FROM THE STATES: Okla., Texas, Ga. evangelism/missions news; '... God used it to change my life. This is the place I want to be.'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
The Christian Index (Georgia)
God uses First Baptist Dewey, Okla.,
to reach students, community
By Brian Hobbs
DEWEY, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) -- When the last class of the day lets out on a Wednesday afternoon in Dewey, you might see more than 150 middle and high school students walking out the doors of the school straight toward the church doors only a block away.
That is a sight that still amazes Doug Miller, student minister at Dewey, First, which has experienced exponential growth over the last two years. Miller, who previously operated a construction company and coached various baseball, basketball and football players in the community, only recently felt the call to vocational ministry. Since Dewey, First Pastor Mark Wright and the congregation placed Miller in this role in 2012, more than 80 students have been baptized.
"The name of our ministry is IMPACT," said Miller. "In 1 Cor. 15, Paul says he would not let the Grace of God in his life to go unnoticed. It's pretty simple, God's grace has had an impact on me, and I must make an 'Impact.' Students are looking for the answer, and we have it. JESUS! We have been amazed to see how open and receptive students are.
"They are ready to be loved. That is our number one goal in our ministry."
Todd Lewis, a volunteer with the IMPACT youth group and member of Dewey, First, said, "God has grabbed a lot of kids by the heart (here at) IMPACT."
Another student, Daniel, recently was saved and baptized.
"I was a bad kid," he admitted. "I came on a Wednesday night to see a girl I liked, but God used it to change my life. This is the place I want to be."
Miller's wife, Brandi, who has seen countless students through years volunteering in student ministry, said the change in Daniel's life was dramatic.
"His whole countenance changed. He is a different person," she affirmed.
"You will face battles in life, but when you are in the circle of God's will, you will be able to face them," said Miller to the students, such as an 8th grader at Dewey Middle School named Kierra.
"I love the music here, and I like Doug's preaching. One of my favorite times was at Falls Creek (last) summer," she said.
Another student saved recently is Keaton, a 7th grader at Dewey Middle School.
"I have been coming to youth group for a year, and got saved here. I hope to start an after-school Bible study soon," he said.
Keaton is one of the many students with whom Chris Russell, student ministry volunteer, has been ministering. Russell helps mentor the kids, play pickup basketball, operate the Audio/Visual and sound on Wednesday nights, and anything else he can.
"I asked Doug, 'What do you need me to do? I'll do whatever.' That is the attitude I have about all of life. 'God, where do You need me?'" he said.
"Many things came together as we have watched this miracle unfold," said Wright. "Our faithful adults, especially senior adults, supported the building of new space, even before it was needed. The Lord raised up terrific leadership from our own congregation and gave us the wisdom to use them.
"God has faithfully provided resources needed for ministry and blessed us with a unity of spirit that not only endures the chaos of 200 youth and children, but joyfully praises Him for the blessing," he said. "Our prayer is 'Thank you Lord! All glory to Christ our Savior!"
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger.
Church outreach marks nearly 600 salvation
decisions, as members pray for opportunities
By Norm Miller
BURLESON, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- In the summer of 2010, God burdened the heart of Pastor Charles Stewart about two matters: the Great Commission and Cana Baptist Church's implementation of it.
In February 2011, Stewart launched Cana's "Shattering the Darkness" campaign while preaching an evangelistic message from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23; Acts 1:8-9; and Mark 16:15-16 which was based on LifeWay's Transformational Church program.
Now nearing the end of 2013, the Burleson church also is nearing 600 professions of faith and has logged more than 100 baptisms.
"The Lord burdened me to lead Cana members to trust him for one soul led to Jesus each week by a church member," Stewart told the TEXAN. "Frankly, I was uncomfortable in going out on this limb because I believed God wanted the evangelistic effort to be led by the Spirit, not the flesh. God wanted Cana people sharing Christ out of love for the Lord and compassion for the lost, not out of a legalistic fear or loyalty to the pastor."
"Humbly, I confess that God wrestled with my own heart for nine months before we began. This was something that I believe he initiated, not I," said Stewart, who also is an adjunct professor at Southwestern Seminary.
Winning one every week
When Stewart preached that February sermon, he asked the congregation in each Sunday worship service, "Do you believe it would honor the Lord for us to ask him to allow someone in our church to lead one soul to the Lord in the coming week?"
"They agreed," Stewart recounted. "So, we stopped and prayed as a church a simple prayer we have prayed for more than 140 weeks: 'Father, if it would please and honor you, would you allow someone in our church family to have the joy and privilege this week of leading one soul to faith in the Lord Jesus?'"
Professing not to have the gift of evangelism, Stewart, since his college involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ, has attempted to remain a consistent witness, he said. "I also have prayed daily during our Shattering the Darkness campaign for God to allow someone in our church to have the joy of leading someone to Christ, and I personally volunteer to be that one."
Stewart and a growing number of Cana's members carry gospel tracts, consistently seeking witnessing opportunities. "I think I am more sensitive to the Spirit's convictions to share the gospel with others," he said. "Frankly, I think what has happened to me is similar to what is happening to many people in our congregation."
When church members lead their first person to Christ, they express "unbelievable exhilaration, and sometimes bewilderment that they previously have been so reluctant to witness," said Stewart, adding that Cana members grow "increasingly excited as souls come to faith in Christ, week after week."
Professions, baptisms & follow-up
Having baptized about one-fifth of nearly 600 converts, Stewart explained the differential, saying the tally comes from professions at the nearby Beautiful Feet Mission to the homeless, mission trips across the U.S. and overseas, the results of sermons preached by Cana members in other churches and retreat settings, and converts from Vacation Bible School, musical presentations and other events that draw people from neighboring communities and other churches.
"Some professions occur on jets, on vacations, during business trips, et cetera, and those converts are not available for baptism," Stewart said. Similarly, some professions are from church members' involvement in the North American Mission Board's Evangelism Response Center, where converts from across the U.S. call for spiritual counseling.
"We strongly encourage our members to record new believers' contact information so if someone professes their faith at work, in a restaurant, or at a park, and they live elsewhere in the Metroplex, we can contact a good, local church for follow-up. Using a variety of means, we make sincere attempts to follow up with each convert," Stewart said.
Stewart explained the campaign's name came from an "idea the Lord gave me to demonstrate conversions each week. We placed seven electric candles on a stand in front of the pulpit, and whenever I receive a testimony of someone coming to Christ, I light a candle the next Sunday morning honoring God's mercies in that sinner's life.
Since I was using the candles, and because John 1:4-5 states, 'In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,' then 'Shattering the Darkness' seemed to me an appropriate title."
When announcing conversions, Stewart cites only the converts' first names and then shares their testimonies.
"I never share the names of the evangelists," he said. "This gives God the glory, keeps our folks' motives pure, demonstrates God uses ordinary people in ordinary circumstances to lead the lost to Jesus, and helps members become more sensitive to the Spirit's prompting to witness to the lost."
Shattering the Darkness required evangelism training for members and a steady resupply of evangelism materials on the church's tract rack.
Evangelism affects total church
Being in relatively close proximity to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Cana has become home to many professors, staff and students from the seminary. The unique calling the Lord has placed on their lives for vocational ministry has allowed them to help bolster the evangelism efforts at the church. Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism, said he and his colleagues' contribution at the church is twofold.
"First, a number of our seminary personnel go and preach revivals and do supply preaching," Queen said, explaining that the gap in nearly 600 salvations and slightly more than 100 baptisms is largely due to professors and students seeing lost people saved in cities across the world where they've preached and called for a response.
Those people, he said, are referred to local churches that can begin the
discipleship process and baptize believers into their own memberships.
"Second, Beau Brewer, who is on the staff of Southwestern Seminary, provided the Evangelism Response Center (ERC) training."
The ERC training has helped equip lay members in the church to share their faith and engage the lost in conversations that lead to a recognition of sin and the need of a savior—creating a congregationwide preparedness for sharing the gospel that expands far beyond the reach of only those called to fulltime ministry.
"It is great to see the Shattering the Darkness efforts clearly declare that the pastor and staff are not the only soul winners at church, nor even the five seminary professors, all of whom are soul winners themselves," Stewart said. "The Holy Spirit is at work, energizing our people with compassion for the lost."
Terry Wilder, one of those five seminary professors whose membership is at Cana, agreed and stressed that the church as a whole has come together to reach the lost.
"As we -- not just seminary professors or students -- advance the gospel, the church does so in unity and is careful not to take any credit for these salvations; rather, Cana Baptist attributes all glory to God," said Wilder, professor of New Testament at Southwestern. "We have seen God miraculously work with divine appointment after divine appointment. I have never seen anything like it in a local church."
Evangelism emphases have spilled over into other church ministries, Stewart said, as they "all seek to be evangelistic with intentionality. Every ministry should have this component, and any ministry can become evangelistic when evangelism is the intention of that ministry's leadership."
"Evangelistic intentionality cannot be overstressed," he continued, "unless it somehow could distract us from our complete dependency upon the Father's Spirit to accomplish the Father's work through the Father's children."
Words of advice
"I think many of our Baptist programs can easily become exploits of our own strength and wisdom as some pastors try to motivate members with legalistic imperatives," Stewart said. "From the beginning, I desired that we respond to the Spirit's leadership in sharing Christ with the lost as our weekly prayer indicates."
Additional cautions included
Stewart's suggestion that "no pastor engage his congregation in an evangelistic campaign like this without due prayer and perhaps even fasting beforehand. Otherwise, selfish motives will taint the effort and possibly quench the Spirit."
"Prayer will confirm what the Spirit desires to do," Stewart continued. "Only as the Spirit confirms his willingness to bless any campaign should we advance. We know the Father is drawing the lost to Christ, and that we are under a divine mandate to take the gospel to all the earth, especially our community. The Spirit must call the saints to prayer for the lost, sensitize the saints with compassion for the lost and impart to them boldness to share the gospel with the lost. Flesh and blood cannot do any of these things."
Reiterating the foundational importance of prayer and its results, Stewart said, "God is answering our congregation's prayers most graciously because they are in tune with his heart."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Norm Miller is a correspondent for the TEXAN.
By Scott Barkley
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (The Christian Index) -- For more than a year they planned. People went out and did random acts of kindness. They shared their testimony with some 7,500 members of their community. They posted on social media about the event coming up at Hopewell Baptist Church and got more than 15,000 personal responses online from others in doing so.
By the end of the services Sept. 22-25 – extended by a day due to the response -- more than 150 decisions were recorded for Christ stateside (more on that later). Over 700 first-time guests visited within five weeks before and the week of The Hope Crusade. More than 900 meals were served and hundreds of hours were spent in prayer.
Unique, with a vision
Revivals aren't made, but they are planned. The difference is who does the planning and Who brings the result.
"This church is unique," said Hopewell Administrative Pastor/Pastor of Education Kent Barrett. "Our previous pastor laid out the vision for this crusade last year and even after he stepped away in December, our people remained on board. The people took the vision to heart to keep going forward."
Advertisement for the crusade had a different motive, added Barrett. The feeling among church leaders was typical methods such as banners and radio and TV ads would more likely bring in members of other churches.
"That's wonderful, but you end up with a lot of saved people attending. We wanted to reach the lost and trained our people to give up their seats for someone needing to hear about Christ."
Evangelist Jon Reed preached. Each night had an emphasis – men on Monday, women on Tuesday, students on Wednesday – but Reed's message varied little in its main purpose. In addition, Reed's participation in the crusade began long before the first night.
"I'm a harvest guy," he said. "My focus is to get people back to the Great Commission. I want to be part of that process in preparing them beforehand so they can see people saved … help them be successful in what we all should be doing.
"I'm very big on revival preparation. You want people to come to Christ, but also for the church to get excited [about evangelism] again.
"Seeing people saved gets you excited."
The Hope Crusade was led by laymembers, said Barrett. The one serving as the point man for organizing groups in the effort was Shane Satterfield.
"I felt it was important for our people to get engaged in ministry, especially during the time when you're without a pastor," stated Satterfield. "It's then that people can kind of float along and disconnect, and we wanted them to get back on board."
The crusade had a significant international element to it. For years, groups from the Gainesville congregation have been traveling around the world to establish other churches, said Mission Pastor Dwight Joy.
"Our prayer was there would be an awakening in Gainesville and around the world. Revival comes to people who are in need of it and see the work of the Lord," said Joy, who grew up at Hopewell – baptized there as a teen – and has served in his position for ten years.
Hopewell members average about one international mission trip a month. Consistent communication and planning with those partner churches in the leadup to simultaneous revival services led to a literal worldwide harvest in mid-September.
"More than 1,500 people accepted Christ in over 130 participating churches," said Joy. "Many of those churches in Cambodia, Uganda, Sudan, Nepal, and Mexico are still reporting. We're still waiting on final numbers from India and Costa Rica. "We're unlikely candidates to be a part of all this," he added. "It just takes obedience."
"In order to get the church moving we only had to put people to work," agreed Satterfield. "They realized how much authority God has given us to do what we're built to do."
Preparation + prayer = results. It's a simple concept, said Reed, that he has seen play out repeatedly.
"It's a sow-and-reap principle," the evangelism pointed out. "We increase the prayer life of the church for the lost from 1% to 100%. People always say it was the best revival they've ever been in. I tell them it's just math.
"Shane was doing a lot of the same things I do, just in a different format. Bucky Kennedy (pastor at First Vidalia) did both my prep plan and his before a revival this summer that saw more than 100 people get baptized. Maysville Baptist Church did it too, and witnessed similar results.
"They were all invested, and it became a soul-winning frenzy."
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is production editor of The Christian Index.
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.