FROM THE STATES: Md., Texas, Mich. evangelism/missions news; 'The issue is seeing the church as belonging to Jesus, and not us'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist LIFE (Maryland/Delaware)
Southern Baptist Texan
Baptist Beacon (Michigan)
Long-time churches extend their
legacy through church plants
By Sharon Mager
BALTIMORE (BaptistLIFE) -- Churches are plentiful in Baltimore -- huge, grand, sometimes even Gothic structures with columns, and spires, filled with the memories of the grand days of full pews, hymns, families begetting families, buses of children, regular revivals and baptisms. For many, that's all that's left -- the memories. The churches echo with silence because attendance has dropped to a handful.
In fact, due to cultural shifts, and changing neighborhoods, George Barna estimates between 40 and 70 churches close each month.
But there's good news! Through church revitalization and legacy church planting, many of those churches are receiving a breath of life once more. The God of resurrection is blessing with new life through the remnant.
Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church
Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church was steeped in history. It was started in a stable before the Civil War as a Sunday school ministry that flourished. The congregation at one time was one of the largest in the city, flourishing under the ministry of E.Y. Mullins, a former Southern Baptist Convention president and a president of Southern Seminary. But time marched on. The city changed. Culture shifted. The church, with its original pews where Civil and World War I and II veterans sat, magnificent tall ceiling, historic stained glass windows, and a majestic pipe organ, was slowly and painfully dying.
A handful of mostly senior citizens were working tirelessly to maintain the facility and ministry. They poured out their heart to Jesus, and God answered by calling church planter Brad O'Brien and a core team from Summit Church in Durham, N.C., to the city to begin Redeemer City Church. Ultimately, God drew them to Lee Street and the two churches merged to become Jesus Our Redeemer Church (though officially, for posterity, the name is Lee Street Memorial Church doing business as Jesus Our Redeemer Church). Within literally months the church has doubled in size, and both the baptistery and nursery are being utilized.
Rather than a sense of loss, Ray Hoffman, who was saved at the church during a revival in 1953, said he's relieved. Hoffman and his recently deceased wife, Louise, served in numerous leadership positions in the church and was involved on the committee that approved the merger.
"Times change. Everything is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Churches are different," he said.
Doris Bates, who began attending the church in 1986, agreed. "Back then that was the thing to do -- you went to church." Bates said seeing the membership dwindle hurt. "It was hard to look around and see so few."
O'Brien said he treasures the relationship with the seniors at the church. "The last thing I wanted was to take their building and scatter the flock. We've worked hard at merging the congregation as one body. We do fellowship meals to give opportunities to get younger and older folks together serving side by side, greeting, collecting offering -- doing a lot together as one body."
The church has grown from an average of 15 to 80 people since the merger.
Colgate Baptist Church
In Eastern Baltimore County, Colgate Baptist Church members literally passed specially made batons to Gallery Church leaders at a transition service in the spring of 2013.
The church, founded in 1932, began as a Sunday School sponsored by Patterson Park Baptist Church. The once thriving church had dwindled to a few members striving to keep the church afloat. Ellis Prince, lead pastor of Gallery Church, called the church members heroes for denying themselves and seeking above all else God's kingdom.
Gallery church members are excited to be able to breathe life into the old church. They temporarily closed the building while using it to house mission teams to serve the surrounding neighborhood and they are renovating the parsonage for a church planter and his family. Gallery Church Eastpoint, a new neighborhood church, will begin worship gatherings in August 2014.
Some Gallery members are committing from 3-to-12 months of volunteer leadership to get the work off the ground and some are relocating to the neighborhood to minister at the new church.
Patterson Park Baptist Church
Patterson Park Baptist Church members labored tirelessly through the years to minister in East Baltimore. The church started in 1906 as a Sunday school called Highlandtown Mission, started by Eutaw Place Baptist Church (now Woodbrook Baptist Church). They grew from 83 charter members to over 1,000. The church later became the parent church of Colgate Baptist. Through time, the neighborhood changed, the congregation aged, and the church had dwindled to just 20 faithful worshipers.
They gifted their property to Gallery Church in the fall of 2013, marking the occasion with a celebration worship service on October 27, 2013. This date also coincided with celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church's incorporation. Many of those who grew up in the church returned to celebrate the past and anticipate God's new future.
"With our gift to them, they do not have to pay rent for offices, worship space or Sunday school space," explained Glenn Lambert, longtime Patterson Park member. He served as chairman of the board of trustees and church administrator at Patterson Park. "We are happy the doors never closed," Lambert said.
Prince said partner churches from around the country have rallied to raise over $200,000 to help with the renovations for the older Patterson Park and Colgate sites.
Hampden Baptist Church
The congregation at Hampden Baptist Church was dwindling. The story was the same. The neighborhood changed, the church was aging but the faithful congregation wanted to continue the legacy of the gospel in their neighborhood.
Through the help of Gary Glanville, pastor of Northwest Baptist Church and the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, the church was introduced to church planter Dan Hyun. He and his core group did not have a facility and God opened the door to Hampden Baptist Church. Hyun said they couldn't have picked a better facility.
The church reaches a diverse audience, Hyun said, not just ethnically, but also in age and socioeconomic group.
The church is classically traditional with an ornate door, wooden pews and stained glass.
"The young people say it's 'vintage,'" Hyun said with a smile.
Hyun said he admires the "kingdom mindedness" of the congregation at Hampden Baptist. "They don't want the legacy of the gospel in Hamden to end with them," he said.
Hazelwood Baptist Church
Church Planter Michael Crawford, pastor of Freedom Church, was thrilled when Bob Mackey, Baltimore Baptist Association director of missions, called to ask Crawford if Freedom was interested in the property of Hazelwood Church in the Rosedale area of Baltimore. Hazelwood Baptist had dissolved and the property reverted back to the association.
Freedom had been meeting in an elementary school near Morgan State University. Freedom made the transition and Crawford was pleasantly surprised that many from Hazelwood returned to the church. Locals, seeing a new name, also began attending. The church is growing and connecting with their community through outreaches such as ice cream "Sundays," backpack giveaways, a medical outreach, and an Easter egg hunt. The church has already developed a relationship with a local elementary school.
Woolford Memorial Church
In Dundalk, Woolford Memorial Church, founded in the mid-forties, had a huge building and a dwindling aging membership. The church was named in honor of Custis W. Woolford and his sister Clara. Part of the funds to establish the church came from Mr. Woolford in memory of his sister. At a special banquet, members of Woolford shared bittersweet memories as they officially handed the building and authority to North Arundel Church (NAC), a progressive church in Northern Anne Arundel County. NAC equipped the church for modern worship and Woolford became "Grace Place," a video multi-site venue of NAC.
North Arundel Church later transitioned that facility, making it a stand-alone plant and gave the facility to church planter Troy McDaniel with counsel and prayer support. McDaniel has seen slow steady growth. They're averaging about 50 a week, mostly new people. McDaniel is reacquainting the church with the neighborhood and schools, offering community parties and partnerships.
David Jackson, church multiplication team strategist of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/ Delaware, said "rebirthing" or "replanting" a church extends a church beyond their own lifetime. By investing in another congregation who will carry forth the witness of Christ in the same community, the efforts and presence they've exhibited over the years will continue to flourish and grow, even after they are gone.
"I'd say the issue is seeing the church as belonging to Jesus, and not us ... relinquishing our preference and even 'control' back to Him, so that He can place the ministry in other capable hands who can move it forward for years yet to come. That means assets and decision-making as it affects the future. It almost always means a new name, a new leader, a new vision....
"It is very effective when established churches are willing to let God lead the church into the future the way He wants, rather than it having to be done 'our way' ... it is unselfish, God-honoring and birthed out of a heart for the lost in the community where they have ministered for many years ... it is another way churches can make it 'hard to go to hell' from their neighborhoods."
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Mosaic Arlington touching
neighboring high school
By Paul F. South
ARLINGTON, Texas (Southern Baptist Texan) -- From Stephen Hammond's vantage point -- due north and a stone's throw from Arlington High School -- the collaborative ministry he helped begin three years ago to the school's 3,100 students and staff is hard to tangibly measure.
Offering plates are not fuller and membership rolls aren't spiking at Mosaic, the church he pastors, or at the half dozen other neighborhood churches involved in the outreach. The students recognize Hammond more readily as chaplain for the school's baseball team than as pastor at Mosaic, planted in 2005 with help from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
But this he is sure of: The endeavor known as ServeAHS has filled hungry bellies, warmed troubled hearts, planted gospel seeds and changed a few empty lives. And it has kept at least one good teacher -- maybe more -- in the classroom.
In 2012 when Mosaic moved to the former space of Grace Community Church with Arlington High literally across the street, it seemed strategic for Hammond to reach out to a group of pastors from other evangelistically minded churches nearby to minister to the inner city school. They knew that any return on investment would be purely spiritual.
On their first visit to the school as part of ServeAHS, a volunteer team of pastors delivered roses and chocolate to the female teachers and gift cards to the male teachers.
As the pastors, including Hammond, ventured down a hall delivering gifts, a teacher called out.
"She came running down the hall asking us to stop," Hammond said.
"Are you the people responsible for these roses?" the teacher asked.
"Yes, ma'am," came the response.
She began to cry.
"Yesterday was the most difficult day of my teaching career," she said. "I told my husband last night that unless God told me otherwise, I was not coming back next year. Because of the rose, I just signed up to return next year."
That was May 2012. The ministry -- which includes Mosaic along with Grace Community Church, University Baptist, Grace Lutheran, Park Row Church of Christ, Epworth United Methodist and Prince of Peace, a nondenominational congregation -- quickly gained a rapport at the school, even with non-Christian faculty who appreciated the care given them and the students.
While Mosaic's 14,000-square-foot building hosts most of the ServeAHS activities, the other churches provide volunteer and financial support.
The goal is sharing God's love through hot cheeseburgers, dazzling prom dresses and other practical means as a platform for sharing the gospel message. ServeAHS has also rounded up clothes for a school family hit by a house fire, provided chaplains upon request for school sports teams, and counseled pregnant teens and fathers-to-be. School clubs like FCA or Glee Club that need meeting space have access to Mosaic's space.
Hammond said above all ServeAHS is a "kingdom partnership" with a gospel focus.
"When God gave us the facility, the very first week I was here, I reached out to every church in a quarter-mile radius of the school. That included churches that weren't Baptist churches," Hammond noted.
"I was totally OK with that," he said. "This was going to be a kingdom-minded partnership. I started asking churches and pastors what they were doing with Arlington High School. Very few of them were doing anything, but all of them wanted to do something. I tossed out the idea of a joint partnership. We had seven churches jump on board within a month's time."
"It's been a beautiful thing," Hammond added. "We've said we're going to agree on the essentials of the gospel, being that Jesus is the only hope for mankind. We're going to agree that the students, faculty and staff of Arlington High School are worth serving and we're going to agree on doing this together despite our differences."
One Tuesday each month during the school year, Mosaic hosts 300-400 high schoolers for a cheeseburger lunch known as "Feeding Frenzy" that features a gospel presentation and a card that allows for prayer requests or a faith response to the gospel. The meal is a big deal, especially at a school where an estimated 50 percent of kids from working-class families receive free or reduced lunches. The other Tuesdays, the ministry hosts "Alive," a lunchtime Bible study led by Mosaic's student pastor, Melvin Canales.
"I believe that our ServeAHS team is here for such a time as this. The relationships and opportunities that God has allowed us to steward is unheard of and we don't take that lightly," Canales said. "We get to show Christ's love for Arlington High through serving teachers practically by sharpening 2,000 pencils to serving 400 cheeseburgers to hungry students. Our prayer is that through every hug, high-five and fist bump, AHS will hear our message of hope in Christ."
Hammond added, "Our goal isn't to convert the high school. Our goal is to love the high school and let the Holy Spirit determine who the Father is going to draw to the Son. We are very serious about that. And because of that, the school has opened up and they've trusted us."
The kindness extended to faculty and staff has been a hit. Periodically, ministry teams go in two-by-two, sometimes bringing needed school supplies, sometimes a gift card, sometimes flowers, all to show their appreciation for their work in the classroom. And the teams offer to pray for the teachers and administrators, but nothing is forced. ServeAHS is careful to walk a fine line, Hammond noted.
"That teacher just starts to shine. They know they're getting some practical gift. And we offer to pray for them on the spot. Most of our teachers take a 20-second prayer. But those who don't want us to pray publicly will give us a prayer request -- like prayer for a son in the military -- and we come back to the church and pray for them."
And each year, the ministry awards a Teacher of the Year and his or her spouse a plaque and a night in an upscale hotel, a steak dinner and movie tickets. When Hammond told the school's principal the idea, she wept.
"She said, 'No one's ever taken care of our staff like that,'" Hammond said.
Through it all, from a kickoff breakfast at the start of the year to a year-end celebration, the seeds of the gospel are gently planted and nurtured.
He added, "This is an amazing opportunity. We're talking about a public high school that has thrown open its doors to seven different churches and allowed us to pray for their teachers and staff."
"At the end of the day, where there are physical needs, people are going to be interested if you can help, no matter where you come from," Hammond said. "We're just thankful that we're coming in the name of Christ."
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Paul F. South is a correspondent for the Texan.
Congregation Shalom seeks to
reach Jewish population for Christ
By Jonathan Guenther
FERNDALE, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) -- While most Baptist churches would eagerly welcome someone of any religious background, many have likely not considered a strategic plan to reach the Jewish population.
Newly launched Congregation Shalom in Detroit-area Ferndale seeks to do just that, however.
"At Congregation Shalom, you will learn and experience the tremendous joy in the revelation that Christianity is not a replacement of Judaism or Israel, but rather Judaism extended to both Jews and Gentiles through the Jewish Messiah," pastor John Denson said. "Jewish people, particularly Orthodox Jewish people, do not want to hear about Jesus, so we're very excited about that."
Denson's new congregation launched March 2, 2014 and welcomed over 80 people through its doors on launch day, featuring guest rabbi Glenn Harris and welcoming Baptist State Convention missionaries Bobby Gilstrap and Mike Durbin.
"The very person to get saved was a Jewish woman," Denson recalled of the launch day. "She came in with her fiancé who is a believer. She got excited and accepted Christ."
This first salvation in the new church represents the mission for Denson's new church. While everyone is welcome, Denson sees a unique connection between the African-American and Jewish communities because of a shared history of slavery and suffering.
"During the Holocaust, people were killing Jews because the Jews killed Jesus," Denson said. "They think Hitler was a Christian, and they don't know the difference between an evangelical Christian and a Mormon. Our job is to give them information, that we embrace Jesus as he was Jewish, and because of him we are compelled to tell the Good News."
Denson also has strategic plans for reaching the Jewish community, centered around what Denson calls a "Shabbat campaign." Members of Congregation Shalom meet with Orthodox Jews as they leave synagogue and begin an interview process designed to highlight common ground.
"We ask them four questions: 'Are you committed to the survival of Israel? What does it mean to be pro-Israel? Do you believe in a Messiah?' Do you think Yeshua of Nazareth could be the Messiah?'"
Congregation Shalom also celebrates Passover, biblical holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and a mixture of Hanukkah and Christmas in December.
"Jews come out on high holidays," Denson said. "When they come into our service, they sense life."
Denson also sees a unique benefit for those who attend Congregation Shalom who do not come from a Jewish background.
"Part of what we do is bring Gentiles into the Jewish roots of the faith," Denson said. "We embrace all the holidays and festivals, but we see Jesus in them."
While the March launch service went well and exceeded the church's expectations, Denson also sees a great work still to be done.
"This is not a work that will go fast," Denson said. "Jewish evangelism is a work like plowing concrete; it's very difficult. The Jewish population is the most ignored mission field on earth."
Beyond the Shabbat campaigns, Denson has several other plans to reach Jewish people as well. The church will offer a monthly Kosher feast known as an oneg, an evangelistic endeavor targeting one's "own Jerusalem" of close family and friends.
The congregation will also witness on the campus of the University of Michigan, which according to Denson has the largest Jewish student population in North America.
The congregation also has held a service at the Holocaust memorial center in Farmington Hills, presenting the Gospel and honoring survivors. Denson plans to maintain this event on a quarterly basis, with another Holocaust service already planned for June.
"We as Gentiles have a spiritual debt to Jewish people," Denson said. We want to see some Messianic churches started under the Southern Baptist banner where there are high concentrations of Jews," Denson said. "We need Southern Baptists to stand with us and get excited about Jewish evangelism. I think God is doing something here among SBC churches."
Denson is excited about the prospect of other churches joining his desire to reach Jewish people.
"Very few churches support Jewish evangelism. Can you imagine Jews with prayer shawls on going around the inner city telling people about Jesus?"
In addition to aiding in Congregation Shalom's evangelism efforts, Denson also encourages Christians to pray for the Jewish people.
"We're getting their attention, and I'm finding that no one prays for the peace of Jerusalem," Denson said. "What we need in our country, particularly in Detroit is peace. If we can encourage others to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that will put a sensitivity in their hearts for Jewish evangelism."
For interested churches, Congregation Shalom offers year-round Passover demonstrations and workshops on marriage and finance from a Messianic perspective. To sponsor Congregation Shalom, view pictures from the congregations launch and Holocaust services, or for additional information, visit the Congregation Shalom website at www.shalomministry.com.
This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon (baptistbeacon.net), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Jonathan Guenther is managing editor of the Baptist Beacon.
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.