FROM THE STATES: Calif., Tenn., Fla. evangelism/missions news; 'Our churches must reflect the communities they serve'

Today's From the States features items from:

California Southern Baptist

Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)

Florida Baptist Witness

California leads SBC in

church starting efforts in 2014

By Terry Barone

FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- California Southern Baptist Convention accounted for more than 10 percent of Southern Baptists' new church starts and affiliates in 2014, according to a report from the North American Mission Board.

In mid-March, NAMB reported 1,193 new congregations were added to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014. During that same time CSBC reported 122 new starts and affiliated congregations, for 10.2 percent of the NAMB total.

A mission board spokesman confirmed that CSBC reported the largest number of new starts and affiliates by any state Baptist convention or fellowship in North America.

California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Director Fermín A. Whittaker said, "It has always been a priority of our convention to start churches. This year is CSBC's 75th anniversary, and we would not have more than 2,000 congregations if we weren't committed to starting and assimilating new congregations.

"Almost every year of the last 10, CSBC has demonstrated its commitment to church planting by starting 100 or more congregations."

Whittaker added that CSBC is committed to "reaching the world in California" and continues its responsibility of "starting and affiliating new churches for language, culture and ethnic groups so they can hear the gospel and respond to Jesus Christ."

According to NAMB President Kevin Ezell, church planting by Southern Baptists in North America increased in 2014 over 2013.

"This is very good news as we work toward diminishing the church-to-population deficit that steadily grew larger over the last century in the United States and Canada," Ezell said. "It is also good because new churches, on average, reach people for Christ at a higher rate than existing churches."

He noted there are good reports in regions outside the South -- such as Ohio, New York and the Northwest -- where Southern Baptists have not traditionally been as strong.

"We celebrate when a new church is planted anywhere, but increases in these areas are especially encouraging," Ezell said.

More than 58 percent of the churches Southern Baptists started in 2014 were non-Anglo, Ezell said.

"This must continue as our society grows more diverse -- especially in and around large cities where more than 80 percent of North Americans live. Our churches must reflect the communities they serve," he declared.

In California in 2014, 39 percent, or 48 congregations, were in the language category, while 50 percent, or 61 congregations, were Anglo, and 11 percent, or 13 congregations, were African American.

Anthony Ahaev, leader of the CSBC church starting group, said the success of church planting efforts in California is due to the recruitment of quality church planters by church planting catalysts (CPCs), directors of missions and pastors throughout the state. He added that church planters also come to California on the recommendation of persons in other states as well as from NAMB. He said California CPCs extensively interview prospective church planters.

"Another reason California Southern Baptists have been successful in starting new churches," Ahaev said, "is the expectation of church planters to go through 'Basic Training' within the first six months of planting the congregation."

Basic Training, provided by the CSBC church starting group, helps planters explore strategic issues of the church starting process and assists them in developing a customized strategy for planting healthy, reproducing churches.

Basic Training for California Southern Baptists is led by Howard Burkhart, a CPC, and the team he assembles to provide training in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Ahaev also believes California Southern Baptists are successful because of the effectiveness of CPCs.

"Our CPCs don't just recruit and interview church planters to see if they are capable of success -- they walk side-by-side with church planters providing mentoring and resources to help planters be successful."

Ahaev said church planter and new church success is represented by CSBC reporting an average of 111 new church starts and affiliates over the past 10 years.

"In seven of the 10 years, we started more than 100 churches," Ahaev noted.

"There is much more work to be done," Ezell said. "We need many more churches and we must continue to make our existing churches healthier and more outwardly focused. My prayer is that the growth we saw in 2014 will be the starting point for a Southern Baptist church planting wave, and that more churches and individuals will become personally involved in this effort to evangelize North America."


This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Terry Barone is editor of the California Southern Baptist.

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Baptisms increase

in Tennessee

By Lonnie Wilkey

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- For the second year in a row, baptisms have increased in the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

As of March 26, 2,603 churches reported a total of 23,499 baptisms in 2014. Churches can continue to send in their numbers throughout the year so the number could increase.

It is the largest number of baptisms recorded by TBC churches since 2010 when baptisms fell from more than 23,900 in 2009 to 21,472. In 2013, TBC churches reported 21,979 baptisms.

TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis observed that the numerical data concerning baptisms is very encouraging. "To know that our churches have won, baptized and set on the road to discipleship more Tennesseans in 2014 than in any year since 2010 is a hopeful indication that we are heading in the right direction.

"There has been a significant increase over the last few years in the number of Tennesseans reached with the Gospel through TBC churches. Let's rejoice and celebrate these 23,499 souls that are now heading to heaven instead of hell."

While the numbers are positive, Davis noted that "we are only just beginning on this journey toward the major objective of seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans coming to faith in Christ, baptized and being discipled to reach others.

"It must be the overwhelming and heartbreaking burden of a unified body of Christ-followers to reach our lost neighbors and the nations with the gospel. We want to thank all of our pastors and leaders in our churches for being passionate about the Great Commission work in our own communities," Davis said.

He also expressed appreciation to the TBC staff who "has had a very sharp focus on assisting our churches in being equipped in evangelism and discipleship."

Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the TBC noted that "not only has the downward tide been turned with an increase in baptisms by 7 percent over the previous year, but the evangelism effectiveness of our TBC churches also has increased." He also observed that in 2013 the average TBC church baptized 5.99 persons per 100 worshippers. That number increased to 6.23 per 100 worshippers in 2014, he said.

"One of the most striking numbers reflected in 2014 are the number of baptisms recorded among the 1-5-1 harvest field plants. 1-5-1 is a TBC initiative geared toward churches starting off-campus efforts, including church plants, aimed at gathering lost people for the purpose of sharing the gospel.

"We recorded 1,184 baptisms among the hundreds of 1-5-1 plants started in 2014," he said. "This accounted for the majority of our increase of more than 1,500 baptisms over the previous year."

Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director who helped launch the 1-5-1 effort, noted the increase in baptisms over the previous year is "absolutely amazing. That's exactly how we can describe what the Lord Jesus has done through so many of our TBC pastors and church members by way of 1-5-1 and/or the principles and DNA of 1-5-1," he said.

Welch recognizes that while some churches do not do 1-5-1 exactly, their efforts "have the DNA and principles of 1-5-1. They, too, have discovered a newfound acceleration through evangelism and discipleship indicated in part by one of the first big steps of discipleship, which is baptism."

Welch also is appreciative of "so many who are rising to the challenge of winning our lost in Tennessee" and he noted that new churches and plants are an "extraordinary catalyst when done with New Testament evangelism as their priority."

In 2014, the TBC added 168 new churches with 159 of them as church plants.


This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector.

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Evangelism conferences stress sharing Gospel

with urgency, praying with shameless audacity

By Barbara Denman

FLEMIN ISLAND, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) -- Emphasizing an urgency for sharing the Gospel and audacious prayer, speakers at three regional evangelism conferences decried the rise of worldwide terrorism, the brutality of terrorist groups and declining biblical morals as indicators the world is in trouble.

At the conclusion of each meeting, the nearly 500 Florida Baptist pastors and church leaders in attendance, many weeping, fell on their knees before the Lord in repentance, commitment and prayer.

The iWitness conferences, held during February in Winter Haven, Fleming Island and Tallahassee, were the first of five meetings scheduled for the year.

Each emphasized the evangelistic needs in the state and world in what many believe are the end times as spoken in the Book of Revelation.

"By the second, the world is becoming more and more dangerous," said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaking on "The Urgency is Upon Us," during the Feb. 24 conference at Hibernia Baptist Church in Fleming Island.

"Why doesn't someone step in and do something? Where is the urgency?" he asked. "Lostness absolutely permeates all of the state of Florida, growing exponentially in North America and across the world. Where is the urgency?"

"Why is it as pastors, you lack urgency; why is it as laypersons, you lack urgency; why is it the church lacks urgency; the SBC lacks urgency. The church of today operates with a deep sense of passivity."

Citing Revelation 3:14 and following, Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said, "God knows your spiritual condition."

The church at Laodicea was lukewarm and indifferent, as is the church today, he said. "When we pray it shows we depend on God; when we don't it means we depend on ourselves."

God will discipline the lukewarm believer, Floyd said. "If you have never been disciplined you're lost. God disciplines those He loves and knows.

"We talk about repentance way more in salvation that we do in sanctification," Floyd added. "We must live a life of repentance."

Also speaking at the Fleming Island meeting was James Peoples, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Keystone Heights; and Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater and president of the SBC Pastors' Conference.

Acknowledging that "as a pastor nothing has mystified me more than prayer," Rice preached on two "befuddling" parables taught by Jesus to demonstrate how to pray.

In the first parable, found in Luke 11, Jesus tells of a man who goes to his neighbor's house at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread. The second, found in Luke 18, features a persistent widow who relentlessly asks for justice from an unjust judge.

From these two parables, Rice said, "God is telling there are some things He will not do until we pray."

We are to pray boldly "with shameless audacity," he said. "When was the last time a demon in hell heard you pray and was stunned by its boldness?"

We need to pray specifically and persistently, he said.

"It's not whether God will grant justice. He will grant justice. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find us faithful?" Rice said. The question is not God's character, but "our character. … What kind of faith do we have has everything to do with it."

Rice told participants unless they come with brokenness, revival will not come. "We must be broken before Him, we must knock and knock and knock, until Jesus answers that prayer."

Rice's sermon struck a chord with David Tarkington, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orange Park. "When Dr. Willy Rice preached on the persistent 'shameless audacity' of prayer, I was moved … no shaken," Tarkington said.

During a panel discussion earlier in the day, Tarkington had alluded to the challenge of prayer. "If prayer remains a passive response to all we do as Christians rather an active, intimate connection with the Father and a weapon against the enemy, we are fooling ourselves into thinking anything will change in our community for the sake of the Gospel," he said.

At the night's end, Floyd called participants to the altar for confession, and to pray for renewal and a commitment to the urgency of reaching their communities and the world with the Gospel.

Following that time, David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention's Evangelism Group, which sponsored the conference, called Floyd and Rice to the front, asking those in attendance to place hands on and pray for the two men in their spiritual responsibilities in guiding the Southern Baptist Convention.

The evening session with Floyd and Rice "was especially impactful to me," said John Green, pastor of Shindler Drive Baptist Church in Jacksonville. "It was great to have the SBC president and the president of the SBC Pastors' Conference in attendance with us. We prayed for both of them as they lead our convention and it was a privilege and special time."

Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, was a keynote speaker at the Tallahassee meeting held at Immanuel Baptist Church on Feb. 26.

He said the verse found in Matthew 23:12—"For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted"—reflects "Jesus's favorite saying," noting that it's recorded three times in the Gospels.

He deplored the lack of humility within the church today, adding, "If there is a problem in your church, pride is the problem."

Arrogance and pride are a problem throughout the Bible, Traylor said, as it is today.

"How many great men of God have we watched fall over pride, preacher after preacher." He promised a day of reckoning. "God is vexed by our arrogance."

"Peacocks today will be feather dusters tomorrow," Traylor said.

Noting struggles within the SBC, Traylor said, "We as Baptists got full of ourselves." When SBC presidents and other leaders were called to highest places of government and society, "we got to thinking we were somebody or something.

"All of the sudden, we are on the outside looking in. We were our best when the world thought we were the least of these, and we will be the best when we think the least of ourselves."

Traylor called on pastors to humble themselves by practicing menial tasks, coming to God in gratitude and joy, emptying of self to be filled by God, learning the discipline of fasting, and to brokenness through dependence.

"God is looking for people that will fall on their face, spend time in brokenness. God wants us to humble ourselves," he said.

Rice was also among the keynote speakers at the Feb. 12 meeting at First Baptist Church in Winter Haven. Joining him was Buddy Newsome, director of Faith Riders who came to know Christ through the Faith Riders ministry of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Newsome shared his journey as he undergoes treatment for cancer, stressing the urgency of the Gospel message.

The conferences also offered a variety of topics in small groups and panel discussions that featured methods and strategies of reaching people and population segments with the Gospel.

Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, led the Hibernia meeting through the personal evangelism method, "Three Circles: Life Conversation Guide."

Several of the participants said the demonstration of the method was extremely helpful, adding that they plan to use this approach with their own congregations. Mike Tatem, pastor of Lake City's Parkview Baptist Church, said the presentation affirmed his church family's use of "Three Circles" and TrueLife.org.

"We will return to our ministries with a renewed motivation to continue to engage these evangelism tools as we encourage our church members to share their faith," Tatem said.

Tatem also appreciated the one-day regional concept, having driven about an hour to attend the meeting at Hibernia, just south of Jacksonville.

"The regional meeting made the conference more accessible for me and more convenient and economical for me to bring the staff," he said. "We used the time to discuss evangelism strategies in our church at Parkview."

Both the conferences at Winter Haven and Hibernia offered evangelistic events for students at night. The Winter Haven conference at First Baptist drew nearly 200 students. The Hibernia event, led by student evangelistic Jay Strack, was attended by 225 students.

A fourth regional evangelism meeting is scheduled for April 20 in Sarasota. Another meeting is set to be held at the Urban Impact Center in Hialeah on Sept. 25.


This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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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.

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