FROM THE STATES: N.C., Calif. & Ill. evangelism/missions news; a "historic day in the life of our Convention"
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
California Southern Baptist
Proposed N.C. strategy focuses on
disciple-making, impacting lostness
By Melissa Lilley
EDITOR'S NOTE: An overview story by the Biblical Recorder of the proposed strategy and reorganization of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina can be accessed here. This story in From the States by the state convention's communications office provides an added look at the proposed strategy.
CARY, N.C. (Baptist State Convention of North Carolina) -- A new strategy and staff structure for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina leaders is being proposed to more effectively assist local churches in making disciples and reaching the more than 5.8 million lost people in the state with the Gospel.
"I consider this a very important and historic day in the life of our Convention," said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer, when the five-year strategy was approved by the convention's Executive Committee April 11.
The proposed changes focus on helping churches evangelize all people groups -- in every ethnic or cultural context -- by applying disciple-making models with an Acts 1:8 focus stretching locally to internationally. The strategy calls for a commitment to both strengthening churches and planting churches through facilitation of a disciple-making culture that utilizes a relationship-driven model of consultation, beginning in the most concentrated areas of lostness across the state.
If the convention's Board of Directors endorses the strategy during their May meeting, the report will be presented to messengers during the BSCNC annual meeting in November, with strategy implementation to begin January 2014.
About 60 percent of North Carolina's 9.7 million residents do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, according to missions statistics, as the state continues to change at a rapid rate -- and in ways for which many churches are not prepared to respond.
"Along with other North Carolina Baptists, my heart is burdened about the spiritual condition present in our land today," Hollifield said. "We are destined for moral ruin and spiritual destruction apart from a supernatural intervention by God that can alter our present course. We must pray for a spiritual awakening unlike anything we have ever seen."
Hollifield added, "We realize that nothing that is set forth and proposed in this strategy can be accomplished apart from a work of the Holy Spirit of the living God."
The proposed strategy is the culmination of a process that began in September 2010 with the formation of the Vision Fulfillment Committee, which was tasked with determining North Carolina Baptists' perceptions related to the fulfillment of the convention's vision. The committee held 16 listening sessions across the state in order to hear from North Carolina Baptists.
The Vision Fulfillment Committee brought its report to the Executive Committee in 2011, focusing on the need for the convention to develop a five-year strategy that unifies convention efforts in church strengthening and church planting, and to address communication issues facing the convention. The Executive Committee received the report and directed convention staff to develop an appropriate response to the report.
Hollifield assigned two committees of staff members to address church strengthening/church planting and communication matters. These committees submitted recommendations to Hollifield in May 2012. Hollifield then brought their recommendations to a third committee, the Strategy Development Committee. The committee, comprised of 18 staff members, worked for nearly a year to prepare the strategy that Hollifield presented to the Executive Committee.
John Butler, BSCNC business services executive leader, noted that the strategy work "has been ongoing and was not based on current financial realities. We expect that we will see reduced expenses in the new structure, as that is the natural outgrowth of an effective, efficient restructuring process."
Strengthen & plant new churches
In order to evangelize all people groups, the BSCNC must help strengthen churches as well as plant new churches.
"More than 230 languages are spoken in our public schools," Hollifield said. "Our state will soon join the remainder of the nation in that there will be no ethnic majority in the coming years."
If the convention is to be faithful to an Acts 1:8 focus, and to assisting churches in reaching people of all ethnicities, Hollifield said it must have a plan to reach this growing diverse population.
"We propose that this be accomplished through strengthening existing churches and the planting of new churches. Both existing churches and new churches must evangelize the lost in our state," he said. "If North Carolina Baptists love the lost, we will prepare ourselves to respectfully engage them with the Gospel to the glory of our God."
Evangelizing all people groups is the first step in disciple-making, Hollifield said, describing disciple-making as both evangelism and discipleship that results in disciples making more disciples.
"We are not satisfied with evangelism being disconnected from discipleship; these two facets of conversion have been kept in two separate silos for too long," Hollifield said.
Thus, the new strategy calls for the BSCNC to assist churches in developing a disciple-making culture where disciple-making becomes a natural part of the lifestyle of every North Carolina Baptist.
The strategy will also help churches understand that disciple-making is not limited to pastors or church staff; Scripture commands that every believer be a disciple-making believer.
Although lost people live throughout the entire state, the most concentrated areas of lostness in North Carolina are in eight population centers: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Hickory, Wilmington, the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point) and the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill).
These pockets of lostness increase every year. The population in North Carolina increased 18 percent from 2000 to 2010. During this same period, the population in these eight areas increased 22 percent, comprising nearly 75 percent of the state population.
"To impact lostness through disciple-making we must have a statewide focus and we must also emphasize these eight population centers," Hollifield said. "Our goal is for churches across the state to engage the lost in their own communities and to partner with churches, associations and networks to engage lostness in other communities in our state."
Hollifield said the goal is for North Carolina Baptist churches to engage unreached people groups in other cities and communities elsewhere across the state.
"We hope that these same church groups who go on mission to a different part of North Carolina to engage unreached people will then recognize that people from that same unreached people group may very well live in their own North Carolina communities," he said. "What we pray will follow is that this same church family will develop a burden, a plan and a strategy for engaging individuals from that same unreached people group who live elsewhere in North America and in another part of the world -– Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth [as noted in Acts 1:8]."
A strategic focus team will lead the work in the eight population areas, with a coordinator serving in each area.
Under the proposed structure, nine campus minister positions would be eliminated; interim/part time individuals fill three of these positions. One campus ministry assistant position is also eliminated. The BSCNC will continue serving and supporting collegiate ministries through regional campus ministry consultants who will work with local churches to develop partnerships and strategies for reaching college students.
Rick Trexler, BSCNC campus ministry team leader, will serve as team leader for the new collegiate partnerships team and also serve as central region consultant. Individuals will also be hired to fill the positions of western and eastern regional campus ministry consultants. Sammy Joo, international campus ministry consultant for the Triangle area, and Tom Knight, international campus ministry consultant for Charlotte, will continue serving in these roles.
Hollifield pledged his commitment to lead BSCNC staff in fulfilling the strategy's call for a relationship-driven consulting model. If the strategy is to be successful, he said staff must focus less on planning programs and more on connecting and building relationships with churches, church leaders and associations.
"We are committing to make every effort to engage all who desire to cooperate in the fulfillment of this strategy," Hollifield said.
Staff will strive to build relationships with North Carolina Baptists across the state, from small and large churches, urban and rural churches, to younger and older churches.
"I believe that this strategy, when embraced by the churches and associations of this convention, will help us fulfill our vision of becoming the strongest force in the history of this convention for reaching people with the message of the Gospel," Hollifield said.
"I pray that we will commit to embark upon this great journey together, to rescue the perishing and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Christ for the glory of our God."
Melissa Lilley is research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (www.ncbaptists.org).
On Target goes on the
road throughout California
By Holly Smith
FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- A national researcher and a noted author both believe the Church -- the people of God - must be outside the four walls of the church building if gains are to be made in winning people to Christ.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, and Reggie McNeal, author and speaker, told participants at four On Target Evangelism Conference "rallies" throughout the state that the greatest cultural impact and evangelistic gains will be realized when Christians are "authentic" outside the church walls and begin ministering to people physically, socially and spiritually.
This year's On Target conference took a "road trip," meeting in four locations throughout California beginning Feb. 18, with the theme, "One Night-One Reason."
Starting south in Santee, the California Southern Baptist Convention-sponsored event traveled to Alhambra, Clovis and Tracy. According to Randy McWhorter, leader of the CSBC healthy church group, One Night-One Reason was "designed to heighten awareness that there are 33 million lost people in our state who don't know Jesus Christ as Savior."
"California has more lost people than any other U.S. state," he added, "and has as many lost people as the entire population of Canada.
"It is time for California Southern Baptists to focus on what really matters -- 33 million lost people," McWhorter declared.
On Target traditionally is held in Southern California over two days, but this year McWhorter said the goal was to "include more churches, more pastors and staff, and more lay leaders" who could attend a "one-night rally rather than a two-day conference."
Reggie McNeal, author of several books including his latest, "Get Off Your Donkey" -- referring to the Good Samaritan who got off his donkey to minister when no one else would -- spoke during a dinner gathering prior to each conference about transitioning a church to become missional rather than program-driven.
"One of the key things about going missional is, you can run a program church off anyone who'll pay the ticket, but you can't have a missional congregation absent missional people."
McNeal told church leaders they need to "unleash the church" to make a difference in their communities.
"Church" should be more like a verb - more of a way to operate. "How is your 'churching' going?" McNeal explained. "Not, 'How is your church?'
"'How's your churching going at work, in your neighborhood?'"
He encouraged churches to pay attention to what they celebrate, noting, "What you make a big deal out of is what people think is normal."
Cautioning leaders, McNeal said transitioning to a missional church will not happen overnight.
"It takes four or five years to pull off a culture change," he explained, while encouraging participants to "face your fears" and begin the process.
To make the transition successfully, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, told On Target participants he thinks it's "harder than ever to be a Christian," but believes there are opportunities available to reach and change the culture.
First, he said, "Don't fear post-Christian, pluralist culture" in America today.
"Should you be informed? Absolutely." But when wariness of the culture turns to fear, "you've lost faith in Christ."
There are "so many reasons to be pessimistic today, but God has not given us a spirit of fear," Kinnaman asserted.
He also said Christians and churches need to develop "better metrics for success," noting 69 percent of Americans "say they've made a commitment to Jesus."
Kinnaman encouraged believers to "partner across differences," such as ethnicities and generations.
Noting visits he's made to churches in other countries, Kinnaman said, "Our little corner of evangelism and being the church is not the only thing."
In order to reach the current culture, he encouraged believers to "cultivate God-honoring conversations" with non-believers.
"Do you think people want to have a good job?" he asked rhetorically, "understand God's calling in their life?
"I think that is absolutely true," he declared, encouraging Christians to engage those in their lives who are not yet believers in Christ.
"If you're going to get in position to be able to actually have a chance for the 33 million people who are not Jesus-followers in this state," McNeal echoed, "for those folks to get a taste of salt, a glimpse of life, we're going to have do something that's as old as Jesus.
"We're going to have to be church better. We're going to have to get off our donkey (like the Good Samaritan). We're going to have to help somebody."
God's people are ready -- they just need someone to call them to action, McNeal asserted.
"Get in the Kingdom stuff!" he encouraged, not just things of the world.
To those who might say, "But my church can't do it," McNeal insisted, "You're not off the hook.
"You don't gotta wait on nobody to do nothin'," he quipped. "You start it.
"If your congregation has a snowball's chance to intrigue (non-believers), it'll be because you choose to get off your donkey.
"Are you ready? Well dismount!" McNeal declared.
Rick Muchow of Mission Viejo and a team of musicians led worship at all four One Night-One Reason rallies, which were hosted by Pathways Community Church in Santee, Mandarin Baptist of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Clovis Hills Community in Clovis and Southwinds in Tracy.
Next year's On Target Evangelism Conference, back to its traditional two-day schedule, will be at the Torrance Marriott South Bay Feb. 17-18.
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Holly Smith is managing editor of the California Southern Baptist.
Ezell urges men to do 'whatever
it takes' to share the Gospel
By Lisa Sergent
HERRIN, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Three southern Illinois associations hosted a Men's Missions Rally at First Baptist Church in Herrin on March 26 featuring North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell. Franklin, Saline, and Williamson Baptist associations partnered with IBSA on the event to help men find ways to engage in missions and church planting.
The rally was somewhat of a homecoming for Ezell, who pastored in nearby Marion early in his ministry.
Ezell urged his listeners to "have a vision for something bigger than their county or even state, of what they can do literally around the world." His message focused on doing "whatever it takes" to get the job done.
Through the roof
In Illinois, Ezell said, "There is one [evangelical] church for every 12,000 people. There's an incredible need especially in St. Louis and Chicago. Eighty percent of people in North America live in a city. That's why we're having Send cities to focus on where the people are." Chicago and St. Louis are two of 30 Send North America cities NAMB is emphasizing through an intense focus on church planting and missions.
"We've got to think bigger," Ezell told the Illinois Baptist in an interview before his message. During the rally, he cautioned church members about being afraid of change. "As Southern Baptists we act as if we must keep doing things the way we did 50 years ago. Look, it's the same message, but I guarantee you what the apostle Paul would be doing now – whatever it takes to get it done."
That mindset is illustrated in Mark 2:1-12, he said, when a group of men removed part of a roof to lower their paralyzed friend down into the room where Jesus was speaking, so that he could be healed. The man's friends had a "passion to bring him to Jesus," Ezell said. "We must have that passion to do whatever it takes to bring our friends to Jesus. It's going to take more than putting on some marquee sign, 'Come in you lucky sinners and get saved.' We've got to go and compel them and take the message to them.
"Millions and millions of people desperately need Jesus while we sit in our padded pews. There are millions of people dying and going to Hell. God has given us incredible tools and we must do whatever it takes to get the job done."
'Brave enough to ask'
Ezell wasn't the only speaker encouraging Baptist men in Illinois to action. Five others shared experiences with missions in their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Metro St. Louis church planting efforts were highlighted by Tim Lewis, who gave an impassioned plea for help in reaching people for Christ in the St. Louis metro area. "There are 3 million people in the region and about 80 percent are unchurched. The lostness is huge, we've got to get on board with reaching the lost," said Lewis, who leads the Bethel Network of church planters and also pastors Bethel Baptist in Troy.
"There are so many lost people it's time for us to join arms and get together and go and share the good news of Christ with a lost world." Lewis is also chairman of the Send North America: St. Louis Coalition Team.
It's one thing for pastors and missionaries to share the Gospel, but what about lay people? How can electricians, salesmen, attorneys or teachers use their skills to be on mission? Jerry McDowell, a member of Royalton First Baptist, shared how he has used his gifting in construction work to meet needs in the western U.S. McDowell is involved in short-term mission trips to work on Native American lands in Arizona. He teaches the residents basic building skills while building relationships. "They can talk to you and ask questions," he said. "Sooner or later they want to talk with you about the Lord. We just show them the love of God and give them a chance to talk."
"God has a purpose for each and every one of us," McDowell stressed. "If you're brave enough to ask, He's going to open that door for you to do that. I don't care how old or young you are, it might not be tomorrow or the next day. He's going to use the skills He's given you as long as you say 'yes' you're available."
Other rally speakers included Rex Alexander, State Disaster Relief Coordinator and IBSA director, Chris Funkhouser, a Bethel Network church planter in Collinsville, and Brad Vinyard, associate pastor of FBC Harrisburg.
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Lisa Sergent is director of communication ministries for the Illinois Baptist State Association.
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.