FROM THE STATES: Ill., Ark., Ariz. evangelism/missions news; Ill. church's crusade 'lit us on fire'
Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
O'Fallon church baptizes
103 in spring crusade
By Lisa Sergent
O'FALLON, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Over a single weekend, more people were baptized at First Baptist Church in O'Fallon, Ill., than in all of 2013. The church's crusade March 29-30 resulted in 103 baptisms, 17 salvation decisions, and 15 rededications.
Tom Dawson, FBC's minister of adult education who helped organize the crusade, described it as "a wonderful event." He called Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill "electric. He brought God's Word straight to peoples' hearts."
Dawson said the church did "quite a bit of preparation" in the month before the crusade. Prayer, training, and logistics were key. Groups spent time praying for Hill and for those who would come and make decisions. Church members were trained to be "encouragers," or counselors, to talk with people as they came forward.
Carol Cluff, adult ministries specialist, said the encouragers were trained a few days in advance of the crusade. "We wanted to make sure every person who stepped forward had someone to come with them, to talk with them about what prompted them to come forward, and to make sure they fully understood the commitment they were making."
She noted many of those who were baptized had come to understand they had been "baptized out of order. Several people realized they had been baptized as a baby or even as a child without knowing Christ and wanted to be baptized now as believers in Jesus. Others had accepted Christ at youth events some time ago, but not taken that step."
Hill urged the church to be ready to baptize people in each session and not make them wait until a later date. In anticipation of a large number of baptisms, the church made sure to have plenty of T-shirts, shorts and towels on hand. Plus, they placed two horse troughs filled with water on either side of the platform giving them three locations, including the baptistery, to baptize people in a single service.
"We were ready to baptize people on the spot," Dawson said.
First Baptist has made follow-up a priority, stressing the importance of continued discipleship. In a series of follow-up actions, encouragers are keeping in touch with those they counseled and are connecting them with small groups within the church. As part of the effort, Senior Pastor Doug Munton is leading a special sermon series covering the Good News and the importance of baptism along with why Christians should share their faith and be fishers of men.
Munton is pleased with the crusade's outcome. "We had a great crusade," he shared. "The Gospel was preached clearly and the response was great. Many people trusted Christ as Savior and that never gets old to me. And, it was such a privilege to see more than 100 people follow the Lord in believer's baptism."
Dawson said church members are excited. The momentum continued into Easter as the church had its largest Easter Sunday worship attendance -- 2,569 people.
"The crusade was wonderful," said Cluff. "It lit us on fire."
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.
300-plus pastors pray
for revival, renewal
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- "Oh God, bring revival to our state, our nation and our world!" and "Mold us and shape us into Your image for Your glory!"
More than 300 Arkansas Baptist pastors and ministers voiced these prayers and others April 21-22 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock, as they gathered to cry out to God for revival and spiritual awakening.
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, served as facilitator of the event titled "A Call to Pray for Revival and Awakening: A Gathering for Pastors and All Ministers" and opened the first night telling attendees the event might be unique from other prayer events they had experienced.
And it was.
"It is a gather(ing) to pray, not just to talk about prayer. It's a gathering of us supporting one another. This is not about a show; this is not about seeing who does what; this is about us experiencing God together and individually," said Floyd, adding he was giving attendees two words to think through over the next 24 hours: "process" and "progress."
"We're going to take you through a spiritual process beginning with you moving in the serious intercession for one another and then to our churches and beyond, prayerfully experiencing spiritual revival, America experiencing spiritual awakening, all progressing for the purpose of one thing – and that's to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord," he said.
Floyd added, "This is not a come-and-be-seen event. We've got enough of those. This is not about a come-and-go event. This is about a come-and-meet-God experience, a gathering to pray."
"Extraordinary prayer" precedes all great movements of God, he exclaimed.
"Why are we here tonight? We are here to pray in an extraordinary way for spiritual revival personally, revival in our churches and spiritual awakening in America, so that we can see the Great Commission escalated to its rightful priority and accelerated to its completion in our generation," he said.
Throughout the day-and-a-half event, speakers shared thoughts on a number of topics to begin each 20-minute "session" of prayer. Floyd was instrumental in leading similar events with pastors and other leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention last fall in Dallas and in January in Atlanta.
Speakers and topics April 21 were: Manley Beasley Jr., pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church, Hot Springs, "We Must Repent of Our Sin"; Ronnie Deal, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Greenwood, "We Must Surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ"; Archie Mason, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), "We Must Experience the Filling and Fullness of the Holy Spirit," and Bill Elliff, senior teaching pastor at Summit Church, North Little Rock, "We Must Call Out to God."
Beasley read from Psalm 51:4, which says, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned."
"There's only one response to sin, and that's repentance. We'll never see revival without repentance. We'll never have any genuine repentance unless we're broken, humbled before the Lord, and that only comes from a fresh glimpse of a holy God," said Beasley.
Reading passages from Philippians 2, Deal encouraged pastors and ministers to "have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."
"I don't know about you, but that's a prayer in and of itself. … 'Lord, give me the attitude of Christ,'" he said.
Deal pointed to the phrase in verse 10, which says, "Every knee shall bow."
"Tonight and tomorrow, whether this is your pattern of praying or not, I really just want to encourage you … (to) find yourself on your face," Deal said, adding that if the posture is uncomfortable to turn their thoughts to Jesus on the cross.
"I just pray that one of the experiences you receive before you leave out of here tomorrow is what it is like to say, 'You know what, I was literally on my knees before the Lord.'"
As men and women knelt to pray, Floyd led the group in a focused time of prayer.
"Ask God for a fresh anointing on your ministry (and) on your life," he said. "Ask God to give you a ministry and a church that moves and experiences the power of God in a brand-new way."
In between the session topics and prayer sessions, Julio Arriola, global worship pastor at Cross Church, and the Cross Church worship team led the group in songs of praise and worship.
Jeff Williams, leader pastor of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, led the first session of the event on Tuesday, April 22.
Addressing the topic "We Must Pray For Our Churches To Experience Revival," Williams told attendees, "We have to come to a place where we are comfortable to be uncomfortable."
Referring to Ephesians 1:15-19, Williams said Apostle Paul prays a prayer of vision for the church.
"Outside of a sovereign act of God, there is no solution," Williams said.
Participants gathered in groups of four to pray for their own churches and then for all of the churches in Arkansas to experience spiritual revival.
Other speakers and topics on April 22 were Wes George, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers, "We Must Pray for and Encourage Our Pastors and Leaders in Arkansas"; Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, "We Must Pray for Spiritual Awakening in America," and Greg Addison, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Cabot, "We Must Pray for the Completion of the Great Commission."
George said during his session, "One thing that keeps us from what God wants us to be is discouragement."
"Today, I want you to be encouraged. I want you to be encouraged by God," he said.
"One thing we have got to do is repent. We have got to repent of personal sin. We have got to repent of corporate sin," he added.
"I am revived according to Your Word," said George, referencing Psalm 119:25.
A final challenge was given by J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director, who encouraged pastors and ministers to pray diligently and to work together to further the cause of Christ in Arkansas, the nation and throughout the world.
For more information about prayer events in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, visit www.absc.org/prayer.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention and was compiled by staff reports.
The Meadows Baptist Church
charts its course
By Irene A. Harkleroad
GLENDALE, Ariz. (Portraits) -- The Meadows Baptist Church in Glendale believes in discipleship.
In 2013 the Arizona congregation and leaders agreed to embark on the journey of becoming more intentional about winning the lost, growing believers and equipping leaders.
In a March 2013 business meeting, Pastor David Litzenberger introduced the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) as a means of determining the church's strengths and weaknesses and a ministry direction.
"We wanted to be intentional about our mission, and I wanted the process to be based on the congregation's input," Litzenberger says. "We agreed up front that prayer would be the watermark for everything we do."
Over the next six months, Litzenberger talked with leadership and members of the congregation about taking the TCAT's self-directed survey. He conferred with Keith Henry, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention ministry leadership facilitator and Transformational Church consultant, and the survey began in September.
Forty-four of The Meadows' 80 members completed the online survey over the next month.
"The fact that the survey was online eliminated some of the people," Litzenberger says, "but others who didn't have a computer went to [relatives' homes] and used theirs."
Twenty-five people attended a weekend retreat with Eddy Pearson, ASBC evangelism/discipleship facilitator and Transformational Church consultant, to hear the results of the survey and decide how to move forward.
"I think we got high participation because Eddy led us through the process and people told him what they wanted," Litzenberger says. "They even wrote the vision statements."
Litzenberger lists three areas the church chose to work on: "1. Prayer as the watermark; 2. Knowing our community and how to engage them; and 3. Creating a pathway for maturing disciples."
The process was unveiled slowly in small groups, allowing everyone to digest and verbalize their ideas and concerns.
A team of eight, who reflect the composition of the church in age and gender, was appointed to develop steps for the church to achieve its goals. Sermons, Bible studies and Sunday School for April focused on prayer.
"We have developed a solid prayer chain cataloguing all requests and answers to prayer," says team member Treva Gibson. "Working on prayer caused me to learn to let go of things I thought to be true and look at the realities."
Outreach coordinator Perry Hill says church members are "training for outreach with more focus."
He and his team wore their new Meadows shirts while picking up trash, cleaning yards, prayerwalking, and offering help and prayer in the neighborhood for the first time April 5.
"The goal was to let the neighbors see who we are and to take the opportunity to get to learn about them -- to establish a presence and to encourage neighbors to ask questions," he says.
"We need to go to them, not wait for them to come to us," says Karon Ford, another of the eight. "This experience opened my eyes."
Ford says she realizes now there are people nearby who need her to act.
"'Annie' is right down the street or across the street. I can't sit back and say she's over there," she says, pointing into the distance. "This can't be left for someone else to do."
This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (http://www.azsobaptist.org/). Irene A. Harkleroad is a freelance writer in Carefree, Ariz.
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.