FROM THE STATES: Ill., Tenn. and Okla & Fla. evangelism/missions news; Rooftop prayer leads to 'precious God experience'

Today's From the States features items from: Illinois Baptist; Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee); Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma and Florida).

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Ill. pastors pray with

'God's-eye view' of Chicago

By Joseph Dorsey

CHICAGO (Illinois Baptist) -- Fifty church leaders gathered 99 stories up on Saturday, Jan. 28, to pray over the third largest city in the U.S.

From atop the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), pastors and others mostly from the Chicago Metro Baptist Association got a "God's-eye view" and captured a glimpse of His heart for the city, said participant Phil Miglioratti.

"I think God uses a setting like this to put the burdens of His heart into our hearts, and that's really what prayer is meant to be," said Miglioratti, prayer ministries coordinator for the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA). "You don't have to be 99 stories up to get that, but places make a difference."

The rooftop gathering was organized by Chicago Metro's prayer coordinator Cheryl Dorsey as part of the Chicago Association's annual prayer conference. The day started at Uptown Baptist Church with workshops on prayer and spiritual warfare. Then the group headed downtown for the prayer meeting led by John Whaley of The Rooftop U.S., a ministry that helps churches engage with God's mission through prayer.

Meeting in the tower, Dorsey said, "was like being in church." Reflecting on the event, one pastor wrote her to thank her for the "precious God moment" he experienced.

"Because it didn't feel like we were in an office tower," Dorsey said. "It really felt like we were in His presence." Even tower staff felt it. Dorsey saw a security guard and an event coordinator who were stationed near the group hush another staff member when she got off the elevator "They had caught on," she said.

Looking out over the South Side of the city, Dorsey said she was reminded of the art of the Chicago skyline and dramatic clouds that she had chosen to promote the conference. "I began to weep because the clouds reminded me of a heaviness coming over the city."

From the rooftop perspective, she said, "The Lord just had me praying for darkness to be lifted."

Through their prayer time, many people at the meeting felt challenged to see the people of the city like God sees them, Dorsey said.

Doug Morrow, executive director of the Baptist Foundation of Illinois and Rooftop board member, agreed.

"We have an opportunity, but it will take surrender, it will take recognition to see with God's eyes, and it will take, at the end of the day, a heart that emulates the compassion of God, where we're far more interested in what He cares for, what His heart breaks for, than we are our own issues and our own agendas."

But the prayer can't end on the rooftop.

"Mountaintop experiences are only great if they're translated into the marketplace," Morrow said. "this kind of perspective is only helpful if it helps you also see across your street."


This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (illinoisbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

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Ethnic churches double in Tenn.

By Connie Davis Bushey

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Ethnic Baptist churches associated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention have nearly doubled in number -- to about 200 -- in the last 18 months.

One of the most important groups being reached by the new churches are Arabic speakers, said William Burton, ethnic evangelism/church planting specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Currently there are five Arabic Baptist churches in Tennessee.

"For me, that's one of the most exciting things that we're doing because that's a group that's obviously in the news. There's a lot of fear, concern."

What he has learned is that "when you introduce people" in the Islamic culture "to the love of Christ there's a great receptivity. We have some great Arabic-speaking pastors now who are speaking out and planting churches."

Other new ethnic Baptist churches in the TBC include Hispanic, Korean, Burmese (from Myanmar), Zomi (from Myanmar), and African.

These ethnic congregations are non-traditional in several ways, said Burton. They worship in another language besides English, come from different cultures, and embrace evangelism and church planting to reach others with the Gospel.

For example, one new Baptist congregation meets in a beauty shop during the afternoons, another meets in a Mexican restaurant, and one in a library. In other words, they are "people-driven" rather than "building-driven," he explained.

What can Anglo Baptist churches learn from ethnic Baptist churches? They need to emphasize evangelism, said Burton, an Anglo himself though he has been a Southern Baptist missionary in Venezuela and was the founding pastor of several Hispanic churches in Morristown, Tenn.

"The emphasis on evangelism among our ethnic churches results in the planting of new congregations," explained Burton.

"We evangelize to plant churches; not plant churches to evangelize," he noted.

The ethnic people are another reason for the great growth, Burton stated. They are often first generation Christians in their families who have a "passion, zeal, the love for the Gospel, the love for Jesus, the concern for their neighbor to know Christ.... They live for Christ. They live for evangelism. They live to tell the story. So they don't have all of the distractions that we tend to have as Anglos now."

Burton tells the ethnic Christians "we're not multicultural. There's one culture and it's the Christ culture. We may be multiethnic but we're monocultural because when we accept Christ, our culture becomes Christ."

Other key elements of the ethnic church planting boom

Driving this TBC church planting movement besides evangelism is the strategy of the TBMB staff of 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, explained Burton. 1-5-1 Harvest Plants are off-campus efforts (outside the four walls of the church) geared toward people who don't know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the Gospel, discipling people and starting churches.

Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort with the Lord's help to reach, win and baptize 5 people through each plant, with the goal for each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.

A supporting factor in the ethnic church planting movement in the TBC is the 11 Harvest Fields Training Centers of ethnic churches or Baptist associations for ethnics operating across Tennessee,

he added. There are five Harvest Fields Training Centers for Anglos and African Americans, but ethnics are leading most of them. At this point most of the ethnic training centers are led by Hispanics because that is the largest ethnic population in Tennessee, said Burton.

The 17 ethnic training centers are led mainly by pastors of local ethnic churches. The centers have really developed over the past two years, Burton cited. Students must be involved in personal soul winning and church planting. Another factor driving the successes is the recommendation that each church planter first seek help from a mother church.

Each church has a DNA and in the Harvest Fields Training Centers, that DNA, if it emphasizes evangelism and church planting, can be implanted into young men and women which leads to natural multiplication, explained Burton.

Ethnic pastors who learn of the Harvest Field Training Centers more often than not say, "Hey, we want to be involved in that," and start a center, he continued.

Final thoughts

Most of these efforts wouldn't be possible without the cooperation of Tennessee Baptists, Burton reported. Churches support the TBMB financially by giving through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, said Burton.

"That cooperation, that's who we are as Baptists..., that makes it happen. The ethnic church, they may have the human resources; they have the passion, the zeal. They don't always have the financial resources to do some of the things they need to do, and that's where we come along to help ....

"I'm so proud of my ethnic friends who are seeing many come to Christ through planting new churches," stated Burton.


This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Davis Bushey is news editor of the Baptist and Reflector.

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Okla. Baptists hear

Fla. pastor's strategies

By Emily Howsden

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Baptist Messenger) -- Rodney Keith was ordained into the ministry at the age of 21, at Jacksonville, Fla., First. Since then, Keith has dedicated his life to sharing the Good News.

After being a full-time evangelist for 14 years, Keith felt the Lord was urging him to take a pastoral position. That is when the Lord put Jacksonville, Fla., Gardenview on his radar.

Gardenview is on the north side of Jacksonville, the city with one of the largest landmasses in the continental United States.

When Keith became pastor of Gardenview, the church had suffered extreme attacks by the enemy involving the two previous pastors. It was almost enough to make those in the church plant throw in the towel, but God had other plans.

Discouraged, many members left the church due to scandal and lack of unification in the church body. Through the Lord's guidance, Keith, however, saw opportunities for growth and evangelism and hit the ground running.

"When I (became pastor) they were very discouraged," Keith said about Gardenview. "They ran 50-80 depending on the Sunday and never had more than 200 in Sunday School because both previous pastors split the congregation and started other churches. It has been phenomenal blessing to be able to take three hurting churches and turn it around to reach other people that had almost no confidence in any pastor."

Under Keith's leadership, Gardenview has exploded with growth. Now, Keith said there are some Sundays that they have as many as 26 people joining the church on a single Sunday.

The church runs more than 700 people in worship attendance, and more than 350 in Sunday School, "and we're still growing and God is still blessing," he said.

What steps did the church take to experience such rapid growth? This is something Keith shared at the State Evangelism Conference (SEC) at First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., last month.

"We are reaching people from all areas of the city of Jacksonville, and we run everything we do as a church based on Sunday School," said Keith.

In a Sunday School class of 20 people there is one Sunday School leader, an outreach director and four small group leaders, each group consisting of five people.

"Sunday School basically becomes a mini church," said Keith as he explained Gardenview's model. "If it's done right, the teacher doesn't do all of the work, the group leaders and outreach leaders are there to help."

Keith further explained, "The group leader's job is to call each of the people in their small group throughout the week and talk to them, pray for them and minister and just be a blessing to them."

The outreach leader checks in on the small group leaders in the same way, and the Sunday School leader checks on small group leaders and outreach leaders.

Because of the system placed in front of those attending the Sunday School class, it relieves the staff of the church, "Instead of them calling the staff and getting someone they may not know as well, members are calling their Sunday School teachers," Keith said.

"You can do the work of 100 men or let the 100 men do the work of 100 men," said Keith when asked how they came up with this way of conducting Sunday School.

In addition to the support system that is Sunday School at Gardenview, the church takes additional steps to welcome those who visit.

Members of the church deliver cookies and a card to visitors' homes expressing how much their presence was appreciated at church that morning.

"I personally call that Sunday afternoon each person that visits for the first time and thank them for visiting, then try and set up a time for me to come visit them. If Monday doesn't work, then Tuesday and so on," said Keith.

When Keith visits for the first time, he comes bearing gifts including items like homemade jelly, a pineapple to symbolize southern hospitality and other various goods to make them feel welcome. After the initial visit from the pastor, small group leaders take over and make home visits.

Keith discussed a challenge the church issues visitors, "We challenge each visitor with the Gardenview Challenge. Give us three services, and if you don't like us, can't connect, you'll never hear from us again. I would say 90 percent of the time they join on their second visit."

In addition to the emphasis on Sunday School and on visitors not falling through any cracks, Gardenview started after-school programs at schools around Jacksonville.

It has been through these avenues and many more that Keith has helped grow the church family at Gardenview through the Lord's guidance.


This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Emily Howsden is a staff writer for 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 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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