FROM THE STATES: IN THEIR OWN WORDS -- N.M., Okla. and Va. pastors and denominational workers share strategies
Today's From the States features items from: Baptist New Mexican; The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma); Proclaimer (Virginia)
By Alan Stoddard
RUIDOSO, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Pastors must be the ones who do what needs to be done in order to spark revival in a church.
I pastor what I call an average Southern Baptist church. By average, I mean we do not have the big names, big population or big events that create evangelistic momentum. Yet, an average church can have a great impact for God in its community. Pastor, church leaders and church members, do you believe your church can have a numerical and spiritual impact?
Last year, our church doubled its baptisms. We saw amazing things happen at First Ruidoso. We watched as God broke down walls. The idea "No Perfect People Allowed" took off. The lost and broken of various persuasions came to church. They brought their friends. At one point, another pastor in the community asked me, "How are you reaching people like that?" I first said, "I don't know." Yet, as I think back through 2016, I remember two things that stood out from all else that we did. Of course, God changed the atmosphere of our church, but these two things were huge. Because of them and God, we experienced revitalization.
First, we prayed. Second, we started making disciples one-on-one.
Our church had people who prayed, but measurable praying was not happening. Like most churches, I think we were stuck in reverse concerning prayer. So, we started old-school cottage prayer meetings. We only had a few gatherings in homes. Five to seven people made up each group.
We asked God to send revival to our community. We prayed with weeping, crying out for the lost. God moved. In one prayer meeting, a homeless man, Scott, came for prayer. We put him in a hotel, discipled him for four days, and baptized him on Easter Sunday. The meetings were so focused that we started praying for El Paso, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Mescalero, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles.
God has been moving in Las Cruces through a brother in our church who is passionate for souls. Recently, he brought six people to Ruidoso for baptism, from Las Cruces. We also baptized a 90-year-old lady. On Feb. 26, we saw a former Jehovah's Witness saved and baptized among us.
All of this started when we started to pray fervently. It's actually been years of praying, but a year ago we saw God move. He is still moving. We started a NoonDay Prayer Meeting every Wednesday. We pray for almost the same thing: revival.
God wants to move in your church, too. I would suggest that every church begin praying for revival. That kind of praying will bring to the surface other great topics for prayer. Every church needs a prayer room. Every pastor needs a place to pour out his heart with others for the community. Will you lead your church to pray? It made a difference in our church, and it will make a difference in your church.
Make Disciples One-on-One
I've always led people to do the things for which I was trained. Worship leadership and small group training is no problem. I can reproduce small groups. Yet, one thing was missing. I had never mastered one-on-one discipling in a way that was reproducible.
I ran into a man who worked for Bill Bright of Cru. His name is Jon Burton. Jon took the circles of Cru and designed a foundational follow-up approach for new and young believers. It resembles a movement more than it resembles a program. He had discipled two BCNM pastors in Albuquerque: Rick and Dave Brittain.
So, I took hold of his stuff, and I used it. I am happy to report that it works. These men can tell you that it works: Tim Ebert, Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Allen, Rich Moore, Wesley Moore, Gilbert Hernandez, Ken Barton, Kasie Rue, Justin Wood, David Marshall and Joey Hargrove. They are men who were discipled one-on-one. And here's the kicker. They can give it away.
The equipping is naturally reproducible. The plan is disciples making disciples. When we started discipling one-on-one -- at times no more than one-on-three –-God moved. Most churches do Sunday School or small groups, but fail at one-on-one disciple making. I challenge you to consider making disciples who could actually disciple others. Can you imagine how many more teachers you would have? Can you imagine the impact of maturity in your church if you discipled people one-one one?
We saw God work mightily when we focused on praying for revival and making disciples of new and young believers intentionally.
Of course, after revival comes another challenge. The enemy will not respond to revival in the church by sitting down. He will come against the work of God. He will attack. Yet, we are in another season of praying and expecting God to do great things at Easter. What will you do now to seek a move of God in your church and community? If you have any questions or need idea feedback, contact me. I will do anything to see God pour out rivers of living water upon the desert southwest.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (bcnm.com). Alan Stoddard is pastor of First Baptist Church in Ruidoso, N.M.
uptick in baptisms
By Anthony L. Jordan
OKLAHOMA CITY (The Baptist Messenger) -- Sometimes important information breezes by us, and we hardly notice. Our lives are filled with Twitter, Facebook, 24/7 news and media of every sort. Indeed, everywhere you look, people have something plugged into their ears to drown out the noise and to tune out the distractions.
However, we do not want to overlook one piece of news that was stated in January. We do not want to miss this news because it is worthy of overflowing joy and consideration of how we might see the opportunity for great rejoicing again next year. Good news for a change -- no, remarkable news! So what is it?
In the 2016 church year, Oklahoma Baptists saw a very strong increase in the number of baptisms recorded in our churches. The increase was 805 to be exact. One year a trend does not make, but I can tell you that this number bucks an extended trend of dropping baptismal numbers across the Southern Baptist Convention and, indeed, here in Oklahoma. So REJOICE WITH ME! Our churches reached and baptized 805 more people in 2016 than in 2015!
Why did this happen? How did this happen? Only an extensive research project could give the answer, so I do not claim infallibility in my observations. But I do believe there is some anecdotal evidence that can give us a little insight worthy of repetition.
As I have travelled the state, it has become clear that Oklahoma Baptists saw an increase in churches placing the focus on praying for the lost. The convention encouraged our churches to engage in the 3151 Challenge, which called for each of us to pray for 3 lost people in our sphere of influence, learn 1 Gospel presentation, invite 5 people to small group/Sunday School, and share the Gospel with 1 person.
In addition, last fall's Sunday School material, produced by LifeWay, carried an emphasis on personal evangelism with lessons written by Oklahoma's own Blake Gideon, pastor of Edmond, First.
I believe this emphasis raised the tide of a refocus on personal responsibility to pray for and share the Gospel with people in our lives who do not know Christ. Southern Baptists, for much of our history, were known for personal evangelism. We had regular visitation, and Sunday School was more evangelistic than fellowship oriented. Southern Baptists trained people in multiple methods of witnessing. We talked about reaching our communities with the Gospel, and we had evangelistic events. Through it all, we kept turning up the heat targeted at personal responsibility to share the Gospel.
This last year we tore a page from our past. While the package was different, the focus returned to prayer and witnessing to the lost. For a Christian, the evangelistic focus and personal responsibility to pray and witness became the focus again. The end result was more people saved and baptized through our churches.
We cannot stop. This year we are asking every believer to pray for three people who do not know Christ. Have you begun praying for your three people? We are asking you to invite your friends to times of evangelistic emphasis in your church. Easter is a great evangelistic opportunity. Who will you invite to hear the cross and resurrection message this Easter? I am challenging you to share the Gospel with three people. Yes, you!
I believe baptisms have increased because pastors, churches and members returned to thinking about, praying for and sharing Christ with lost people -- people who are headed for eternal separation from God. We cannot change our focus in 2017. Who are the three people for whom you will pray, invite and share?
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Anthony Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the BGCO.
Coaches help church planters
know they're not alone
By Jamie Limato
ROANOKE, Va. (Proclaimer) -- The theme 'Not Alone' was repeated often at the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia's Annual Homecoming this past November at First Baptist Church of Roanoke. It is the desire of our partnership of churches that those who seek to push back the darkness would feel and know that they are not alone. However, in our efforts to strengthen and mobilize churches to make disciples and plant churches, those sent out to plant new churches can feel lonely. One way to combat that sense of loneliness is to provide each new church planter with a coach.
What is a coach's role?
Church planters experience some of the highest of highs, but what people don't always see is that they also have the lowest of lows. There are many reasons for this, but oftentimes in ministry, it's easy to focus on the things that are yet to be done instead of focusing on where God is at work. Coaching brings focus to where God is leading and clarifies everything going on in a planter's mind. Having a coach helps a planter listen well to what God is saying and remember that he is not alone.
Coaches help clear the fog for church planters. In the fog, planters can feel lost and alone. As a church planter, I often felt that way. I knew where God had called me and what He had called me to do. I was certain of the vision He had given me. The strategies and tactics, however, to accomplish my vision to plant a Gospel-centered church weren't always as clear. Add people to this confusion, and you're driving in a thick fog. It can be unnerving and leave you questioning, Did I miss it? Have I taken a wrong turn? or even Should I just turn around? Coaching clears the fog by helping church planters slow down, see clearly, and remember to step forward in faith. In all of this, the coach is there to remind the planter he is not alone.
Many voices speak into a church planter's life -- spouse, mentors, core team, church attenders, conferences, websites, books, denominational leaders and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit. The reality is that all voices are not equal in value and some can be negative.
The role of a coach is unique -- it's not to be another voice talking to the planter (as important as some of those voices are). A coach comes alongside a church planter to draw out what is already there. A coach's voice is the asking voice, and the coach's most basic tools are asking questions and listening well.
Coaches provide a safe place to process the planter's dreams and plans
A church planter coach fulfills his role on the team by providing a safe place for an often-overwhelmed church planter. The coach is asking the questions that no one else is asking, like, 'What does God want?' 'What's next?' 'What's most important now?' 'Who can help you?' 'When are you going to start?' These and other questions help bring clarity to the church planter.
Coaches target the heart
No matter how much we succeed in other pursuits, nothing will ever replace five critical desires God has given us. In coaching conversations with church planters, these five concerns eventually come to the top of the list:
1. GOD. We want a vital, personal connection with God.
2. FAMILY. We want healthy relationships with our spouse and children.
3. HEALTH. We want to live well, sleep well and feel well.
4. TIME. We want to get the most out of our days.
5. PEOPLE. We want to relate well to people outside of our home.
In coaching, it is our desire to coach the person -- not the goal -- and the planter -- not the plant. Coaching the person means that we draw out his goals rather than prescribing goals we think would be best. A good coach will help the planter identify and define goals the planter is drawn toward. Also, coaching the person means that we intentionally press beyond the urgent church planting needs to the heart of the planter himself. The coach is not handcuffed by everything the church planter wants to be coached through. A coach helps the planter move to a higher level of accountability for what God wants from him personally.
Jesus told His disciples, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21, NKJV). We commonly interpret this verse as inspiration to send more. That's a good thing, but we must also embrace the importance of sending well at the same time. As we send well, we will send more -- healthy leaders multiply. A great church planter coach plays a critical role in sending well and ensuring that the planters are not alone.
Here are the experiences of some church planters who were connected with coaches through the SBCV:
"My coach helped me by walking me through the painful days of church planting. We went through some serious lows during our first year as well as some incredible mountaintop highs. Having a coach by my side was critical in helping me keep a balanced and healthy perspective in every situation we encountered. I can't imagine having gone through our first year of church planting without my coach." -- Jason Lamb, Pastor of Rising Church, Leesburg
"I didn't really know what to expect when I received a coach, but it has filled in the gaps that a mentor or strategist couldn't provide. My mentors told me what to do, my strategist helped to resource me, but my coach filled a more proactive role in my life. My coach pressed and challenged me in a way that I needed most." -- Isaac Martin, Pastor of Sojourn Church, Floyd
"My coach helped me by offering wisdom and encouragement to stay the course and trust the Lord. Church planting is difficult, and it is comforting to be paired with someone who has not only been where you are but has also succeeded in establishing the foundation of a new church. My coach is a very capable, encouraging Spirit-filled coach!" -- Zack Randles, Pastor of Waterfront Church, Washington, DC
This article appeared in the Proclaimer, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists Conservatives of Virginia. Jamie Limato is pastor of Aletheia Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., and associate church planting strategist with the SBCV.
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.