FROM THE STATES: Ark., Va., Okla. evangelism/missions news; 'I think every church ought to work with a church planter'
Today's From the States features items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
The Proclaimer (Virginia)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
By Caleb Yarbrough
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- In 2013, Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Executive Director J.D. "Sonny" Tucker began traveling throughout the state asking churches how the state convention could better help them in proclaiming the gospel.
An often-heard request from Arkansas Baptists was that they wanted the ABSC to have a stronger focus on starting new churches. Subsequently, church planting was given renewed emphasis in the 2014 restructuring of the ABSC.
"The bottom line vision of what I see us doing as a state convention comes down to just two things," said Tucker in his message during the 2014 ABSC Annual Meeting in October. "Number one -- We strengthen churches.... Number two -- We focus on unreached, underserved, unengaged people."
Church planting is the crossroads of Tucker's vision of the role of the ABSC. In many ways, new church plants serve as a path for Arkansas Baptists to strengthen the state's churches, and partner with churches in other states and around the world, by starting new churches with the intentional goal of reaching people of every socioeconomic class, race, culture and age.
"I think every church ought to work with a church planter, like you heard Ben Mandrell talk about," said Tucker.
Ben Mandrell, a church planter currently planting Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo., a suburb of Denver, shared his passion for church planting at the annual meeting. Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, partners with Mandrell by providing prayer, financial and volunteer support. Nine members of Central Baptist traveled to Colorado to assist in the grand opening of the church.
"We need to send people out. It's not about us building an empire," said Archie Mason, pastor of Central Baptist Church and ABSC president, during his president's message at the annual meeting.
"I could never have moved my family to Denver had I not had some churches behind me that would say to me, 'We are going to give you resources, encouragement, prayer and teams so that you can get this baby thing off the ground,'" said Mandrell during the annual meeting. "Without the sending churches, we don't make it out there."
The future of evangelism
While many Arkansas Baptist churches are healthy, many are not and struggle to keep their doors open due to numerous factors. Churches in the Arkansas Delta have seen incredible exodus and a lowering in population due to a changing economy and lack of employment opportunities. Other churches across Arkansas have focused too much on tradition and failed to address social and cultural changes.
While the ABSC recently launched an initiative focused on assisting existing churches in revitalization, church planting remains one of the most powerful tools in modern evangelism, according to state convention leaders. One of the ABSC's goals is to partner churches undergoing revitalization with church planters in order to reach every Arkansan with the gospel.
Tim Wicker, appointed as the ABSC's church planting team leader Dec. 9, is tasked with leading the ABSC's efforts to assist Arkansas Baptists in planting new churches across the state.
Wicker said one of the things he wants to do as church planting team leader is help churches across Arkansas recognize that church planting can be a powerful evangelistic tool in Arkansas and around the globe.
While every Arkansas Baptist church is involved with church planting efforts through their gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Cooperative Program (CP) and the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering, they also have numerous opportunities to physically, spiritually and prayerfully cooperate with church plants across the state, and beyond, on a day-to-day basis.
"I'd love to see every church in Arkansas involved in church planting ... intentionally involved through praying, going, connecting with new church starts and helping them through block parties," said Wicker. "I think it's healthy for churches to be reproducing themselves in some way, shape or form and church planting is one of the ways they can do that."
For some, "church planting" is a new concept. While Christians have been establishing new bodies of believers across the globe for more than 2,000 years, leaders say that modern church planting is an often-misunderstood new path to accomplishing the same ancient task.
While the term "church planting" seems self-explanatory, Wicker said there is no sure formula for starting a successful church and no two churches are "planted" the same way.
For example, in 2013, the ABSC began providing theological education to ministers and lay leaders living and working throughout the Arkansas Delta. While the program was not started with the goal of mobilizing the men involved as church planters, multiple new Arkansas Baptist churches developed out of the work.
"There is no such thing as pure church planting," said Wicker. "You jump in and eventually a church comes out of it."
"Church planting originates from many different streams. There are Arkansas communities with no SBC churches, so we plant churches. There are people groups within Arkansas, ethnic and cultural, who need the gospel, so we plant churches. There are men who have a calling to a particular area and a particular people, so we plant churches," said Dave McClung, ABSC church planting team member. "New church planters have arisen out of established churches, youth ministry, theological training, mission events or any number of different avenues."
Starting new churches requires funding, and many church planters, even those funded through the Cooperative Program or the state missions offerings, oftentimes work part- or full-time jobs in addition to their church planting duties.
Another goal of the ABSC church planting team, according to Wicker, is to find ways to help church planters be "intentionally bi-vocational" by integrating supportive employment into a holistic church planting strategy. This allows church planters to use their, often necessary, second job as a platform for their ministry.
One example of this is The Church at Argenta, North Little Rock, where ABSC church planters Michael and Amanda Carpenter opened Mugs Cafe, a neighborhood coffee shop, with the goal of utilizing their business as an effective everyday outreach tool and central meeting place for their church plant and the community as a whole.
Wicker said one common misconception of church planting is that most church planters plant new churches because they are unhappy with existing churches.
"Church planting is about reaching people, reaching different kinds of people, reaching people we are not currently able to reach in our existing churches. It's an evangelism strategy. It's not a condemnation of existing churches in the area," said Wicker.
While the ABSC church planting staff has experience in advising churches and associations in how to plant churches, Wicker said the team is planning to begin incorporating more training from pastors around the state who have direct experience in overcoming specific obstacles, which church planters encounter during various stages of their church's growth and development.
The ABSC is hosting its first-ever statewide conference on church planting Sept. 17. The conference is open to all Arkansas Baptists interested in learning more about church planting and how they and/or their church can get involved with church planting efforts across the state. The conference will feature speakers and workshops, and information on how to register will be published in the Arkansas Baptist News when it is available.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Caleb Yarbrough is a staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News.
Making a difference
in rural Virginia
GRUNDY, Va. (The Proclaimer) -- Harman Memorial Baptist Church is impacting its community through a variety of ministry opportunities, and the Lord is blessing the church's efforts. Harman is located in a rural southwest Virginia county called Buchanan County. God is doing some amazing things there, and He is using this church and other churches to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to its citizens. This past year, Harman Memorial baptized 91 souls for Christ. These numbers are significant in any area of our state, but for Buchannan County, where the population is only 23,597, these numbers are huge.
When Pastor Shea Shrader was asked why they were able to see so many accept Jesus Christ as Savior, he stated "we really feel like it all begins with prayer."
"One thing our church does as a whole before any outreach event and even in planning for these events is pray," Pastor Shrader shared. "Three separate times this year, we had outreach events planned and with each of these we fasted and prayed corporately as a church. One of those was a 40-day fast, where we had at least one person and many days multiple members of our church fasting and praying for a harvest."
Shrader believes God hears when His people join together in prayer.
Many of those who were baptized at Harman this past year were over 18 years of age. According to a 2004 George Barna survey, only 23 percent of adults who were saved became believers after they turned 21 years old. Pastor Shrader stated that many of their small groups are geared toward adults. They hosted several different events this past year that focused on building relationships with adults. They really rely on their members to share Jesus and their lives with their friends.
"A great example of this is our Sportsman group," Shrader said. "We actually had several of our members contact men who are big time hunters and fisherman that don't attend church anywhere and ask them to help us in planning these events. One of those guys got to know several people at church and ended up attending Sunday morning services, where he gave his life to the Lord this past year. Now he and his wife are faithful workers at our church."
Harman also has a strong children's and youth ministry. They offer children's church for children 3rd grade and under during both Sunday morning services. They also have a strong discipleship program on Sunday nights for all ages. The curriculum they use leads the children through the Bible chronologically.
"Every Wednesday night we have what we call family night," Shrader said. "Everyone meets in the main sanctuary where announcements are made and do a couple of worship songs are sung. Then we have a children's message about 5 minutes or so followed by a family time of prayer. This time of prayer encourages families to go to the altar and pray as a family for whatever may be on their hearts."
The church also hosts regular events for the whole family, like scavenger hunts and Nerf gun wars.
"We tried to find free exciting family fun events that could allow our church families to get to know each other better and also provide a safe environment for a visitor to come and see what church is about," Shrader said.
When asked how other churches might creatively reach their communities, Shrader said, "I really think the most important thing is to be a Bible-teaching, Spirit-lead church. We have to be what God has called us to be in our communities. It is great to get ideas and programs from others and learn from things being done. But at the end of the day, God has made each of our churches unique and, therefore, we must seek His word and be led by the Holy Spirit on what our focus and church personalities look like. What we have to do in less populated areas is simply obey the scripture 'become all things to all people that we might win some.'"
This article appeared in The Proclaimer (http://www.sbcv.org/articles/category/proclaimer), newsmagazine of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.
Igniting kids' passion
for missions in OK
By Brian Hobbs
OKLAHOMA (The Baptist Messenger) -- On Saturday, March 7, more than 1,000 children gathered in two separate locations for the annul Mission Ignition event. Through the hands-on missions experience, which took place at Tulsa, First and Oklahoma City, Portland Avenue, children learned about differing ways they can be involved in Christian missions.
From disaster relief to international missions, boys and girls, first through fifth grade, are challenged to do missions in their community following the event. According the BGCO Childhood Education office, 1,073 children and volunteers took part in the event, representing 60 churches.
According to BGCO Childhood Education office, 1703 children and volunteers took part in the event, representing 60 churches.
"This is a wonderful way for children to hear from several different missionaries from different countries all in one day," said Alyson Walker, childhood education specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "Children can see how they can be on mission right now, and they don't have to wait till they are adults to be a missionary."
Connected to Mission Ignition, a traditional feature is the Royal Ambassador's pinewood derby races. The following racers took home awards:
Through both event venues, various countries across the world were represented, including East Asia, Ghana, Hungary, India, Kenya, Panama, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Oklahoma Baptist partnership ministries also were represented, including Baptist Collegiate Ministries; Baptist Dental and Medical Ministries; Disaster Relief; F.A.I.T.H. Riders; Fire Chaplaincy; Shepherd's Cross, a working sheep farm; and Sweet Sleep.
In addition to work abroad and in North America, children were able to do a "mission advancement project" in their community.
With the excitement characteristic of a Vacation Bible School, Mission Ignition is having a huge impact on children across this state.
"Mission Education can be fun and exciting for children, and they see that at Mission Ignition," said Walker. "I pray that more churches will take what they saw and heard back with them and continue to teach missions to their children and church. Mission Education is so important, you could have the next Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong in your church. So educate them early so they can serve now and will be ready when and if God calls them to go!"
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.
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.