Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Ag, goat project
By Jessica Vanderpool
LITTLE ROCK (Arkansas Baptist News) -- Arkansas Baptists have been on the ground to help since a 2010 earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti. And now, more than three years later, they are still going strong - seeing hundreds accept Christ - and they are expanding both the location and types of their ministries. New facets of ministry include an agricultural demonstration farm, a partnership in northern Haiti and a goat project.
Bob Fielding, Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) missions ministries team member and Haiti project coordinator, said the ABSC sent Luckenson Pierre Louis, a Haitian man who has worked as a translator for Arkansas Baptist teams, to Honduras to receive agricultural training in order to bring the techniques back to Haiti and teach them to his people.
While there, Louis learned about Sloping Agricultural Land Technology, how to make inexpensive stoves that improve health by keeping smoke out of houses, how to make grain silos so corn cannot be attacked by animals and more.
Louis will implement these techniques at an agricultural demonstration farm the convention plans to build in the mountains, said Fielding, teaching other Haitians how to implement them as well.
Fielding said Louis will be supervised by Ron Baker, an agricultural expert from First Baptist Church, Piggott, and Dan Watson, who runs the center where Louis studied in Honduras and who is a member of First Baptist Church, Walnut Ridge. Roody Joseph, who serves as the ABSC's partner in Haiti, will oversee the project.
"I believe that if Jesus doesn't come back, there will be people alive 50 years from now that would not have been alive because of this work. It is really going to change lives," said Fielding. "And not only will the farmers have enough to feed their families now, but the goal would be for them to improve their crops to have a surplus where they could sell it."
Another new aspect of ABSC ministry is the convention's partnership with Monel Jules, church planter and dean of the theology department at North Haiti Christian University (NHCU), located in Limbé, Haiti.
Arkansas Baptist teams have already started volunteering at the university and at the church where Jules is pastor.
And it is not a one-sided partnership. Students from NHCU will soon be traveling to serve at the Arkansas Baptist compound in Léogâne as a summer mission trip.
The ABSC is also partnering with Jules to start a goat project. Fielding said Jules can buy a goat for $50. The goat is then given to a family who is required to return the first female so that it can be given to another family.
Through the Haiti fund provided by Arkansas Baptists, the ABSC has sent money for Jules to buy 20 goats.
Fielding said Jules and his wife will come to Arkansas in August to share about the work in Limbé.
Meanwhile, along with new initiatives, the ABSC is continuing the rest of its work in Haiti and seeing numerous salvations.
-- A group from Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Cabot, saw dozens saved after showing the "JESUS" film. Several more were saved when a motorcycle taxi driver stole one of the team's "slip discs" only to return to talk to someone. He eventually accepted Christ, as did several of his fellow taxi drivers.
-- Faith Baptist Church, DeWitt, recently traveled to Haiti, and more than 100 people were saved.
-- Fielding said Larry White, pastor of First Baptist Church, Cherokee Village, took a dental team to Haiti, and while they were there, they led 315 inmates to Christ. They are now helping build a medical vehicle for the ABSC to use in Haiti. The vehicle will be equipped for optical, dental and medical exams.
-- Arkansas Baptists have also been training Haitian women to do prison ministry, and progress is being made for these women to be granted clearance to enter the prison.
Fielding said several weeks are open in 2013 for teams to visit either the Léogâne or the Limbé locations in Haiti.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptistnews.squarespace.com/), newsjournal of the Arkasnas Baptist Convention. Jessica Vanderpool is assistant editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
Affinity Evangelism: Churches focusing
on communities within communities
By David Roach
LOUISIVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Reaching a community for Christ can be more natural and less confrontational than some people may imagine.
That's what hundreds of church leaders are learning as they receive training in affinity evangelism through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Affinity evangelism is a strategy that helps congregations identify "communities within their communities" and engage them with the love of Christ and the message of the gospel.
Affinity groups may include outdoorsmen, classic car enthusiasts, scrapbookers and more. College campuses, military posts, large local industries, and cross-cultural neighborhoods also are natural affinity groups.
"I'm excited about what we're going to begin to see happen as churches begin to get engaged with their communities," said Chuck McAlister, leader of the KBC Evangelism and Church Planting Team. The approach "gets the churches outside the four walls."
The Kentucky Baptist Convention offers workshops, phone and e-mail consultations and a free workbook with the affinity evangelism strategy mapped out.
The workbook, available via free download at www.kybaptist.org/get2know, includes three different surveys that churches can conduct among their leadership, their congregation and their community.
These surveys also help identify:
-- affinity groups in the community.
-- gifts and passions among church members.
-- which groups the church is best equipped to reach.
The point at which the results of the three surveys overlap "is what we would call the sweet spot for evangelism in the community—the opportunity for the church to reach out into the community with the smallest number of barriers," McAlister said.
Three of the most promising affinity groups in Kentucky are archery enthusiasts, hunters and families with children in public school, he said, noting that churches can start ministries that appeal to each group.
Some cross-cultural groups, such as Hispanic, South Asian and deaf/hearing impaired may require that the church seek assistance from KBC or another resource to develop an effective strategy, McAlister explained.
"We don't want churches to become intimidated by something as big as a language barrier," McAlister said. "Come to us for help. We will work together to reach that important group in your city, county or association."
College campuses also are a unique mission field that KBC can assist churches in serving. According to Brian Combs, collegiate evangelism strategist for KBC, the partnership between each Baptist Campus Ministry and local churches could impact far beyond the commonwealth.
"With local churches coming alongside our campus ministers, we can better reach our colleges with the gospel, and that includes the ever-growing population of students from other countries attending Kentucky colleges," Combs explained.
"Many of those international students who meet Christ through BCM and a local church, will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to return to their home countries—some where the name of Jesus has never been spoken—to share the gospel," he said.
Many already 'doing' affinity evangelism
Rolling Fork Baptist Church in the Nelson Baptist Association was dwindling in attendance when Pastor Bruce Nichols arrived 14 years ago. But through several affinity-based outreaches, it has seen attendance and baptisms increase. A classic car show in partnership with a sister church, a community appreciation event at a local park, and a "coon hunt" dinner are just a few of the ministries Rolling Fork has done.
Though the congregation's focus on affinities pre-dates the KBC emphasis, Nichols said he is excited about what will happen as more Kentucky churches center their evangelism on community interests and needs.
Affinity-based outreach "makes everybody aware of the fact that they can be involved with the ministry without having to be specialists in Bible translations and theology," he said.
"They don't have to be professionally trained," Nichols continued. "They can be involved in a volunteer work and be able to show Christ's love through services and different types of outreach programs."
In Paducah, a member of First Baptist Church, Kijsa Housman, has discovered how she can reach middle school and high school girls through art. Once or twice a month, she invites girls to do an art project with her and shares Scripture with them in the process. First Baptist helps by sending invitations and hosting some of the art gatherings in its facilities.
"Affinity evangelism is helping churches find any interest group that they can identify or that comes to the surface naturally through connections or interests that a church member would have," said Kristen White, a KBC Evangelism and Church Planting Team staff member who has trained churches to use art for outreach.
"As Kijsa says, she (used to) think of her art and her faith as separate, and it's just amazing how the Lord keeps bringing opportunities for her to use art as the avenue for her to build relationships and introduce people to Christ."
Near the Fort Campbell Army Post, military families are an important affinity group. So, First Baptist Church of Oak Grove planted a church designed to reach them. Assisted by the KBC and Christian County Baptist Association, the plant -- called The Church at Oak Grove -- had 29 people at its first service in late March.
"It was great," Heather Gentleman, the wife of Pastor Carlo Gentleman, told the Eagle Post newspaper in Hopkinsville. "A couple of families were new visitors for that morning, and almost everyone was military, which is great."
The Church at Oak Grove wants to "be a support for military families, so it was a thrill to see them led to come that way," Gentleman added.
Church plants centered on affinity groups are nothing new, and McAlister said he anticipates Kentucky Baptists will see more of these congregations.
Examples of affinity-based church plants are easily found in the Bible.
"People with natural affinities were engaged by the Apostle Paul and others to launch churches in their midst," McAlister continued. "Whether the people engaged were worshipers at Pentecost, leaders in Athens or members of a particular household, they all shared a particular affinity or interest which served as a catalyst to launch a church."
Celebrates unity within diversity
A concern McAlister sometimes hears from church leaders is that affinity-based outreach and church planting could lead to a segmentation of the body of Christ. He believes that the affinity approach actually can reach people across a broad array of socioeconomic and racial groups.
"You look at an affinity like the local school in a rural community," he said. "You have grandparents that want to be involved in school; you have parents that want to be involved in school. You have every socioeconomic level involved in the school."
All effective affinity ministries highlight "the unity that results in the midst of the diversity that we enjoy as Christians," he added.
Contact the KBC Evangelism & Church Planting Team for more information on affinity evangelism.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. David Roach is a freelance writer for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
starts 57th congregation
METAIRIE, La. (Baptist Message) -- As Zechariah 4:10 KJV says, For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice ....
Celebration Church started in 1988 with six people meeting in a home, praying for revival and a church home. Instead, they formed as a church in September 1989, and a month later, Dennis Watson was called as pastor.
The first (after their own) church they started was Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva in El Salvador in 1992. Their latest, Cityview Church in Miami, Fla. In-between there have been 55 others.
"Celebration Church continually focuses on planting new churches because we have a mandate from the Lord to 'make disciples' all around the world," Watson said. "And starting churches is the best way to reach people and lead them to become disciples of Jesus."
Craig Ratliff, with his wife Cindy and their son, William, are moving to Miami at the end of May to start Cityview Church.
"Our church will be the primary sponsor of Cityview Church," Watson said, "although there will be other sponsors, such as the North American Misson Board and the Association of Related Churches."
Ratliff has served on the staff of Celebration Church since 2006, first as the campus pastor for Celebration's St. Bernard congregation, and then as multi-site director.
"There are 5.6 million people in South Florida, and it is estimated that 95 percent of those individuals do not have a relationship with Jesus," Watson said. "So we need to be praying for those who are going out from our church family to launch Cityview Church, as well as praying for the other churches in that region."
Cityview Church is the sixth church Celebration has helped launch in a city other than New Orleans. It has also launched seven churches in Southeast Louisiana, and 44 churches in other nations.
"Starting successful church plants requires succinct direction from the Lord, plenty of support from the sponsoring church, and a called and gifted church planter," Watson said. "A successful church plant is one that grows spiritually and numerically to the extent that it begins to impact its community.Also, a successful church plant replicates itself by starting additional church plants."
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
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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