FROM THE STATES: La., Okla., Ga. evangelism/missions news; '[D]oing missions is for every follower of Christ'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
The Christian Index (Georgia)
Broadmoor beats missions
drums with B-groups
SHREVEPORT, La. (Baptist Massage) -- "Plan A" at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport involves "everybody." They work together in B -- Believe, Belong, Become -- Groups.
It's a simple concept that came to pastor Chuck Pourciau in 2011.
"For a quarter-century, I experienced the frustration of trying to lead a program-driven church," Pourciau said. "Trying always to latch onto the latest, greatest church growth/motivational strategy is a futile and fatiguing experience.
"About three years ago, the Lord hit me between the eyes with the Great Commission," said the pastor where about 1,800 people participate in one of seven Sunday morning worship services. "Speaking to all His followers, Jesus commanded them to preach the gospel to all the world. Therefore, doing missions is for every follower of Christ."
Broadmoor for years has been among the top givers to missions in Louisiana; regularly it is No. 1. Their goals for seasonal offerings are 0.1 percent of the national or state goal, and often they exceed it.
For example, Broadmoor's Lottie Moon goal was $175,000 of the $175,000,000 IMB goal.
They also give 10 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program.
B Groups are the church's name for Sunday School and other small group classes. In them, Broadmoor members grow as Christians by studying the Bible together and being Jesus' hands and feet as they go wherever God takes them.
"We challenge our B Groups to have missionary partnerships locally, nationally and internationally," said Pourciau, who has been pastor of Broadmoor Shreveport since 1999. "My B Group helps me to Believe; the first priority with each B Group member is a relationship with Jesus. I then am able to Belong, to connect with like-minded believers. Finally, through these relationships, I am able to Become the missionary the Lord calls me to be. … We believe God desires for each group to be Biblical, relational and missional."
The Gordon B Group -– mostly couples with young families –- focuses locally in three areas; regionally they minister in New Orleans. Their international focus: West Africa and South Asia.
"It all folds in together," said Dan Gordon, leader with his wife Jenifer of the group. "We've taken three big class trips to New Orleans, but whenever anyone can go down there, we go.
"A lot of us went to New Orleans to learn –- how to do missions; how to love -– because we hadn't been before," Gordon continued. "When we came home, we said, 'Why aren't we doing this here?' New Orleans was the kickoff for us in urban missions. We have learned that wherever we are, wherever we serve, that's where we learn. In New Orleans we got a compassion for urban missions, and brought it home."
Urban missions takes many forms, the first of which is presence. For most of the members of the Gordon B Group and their family, The Bottoms –- now called Ledbetter Heights –- is as far away culturally as New Orleans is geographically.
"Ledbetter Heights is within 10 minutes of the church, yet it's going to be something completely different from what most of us know," Gordon said. "It's a completely different culture. There are different dialects and different values. We take our kids with us -– infants to early teens –- because how else are they going to learn missions? How are they going to love people? One of the reasons we do what we do is to show our kids."
Class member Scott Patton leads in the New Orleans thrust and is chairman of Broadmoor's Missions Committee.
"As a church our motto has become 'Every Member a Missionary,'" Patton said. "Missions is the lifeblood of the church, and with their involvement, the people get to experience the awesome God whose Kingdom is coming to all the earth, and to fall more in love with Him."
Broadmoor emphasizes two main elements of church: large group worship and small group Bible study and simultaneous involvement in missions locally, regionally and globally.
"We began at Christmas 2011 to pray as a B Group that God would show us where He wanted us to work and to be," Patton said. "The international focus for us was pretty easy because the missionaries were from our B Group; we knew them on a personal level.
"For local and regional, we ... wanted God to give us a heart for a lost people who needed Him," Patton said. "We saw Him pushing us to New Orleans, and that led locally to Ledbetter Heights."
The Gordon B Group also is drawn to a local crisis pregnancy center as well as ministry with women in the "purchase sex" industry.
"It's really our heart and passion to see people the way God sees us," Patton said. "We all are sinners standing before a righteous God. We just pray God will break our hearts to see people as He sees them, so we can love them as He loves them."
Broadmoor, started in 1930 as the 17th Southern Baptist church in Shreveport, has a long history of support for missions. Every year the church sends out hundreds of missionaries to serve in short and long-term missions in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
Under Dr. Pourciau's leadership the church has been debt-free for the last 12 years.
Pourciau says he has heard that Southern Baptist churches as a whole spend more money on interest for loans than they do on missions.
Therefore, Broadmoor will have cash on hand when ground is broken later for a 17,000 square foot contemporary worship center.
Every member a missionary is not just a slogan for Broadmoor Shreveport, it's a lifestyle.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
STERLING, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) -- "We are in a time when we are being told that to succeed for the Gospel and to engage this modern society that we must adapt to new methodology and that the 'old ways' do not work anymore," said Mark Hall, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sterling, Okla., who discovered even the old ways can be successful with the Power of God.
Located in Southwestern Oklahoma, on the outskirts of Lawton, Sterling, First, led by Hall, prepared to have a revival during the first week of November.
"What was unique in this case was that we did it all the 'old school' way," he said. "We planned more than a month ahead, including involving most of the church members in the preparation."
Hall said the church conducted home prayer meetings, "with almost 100 in attendance, and an 'all-night' prayer meeting with 25 coming for at least an hour throughout the night." During the prayer meetings, church members were asked to mention names of people to pray for. A "prospect team" gathered names from members and created a list of more than 90 families to be considered prospects for the church.
"Letters were sent to them all, as well as letters to all the members encouraging them to be at revival and pray for God to work," said Hall.
Pre-revival outreach included members inviting their block to the services and contacting all of the prospects from our list.
A group of ladies called members and prospects to remind them of the revival dates, Hall said.
"We did contact the newspaper (for publicity). During the week before the meeting we encouraged our members to include revival publicity in their 'trick or treat' distribution."
R. Wayne Briant, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Sarasota, Fla., was invited to be the evangelist for the revival meetings.
"We started on Wednesday and went through Sunday," said Hall. "We had children's hot-dog night, youth pizza night, a men's chili cook-off and a cupcake decorating contest."
On the Sunday morning of the revival, Sterling, First had a high attendance campaign for Sunday School. Hall said the campaign theme was "Take Me Out of the Red," and used each class' membership total as its goal for that Sunday.
"We put up a board with red push pins equal to the number enrolled in each class or department," Hall explained. "As they signed someone up, we replaced the red pin with a blue one. If they signed up more than their goal, we used gold pins. On Sunday afternoon, we had a pot-luck lunch and then for the evening service, we invited the youth drama team from Adair, First to lead us for the final service."
While preparing for the revival, Hall said the church's prayer was "that God would do something so dynamic that only He could get credit for it." The pastor said the preparation time was the most amazing week the church had ever experienced.
"Prior to the revival we had averaged right at 100 in Sunday School and 125 in worship," Hall said. "Last year, as a church we baptized 17 people. During the revival we averaged 150 in all the services with 110 being the lowest. We had 167 in Sunday School and 191 in church on Sunday Morning. We had 57 people make a profession of faith, 18 rededicate their lives to Christ, two join the church by letter and 45 commit to do their best to witness to at least one person during the next month."
On Sunday of the revival, Hall said eight people were baptized, and in the weeks that followed, the church baptized 12 more.
"One of the greatest results of the week is the air of excitement and anticipation the people feel," he said. "We experienced God showing Himself powerful in this small town, and all of us desire it even more."
Bob Slusher was one of people baptized during the revival. "It was the best experience of my life," he said, sharing the meetings also impacted his family, who were baptized in the following weeks.
Hall pointed out the most important lesson many could learn from this revival experience is the methods, old or new, are not the real key.
"The power of God brought through prayer and the involvement of the people personally sharing their faith and inviting people to church make the biggest difference and bring revival," he said. "I think as we move forward as a church, we need to focus our plans not so heavily on finding new methods, but on prayer and getting our people to catch the hunger for their lost friends and family. I pray that revival sweeps our state, and that others can experience what we here in Sterling just did."
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
By Jim Burton
DULUTH, Ga. (The Christian Index) -- One of the first biblical principles children learn in Sunday school is often one of the most difficult for adults to practice.
In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Each Sunday, parents give their children money – usually coins – that they can place in the offering plate. When children begin to earn money, parents often remind them that at least one tenth should be their tithe to God through the church. Tithing is a biblical and tangible value that parents can teach their children.
But how are mom and dad doing with their tithe? Further, how is their church doing with a similar "tithe" toward missions?
Georgia's economy has been challenging for several years. Scores of rural counties have had zero population growth while metropolitan Atlanta reeled from an erratic real estate market that reversed years of net worth growth for many families and wiped out retirement accounts. When money got tight, some church members reduced their tithe.
Despite the recent economic hardships, many Georgia Baptist churches have claimed Jesus' promise in Acts 20:35 and practiced Kingdom generosity. They have learned God blesses them financially for a reason, often to bless other churches.
At Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa, Pastor Andy Childs' church was experiencing revitalization. Not long ago, the church had declined and suffered a deficit. They regularly negotiated with vendors concerning the payment of bills. Now the church is growing in attendance and income. They had a healthy rainy-day fund, plus a surplus.
What should a church do when it has a surplus?
Childs and the church finance committee began praying. Childs challenged the committee to consider sharing a portion of their surplus with other churches. But how much?
That's when a committee member asked, "Why don't we give $100,000?"
The committee agreed, which led to more questions. Does Ebenezer give it freely, or should it designate the fund's use?
On December 18, 2011, Ebenezer presented the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) with a check for $10,000, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) with $40,000, and the International Mission Board (IMB) with $50,000. Childs says his church trusted agency leaders and gave it freely with no designations.
Ebenezer quickly learned that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." In 2012, Childs reports that the church budget went up by 4 percent and giving exceeded the budget by 17 percent. For 2013, the budget grew 5 percent, and current giving is about 3 percent ahead of that goal.
"Generosity is like a boomerang," Childs said. "It always comes back to you."
Meanwhile, Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker was facing a season of drought, similar to what Ebenezer had experienced years ago. Leadership changes and neighborhood transitions had seen Rehoboth decline from a congregation that once regularly hosted 2,800 each Sunday to about 350. As of April 2012, the average membership age was 71. The church had $2 million in debt.
Rehoboth Senior Pastor Troy Bush knew when the church called him that this would be a tough mission field. Having already served as a missionary in Russia with IMB and in North America with NAMB, he also saw potential.
"Many thought Rehoboth had died or would soon die," Bush said.
With assistance from Larry Wynn, GBC's vice president of Church Revitalization and Leadership, Bush led Rehoboth to embrace a bold new vision of church revitalization with a strong commitment to reach metro Atlanta's growing ethnic populations. The turnaround started when Bush had lunch with GBC Executive Director J. Robert White.
"Troy, there's something that Georgia Baptists want to do for Rehoboth because we believe in Rehoboth and what God is leading you to do," Bush recalled White saying to him. The GBC gave Rehoboth a $10,000 grant from the Ebenezer gift.
"I was blown away," Bush said.
The timing was perfect for Rehoboth. The church was planning to reintroduce itself to the community through a fall festival with the goal of serving the young families who are moving back into Tucker near their church. That exposure and community connection has created a new challenge for Rehoboth, a nursery "overrun with babies." The church recently hosted a parent's night out and had 50 children. More than 80% of the responding families had never attended Rehoboth.
"That gift of generosity received spawned more generosity," said Bush, whose church also used some of the grant to ramp up their website (www.rehoboth.org).
"Kingdom generosity doesn't begin with a strategy," Bush said. "It begins with the righteousness of God and a right heart."
What we teach children in Sunday school applies to "big church" no matter what the economic health of the state might be. Kingdom generosity reminds Georgia Baptists that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Jim Burton is a photojournalist living in Cumming, and the bivocational pastor of Suwanee International Fellowship.
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.