Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Christian Index (Georgia)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Tenn., reaches UUPG
By Ken Carver
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- India. Land of ... what? How do you fill in the blank? Whatever your mental image of the country, you are likely to be right, at least in part.
What is it like to spend a month there in pursuit of a people group -- people who have had little if any exposure to Jesus Christ?
For two retirees (names withheld due to security reasons) from First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., it was, in a word, "wonderful."
In late 2012 First Baptist adopted the 2.2 million Marathi-speaking Lingayats of south central India, a previously Unengaged, Unreached People Group (UUPG) as defined by the International Mission Board. Prior to their trip, four church teams had traveled to the area this year for short-term (10-day) efforts.
The two retirees spent four weeks there this summer seeking the lost and training national pastors and believers in church planting. One of the volunteers celebrated his 79th birthday there and declared it to be, "My best ever." Both plan to return.
First Baptist's base of operations is a small city with a population equivalent to Shelby County, but with only two working traffic lights. The church has rented an apartment there that is spacious by Indian standards and includes basic amenities. More importantly it gives Indian visitors (mostly pastors) a sense of long-term commitment on the church's part.
The Lingayats are largely interspersed within the general population, so locating clusters of them has proven difficult. Previous teams reached numerous Indians in general but few Lingayats. Yet, the census data indicated that they were there.
Then along came a local pastor who promised to connect the men with a cluster of Lingayats. He led them to a very poor area populated by numerous Lingayat families. God had obviously been there already.
In one evening in that one neighborhood, more than 60 people received Christ, and at least 50 of them were Lingayats. In home after home, entire families repented of their sins and put their faith in Jesus. The team declared, "The Lingayat wall has been breached!"
Now, five new house churches are active in that area, studying the Bible and worshiping God. Plans are underway for the national pastors to begin weekly outreach events there to offer to other seekers the relationship with God that only Christians know.
The Collierville church is sending several teams there each year, most for a few days, some for a few weeks, to maintain the momentum in reaching the Lingayats. The Collierville church is looking for other churches to partner with them in this God-sized task.
Currently, two churches have committed to participating in short-term mission trips with FBC -- Red Bank Baptist and The Church in Chattanooga and Schilling Farms in Collierville, according to Sam Nichols, executive pastor of missions and operations at FBC Collierville.
Churches interested in joining forces with First Baptist can contact Nichols at 901-853-2668 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Ken Carver is a special contributor to the Baptist & Reflector.
By J. Gerald Harris
VIDALIA, Ga. (Christian Index) -- "I haven't seen anything like it in my 30 years of ministry."
That statement came from Bucky Kennedy, pastor of Vidalia's First Baptist Church, referring to the revival the Georgia church is experiencing with more than 100 persons being baptized to date.
It all started in May when the church began to prepare for a four-day meeting scheduled for Aug. 18-21 with evangelist Jon Reed of Buford, Ga. Kennedy explained, "We started with some preliminary preparations in May, but we kicked it into high gear in June.
"Jon came to our church on Sunday, June 9 and preached on Sunday morning and then taught a two-hour soul-winning session on Sunday night. He has some excellent revival preparation material that we used through the summer.
"I used six Wednesday nights during the summer to emphasize the importance of each one drawing a circle around themselves in an expression of self-examination."
Kennedy explained that Life Action Ministries urges people to use a piece of chalk to draw a circle around them. The circle represents a turning point, a moment of surrender, a change of heart. It marks the difference between those who would pray, "Lord, change them" and those with the humility to plead, "Lord, change me!"
The revival was effectively promoted, but Kennedy emphasized that the key to the whole experience was prayer. He declared, "Our people were engaged in desperate and deliberate prayer. I wish we could have recorded the prayer sessions. We had men crying out to God, begging God to save the lost by name. Some of the men were praying agonizing prayers for some of their adult children.
"Our church had bought a small house nearby and that became our 'house of prayer.' We met there each day at noon during the revival and the first day we had six who came, but the number of those coming to pray grew to 30. The time of prayer lasted longer and longer. The meeting was just saturated with prayer.
"We also prepared for the harvest. We were trusting God for an increase. We were like the man who wore his raincoat and took his umbrella when he went to church to pray for rain. We have over 100 people that are now in our 'Introduction to Discipleship' class; and the lost people who were saved are now bringing their lost friends to church.
"The attendance for the revival services was incredible. The number of people who came increased and we actually had more on Wednesday night than we had on Sunday morning. The scheduled services concluded a week ago, but God is still moving and people are still getting saved.
"This past Sunday we had almost 80 in our young married couples Sunday School class. They usually have about 40. My wife, Stacey, took that class on as a project and prayed for those young couples and led the charge in getting them to come.
"We had people saved in every service. We had people who got saved in the parking lot after the services. They would get under conviction and come back into the church and ask how to get saved.
"We extended the meeting through Thursday night. One night it took 30 minutes to introduce all those who had made commitments to the Lord. We had more than 80 first-time professions of faith, but we also had a good number to come to get their baptism on the right side of their salvation.
"Forty or 50 of those who were saved were adults. We have had four or five whole families get saved. When the fathers got saved they brought their whole family into the fold of God.
"The whole offensive line and the three captains of the Vidalia High School football team got saved. I baptized at least a dozen African Americans and Hispanics as well. What is happening in our church is the buzz all over town.
"Friday night I went to the high school football game and the conversations were amazing. I have had people ask me about football in church, but at the football game Friday night people were asking me about the church. It was amazing!
"Jon Reed is the real deal. He is humble, accessible, kind, but he is a lion in the pulpit. But no one is claiming credit for any of this. What we have experienced and continue to experience is not of us. It simply means that somehow God has chosen to hear our heartfelt cry to the throne of grace and shown us favor."
This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. J. Gerald Harris is editor of the Christian Index.
Toronto: Rendezvous Church
seeks to 'spark' change
By Melissa Lilley
TORONTO (Biblical Recorder) -- Among midtown's affluent, professional class most lack any actual physical needs, unlike Toronto's Parkdale neighborhood just eight miles south with a high concentration of poverty and violence.
To the north and east of Parkdale is Scarborough, one of Canada's most diverse communities, with about 57 percent of residents born outside the country.
Three unique areas with different challenges, needs and much spiritual darkness -- which is why Scott Rourk is starting churches in each of them. In the past year, 22 North Carolina Baptist churches have partnered with Toronto church planters, like Rourk. More partners are needed in the Greater Toronto Area, which is less than five percent evangelical and home to more than 5.5 million people.
After four years in Canada, Rourk planted Oasis Church and is now seeking to plant 10 churches in 10 years across Toronto. Rourk grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, Ga., and has planted churches in Belarus and New York. "Soon the whole world will be urban centers. The cities matter to God," he said. "I came here because of who God has here. You have to love the city; you can't just survive in the city. Our hope is to transform the city through the Gospel message."
Rendezvous Church in midtown, which meets on the University of Toronto campus, was the first of 10 Rendezvous churches that Rourk is praying will be planted across the city. The Parkdale and Scarborough churches also launched this year.
LOVE THE CITY
Building up to a church plant Rourk invests in communities, forms relationships and earns the trust of residents. For about three years now Rourk has invested in Parkdale, even helping start a soccer league that meets twice a week.
Rendezvous Church hosted a soccer/Vacation Bible School camp this summer at a public school in Parkdale, as well as a SparkGood camp. Weeklong SparkGood camps were also held in midtown and Scarborough.
"We help kids spark a good idea, and then we help them go and do it," Rourk said. "We help them think about one risk they could take that would make their community a better place."
Other Rendezvous summer outreach efforts included prayer walking, block parties, street festivals and a bike repair clinic in midtown where volunteers repaired more than 700 bikes. "We try to create those moments, experiences and environments that will bring Christians and non-Christians together," Rourk said. "That's not just going to happen on a Sunday morning."
Servant evangelism, such as picking up trash, is also important to Rendezvous Church because people need to know the church cares about their city.
"Our overarching goal is to better the city of Toronto. We came to seek the peace and prosperity of the city," Rourk said. "People here love to serve, and they care about their city. We are sharing Jesus' love in practical ways, and they find out why we are doing what we do. It's totally relational."
Rendezvous is also reaching out through canned food drives, packing and distributing hygiene bags through Un2Others Ministries, and coffee house evangelism.
Rourk was invited to a public school with a rather unusual request - explain to students the meaning of Christmas and Easter.
"People don't have a Christian foundation. They are so distant even from knowing why they celebrate their holidays. We have to go all the way back to creation," he said.
Rourk described Canada as a mosaic of cultures, with people bringing their customs and religion with them. More than half of Toronto's population was born outside Canada and more than 30 percent of Toronto residents speak a language at home other than English or French. Half of all immigrants have lived in Toronto less than 15 years.
"You have to earn your right to share the Gospel," Rourk said. "Worldviews don't change overnight. Religion is so intertwined with culture that it really is God having to change their life."
Kate Croft served as a summer intern with Rendezvous Church. She said ministry in Toronto requires patience and willingness to listen and respect. "You have to be willing to listen. ... That wall of pride prevents so much from coming in," she said.
Croft, 22, attends college in Colorado but is from Oakville, about 30 minutes south of Toronto. The past two summers she served in community outreach in Oakville and this summer was determined not to come "home." But she was obedient to go where God called and is planning to return to Toronto to serve after college. "Part of being a Christian is to listen to God, and He's probably pushing you out of your comfort zone," she said. "This summer I have learned how to put myself aside and serve others. I have learned how to love others by how God loves me."
PARNERSHIPS ARE VALUABLE
Rendezvous Church depends on support from interns like Croft, as well as church planters. Sath Arulvarathan and his wife Charmaine are moving into the Parkdale area to help lead the new Parkdale church plant.
"We feel called to establish ourselves in Toronto. Parkdale is the most diverse area I've seen," Sath said.
He asked specifically for prayers against spiritual warfare. "Church planting can be draining and lonely. We're all under constant spiritual warfare. Please pray Ephesians 5, that we may put on God's full armor."
Rendezvous also depends on long-term church partnerships.
"If you just come one time, you'll never see the fruit of your labor," Rourk said. "If you can commit with us four or five years, you'll see a church planted."
Three churches from Rowan and Cabarrus associations served together for a week this summer and worked alongside Rourk and Rendezvous volunteers. The trip came together after Ken Clark, pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Salisbury, participated in a Toronto vision tour last year with the Office of Great Commission Partnerships of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. "You don't have to go across the world to impact the world; the world has come to Toronto," Clark said.
To learn how to involve your church in a Toronto partnership, visit www.ncbaptist.org/gcp.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (www.ncbaptists.org).
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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