Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
California Southern Baptist
Sowing God's Word Transforms Our Communities
By Mark Snowden
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) -- Missouri Baptists are being challenged to distribute God's Word this year as they engage the lost in servant evangelism projects. Light Up Missouri is a two-year initiative to transform communities with God's Word through servant evangelism. This is being done in days, seasons and moments of service.
Last year about 35 churches, associations and ministries were recruited to engage in distributing nearly 47,000 "Find it Here" New Testaments in a partnership between the Missouri Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board.
Look how God moved in these churches. Could He move like this in yours?
"We have experienced a move of God this summer in our church and community," said Norm Howell, pastor of Skyline Baptist Church in Branson. After distributing 1,000 New Testaments within three miles of the church, Skyline had at least 25 additions by statement and baptized 11 adults, two teens and one child. Howell said, "I believe that the scripture distribution and visitation by our members has had a significant role in the new growth within our church."
Tree of Life Church in Kansas City had prayed for 50 souls to be saved, but according to their pastor Jerry Akins, "the Lord sent us 50 more." The church engaged in a season of service in the form of a feeding program last summer. After several days of activities for children in low-income housing, they distributed Bibles. "The gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was shared," said Akins. "Parents and children began coming to Christ."
St. Joseph Baptist Association took on one of the most aggressive distribution strategies. They sought to distribute 10,000 New Testaments through the summer in various servant evangelism projects in churches. "A pastor had not considered what his church was doing as to being seasons of service," director of missions Clyde Elder reported. "They were just ministering and witnessing to residents of a multi-housing community. So, he incorporated Bible distribution and was excited to see how open people were to taking a Bible and talking about it." Elder says it takes a God-sized vision. "Some of our pastors took a couple of cases of Bibles and came back quickly for more. They underestimated what they could do at different venues."
Kevin Kohler worked with Concord Baptist Association in Jefferson City during a missions project involving 200 students in servant evangelism projects last summer. He said, "New Testaments are important tools. I personally don't care for cold door-knocking. I feel service projects provide a much more personal connection and are a far more important relationship-building process. I love the neighbors to ask us what we are doing."
The responses from around the state were terrific. However, we also learned what not to do. One pastor was prevented from distributing Bibles in a July 4th parade. Another pastor preached in a park for two weeks with no response after five churches distributed New Testaments in their community. During a community food distribution a Methodist pastor expressed discomfort doing anything to link the Bible with food distribution. Some of the reports from pastors admitted they had no discipleship plans in place when their church members led the lost to Christ using the Gospel-"marked" New Testaments.
More than 700 New Testaments went out through disaster relief volunteers. Dwain Carter, DR director, summed up what so many reported, "We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this world, but we also want to share with the people we help the Living Word of God."
Going out "Sowing in Tears" was the theme of this year's State Evangelism-Discipleship Conference January 27-28 at Crossway in Springfield. An eight-page "Bible Providers List" is online at www.mobaptist.org/light under the Resources tab. What will God do to transform your community with His Word?
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Mark Snowden is evangelism/discipleship strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Church hosts new congregation,
drawing 500 on first Sunday
By Connie Davis Bushey
GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- Forest Hill Baptist Church here is like a lot of area churches, pastor Don Marston said. It has more facility than it needs and can really afford.
The congregation is now small, older in age, and worships in a traditional style, explained Marston, who has served the church for five years. Thus Forest Hill Baptist is having a hard time attracting young families and keeping them, he added, though the congregation is paying its bills and still has a wonderful ministry.
Members tithe and "love the Lord," said Marston. Forest Hill especially is a "great missions giving church," he added. But if it doesn't include younger people, the congregation which is made up of about 80 active members will dwindle, he noted.
"We don't want to go out twiddling our thumbs," Marston stated. He explained that he especially wants his ministry to "make a difference." At age 31 Marston was diagnosed with cancer. After several years of treatment, several brushes with death, a second bout of cancer, and a bone marrow transplant, he was finally deemed cancer-free.
At that time pastor of Cordova Baptist Church, Marston became involved in ministry to cancer patients which led to him being named director of patient support for a cancer clinic in Memphis for 12 years before re-entering the church ministry.
A phone call
A few months ago Marston received a phone call from Danny Sinquefield, a friend who is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, which also is in metropolitan Memphis, and was president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention from 2008-09.
Sinquefield asked Marston to meet with Kennon Vaughan, who leads the Downline nondenominational ministry on Christian discipleship, which he founded seven years ago. Sinquefield explained that Vaughan was feeling called by God to plant a church and Sinquefield wondered if Forest Hill might be open to sharing its facility with a new church.
Marston already knew about the popular Downline Institute for students and their leaders and ministers. He knew the ministry "had been very, very successful."
He met with Vaughan and agreed to take the idea to his congregation.
This kind of decision would prevent the need to ever sell the facility and allow the church to leave a certain legacy, noted Marston.
A few months later Forest Hill Baptist agreed to let Vaughan and a core group of Harvest Church try to develop a new congregation in its facilities. The two groups signed a three-year lease.
Soon Forest Hill was a place of great activity. For several months Vaughan and core group members of Harvest remodeled the gym of Forest Hill into a beautiful sanctuary.
Then in September Harvest Church began meeting drawing about 150 people. On its official launch day in October Harvest drew about 500 people.
"I've never seen anything like that in a new church before," Marston declared.
Quickly, Harvest, with permission from Forest Hill, converted one of the church's ball fields into a parking lot.
Harvest continues to draw about 500 people to Sunday morning activities and both churches now hold Sunday School or Bible study simultaneously and still have enough room. The children's wing of Forest Hill, which it had updated several years ago in hopes of drawing families with young children, is now filled with children, Marston noted.
Tommy Condrey, a member of Forest Hill, said all of this has been "an amazing experience."
Marston agreed. He said he has come to love the staff of Harvest Church.
Another good thing which has occurred is that Harvest Church has been accepted as a member of Mid-South Baptist Association, based in metropolitan Memphis, because it was determined to "be within the framework of Southern Baptist doctrine," reported Marston, who was moderator of the association at the time. Vaughan already was familiar with Southern Baptists because many of the churches he worked with through Downline were Southern Baptist. He also began working with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention while leading Downline.
How is Forest Hill Baptist doing through all of this?
"We have helped a new, strong church to get going," Marston said.
All of this has "breathed life into us. It has been good for us and it has been good for them," he added.
"We are stronger now than before this happened. What is our future now? ... Only God knows our future. We only know God wanted us to do this," concluded Marston.
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector.
Students "fan the flame" of
their commitment to Christ
By Kelli Cottrell
FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- During Christmas break 2013, hundreds of teens learned what real belief in Jesus is and how to allow God to use the "ugly" in their lives, at the annual Ignition Student Conference.
With that knowledge students were given a choice to make a commitment to either continue living the way they were or to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
"In just two days, we saw more than 400 students give their lives to Jesus either for the first time or as a rededication," said Daryl Watts, student and family ministry specialist for California Southern Baptist Convention, which hosts the conference.
Ignition, split into two locations -- Santa Clara and San Diego, with the same theme, "Fan Into Flame" -- was held simultaneously Dec. 27-28, with the featured speakers and bands dividing their time between both venues.
Ivan Vergara, 12, was one of the 400 who responded to the invitation to make Jesus Lord of his life during the two-day conference.
"I wanted to be saved," said Vergara, who attended with his youth group from First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim. "This is my first time going and I wanted to give my life to Christ."
Five of the 17 students who attended with Vergara from First Southern Anaheim made decisions for Christ.
"(Ignition) is always a big factor in students making a decision," said Josh Sanchez, youth pastor of the Anaheim congregation, who has brought students for several years. "The students' worldview is changed."
Speakers for 2013 included Chris Simning of Obscure Ministries in Arizona, and Clayton King, campus pastor for Liberty University and founder of Crossroads Worldwide in North Carolina. Travis Ryan and his band led worship in Santa Clara while Dex Alexander, a former member of the band "All Together Separate," led worship in San Diego.
King encouraged the students to think about what belief in Jesus really means.
"Can you believe in something and not love it?" he asked. "You don't inherit belief. You can know stuff about God, but not 'know' God. You can be around Jesus and not recognize who He is.
"Intimate belief alters your life. You give Him total control."
King challenged the students to show their belief and ignite something new this year in their relationship with God.
Simning, who has cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair for five years, challenged attendees to not treat their Christian walk like a fast food drive-thru, and to look at the scribbles in their lives differently.
"Many have subscribed to a junk food religion that is not healthy nor holds any nutritional value for who we were truly created to be," Simning said. "Sadly, our culture is what has determined Christianity when it needs to be the other way around.
"Life with Jesus Christ has either become watered down or sugar-coated, like slurping on a beverage through a straw. Culture has done well to lie to our face by promoting the embellishment of self, and a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant is a subtle approach to how we have been conditioned to gorge ourselves on a smorgasbord of savory sides with an entitlement of what is owed to us."
Simning added, "We have been trained to have this mentality of getting what we want when we want it. What do you do when you don't get what you want?"
He challenged the students to determine if they are just hungry for fast food or "hungry for His abundance. Do you take back the order if it's not what you want or take it with you?"
"God is not fast," Simning declared. "He is a process. And when we demand an order from Him, we are not allowing Him to give us His best. Fast food has no nutritional value."
Simning was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after a teacher noticed he could only scribble while the rest of his classmates were mastering writing in the lines.
"My scribbles are a theme in my life," he said. "He wants to work in that weakness."
While Simning was in a wheelchair he started hating his life and what he had.
"My life became a broken mess," he said. "Now, I believe my life is a gift. He will use whatever you think is ugly for His purpose. My scribbles exist for a purpose. From this day forward how will you write your life?"
After each main session students were given the opportunity to make a spiritual commitment and pray with counselors. They also met with their own groups for Bible study and further discussion.
Comedian and speaker Larry Bubb was emcee for the San Diego conference, while Kevin Miller was emcee in Santa Clara. Christian bands Fireflight and Flame performed at both events.
Prior to the conference in San Diego, students volunteered for various service projects across the city, helping local churches with a variety of ministry efforts.
Throughout the two days of Ignition, students attended various "Firestarter" breakout sessions to deepen their faith and help them grow spiritually. Topics ranged from "Living Life Among the Walking Dead" to "Is God Calling Me to the Ministry?"
In addition, church youth groups had an opportunity to connect with others from their local area.
"Our students were able to get outside their church bubble and meet other teens in the area," Sanchez said. "They really liked that."
The students contributed a combined offering of $1,731, to be used for CSBC Disaster Relief efforts.
Daryl Watts encouraged the students to leave Ignition determined to "start something new this year."
"Find the new thing God is going to do in your life," he said. "God wants to fan a flame in you."
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Kelli Cottrell is media relations manager at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a freelance writer for the California Southern Baptist.
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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