Kentucky Baptists followed up, having individual conversations with hundreds of students, explaining the Gospel in terms they could understand.
"This event turned more into a pre-evangelism event in practice," Inman said. Munroe "presented the Gospel -- he nailed the Gospel. But we have a generation that is missing the first 100 pages of the book. They don't have a place to start, and the church has to figure out what to do. And that takes more conversation."
Several Ma?e performances were funded by the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.
More than 100 students indicated openness to further conversations at Ma?e performances in Hopkinsville, Campbellsville, Richmond and Bowling Green. Dozens made positive responses at other locations, prompting youth and campus ministers to follow up with one-on-one conversations.
Evangelists such as Billy Graham saw mass conversions at crusades in the past, Inman said, in part because unbelievers understood that the world was created good and marred by sin. With that understanding, they were ready to embrace the Gospel's solution to sin.
However, youth and college students today do not understand the doctrine of creation and lack even cursory knowledge of the doctrine of sin, he said, adding that for many, extended conversation is necessary to process a traditional Gospel presentation.
Mass events such as Ma?e introduce Christian ideas and establish a starting point for additional conversations, according to Inman.
For instance, last October at Eastern Kentucky University, Ma?e yielded 187 students willing to have follow-up conversations as well as 17 first-time professions of faith.
Follow-up by students at the Baptist Campus Ministry resulted in approximately 60 new students participating in campus ministry events. A Bible study for the football team increased from approximately five attendees to 15-20, according to Baptist Campus Minister Jon Barron.
"As a result (of Ma?e), there were evangelistic conversations taking place that would not have taken place had we not done this mass outreach event," Inman said.
The Campbellsville University BCM leadership team followed up with 172 students who signaled openness to further conversation after a September Ma?e performance that drew 900 attendees.
Students who attended the event were "very powerfully impressed and reevaluated their relationship with Jesus Christ," Baptist Campus Minister Ed Pavy said. "Some made professions of faith. Some recommitted."
In Hopkinsville, Chuck Poe worked with a local network of youth ministers to call scores of middle- and high school students who responded to a fall Ma?e performance. The event boosted awareness of the BCM at Hopkinsville Community College and encouraged one student at the college to recommit her life to Christ, according to Poe, who serves as minister of students and families at Second Baptist Church in Hopkinsville and HCC Baptist campus minister.
Results of Ma?e on other Kentucky campuses were similar, Inman said, with attendance increasing at almost every campus ministry that sponsored a performance.
"The strength of the event was that it empowered our students to share the Gospel," he said. "The strength of the event was that it reminded our students that our call on this campus is to proclaim the Gospel.
"It raised the temperature of evangelism," he continued. "Our students became more aggressive. I think they became more relational. They met people from all walks of life on the campus that they normally would not have engaged."
On some secular college campuses, the miniscule percentage of evangelical students is comparable to the percentage of evangelicals in China, Inman said. Such a challenging mission field demands creative outreach events like Ma?e, he said.
Through Ma?e, "the church invaded the campus, introduced the Gospel, the message of Jesus, through the missionary arm of the Kentucky Baptist Convention called Baptist Campus Ministry," Inman said.
With a presence at more than 20 Kentucky colleges and universities, Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministry provides weekly Bible study and worship opportunities for college students. Additionally, students learn from campus ministers, and one another, how to share Christ with their peers through one-on-one relationships, service projects, recreation and other activities.
For additional information about Kentucky Baptist Convention ministries to college students and other young adults, contact the department by e-mail at email@example.com or call (502) 489-3573 or (866) 489-3573 (toll-free in Kentucky).
Baptist Campus Ministry is supported by Kentucky Baptists' gifts through the Cooperative Program. Legacy giving opportunities are available to ensure that future college students will have the opportunity to meet Christ through Baptist Campus Ministry. For details, contact the Kentucky Baptist Foundation at (502) 489-3533 or (866) 489-3533 (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, disaster relief, ministry training and support, church development, evangelism and more.
For more information, visit the KBC website at www.kybaptist.org, become a fan of "Kentucky Baptist Convention" on Facebook or follow "kentuckybaptist" on Twitter.
KBC Communications story by David Roach, a pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net