Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Record (Mississippi)
The Pathway (Missouri)
Arkansas Baptist News
Miss. Baptists team up
with FIEC to reach Great Britain
By Tony Martin
JACKSON, Miss. (The Baptist Record) -- Mississippi Baptists are partnering with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) in Great Britain. Michael Stringer, retired pastor of Oadby Evangelical Free Church in Leicestershire and a volunteer with the FIEC, visited the state during the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Stringer was the first pastor of the church, founded in 1975, a position he held until his retirement at the end of August 2007. Using the 2012 Olympics in London as an opportunity for evangelism, 24 Mississippi teams joined 23 of the FIEC churches each for one week from May to August.
"The FIEC began in England in 1922 as a response to the ecumenical movement," said Stringer. "Independent churches from all over the country were isolated from each other. There was a need for a network or fellowship of churches. The FIEC is not a denomination. It is deliberately biblical and evangelical. It holds to the basics of the faith based on the old confessions."
The FIEC includes several Baptist churches among its 500 member churches. Stringer is frank in his assessment of the state of evangelicals in Great Britain.
"Less than 2% of the population of England is evangelical Christian," he said. "75% believe in god -- but which god? The United States is about 20 years behind the U.K." As an example, the former Carey Chapel in Leicestershire is now a Jain temple, Jainism being an ancient Indian religion. Stringer also noted that, at its present state of growth, Birmingham, England, will have a Muslim majority in just a few years.
In spite of these sobering statistics, Stringer is very upbeat about the ministry of Mississippi Baptists to date, and encouraged about ministry opportunities to come.
"The wonderfully servant-hearted team members came to help the churches in a whole variety of Gospel activities -- community projects, open-air witnessing, BBQs and 'Fun Days,' visiting schools for assemblies, class lessons and teaching American sports, helping with coffee mornings, mum and toddler groups, and home groups! One small team was even taken for a night's street pastoring," Stringer stated.
Future plans include outreach in Scotland in 2013. "That expansion is looking positive and strong," Stringer continued. "More English churches are asking for help. In addition, we have what is called the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014. This is for countries that years ago were part of the old British Empire. When the Empire collapsed, these countries joined together in what is called the Commonwealth. So there are 70 countries of the Commonwealth that are gathering in Glasgow for these games, sort of like a mini-Olympics. We want to expand the work in Scotland to encourage witness during these games just as we did during the Olympics."
These activities fall under the FIEC project known as TEAMWORK. "We're very excited to partner with you here in Mississippi," Stringer said. "Our churches are thrilled by what you have done. Pray for our progress. England is a mission field. Even when you add up all the religions, less than 10% of the people in England are involved in any religious activity. Since the 1950's, we've seen a steady moral, spiritual and social decline. Be aware of our needs -- Mississippi team members who have served did not realize that England had gotten in such bad shape."
Stringer noted that there was a movement afoot in Great Britain to accommodate homosexual marriage. He observed how this same issue was being dealt with in the United States, with states recognizing same-sex unions. "Massachusetts was the scene of one of the great revivals of the 18th century with Jonathan Edwards," Stringer said, "and you've just elected your first lesbian senator."
Churches interested in hosting a team to Great Britain in 2013, or looking for more information, can reach Stringer via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. "We must try to reach into our communities," Stringer said. "We've been in our holy huddles too long, and we have awakened to the fact that we have to avoid this."
This article appeared in The Baptist Record (mbcb.org/business_services/br), newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Tony Martin is associate editor of The Baptist Record.
The Heartland Highway: MBC leaders
help roll out I-29/I-49 new work idea
By Allen Palmeri
KANSAS CITY (The Pathway) -- Interstate 29/49 is now a symbol of cooperative church planting among Southern Baptists in the Heartland following a Nov. 16 collaboration meeting here at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).
Interstate 29 runs north from Kansas City, Mo., to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The idea is to push upward into Iowa and all the way to Canada, then outward into areas of the upper Midwest where there is little or no Southern Baptist or evangelical presence. There was some discussion among highway officials that would have taken the I-29 designation from Carthage to Winnipeg. December, 2012, Missouri Dept. of Transportation officials are introducing I-49 signage to US 71 from Carthage to Kansas City. Eventually, I-49 is slated to run all the way to New Orleans.
About 35 leaders from five state conventions—with Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director John Yeats spurring strategy development—met at the Koehn & Myers Center for World Evangelism.
Leo Endel, executive director for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, cast the vision. Yeats and his counterparts from Kansas-Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas all spoke to what Endel called "the embryonic idea" of the corridor. Besides the five state convention execs, participants included directors of missions, state staff members, pastors, and seminary officials. Half of the eight MBC team leaders sat at one of the four roundtables where strategy was discussed.
One of the more seasoned leaders from Midwestern Seminary, Rodney Harrison, explained why the I-29/I-49 Corridor plan is needed. Harrison, vice president for institutional effectiveness, dean of online education, director of doctoral studies, and associate professor of Christian education at MBTS, has served at the seminary nine years, including seven on the VP level.
"We need to reinvest in the Heartland churches," he said. "This is a worthy endeavor. Let's not neglect the Heartland."
Endel talked about the opportunity.
"There is openness in our world right now—in Minnesota-Wisconsin, in Iowa, and the Dakotas—to some group that would proclaim the gospel in clear ways so that people could be able to respond to it," he said. "That's our challenge to you, to consider the possibility."
Yeats, who also serves as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is ready to deploy an MBC church planting assessment and training process that has a 90 percent survival rate with new works. He also thinks the Heartland Highway idea that includes I-49 has potential for some southern partners to engage in this process.
"We want to partner with our partners for Heartland mobilization of volunteers for special events and special projects," he said.
The next step in the process is to appoint a task force. In the weeks to come, the state execs will be examining ways to accomplish that. Connecting with local church pastors and laymen is a priority.
"If it's going to go someplace it's going to have to take place in the hearts of our pastors," Endel said.
The meeting ended with words of encouragement and a prayer from Steve Davis, vice president, South Region, North American Mission Board (NAMB), who said that God is bringing all of the pieces together at just the right time along the I-29 spine of the Midwest, which is the aorta of the Heartland.
"Think and plan and work from each of your strengths as full partners in the process," Davis said. "Some of you may not be able to bring as many people resources or financial resources and those kinds of things to the table, but each of you has some key strengths in your conventions and in your associations."
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway.
By Tim Yarbrough
MAYFLOWER, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- Multihousing communities present challenges and opportunities for church outreach -- but for members of First Baptist Church in Mayflower, Ark., it is a key part of their mission strategy.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the church used an auction and free rummage sale for residents of the Queens Manor apartment complex as a way to share the love of Jesus.
"This is a culmination of things that really began with GPS -- God's Plan for Sharing -- and the Across Arkansas movement," said David Fox, pastor of First Baptist for the past two years.
Upon entering the apartment community, a visitor was met with the sounds of children laughing and an auctioneer in the distance. People milled around cars in the parking lot. Some were seen carrying toys, appliances and furniture. Two residents carried a large bedroom mattress up a flight of stairs.
Several "bounce houses" were set up for children, as were several tables of clothing and other items, behind a large row of apartment buildings.
"It's turned out to be a pretty good day," said Fox, smiling and adding, "The ultimate objective is, of course, to see the residents of Queens Manor saved and in heaven. ... This is just a way to love them, show them the love of Christ."
Fox said planning for outreach in the complex began this past spring when members of the church prayer walked the area.
"Three people (from our church) -- Jim McDaniel, Dave Trezise, who is the auctioneer (today), and Geri Trezise -- (are leading it). They developed a burden to reach out. This is the culmination of those things."
About 400-500 residents live in Queens Manor, said Fox.
"The people that live here rent by the week. ... It's definitely low income," said Fox. "There are folks here with great needs, not only material needs, but physically and spiritually. That's one of the things that we are trying to do, ... meet needs."
Fox said Scott Martin, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary and multihousing missions ministry consultant with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, was "huge" in assisting the church in planning outreach.
"Scott was very instrumental in giving us ideas and thoughts," said Fox.
Martin, who resides in a Maumelle apartment complex, said his role is to be a catalyst in helping encourage churches in Arkansas to have a passion for multihousing missions.
NAMB estimates 150 million people reside in some type of multihousing community in North America, such as apartments, trailer parks, assisted living centers and nursing homes, said Martin, adding that an estimated 95 percent are unreached with the gospel.
"Overall, there are a number of churches within our state involved in this type of ministry, and that number is growing," said Martin. "First Baptist Church of Mayflower is one example of a church that is investing prayer, time and resources in meeting the needs of residents at Queens Manor Apartments, in order to earn the right to share the gospel."
First Baptist began work in Queens Manor with a block party and Bible study and has continued with a number of efforts - the largest of which was the Nov. 10 event.
"On Tuesday, we saw the first conversion here, … a gentleman saved," said Fox. "So the work is beginning to pay off. There are a lot of strongholds, oppression here, you know, addiction, … those kind of things."
Geri Trezise said the burden to reach out in Queens Manor began with her husband, Dave.
"God laid it on his heart," she said. "I said, 'I want to be a part of that, too.' It is such a humbling experience. It keeps me grateful of how God has blessed me, because I know for the grace of God this could be me as well."
Trezise knows, having managed an apartment complex prior to retirement. She sees God working as a result of the church's efforts in the complex.
"He's helping break down those strongholds," she said. "There's just so much to overcome down here. We are hoping to do that and show that there's a better way and there's a God who loves them and they need Him."
Trezise added, "(The) people here are like everybody else. They just want to be respected and just to know that somebody cares … (and) in some way show the light of Christ to them and let them know that, yes we love them, but there is Someone who loves them more."
Fox, Trezise and others at the church are praying for God to open a door to establish a permanent location for a Bible study and other activities at the complex.
"What we really want is a commons area," said Fox.
"That would make an awesome clubhouse," Trezise said, pointing to the storage building immediately behind where the auction was being held.
"That's the hope that we can bring some sort of building in to have a Bible study down here," said Fox.
For now, the storage building isn't available, so they asked the Lord to give them a vacant apartment to use - especially in bad weather.
The Bible study originally started in the complex "was too aggressive and just too much to start with," said Trezise. So the group began simply visiting Queens Manor residents and doing small things.
"We would just come pray for them and love on them," said Fox.
The complex manager has been cooperative with the church and made a vacant apartment available on Wednesdays, where the group would share chocolate, cookies and other goodies.
Trezise said residents need assistance with things like transportation to get to the doctor and help with information services offered through the county.
But the bottom line remains the same, and it is what fuels Trezise's passion to serve at Queens Manor.
"(It's) to let them know that there is another way, there is a better way ... and that is the Lord."
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net