FROM THE STATES: Ariz., S.C., Texas evangelism/missions news; 'Discipleship is a one-on-one, day-by-day thing'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Church in heart of Navajo
Nation growing disciples
By Lainee Pegelow
NAVAJO NATION, Ariz. (Portraits) -- About 135 miles north of Holbrook on U.S. Highway 191, you will find Many Farms Baptist Church. In the heart of the Navajo Nation, this congregation seeks to love the lost and disciple them.
In 2014, Many Farms Baptist Church baptized 16 people, including 11 age 30 and up. That's impressive for a church that only has 56 members and 35 attending weekly worship.
"It's the result of two things," says Pastor Tony Sessions, "an emphasis on teaching the truth of Scripture without apology and ... an emphasis on the importance of prayer as a corporate body of believers."
Sessions -- who came to Many Farms with his wife, Linda, in October 2013 for a one-year term as North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps missionaries -- says he has focused on "equipping the saints." Rather than personally knocking on doors, he's taught the church "that it's their responsibility to share their faith and to do it without a lot of 'canned' approaches or programs ... just share [their] own personal experience."
Over the past couple of years, the church has examined how they are reaching the lost in their community and what is happening afterward.
"We have had a history on the reservation of missionaries coming, working, then eventually leaving," says church member Sahvanna "Miki" Benally. "We love the partnership but have to raise up our own to strengthen our church."
A plan to make disciples had been lacking, she says.
"We are finding with many of our older folks, they were saved many years ago but haven't been taught and are still baby Christians," Benally says.
Now, there's a plan.
"Our long-term strategy is to train our own to know how to disciple and lead others to Christ," Sessions says.
To become more effective in leading people to Christ, encouraging them to follow in believer's baptism and then be discipled, Many Farms participates in the Native American Bible Institute. Courses bring good biblical training to the participants.
Sessions wants the church to be taught not only on Sundays but also at different times throughout the week through the Institute.
"It's going to take more than the 23-30 minutes I have in the pulpit each week, to help them learn the basics," he says. "It's hard to disciple from the pulpit. Discipleship is a one-on-one, day-by-day thing."
He's hoping the Bible Institute "will bridge that gap for us, training up individuals to disciple, become strong in their faith, lead others to Christ and disciple them. Our dream is to be the church that disciples its members and is sending out missionaries, not just receiving them."
In January, First Southern Baptist Church of Buckeye began a partnership with Many Farms. The Buckeye church is contributing financially, as well as providing material resources that enable ongoing ministry. Gail Hallman, Buckeye's mission team chairperson, says the church is working to connect Sunday School classes and individuals who can sponsor participants in the Native American Bible Institute
Having already stayed at Many Farms longer than planned, Sessions will return to South Carolina in May. He remained to help the church through the process of calling their own pastor. As the search continues, Virgil Stoneburner, retired director of evangelism/missions for Fourcorners Association, will fill the pulpit.
In the meantime, the members of Many Farms Baptist Church have a foundation to continue growing as disciples, enabling them to reach their people for Christ.
This article appeared in Portraits (azsbc.org/Portraits), newsjournal of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Lainee Pegelow is a freelance writer and associate director of Christian Challenge at Northern Arizona University.
S.C. church's Good News Club gives
children a chance to hear the Gospel
By Jessica Wyndham
ROEBUCK, S.C. (Baptist Courier) -- Every Friday afternoon at Roebuck Elementary School, over 150 children gather in the cafeteria for singing, reading, mentoring, and to hear the gospel: this is all a part of the ministry of Roebuck Baptist Church and "The Good News Club."
The Good News Club is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship and involves trained teachers meeting with groups of children in schools, community centers, churches, and other designated locations to share the message of the Bible. Parents of the children give their consent to allow their child to participate in the club, just as they would for any other after school activity. Roebuck Baptist has been involved with the Good News Club through their local chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship since 2003.
While there is a legal separation of church and state, a court case in June of 2001 made organizations like the Good News Club meeting in schools legal. In Good News Club v. Milford Central School District, the Supreme Court ruled that a public school that allows use of its facilities to secular groups after school hours could not discriminate against religious groups. This was of huge importance to the ministry and opened the door for a presence in area schools.
Dr. David Satterwhite, minister of music at Roebuck Baptist Church, serves as the coordinator for the Roebuck Elementary Good News Club. He has been involved since the start of the ministry and is also the primary leader for Club meetings. "I've been at this church for 27-and-a-half years, and this is probably my favorite thing to do," he said.
The children that enroll in the Good News Club find out about the organization and enroll just like they would for any extracurricular activity. "At the beginning of the year, when they're signing up for clubs, we have a Good News Club," said Satterwhite. "The parents have to fill out a consent form so they know we're a Christian organization. We unapologetically preach the gospel." Over 200 children are enrolled in the Good News Club at Roebuck Elementary.
The group meets every Friday during a ten-week semester, and there are two semesters per school year. The children gather in the cafeteria after school on meeting days. When the children arrive for a meeting, they sit at lunch tables, where an adult volunteer is waiting. "They are our Table Shepherds. The Shepherds go over the memory verse from the last week and review. That time between 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm, they can really get to know these kids. They share prayer requests. It's a very special time. Over the years, these kids get very special to these adults, and it's a really good relationship for them," said Satterwhite.
After the time spent in small groups, the children and teachers gather on the other side of the cafeteria where they meet as a large group. Satterwhite leads the music, and they spend time singing together before hearing a missions story. They also learn a memory verse together that usually includes a game the children can play to help them remember the verse. For the lessons, they use curriculum provided by Child Evangelism Fellowship, and they end every meeting with an invitation. "I don't know the exact number of children that have received Christ this year, but it's a bunch," detailed Satterwhite. "I had a little boy last week who goes to our church, but he's been coming to Good News club for three years. At the time of the invitation, as soon as I asked if anyone would like to put their faith in Christ for the first time, his arm shot up. He told me 'I had this feeling in my stomach, and I just had to become a Christian today!' He'd been thinking about it. At VBS last summer, he said 'I'm going to become a Christian, but I'm not ready.' However, at Good News Club last week, he was ready to go!"
The relationships formed between the children in the club and the mentors are often lasting. Satterwhite sees children around town that have been a part of the club, and they often come up to him to talk about the impact the ministry had on their lives. "I had a kid the other day that saw me at a gas station. We were both pumping gas. He said, 'There was a kid named Mikey; that was me. I trusted Jesus at the Good News Club.'" Many of the children in the club do not attend church with their families, with about half of them having no church affiliation; so this ministry may be the only opportunity they have to hear the Gospel.
Satterwhite encourages other churches to get involved with the Good News Club ministry, as it has a big impact on the community and doesn't take many resources from the church sponsor, aside from providing volunteer teachers. The church provides refreshments for the children during the meeting, but the budget for the entire year is under $1,000.
There are currently schools actively looking for churches to sponsor them and start a Good News Club. "We have several schools begging for churches to adopt them. I wish I could do other schools, just because I feel bad GNC isn't going on in these others. There are 400 churches in the Spartanburg area, 100 of them Southern Baptist. We should be able to do that. It's not about building our church," finished Satterwhite. "It's about building the Kingdom of God."
Dr. Tim Williams, senior pastor of Roebuck Baptist Church, said of the ministry, "We are thankful that our Good News Club enables us to share the Gospel with children in our community, many of whom have absolutely no other connection to a local church. It is our most direct evangelistic outreach."
To find out more information about the Good News Club, to volunteer, or to get your church involved, visit www.cefonline.com, and click on the ministries tab.
This article appeared in the Baptist Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Jessica Wyndham is a writer in South Carolina.
Church planter revives dying
church on Galveston island
By Sharayah Colter
GALVESTON, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- Aaron Sanders, pastor of Coastal Community Church in Galveston, says when it comes to theology, their island church is as conservative as First Baptist Church of Anywhere, USA. But when it comes to methodology, Coastal stands ready to test the waters.
"Theologically, we're very conservative," Sanders said. "In terms of our methodology, we're willing to experiment in order to reach our community. That' allowed us to have some genuine relationships and conversations with unchurched people."
Sanders says Coastal desires to be a "church for the unchurched." The congregation has set its sights on those islanders who would likely never step foot inside a traditional church. Rather than drawing new members to Coastal away from the already established churches in Galveston, Sanders set about building the church by bringing new Christians into the body.
"We did a survey last spring where we found out a snapshot of people's backgrounds," Sanders said. "Roughly 30 percent of our church members come from an unchurched background. Fiftyfour percent were churched, but new in town, moving here for work or school. Only 16 percent of our church came from other churches in the Galveston community. We feel like those are pretty good percentages. It's been cool to see that our growth has not come at the expense of other churches in Galveston. The measuring stick for us is not just about how can we grow a big church; it's, 'How can we reach the island for Christ?'"
The church has grown from 40 people to about 500 since launching on Easter Sunday, 2012.
When describing the Coastal atmosphere around town, Sanders simply tells people that he preaches in flip flops.
"That one statement alone communicates that we're casual in our approach," Sanders said. "It also connects to the saltwater soul of Galveston."
While "casual" appropriately describes the "look and feel" of the church, it says nothing about the congregation's heart and hands in the community. A fierce passion for evangelism, missions and service colors every aspect of ministry at Coastal.
Sanders said that even though he had previously served on staff at a church before becoming pastor at Coastal, his life shifted to a much more missional focus upon moving his family to the gulf. Even though his former church was largely outward focused, his personal time had been invested in ministering to and equipping his volunteer leaders, thus leaving him and his wife little time to spend with lost people.
"When we moved here, we had to become much more missional ourselves," Sanders said. "I didn't just preach about being evangelistic in your lifestyle; I had to become evangelistic. Personally, we've been able to develop genuine relationships with unchurched people [here]."
Coastal is now in the third year of an effort they call "Servolution," through which church community groups serve other already established ministries and organizations on the island. Instead of reinventing the wheel by starting projects that other groups have already begun, Coastal members simply come alongside those groups to serve and help in any way they can.
"Servolution has ripple effects," Sanders said of the effort Coastal adopted from other churches' models. "It establishes goodwill with local organizations that later leads to evangelistic opportunities."
One of those partnerships has been with ADA House, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center for women in South Texas. The church has worked on the center's facility, and over time, a relationship has blossomed between the two. While ADA House is not a Christian-based facility, its leadership allows women being treated there to attend church at Coastal and even provides transportation to the church.
"In the past year, I will have baptized about 12 ladies who live at the ADA House or who are there for a season," Sanders said. "We've seen a lot of life change take place. The ladies live all around. Some of the ladies who are from Galveston are now active parts of our church."
The church, a re-plant effort between University Baptist Church in Galveston and Brazos Pointe Fellowship in Lake Jackson, has become a picture of a successful partnership between a dying church and a church sensing the call to plant a new congregation.
Sanders cannot say enough about the graciousness of University Baptist Church members in their willingness to lay down their congregation's DNA in order to birth a new DNA that could make a fresh start in reaching the island for Christ. He says being clear about the fact that Coastal would not be a merger of two churches or of old ways and new but a clean slate and a new identity made the transition seamless and ultimately a more effective gospel witness in the community.
"It wasn't like, 'Hey, how do we transition this older, dying church?'" Sanders explained. "We made it clear that it doesn't really matter how things were done in the past. ... We had a clear picture of who we wanted to be as a church. It wasn't harsh, but we were just very clear about that."
Sanders recalls one Sunday early in the rebirth of the church when the auditorium was so packed that they were bringing in chairs from his office and then finally reaching standing-room only. Sanders saw, sitting in the back, an older Filipino woman who had been a part of the original church and who had been serving that morning as a greeter. He watched as she burst into tears and left the room, later explaining to him that she had been praying for that day for so long -- a day when the church would thrive again and see marvelous works of the Lord as islander after islander accepts Christ and stirs the fires of revival in Galveston. She didn't care that it was happening under a new name, he said. She was just so grateful to the Lord that the day for which she had prayed had come.
"It's a no-brainer," Sanders said. "It's a trade she would be willing to make a hundred times over."
While the church has outgrown the original church building and now meets at a local school, Sanders says eventually they will look for a new, permanent location. But for now, the casual, offsite parking islander feel fits like a sandal
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.Sharayah Colter is a staff writer for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
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.