FROM THE STATES: La., Tenn. and Mo. evangelism/missions news; 'We are trying to get outside the walls and be the church'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
The Pathway (Missouri)
La. church's revival going
strong after three years
By Brian Blackwell
BASTROP, La. (The Baptist Message) -- Bonita Road Baptist Church has been in revival for three years and all signs point to this spiritual renewal continuing for the foreseeable future.
Since Casey Johnson joined this Morehouse Baptist Association church as pastor in 2015, worship and Sunday school attendances have increased and more than 70 people have been baptized.
Furthermore, the congregation is in the midst of constructing a new 11,000-sq.-ft. worship center that will seat 500 people to accommodate the growth -- with even more new members added from revival services that took place in early March.
"It has been an absolute joy watching God change so many lives in such a short time," Johnson said. "I think the greatest thing, apart from the salvations, has been watching people truly understand the freedom they have to worship God because of their identity in Christ. From a pastor's perspective that is a treasure and a victory worth celebrating."
In the time Johnson has been pastor of Bonita Road Baptist Church, worship attendance has grown from 200 in one worship event to a combined 375 in two morning services. Sunday school attendance now stands at 230, up from 130.
He points to a concentration on prayer as a catalyst for the positive change. Johnson preached a series on prayer leading up to the recent March revival.
Now, people are responding during invitations by bringing the Bible with them to the altar and praying a passage of Scripture to God.
"It's important to build our foundation on the Word of God and prayer," Johnson said. "They have grabbed hold of the Word and the power of prayer, and are growing so very much as a church. We pray the Word of God back to Him because God will always fulfill His Word."
Among the members embracing prayer is Stacy Sharp.
Of the three women's Bible studies she has led, two have focused strictly on prayer. Additionally, a women's retreat she attended in 2015 included moments of prayer, which Sharp said was a key factor for the growth the congregation has experienced.
"After that night of the retreat, we saw many miracles, such as marriages healed, people being cured of physical illnesses and more," Sharp said. "It's because of prayer that we at Bonita Road are a people who are closer as a church and are experiencing much freedom in our worship, personal life and relationship with Christ."
Revival after the revival
During the most recent revival services, the worship center was filled to capacity each evening. In the end, two people came forward to accept Christ as their personal Savior, but many more made other spiritual decisions -- a call to ministry, a commitment to share the Gospel more fervently, or, a need to be obedient through baptism.
Since the end of the revival, Johnson has talked with many who attended, including some who expressed a desire to follow Christ.
"When we had the revival, the place was packed each night but we weren't seeing people come to us to make a salvation decision," Johnson said. "Instead we saw God moving in the hearts of the Christians and people there. We are seeing lingering effects even after the revival meeting, which has been huge to us."
After the revival ended, the congregation made a decision to cover their future worship center with prayer. Nearly 225 people took markers and wrote a scripture, inspirational thought or prayer on beams and the concrete floor.
Johnson said that was a symbolic move for how his congregation believes about the power of prayer for their future worship center.
"[That] was a powerful moment for us as a church body," Johnson said. "We believe our best days are ahead of us and we think the Word of God and prayer will pave the way to greater things.
"So seeing families walk through the new sanctuary writing scriptures and prayers on the walls and foundation was a moving experience," he continued. "One of our men said a few days later he was moved to tears going back through and reading some of the words that were written on the walls."
Church without walls
One mindset Johnson tried to instill in his congregation when he arrived there is they are a church without walls, a people who minister to the community in a variety of ways.
Members are given business-sized cards to hand out at restaurants, stores or other locations around Bastrop. On one side are the words "Live Love Ministries" and on the opposite side is an encouraging word, with an invitation to attend a worship service or other activity at Bonita Road Baptist Church.
The goal is to bless recipients and let them know they are loved and welcomed by the congregation.
The effort has paid off, with many people coming to visit the church.
During a recent service, a family attended because a member paid their meal tab at a local restaurant, leaving one of the cards that says "You've been blessed by Live Love Ministries of Bonita Road Baptist Church."
Yet another of its ministry effort is the church's Just One Discipleship Initiative. A member is paired up with another person to invest in the person for a year through one-on-one discipleship.
"The Bible says to reach the whole world, but this allows our members to have a personalized outreach to people closer to home," Johnson said. "We are trying to get outside the walls and be the church. These are simple approaches that make ministry very personal.
"We like to say we are a Driveway Church," he continued. "Whether they are at the gas station, restaurant or ballfield, our members are getting outside our walls and talking about Jesus."
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
712 teens accept Christ
at Tenn. evangelism conf.
By Connie Davis Bushey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Youth Evangelism Conference 2017 drew about 7,383 participants to Municipal Auditorium here March 10-11. At least 712 teens made professions of faith during the Friday evening session.
In addition, 392 students recorded that they had been a lukewarm Christian but were ready to follow Christ as a dedicated disciple, 210 teens reported that they felt called by God to serve in missions and ministry, and 578 made other commitments.
Also, thousands accepted the "Oikos" challenge of YEC 2017. Kent Shingleton, coordinator of Youth Evangelism Conference for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, told the teens that "Oikos" (oiee-kahs), a Greek word, means extended family.
The students were challenged to share Christ with their Oikos because those are people they share influence with. "Ninety-five percent of believers came to know Christ because someone in their Oikos actually invested in them," the teens learned via a video.
"In order to change the world, we must first change our world," said Jared Shingleton on another video about Oikos. Shingleton is youth pastor, Hope Fellowship Church, Smyrna, and Kent's son. "You see relationships are not by accident. … He (God) knows exactly who is there and we believe that God is ready to empower you to change your world." He added that his youth group recently nearly tripled in size after it began the Oikos strategy.
At the end of the last session, teens identified and wrote down the names of 8-15 people, the average number of people most people have influence with or their Oikos. Then they committed to spend time with, pray for, and witness to their Oikos.
Another part of the program were The Skit Guys, Tommy Woodard of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Eddie James of Dallas, Texas. They used humor to present the Ten Commandments, the rich young ruler, a person literally and figuratively being beaten up with a Bible, and several other messages.
Kent Shingleton additionally reported that next year the 50th YEC will be held. To prepare, about 30 people who had "seen God work in their lives over the years at YEC" were videotaped during YEC, said Shingleton. Many of those videos will be shared through social media throughout the next year.
Main message Friday night
Dave Edwards, biblical communicator of Oklahoma City, spoke to the teens about how sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Then he asked the students why the relationships in their families, dating life, churches, and youth groups were "falling apart" and what "fig leaf" they were hiding behind.
Speaking from Genesis 2:25, 3:7, and 3:8, he noted Adam and Eve were in an idyllic situation yet they reached for the apple "and began all of this deception" which is "symbolic of them taking matters into their own hands," said Edwards.
People often hide who they really are or their greatest insecurity or secret. This requires perpetual hiding and always looking for something new to hide behind, he added. People also begin to develop the thinking that if they ever become honest, they will be hurt.
Some use substances such as alcohol or narcotics, cutting themselves, food, clothes, online persona, looks, intellect, cheerleading, band, religion, music, or art as their fig leaves, Edwards noted.
Edwards told of his parents divorcing when he was 5 years old and not seeing his father again until he was 21. Then in school he couldn't read or write so he was placed in a class for slow learners until it was finally determined that he was dyslexic. He coped through all of this by being funny though he was hiding a lot, he explained.
"Buried behind that thing you're hiding behind is a wonderful person," he observed.
As seen with Adam and Eve, God initiates but doesn't invade our space and is not put off by our fig leaves or all the drama in our lives, he explained. Then God sacrificed an animal to clothe them which was the first sacrifice for sin and which was followed by God's sacrifice of Jesus for sin.
Students today may experience "the eternal life of Jesus," Edwards said. If they accept it, the right friends and the right people to date will come into their lives and they will find a better atmosphere in their homes.
In the middle of his broken home and his dyslexia he knew he wouldn't make it unless Jesus was living inside of him, he said.
"Just like with Adam and Eve, God says to you and me tonight, 'Let's make a trade. You give me what you've been hiding behind and in exchange, I'll give you something that you'll never lose.' "
Saturday morning speaker
Luke MacDonald, executive pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Elgin, Ill., told the crowd of students they aren't "special, not even a little bit." His father is James MacDonald, the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel which has seven campuses in metropolitan Chicago and the host of "The Walk in the Word" TV and radio shows.
The pursuit of specialness develops selfishness and narcissism and leads to misery, he explained. "You my friend were made for more."
"We don't need to be special; we don't need to be the best because we already know the best; we know the King."
MacDonald referred to David, the shepherd boy who was the giant killer and then the greatest king of Israel. He is described in the Bible as "a man after God's own heart." Yet David was the only one of Jesse's eight sons to not be considered by his father to be a potential king.
"If anybody was special David was, but the fact that he knew that he wasn't special is exactly what made him so significant."
Many students in the crowd at the YEC could say honestly "I have a heart for God; I would love for God to use my life but I am the wrong person, so it's not happening." They may think this because they are bad at math or sports, chubby, have a learning disability, or are a girl. However, nearly all of the people in the Bible that God used had flaws and included prostitutes and murderers, said the pastor.
"Do you know that God has already given you everything that you need to do exactly what He wants you to do today? It's so easy to get caught up in what we wish we had."
David himself writes his belief that he's not special in Psalms 8, noted MacDonald. Like David the students also can learn "that the story is not about us at all. We just get to be a small part of the story of God." But God will do more through them than they could without Him, he added.
"You're not special, but Jesus is. When you understand that, God can do anything, and I mean anything, in your life."
Other news from YEC
The YEC participants gave $9,186 toward the 2018 YEC overseas missions trip to Guatemala to support the Tennessee/Guatemala Baptist Partnership. The TBMB coordinates the trip every other year. In 2016, 78 youth and adult leaders served in Guatemala.
YEC 2018 will be March 9-10 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
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.
Mo. church takes
gospel to El Salvador
EL SALVADOR (The Pathway) -- A team of 13 people from First Baptist Church, Memphis, traveled to El Salvador in March to share the love of Christ.
This was the church's fourth trip to the area, where they've partnered with churches in El Coco, El Tanque and San Isidro—small communities nestled in the mountains of the nation's border with Guatemala.
"One of the greatest experiences of the mission trip was working side by side with Christian brothers and sisters from another culture who share a common goal in serving God," said Pastor Dan Hite in an article he submitted to the Memphis (Mo.) Democrat. Each year, as the church works in El Salvador, "the bonds of fellowship grow stronger," he added.
"Mission trips like these," he said, "can be life changing, and it can be quite humbling to be so greatly blessed by those you go to be a blessing to."
As in the past, the mission team from FBC, Memphis, worked with the children in these poverty-stricken communities. The missionaries from FBC Memphis, made up of 13 people of various ages (from teens to senior adults), divided into two teams to serve the three El Salvador communities. One team was invited to work in the schools in San Isidro. And in El Tanque the schools took children to the church, where they learned songs in Spanish and English, played games, made crafts and heard Bible stories.
The mission group from FBC Memphis also distributed sewing machines, medicine, stuffed animals, yarn for making yarn dolls, toothbrushes, toys and nearly 800 pairs of shoes -- collected from various groups in Scotland County, Mo.
"The two teams also participated in worship services in the evening, which was another great experience," Hite said. "The world gets much smaller when we worship and praise God with other cultures."
Additionally, the mission group worshiped at the First Baptist Church of Chalchuapa and worked with children from a Christian school affiliated with the church.
According to the Memphis Democrat, FBC Memphis not only brought the living water of the gospel to the people of El Salvador. They're also playing a part in bringing clean drinking water to the El Tanque community. A member of the mission team, Linda Blessing, is also a member of the Schuyler County Rotary Club.
The Memphis Democrat explained: "One of the primary service interests of Rotary clubs worldwide is to provide sustainable sources of clean drinking water for people in nations where this is a problem. Linda was able to make connections with Rotary Club members in El Salvador and the community leaders of El Tanque to gain local support for the project and obtain necessary information regarding the project to bring back to share with Rotary clubs in Northeast Missouri."
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
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.