Today's From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
The Alabama Baptist
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Acts 1:8 leaders focused on
missions strategy, holistic outreach
By Melissa Lilley
CARY, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Southern Baptist Convention missions leaders are turning their attention to how they can help local churches carry out the Acts 1:8 Challenge initiative in practical ways that result in life transformation.
The Acts 1:8 initiative launched in 2004 by Southern Baptist state conventions, local associations, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB). It focuses on helping churches develop a holistic missions strategy that includes local and global outreach.
Acts 1:8 state coordinators, state leaders and entity representatives discussed how churches can best create this missions strategy during the annual state coordinators meeting July 18-19 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary, N.C.
"Acts 1:8 is not something where churches sign a piece of paper, or it just becomes rhetoric," said Terry Sharp, IMB director/lead strategist for state and association relations and urban mobilization strategies. "It's something they can actually live out. It's local and global reach; it's not either/or. We've compartmentalized missions for too long."
Sharp explained that the intent of Acts 1:8 has always been to encourage churches to embrace a comprehensive missions strategy. "It was meant to be very strategic," Sharp said. "We want to help churches connect the dots."
Missions leaders shared how they are helping churches connect the dots among local, statewide, national and global missions opportunities, all for the sake of being more intentional about impacting lostness.
In Virginia, Mark Gauthier is working with a group of churches to begin reaching the more than 140 people groups in Washington, D.C. Gauthier is director of mobilizing churches and state disaster relief director for Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.
"We know are there, but we don't know where," Gauthier said. "We are trying to gather information. We're excited to see the excitement the churches have to reach people in D.C."
Churches are mapping the area to identify where different people groups live, and will then choose a people group among whom they will serve.
Florida Baptist leaders are assisting ethnic church plants in reaching people beyond their own ethnic group, and the state convention is hosting an "ethne-CITY" conference in Miami with a Spanish track.
Sharp also shared practical ways churches can make connections among missions opportunities and live missionally. One of the most effective ways missions leaders can do this is by helping new church starts get Acts 1:8 "in their DNA" from the beginning.
Southern Baptists also have a tremendous opportunity to reach the nations by engaging locally with international students. Of the 750,000 international students living in the U.S., 75 percent will never be invited into an American home, and 85 percent will not be invited to church or have any meaningful relationships with Christians.
Another way churches can connect the dots is by reaching out to unreached people groups in their neighborhoods and communities. Churches ready to embrace an unreached people group living overseas may discover that people from a certain people group, or area of the world, are already living among them. Engaging that people group then becomes more effective when contact is being made locally as well as globally.
"Acts 1:8 is a conduit to how we can approach pastors who are not involved in missions," said Mark Emerson, director of missions involvement for the Illinois Baptist Convention. "We can help them identify that they aren't just planning a project, but they can plan a strategy to take the gospel to all the mission fields."
Phil Young, church missions/ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the initiative offers a means for pastors to connect.
"Acts 1:8 could be a way for me to go to that local pastor and to say that part of the Acts 1:8 network of resources is to help you connect in these different ways," he said.
"The perception is often that the agencies and state conventions aren't talking to each other. My desire is for this group to find the best way to articulate to the local pastor that we are talking to each other, and that Acts 1:8 is a way to bring Embrace (imb.org) and Send North America (namb.net) all together."
NAMB and IMB are ready to assist churches in these efforts. Eric King, director of missional church strategists team for the IMB, said IMB is not driving Acts 1:8. "We're serving it," he said.
" represent the Samaria content, through the context of Send North America," added Neal Hughes, mobilization coordinator for NAMB.
Acts 1:8 leaders expressed interest in expanding their tent of partners, to include more focus on associations and possibly working with state missions partnership leaders.
For more information about Acts 1:8 visit actsone8.com.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is research and communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Alabama Baptists partner with International
Mission Board to reach Ukraine's Hutsul people
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Alabama Baptists might recognize a little bit of themselves in the Hutsul people who call the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine home. The Hutsuls are rural folks who work the land and help their neighbors when it is time for the harvest, a metaphor perhaps for the work that the Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections missions partnership seeks to promote in Ukraine.
Several Alabama Baptists joined Southern Baptist representative and Alabama native Tim Akers on a vision journey to Ukraine on Sept. 6-13 to survey the area and look for ways that Alabama Baptists might help. Akers and his wife, Donna, along with their 13-year-old son, are moving to the region in October to work with the Hutsul people.
"The Hutsul are considered an unreached group, and there are few believers in the area," Akers said. "In addition, the people are hard to reach physically and socially."
The primary mission of the 17-member vision journey team, which included representatives from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) and four Alabama Baptist associations, was to make contact with believers in the region and to scout locations for new church starts. Akers said the team identified up to 10 starting points through an effort that would have taken years if he had had to do the work alone.
The enormity of the task became real to team member Greg Pouncey, pastor of Tillman's Corner First Baptist Church, Mobile, as they surveyed the area.
"The thing that showed me the greatest need was that we drove for about 12 hours one day and only saw two or three churches," said Pouncey, who serves as the chairman of the global partnership sub-committee for the SBOM. "We drove through a village of 17,000 and identified only one believer in the whole village.
"The work might seem like an overwhelming task if Tim has to do it by himself, but if he has Alabama Baptists behind him, he can accomplish so much more," Pouncey said.
Reggie Quimby, director of the SBOM office of global missions, was part of the Ukraine team as well. In addition to identifying opportunities for future contact with the Hutsul people, Quimby said the vision journey sets the groundwork for a network of Alabama Baptist associations and churches who will partner with the Akers in order to reach the Hutsuls for Christ.
"We walked and drove by many homes where people live that need to know the Lord, but how will they know unless someone is sent to share the good news?" Quimby said. "The Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections partnership strategy is simple. We will partner with Alabama International Mission Board and North American Mission Board missionaries where they are and connect with the missionaries through prayer, partnership and people groups."
Pouncey said partnering with missionaries who have an Alabama connection will help churches feel more connected to the work.
"People will be more excited if they have a face to go along with a name," Pouncey said.
In addition, missionaries will have a network of partner churches and associations in place and ready to help meet the needs they identify. Already, Akers said, team members have ideas about how their churches can help with Vacation Bible School, medical clinics and outreach in the Carpathian region. Once he and his family are settled in the region, Akers believes more needs will be apparent and more opportunities for teams to work in the area will be available.
Team member Eddy Garner, director of missions for Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association, is looking forward to those opportunities.
Plans for the future
"During the week, we discovered potential missions trip locations for the future, and I am certain that our churches will be returning to minister with Tim in the next year. I foresee a long-term partnership with Tim and Donna Akers as they reach the Hutsul people," Garner said.
As Akers prepares to return to Ukraine in October with his family, he said he is eager to see how God will work through the Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections initiative.
"With God's help, so much can be done with the help of Alabama Baptists that couldn't be done with just one missionary family," Akers said. "It's exciting to know that Alabama is willing to partner with us to reach this unreached people group."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Carrie Brown McWhorter is a Correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
Unique Jail Ministry
Sees 35 Baptisms
By Connie Davis Bushey
NEWPORT, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- On Sept. 16 Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church here baptized 35 trustees or inmates of the Cocke County Jail in Newport during its evening service.
The evening was the culmination of efforts of many Baptists in the area and the Cocke County Sheriff's Department who have developed a unique jail ministry over the past nine months.
Five of the inmates baptized that night made a profession of faith at the church as a result of attending the Sunday morning worship service of Lincoln Avenue Baptist and 12 made the commitment at a recent Baptist evangelistic meeting.
The service drew about 250, more than the usual 125 attending a Sunday evening service at the church. The large attendance, said Craig Ward, pastor, was due to the fact that the church was hosting the inmates, their families and friends, and other Baptists in Newport who are involved in ministry at the jail.
Some of those in attendance that night included Sheriff Armondo Fontes, who is a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Newport, and has made the ministries with the inmates possible, said Ward. Also in attendance was Horace Brown, director of missions, East Tennessee Baptist Association, based in Newport. The association held a countywide crusade recently during which 12 of the inmates made professions of faith.
Bob Hogan, pastor, Cornerstone Baptist also was there. He often drives that church's bus to transport the inmates to ministry events. Also David Veridal, member, Crossroads Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Newport, was there. Veridal, who is a bonded deputy sheriff who can supervise the inmates, has been involved in the church ministry since it began. He and Rick Morris, a member of Lincoln Avenue who initiated the church ministry, also transport the inmates each Sunday to the church.
In addition, some ladies from Sevier County drove over to attend. They conduct a ministry for the female jail inmates in Newport and were there to support those who were being baptized.
Ward said he had never baptized so many people at one time so the service was a highlight of his ministry. He also said the service showed "the body of Christ is in action."
A developing ministry
Each Sunday morning since January Lincoln Avenue hosts 21 or 22 inmates -- 10-11 males and 10-11 females -- for worship. They only began hosting the females about six weeks ago. The inmates sit in the balcony of the church.
Since the baptisms the church is hoping to offer discipleship training for the males and females at the church. The two groups cannot fraternize, explained Ward.
The ministry at Lincoln Avenue was begun by Morris, deacon, who serves as a volunteer deputy sheriff for the inmates leading them to work initially at the high school football field and then at Lincoln Avenue.
Morris asked his pastor if the church would allow them to attend a service and the ministry began.
Reaction of church members
"The Lincoln Avenue family has really opened their arms to this ministry," said Ward. "I have not had one criticism of this ministry."
Church members have begun getting to know the inmates and even wanting them to sit on the main floor of the sanctuary, he added.
Ginger Summers, a probation officer in the church, and Jan Watson, another member, have responded by going through the process of becoming bonded deputy sheriffs to help with the ministry. Another man attending a church service who was a retired deputy sheriff said he wanted to become involved.
Another measure of the response of church members was after a recent worship service which included a wedding ceremony. The newly married couple invited the inmates to attend the following reception which they did.
Some members have talked to inmates because they know them, said Ward. He has heard that members who can relate to the bad choices of the inmates even tell the inmates about their pasts.
Ward said just like many of the church members he has changed his harsh attitude about the inmates over the months as he has gotten to know them. They often write him letters asking him to pray for their families and children and he is able to counsel them.
The ministry has "opened a lot of eyes even of the ones who are not involved" and melted a lot of hearts, said Ward.
One thing that has struck him and others at the church is how young the inmates are, he said. Often their crimes are related to drugs.
From a ministry point of view the jail ministry has had "almost automatic results," said Ward. During the midst of all of the baptisms during the Sept. 16 service he issued a short invitation and the mother of one of the inmates made a profession of faith.
He's also heard good reports from people who work at the jail that they are seeing positive changes there because of the many inmates attending Lincoln Avenue.
When he sees any of the inmates now they call him "Pastor," he noted.
"I don't know who's been blessed more," said Ward. "It has become a very key ministry at our church."
This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net