FROM THE STATES: Ala., Mo. and Ga. evangelism/missions news; 'The whole thing is a way to share Christ.'
Today's From the States features items from: The Alabama Baptist; The Pathway (Missouri);
The Christian Index (Georgia)
Ala. churches use car
shows for outreach
By Martha Simmons
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Churches throughout Alabama have found an effective way to rev up their community outreach: car shows.
Shiny automobiles -- whether speedy and new or sedate and classic -- enjoy an enthusiastic following, and many Baptist churches have found a way to get mileage out of them for their missions.
"We are in our eighth year of the Shirley Looney Memorial Car Show," said Jeremy Montgomery, student pastor at Dauphin Way Baptist Church, Mobile. "The way it got started was that Gene and Shirley Looney wanted a way to provide scholarships to youth missions trips and camp scholarships for people who didn't have the means."
As car show aficionados, the Looneys had the connections and knowledge to put on a show. "They came to my office with the idea and we prayed over it. They were actively involved in car shows around the area and thought this was a way for them to raise money for church missions," Montgomery said.
Dauphin Way holds the car show in its parking area every fourth Saturday in October and it has grown to feature approximately 170 cars. Through entry fees and sponsorships, the show raises $7,000 to $8,000 each year for church missions. Organizers aren't sure how many people attend, Montgomery said, because there is no admission charged.
"We do guesstimate though," Montgomery said. "One year, we counted 650 people on a rainy, cold day, not counting the car owners."
For Dauphin Way, however, the event is about much more than admiring shiny wheels and raising money.
"We knew that the Lord was leading us to do this show to be a fundraiser but what we didn't know was how God was going to use this to help us reach our community.
"We are very intentional about sharing the gospel during the car show," Montgomery said. "Eight to 10 teams of pastors, lay leaders and youth go to every car, meet with the owners, ask how we can pray for them and share the gospel with them."
Those encounters lead to personal connections that eventually bring new members to the church, Sunday School and other programs. "Now the church as a whole embraces this as a community outreach," Montgomery said.
That's a good thing, since organizing and executing the car show is nearly a year-round effort and requires more than 50 volunteers.
Shirley Looney passed away after the first car show but her husband has remained faithful to the project. "Gene Looney is a wonderful lay leader who pours himself into it year-round," Montgomery said. "He's helped several other churches in the area start their own car shows."
Montgomery said Dauphin Way Baptist encourages other churches to start their own car shows because of the benefits it brings to church missions.
"It has been a blessing to our church as it is such a draw from the community and the way our church plugs into it," he said. "The whole thing is a way to share Christ."
At Gardendale First Baptist Church, the car show that takes place in the church parking lot is part of the annual community-wide Gardendale Magnolia Festival and the church's outreach strategy.
"We just allow the city to use our parking lot for the car show," said Phil Cronin, minister of new members and outreach. "We don't oversee it.
"Our outreach actually takes place at the same festival but in a different area with huge inflatable slides, a shooting gallery, a remote-control car track and games that families can play for free," he said. "We also provide multiple golf carts to help folks get to and from the festival from various parking lots surrounding the area.
"We try to use these types of events to help our people find the blessing of serving and helping the people and our communities," Cronin said. "It also helps the community to get to know the church in a neutral area."
Outreach activities such as these, Cronin added, "are bridges that help people relate to the church, as well as it helps others to find their purpose in serving Christ."
Wall Highway Baptist Church, Madison, is in its second year of hosting a car show, said Pastor Greg Lee.
"The first year we had 44 entries and this year we had over 70," Lee said. "The car show draws all ages. We see a significant number of families with small children, as well as couples and individuals. Our show is spread out over five hours and there are people coming and going the whole time.
"I can tell you that it takes about 50 church members to put on this event. We cook barbecue, hamburgers and hot dogs and sell them, so we have to have church members working the grills and the cash registers. Also we have church members directing traffic, operating the registration table and so on."
Wall Highway's car shows generate funding for missions and for outreach to the community, with the bulk of the proceeds to help fund the church's annual missions trip to Nepal.
"We also use the event as outreach," Lee said. "Many of those who come onto our campus for the show are unchurched. We do our best to meet, greet, establish some working relationship and extend invitations to join us for worship. We have a team of church members who oversee the car show and we also have a team of hosts who meet and greet.
"We begin planning months in advance," Lee said. "We advertise through every means available to us but the best advertisement is passing out flyers at other car shows.
"Each year has been a lot of a lot of work but a lot of fun," he added. "We did the first one not knowing what to expect and not sure if we would do it again, and it went so well, we couldn't wait to do the next one."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org). Martha Simmons is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
Mo. churches advance the
glory of God in Italy
By Vicki Stamps
ITALY (The Pathway) -- Italy may seem like an unusual country for missions, but according to Rick Hedger, Missouri Baptist Convention's (MBC) Multiplying Churches Catalyst, Northeast Italy is a great area for mission partnerships.
"Missouri Baptists were contacted by the [Southern Baptist mission workers] to consider mission partnerships in Italy," Hedger said. "It is considered an unreached area. Only four out of 100 have a relationship with Christ which is extremely low for any place. Many have an acquaintance with religion and they think they are ok. They need the genuine gospel to see faith in Christ and new churches being started."
Several churches in the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association are taking up the challenge. Mike Parry, pastor of Fruitland Community Church, recently participated in a vision trip to Northeast Italy.
"It is a city of 40,000 which is larger than Cape with less than 200 evangelical Christians in it. It definitely qualifies as an unreached area," he said.
According to Parry, building relationships is the primary outreach activity for this mission. "We spent time in the coffee shops to meet people," he said. "We want to develop relationships and walk along the pastor and their church."
Jeremy Sells, pastor of FBC Scott City and another member of the Cape Association, has made other trips to Italy and he agrees with the plan. "Our goal is to strengthen the pastor and the congregation,” he said. “We want his church to plant new churches."
"The church is established in the area, but there is a lot of work to do,” Sells said. “The big picture is that in a city the size of Cape, there is only one evangelical church."
"The pastor doesn't speak English," he continued, "and being Americans was a draw. So, as we visited coffee shops, we included someone who could translate for us. The pastor would ask me questions about the Gospel and the translator would hear it twice."
The pastors and their church members plan to lead additional mission trips to Italy with four planned for 2018. "We want to return with music, to have Christian artists perform in the park,” Sells said. “We want to provide sports opportunities, soccer is big there. We would also like to have artists drawing while someone else is telling a Bible story. We want to attract the Italian people to have gospel conversations."
Both pastors understand the task ahead. "The area is a hard ground to plow," Parry said. "Many of the people seem indifferent to the Gospel. We want to go back and sow seeds and pray to see God's work."
This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Vicki Stamps is a contributing writer for The Pathway.
Ga. students turn $500 into
$5,000 for disaster relief
By Gerald Harris
MONROE, Ga. (The Christian Index) -- The students of First Baptist Church in Monroe have been hard at work to raise money for disaster relief efforts.
On Sunday, Oct. 29 Bobby Boswell, assistant executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, went to the church and received a check for $5,463.84 to help victims devastated by the recent hurricanes.
The students were given the initial seed money of $10 on Sept. 10 and challenged to return to the church the proceeds of their investments by Oct. 15, so they had just a few days more than a month to turn their dollars into more dollars.
Gloria Briscoe, who works in the student ministry at the church, stated, "I cannot take credit for this idea. After the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010, my student minister, Gordon Davidson, gave each of the youth $10 to multiply.
"Seven years later and after the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey was painfully apparent, Gordon walked into my office, sat down, and said, 'Remember when we did Hope4Haiti?'
"That was all he had to say. I spent the rest of the week planning what we called 'Hope in the Storm.' Once Irma and Maria hit shortly after Harvey, it confirmed how badly help was needed to step up and do something about it. The students were moved to compassion, which was ultimately the driving force for the entire effort."
Fresh eggs, trashketball, and baking
After the students were given their $10, Gloria added, "I was blown away by the way the students used their talents to raise money for disaster relief. One student, Noah Prather, sold fresh eggs from his farm.
"Four young women organized a 'Trashketball Tournament' on Wednesday night, asking students to pay to play. A group of young men organized a church-wide 'Kids vs. Adults' flag football game, charging admission and selling concessions, which raised over $600.
"Two students built a pallet cooler and sold raffle tickets for it, which raised a whopping $3,000. Many other students sold baked goods, babysat, did odd jobs, and helped with catering jobs to raise money.
Gloria concluded, "The church was incredibly supportive of all the students' fundraising efforts. They bought cakes and eggs and raffle tickets and came out to the flag football game and cheered on our students throughout the entire effort.
"They were truly surprised by the amount of money a bunch of kids were able to raise, which inspired them to do more for the cause, as well. We could not have made this possible without the unwavering support of our entire church family. There were 52 students involved in helping to raise the money."
Students are talented, creative, energetic, and ready to serve. About all most churches need to do is give them a worthy cause, support their efforts, and watch them move into action. Kudos to the students at First Baptist Monroe.
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index.
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. Except for minor style, security issues, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.