FROM THE STATES: Mo., Texas and N.M. evangelism/missions news; '... [G]et back to what Jesus taught us on the Sermon on the Mount'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Baptist New Mexican
revival at Mo. church
By Vicki Stamps
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (The Pathway) -- South Haven Baptist Church accepted the challenge made at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting by Ronnie Floyd, then-SBC president, and it led to a spiritual revival.
"In his challenge," Ryan Palmer pastor of the Springfield, Mo., church, said, "Dr. Floyd asked churches to consider giving at least 11 minutes of their services on Sunday, Sept. 11 (9/11), to pray for our nation.
"We decided to combine our two services to pray for spiritual awakening," Palmer said. "Our one-hour service turned into a two-and-a-half-hour exciting movement."
As the South Haven staff saw what was happening in the congregation, they wanted to build on this moment. "We wanted to do a follow-up," Palmer said, "to focus on the spiritual life of the congregation."
Palmer began to research the possibilities. "We wanted to do some type of revival that was different from the old-fashioned type, so I started reading through some of the materials that I got at the annual meeting last year. I discovered Life Action Ministries."
As Palmer focused in on how Life Action Ministries works with churches, he discovered one of his staff members toured with them in the 1990s.
"We liked their ministry because Life Action would focus on spiritual change in families and the church," he said. "They call people to authentic Christianity for lives to be transformed by the presence and power of God."
Palmer, describing the four-day event, said, "They brought in a revivalist to speak as well as young people to lead a church-wide ministry. They worked with the children and young people of the church. It was truly a ministry across the congregation.
"The focus was to call our congregation back to the heart of God," Palmer said. "We wanted this to be a time of discipleship and to open our hearts to what God wanted us to do."
The congregation didn't just wait for the team to arrive on the scene. "For 40 days," Palmer said, "we prepared for the upcoming revival with prayer. In addition to prayer, we used a devotional series by Dr. Alvin Reid of Southeastern Seminary. We checked with him to see if we could adapt the series to use on our website and Facebook page, for our congregation to use for daily devotions and prayer."
In addition to preparing their hearts individually, the congregation met corporately to pray. "We canceled our Wednesday evening regularly scheduled activities on the Wednesday before the revival," he said. "The prayer time was well attended and it did a lot to prepare our hearts for what was about to happen. This time was going to be focused on the believer coming back to the heart of God."
Palmer explained that the impact of the revival was different from the measurement of other revivals. "The impact could be seen in marriages restored," he said, "as well as the deep thirst for God and a quiet time in others. We've also seen others stepping up to serve in a variety of ministries."
Palmer emphasized that this revival was a spiritual awakening to equip the congregation. "It was a revival," he said, "to get back to what Jesus taught us on the Sermon on the Mount. He wants us to hunger and thirst for righteousness."
This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Vicki Stamps is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Language differences strengthen
ministry of merged Texas churches
By Bonnie Pritchett
LUFKIN, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- For about six years two Lufkin churches have met in the same building -- two independent congregations, two different languages but each working toward the same goal. Their Kingdom work brought them together for mission trips and local ministries, and instead of letting their language differences act as a barrier, they realized what bound them together was greater than what separated them.
Eventually, the two churches who shared the use of one building and ministry work in their community decided to become one congregation. Practically speaking, forming one church made sense. Spiritually speaking, they realized it could make all the difference in the world for the people of Angelina County.
"There is no more 'us' and 'them' -- what a picture of heaven [this] will be," Randy Brown, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lufkin, said during the May 7 service celebrating the uniting of Templo Bautista Jesús es El Señor with Southside. "After today, we will truly be one staff working for the Kingdom."
With the use of a translator, Brown and Ricardo Coss, pastor of the Spanish-language congregation, told the joint congregation that their work together as "One church, Two Languages" will be a witness to the people in their community.
"This is the Lord's will to unite the people in church," Coss told the congregation. "It does not matter the ethnic group or skin color."
Six years ago, following a change of church leadership at their former meeting location, the Spanish-language congregation of 20-30 people was asked to find a new place to worship. Southside welcomed the congregation to use their facilities.
In 2014 and 2015 the pastors of both congregations left for new ministry opportunities, and Coss and Brown took the leadership roles at their respective churches, keeping the existing partnership in place.
Moving beyond sharing a building to becoming a single congregation soon became an issue to address, and both pastors entered the new relationship with hope and a healthy sense of the growing pains that may result.
"One of the biggest problems is the breakdown in language and culture," Brown told the TEXAN. "I also believe that there will be a little bit of struggle with working within the church structure of getting things done in an orderly manner."
Mike Gonzalez, Southern Baptist of Texas Convention director of Hispanic ministries who assisted with the transition, said churches are increasingly choosing to merge instead of simply share space. Traditionally a fledgling Spanish-language church would rent space from a larger English-language (Anglo) congregation. Gonzalez called that the "two churches, one location model."
Additional models included the Anglo church planting a Spanish-language "mission" church or creating a Spanish-language "department" within the church.
Coss and Brown recognized more things tied the two churches than separated them.
"To be honest most of our people already thought that we were one [church]," Brown told the TEXAN.
That unity was most evident among the children and youth, Gonzalez said. Many of the children attend the same schools and speak English, often acting as a bridge between the Spanish and English-speaking members.
The pastors recognized the confluence of circumstances that made a merger of the two congregations inevitable -- and welcome. Brown noted the three-fold growth of the Templo Bautista Jesús es El Señor under Coss. And Coss knew that growth required organization as a church body.
After seeking counsel from SBTC Hispanic Ministries staff, the two congregations decided the One Church, Two Languages model would best serve the needs of both congregations and their community. They realize they have begun a journey that will have difficulties, but Coss said that is to be expected and will not overshadow the work God has for the new church, which will retain the name Southside Baptist Church.
"The church is like a lab from God," Coss told the congregation. "Here is where we learn to live together, to forgive each other, and to accept each other. That's the Lord's will."
Brown said their efforts are already bearing fruit.
"I can't tell you how many people who have asked me to share what is going on," Brown said. "Our country is so divided now; it's time for the church to tear down the barriers that divide us. As we seek to be a multi-ethnic church, it bears witness to our community that Jesus and His commands are real in our lives."
The month of July has been set aside as the statewide emphasis for the Look Like Heaven initiative, which is designed to encourage cross-cultural interchange among SBTC churches. For more information, visit sbtexas.com/looklikeheaven.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the TEXAN.
N.M. church gets strategic
about reaching Hispanics
By Linda Prescott
ANTHONY, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- The Lord is doing amazing things among the Hispanic congregation in Anthony of southwestern New Mexico. This church is doing its part in fulfilling the Advancing the Kingdom objective of sharing the Gospel with 1 million unreached Hispanics through disciple-based evangelism strategies.
A year and a half ago, in September 2015, the Lord sent Luis Ricardo Rivera and his wife Claudia to Anthony to continue a planting process for a budding congregation, Betesda Comunidad Cristiana in Anthony (originally Iglesia Bautista Betesda).
The church started as a Bible study meeting in the garage of Eustolia Albidrez's home in 2013. Mariano Lopez was the initial church planter who organized it in 2013.
When Rivera began, there were 28 people in the first service. Rivera gives all the glory to his Lord and Savior: "I praise the Lord that after a year and a half our attendance tripled. We are experiencing services with 100-plus people and on April 23 we began a second service in English." He continued, "We hope to open our first campus in Sunland Park around July or August. The Lord already provided for a location and we have a leader for our campus, Victor Gonzalez."
"I praise the Lord for the growth we've been experiencing in our congregation. The church is growing spiritually and numerically as well. As an example, during last month, we had 18 people baptized, and three families joined our church by letter," Rivera noted.
The church is currently teaching the Bible in worship to approximately 90 in attendance. The English service is running about 30 in attendance. There were two new Hispanic members baptized on Easter Sunday, and two more were baptized in the English service recently.
Rivera and his wife came to New Mexico from El Paso, Texas, where he started Jacob's Well Christian Fellowship, a bilingual congregation, in 2008.
The church thanks the Lord for a partnership with and monthly support from First Baptist Church, El Paso, and First Baptist Church, Anthony, for allowing them to use their education building to hold services. The congregation is a cooperating church with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico and Rio Grande Baptist Association.
Ricardo Rivera, the BCNM's Hispanic strategist, said of the growing ministry in Anthony: "Luis Ricardo Rivera has been an excellent example of a godly church planter who has received God's vision for reaching his people in southern New Mexico and has been obedient to the Lord's calling. He has been faithful in witnessing to the Hispanic families of Anthony, developing new leaders, and mobilizing the congregation into the community. He is a man of God with a mission and a Kingdom mind-set."
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (gobnm.com). Linda Prescott is assistant editor of the Baptist New Mexican.
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.