Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Arkansas Baptist News
N.C. church ready to
partner, reach Queens with Gospel
By Melissa Lilley
QUEENS, N.Y. (Biblical Recorder) -- Receptivity to the Gospel is low in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., where many people are disinterested or really do not want to talk at all about the Gospel.
In Forest Hills, where Nathan Creitz is planning to start a church this year, the population is 110,000 for an area that is only about four square miles with few evangelical churches.
Creitz's vision extends beyond Forest Hills, as he prays that the new church plant will help start other churches throughout New York's most ethnically diverse borough. Queens residents represent dozens of people groups unreached with the Gospel. People from all over the world call Queens home, with about 125 different languages spoken in the area. Nearly half the population was born outside the United States.
"Jesus Christ told us to make disciples of all nations. My heart is for the nations, and I can't think of a better place than Queens to pursue that mission," Creitz said. "The goal is to not only reach Queens, but for some of the people here to take the Gospel back to wherever they are from."
Although receptivity is generally low, Creitz has met people open to the Gospel, and that gives him hope.
"We want to spread the Gospel as broadly as possible, and saturate the area with the Good News," he said. "It takes an act of God to start churches. If anyone is going to break through, it will be God."
In 2004, after graduating from the University of Mobile in Alabama, Creitz moved to Boston to help a friend who was starting a new church.
After four years in Boston, Creitz began seminary at Gordon-Conwell. After graduation he served as interim pastor for a church in New England.
Creitz, his wife Kim and their two children live in east Queens and are preparing to move to Forest Hills early this year with a goal of launching the church this summer.
Creitz is using the months leading up to the launch to begin laying the foundation for the church plant. He is making the two and a half hour round trip to Forest Hills several times a week to meet people and begin building relationships. He is also working to raise financial support and prayer support and is forming new partnerships with churches such as Dudley Shoals Baptist Church.
Dudley Shoals, in Granite Falls near Hickory, N.C., is committed to a long-term partnership with Creitz.
"We wanted to partner with someone who is just getting started, so that our church could walk through the entire church planting process with them," said Randy Smith, ministries director at Dudley Shoals.
"We made an immediate connection with Nathan and Kim. They have spent quite a bit of time trying to understand where they want to go with this new church."
Smith, having served as an International Mission Board missionary for 18 years, has been on the receiving end of mission teams and appreciates ongoing partnerships.
"Over time you become so much more effective. You don't have to take as much time learning the ropes or learning logistics. You are able to understand the target group and build relationships," he said.
"Church planting can be a long, hard struggle. You don't get that sense of how difficult it is when you pop in for a week and you don't see them again."
Volunteers from Dudley Shoals are already involved in New York, as they spent several weeks last summer remodeling office space for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA). Through the Baptist State Convention's Office of Great Commission Partnerships, North Carolina Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with MNYBA churches and church planters.
Smith and Creitz expect their partnership to include opportunities for servant evangelism, such as cleaning up local parks and hosting cookouts, for the purpose of building relationships, making connections and sharing the Gospel. "My wife and I can go deep in our relationships with our neighbors, but with 110,000 people in one neighborhood, we can't go wide. Mission teams can't go deep, but they can go wide. They will have the opportunity to meet people, pray for people and get the word out that there is a church that loves them," Creitz said. "Together, we can go wide and deep. Just because I am the church planter doesn't mean I'm the most important person in the process. We need each other."
Smith looks forward to Dudley Shoals becoming involved in missions in a context different than their familiar rural setting. From the much higher cost of living to ethnic and religious diversity, "New York is really different," he said. "Especially working with someone starting at the ground level. You don't have a single believer."
Creitz encouraged churches to not let New York's urban context or great spiritual needs overwhelm or intimidate and hinder them from developing partnerships.
"Anyone can show love to people," he said.
Whenever Creitz experiences times of frustration he thinks back to how God called him to serve for Kingdom purposes.
"When the tough times come, we look back to our call and our burden and that has sustained us," he said. "From the beginning our calling was so clear. We've never doubted our calling to Queens."
To learn how to get involved with partnerships in New York City visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.
About the New York/North Carolina partnership
With 8.5 million inhabitants who speak nearly 500 languages, New York City is one of the most diverse and influential cities in the word.
Metropolitan New York is larger than Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Miami and Las Vegas combined. One out of every 16 people in the United States lives within a 75-mile radius of Times Square. All the nations of the world live in the neighborhoods of New York.
Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) is about connecting local churches for global impact. MNYBA helps churches plant new churches, serve in their communities and advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world.
The churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) are partnering with MNYBA to help advance the Gospel in an area where only 3 percent of the population has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is the research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Prayer impacts La.
2013 Evangelism Conference
By Karen L. Willoughby
LAFAYETTE, La. (Baptist Message) -- Fervent prayer before the 2013 Louisiana Evangelism Conference prepared both participants and speakers.
More of the same during the Jan. 28-29 event at First Baptist Church of Lafayette contributed to what many said was one of the best evangelism conferences they had ever attended, said Wayne Jenkins, director of the LBC evangelism/church planting team.
"For the second year in a row, Louisiana Baptists began the year with 21 days of prayer and fasting," Jenkins said. "When more people are united in prayer, God seems to move, and that's what happened here.
"We had more than 450 churches with prayer ministries to assume responsibility for the conference and for individuals speaking or singing, so it was extremely well prayed over," Jenkins said. "Our speakers commented specifically on the number of notes they received from Louisiana Baptist churches.... In fact, one commented that they had never experienced that kind of response from the people."
First Lafayette staff estimated at least 1,000 people participated in each of the 2013 Evangelism Conference's main sessions, and that with 200 people in the choir and orchestra, about 1,800 participated in the Tuesday evening session.
"That was unusual," Jenkins said. "Usually attendance falls off the second night, but several pastors took advantage of it being in their area and got their people to come.
"That will impact their churches," the LBC evangelism director said.
Messages by Charles Roesel, Tyrone Barnett, Thomas Hammond, John Bisagno, Gary Cobb and Dennis Swanberg each focused on some aspect of servant evangelism.
"O Lord, how much you must love me," prayed Roesel, retired as pastor of First Baptist Leesburg, Fla., and now presidential ambassador for the North American Mission Board, as he concluded his sermon. "Lord Jesus, I love you back.... You can have my life back."
He had preached on God and His personal, powerful, permanent and persistent love as Roesel told how First Baptist Leesburg grew to include more than 100 ministries -- for drug addicts, abused women, pre-born babies among them.
"It begins when we understand how much God loves these people," Roesel preached before breaking into scripture: "In as much as you've done it to one of the least of these.... I don't know how we could have the love of God in our heart and not love the folk He loves."
Thomas Barnett, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur (Metro Atlanta), Ga., spoke on how to take the church to the street.
"We're really good at looking down from a distance and making a wrong diagnosis," Barnett preached from Acts 20:7 about the man listening to Paul who fell out a third-story window. "We've lost the intimacy it takes to make a difference.... When people know they're loved and supported, they go higher."
"Who is laying in the street in front of your church? … You can speak in a language he can understand," Barnett aid. "The language of God's love speaks volumes."
Thomas Hammond, a vice president with the SBC Executive Committee, spoke from Acts 3 about Paul's healings. "See the need," he preached. "Get involved. We have to meet them at their point of need before we can take them to Jesus. Live your faith.
"The lame man didn't touch Jesus, but he did touch someone touching Jesus," Hammond continued. "We will never feel the power of God until we step out on faith.... I am so ready to do something I can't do."
John Bisagno, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, closed out the Monday evening session after a concert by Anthony Evans backed by the Louisiana College choir. He preached from Matthew 18, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 on The Big Picture.
"Jesus said, 'Don't miss anybody," Bisagno preached. "In America, are we going everywhere or just to our own kind of folks? ... Go from here. Start where you are.... One final thing: Be bold.
"Go go go," Bisagno continued. "Go pastor, go church ... go Louisiana Baptists, go. Jesus Christ is still Lord over Louisiana."
For more synopses of the messages, see www.baptistmessage.com. The messages themselves are to be available online at www.lbc.org/evangelismconference or are ready for purchase through MasterSound Media: 806.852.2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Evangelism Conference included 11 breakout sessions Tuesday afternoon, and a concert by Larnelle Harris Tuesday evening before a final sermon by Swanberg on the planting of shade trees for the next generation and generations to come.
"This year's evangelism conference was excellent," Jenkins said. "We've gotten great response from people both email and verbal, saying they felt it was a blessing. … The emphasis on servant evangelism, ministering to the needs of people by having people bring a can of food ... resulted in truckloads of food." (See related article on this page.)
Upcoming evangelism-related events include One Cry -- a nationwide call for spiritual awakening -- set for Feb. 21-22 at Louisiana College (see related article on p. 16); regional pastor/vocational staff training for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's national My Hope thrust is set for March and April (see related article in Feb. 28 issue); and the revival services set for April 5-6 at Angola State Penitentiary.
The 2013 Evangelism Conference and all ministries of the LBC's evangelism/church growth team are fueled by the cooperative efforts of Louisiana Baptists' giving through the Cooperative Program.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message.
Come all ye ... 'whoever'
Rural Ark. church growing
By Caleb Yarbrough
BATESVILLE, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- "God has sent laborers to work the field that He has been cultivating, all in a community that has a population smaller than our church attendance," said Chris Sims, pastor of Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church.
Located in the small rural area of Bethesda, a community inside the city limits of Batesville, Pilgrims Rest is shattering many stereotypes of what it means to be a rural church.
"It has been exciting to watch the Father work in this church family," said Ronnie Toon, association missionary for Independence Baptist Association in Batesville. Because of gifted strategic leadership and committed faithful membership, the Lord has used them to reach people that few churches do.... The church is a testament of what God can do through a church family who follows Him."
Sims has been pastor of Pilgrims Rest for three-and-a-half years and is the 50th pastor in the church's 159-year history.
"One of the Scriptures we have talked about multiple times around here is Psalm 127, 'Unless the Lord builds the house, he who builds it labors in vain,'" said Sims.
The church took the passage to heart.
Today, Pilgrims Rest averages 150-200 in worship on Sundays -- in a community of fewer than 200 people. As a result, the church recently went to two services and expanded, erecting a new building that will hold more than 300 for services. The building houses Sunday school classrooms, a kitchen, a food pantry with handicap accessibility and a large room with a multipurpose floor that can be used for everything from vacation Bible school events to church and community fellowships and indoor sports.
Sims said the church's fellowship has tightened through the recent building project. More than 60 of the church's members devoted their time to help with the building and construction of the 7,100-square-foot structure.
Most of those attending Pilgrims Rest don't have a background attending church, and more than 70 of them are children and teens under the age of 18, said Sims. The "balance" of Pilgrims Rest's congregation is something of an anomaly in comparison to the average rural Southern Baptist church.
"We have fabulous youth leaders. The very small group that they initially began reaching out to did a good job of sharing the fun of being a part of this church family. Our youth group has grown from a handful to 35-40 students," said Sims. "We have a good nursery; we have a good kids church; we have a good student ministry. We are focused on making sure that we can reach whoever comes in the door and meet them where they are at."
Over the past three years the church has begun a transition due to its growth and changing demographics. Not only has the church nearly quadrupled in weekly attendance - with people from all walks and stages of life being represented - it has seen many come to know the Lord and move on to leadership roles in the body, said Sims.
"This last year as we had grown out of space, we decided to go to two services.... It gave us the ability to grow some more. But what that did was it seemed to be an indicator to others that we were going to take serious the commission that we are under. So what started with (God) sending young families and unsaved has now attracted a handful of called leaders. They are not on the payroll; they are lay leaders.
"How does all that work? It ain't us," said Sims with a smile.
Everything that has happened at Pilgrims Rest during his tenure has happened because God has ordained it, Sims believes, not because the church made it happen. He said that the goal of the church has become to simply "attempt" to be obedient to what God would have them do. He added that the congregation often makes mistakes but that God has been gracious to bless its efforts to follow His lead, in spite of their shortcomings.
"Any work that we do, if we do it ahead of Him or without Him, we are just doing man-made stuff. But if we will just make everything about His commission, then He said that He will build His Church and the gates of hell won't stand against it," said Sims.
"Discipleship is really the phase that we are moving into now. Over the past three years, we have baptized over 100 people. It is allowing new growth, and we are now able to move into growing as disciples," the pastor added.
Sims said God has sent a small group of mature followers to Pilgrims Rest during the past year, not out of a disenfranchisement with other churches, but because they sensed God's holy Spirit moving and felt called to help disciple other believers.
According to Sims, Pilgrims Rest has been able to avoid problems that plague many congregations with members of such varied age. He said the church has had discussions but never encountered difficulties due to style of worship or issues of tradition.
Sims said the church's ability to work together is due to their attempt to put Christ first.
"We are talking about worship. Our styles, while not unimportant, should be secondary," said Sims.
Pilgrims Rest has also been attempting to find opportunities to blend people from different ages and stages of life together in small groups so they might grow and learn from one another.
One example of this blending happened recently, said Sims, when the women's small group was joined by girls from the youth group for a book study. The youth girls originally joined the women because their teacher was sick one week but have since continued with the study, allowing for the two groups to grow together.
Pilgrims Rest is the first church Sims has pastored. As a first-time pastor, he said one of the most important things he has learned, and would like to teach other pastors called to rural and small churches, is patience.
Sims said it is important to give God time to move, within His time frame. After three-and-a-half years, Pilgrims Rest is moving full-steam ahead. They are growing both spiritually and in number of members, but only because they have allowed God to lead them where He wants them to go.
"We are a Bible church that is Southern Baptist in its core, but a person who has zero church affiliation needs to be able to walk in here and feel warm and accepted and be taught how the Bible is incredibly relevant to their life, no matter what stage they are in," said Sims.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Caleb Yarbrough is a staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News.
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.
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