FROM THE STATES: Mo., Md. and Texas evangelism/missions news; 'They see that ... there is hope in Christ'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Pathway (Missouri)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
200-plus soldiers, trainees
accept Christ in Mo.
By Ben Hawkins
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (The Pathway) -- More than 200 Army soldiers and trainees professed faith in Christ during two consecutive Sundays at Fort Leonard Wood earlier this month, and 20 have already been baptized, according to a Southern Baptist chaplain on the base.
Captain Jose Rondon reported that at least 128 soldiers and trainees -- and perhaps more -- professed faith in Christ on March 11, and another 80 professed faith on March 18.
Some of these men and women were involved in Basic Training, while others recently completed Basic Training. According to Rondon, the rigor and discipline involved in Basic Training causes many people to rethink their priorities and assumptions.
"In the midst of all the anxiety, in the midst of all the transformation, they can see their constitutional right to religious freedom is preserved," Rondon told The Pathway. "And once that is done, they can see the chaplain talking to them about their fears, about their problems at home. The message of Christ becomes critical in their lives. They see that they don't need to be broken as they are, but that there is hope in Christ. There is salvation in Christ."
Rondon has served as a chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood since early this year. Originally from Venezuela, he came to faith in Christ in the 1990s through the witness of an International Mission Board missionary. Later, he immigrated to South Carolina, where he attended a Southern Baptist college -- North Greenville University -- and later he worked on master's and doctoral degrees at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He became a United States Citizen in 2010 and a year later joined the military with the hopes of becoming a chaplain.
Rondon said this month's professions of faith at Fort Leonard Wood display the power of God's Word. Through the preaching of His Word, God works intimately in the lives of soldiers and trainees. And he's convinced that, through the preaching of God's Word, those who have already professed faith in the Gospel will daily grow and "become cognizant of and really experience the power of Christ."
To learn more about Southern Baptist military chaplaincy, visit the North American Mission Board website at https://www.namb.net/chaplaincy/military.
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway.
Md. church covers
homeless guests with love
By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md. (BaptistLIFE) -- South Columbia Baptist Church hosted over 30 men who were homeless during Valentine's week and presented each one with their own personal homemade, handmade quilt.
Each year in February the church participates in Winter Haven, a rotating homeless shelter in Howard County supported by 18 houses of faith from December through April. Every day they transport their guests from Elizabeth House in Laurel to their church for a hot meal, a place to sleep, and friendship.
Terry Rudd, minister of education and outreach, said the whole church is involved in the ministry.
"It's always great to see our members as they volunteer their time, ministering to the men, making meals and spending the night. One evening our children sang for them and it was amazing." Rudd said the men were very responsive and especially touched to hear the children.
Ladies in the church's "Blankets of Love" group gear up every other year to make the guests quilts. KarenSue Dean, who leads the group with co-chairman Danita Kinnison, began Blankets of Love after Dean's grandmother died.
"She was a quilter and was gifted with a lot of her fabric. I didn't know what to do with it," Dean said, but she met with other quilters and they began a sewing group to bless folks who were ill or going through difficult times.
They regularly contribute blankets for children to Mercy Ships. The church has been very supportive. Members provide plenty of fabric. Dean chuckled and said the fabric closet is overflowing.
"It's like we have rabbits in there, it just keeps multiplying!" Dean said, noting the Winter Haven project was a perfect opportunity to minister through the quilts.
"We thought, what a great way to really put into action our caring and love for other people and to let these guys know we're really praying for them," she said.
They sew through the year, but the group really ramps up when the shelter time gets close, swelling to over 25 participants. "It's a great multi-generational group, Dean said, explaining they have kids in elementary school and seniors into their 80's.
"We typically give the men their blankets on Valentine's Day because they generally stay with us that week. We tell them, 'We've been praying for you and wanted to give you something, and we want you to know we love you and want to take care of you.'"
Dean said many of the men are quiet and closed off, but this present usually makes an impact on them. "Some really light up. It brings them out of their shell. You give them that quilt and you see a smile start on their face." Dean said they really like the blankets because they can take them with them as they travel from one church to another through the winter.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlife.com), newsmagazine of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is communications specialist for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Texas Baptists strategize
to reach Austin
By Bonnie Pritchett
AUSTIN, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- Living up to its motto -- "Keep Austin weird" -- has earned the Texas capital a reputation for being, well, weird. The city's ethos colors it a brilliant blue -- a stark contrast to the state's ideologically and politically red patina. So, in a city in which 77 percent of its residents are either lost or unchurched, what is the weirdest thing Austinites can do?
They can surrender their lives to Christ and join the work of a newly planted or revitalized church suggest the leaders of Reach Austin, an SBTC campaign to share the Gospel from New Braunfels to Georgetown and Bastrop to Dripping Springs.
American cities like Austin plant, cultivate and harvest an "add on Christianity," not so much an anti-Christian culture, Steve Cochran, SBTC Reach Austin strategist, told the TEXAN.
Cochran and SBTC administrators Executive Director Jim Richards, Church Planting Associate Barry Calhoun, and Church Planting Consultant Terry Coy hosted two lunch meetings March 1 at Calvary Baptist Church in San Marcos and Northside Church in Austin. As with the Reach Houston campaign launched in 2016, Reach Austin seeks to establish new churches and revitalize declining ones through evangelistic outreach in targeted neighborhoods.
Hurricane Harvey's impact on the church planting effort is hard to quantify, Ben Hays, Reach Houston strategist said. Damage made getting traction difficult for planters but it also made mission-minded people outside the state aware of the city's need for the Gospel.
Food for thought
A small but "quality" group of participants gathered in San Marcos, said Robby Partain, Bluebonnet Baptist Association director of missions. With 55 actively participating churches in the 78-member association, Partain is hopeful church planters will come from within the local congregations.
His association currently supports four church plants, and the burgeoning population along the southern Interstate 35, Highways 183 and 71 corridors indicate the need for more.
Sandwiched between the Austin and San Antonio Baptist Associations, the Bluebonnet Baptist Association faithfully encourages church planting but the pipeline of pastors has run dry, Cochran told those gathered for the Austin meeting.
By 2 p.m. that afternoon he finally sat down to eat his lunch, a boxed meal from the Austin-born Schlotzsky's sandwich shop, as a few remaining participants helped clear off the five round plastic-topped folding tables in the sanctuary of Northside Church. Between bites of sandwich and farewells to pastors Cochran and David Smith, Austin Baptist Association (ABA) executive director, spoke with the TEXAN about how they believed God would use the initiative to draw Austin's "weird" residents into a relationship with Christ -- especially in a city that can be as hard as Central Texas limestone.
"What I'm learning about the culture here is it's not anti-Christian -- there are some anti-Christian folks here -- but this is not an anti-Christian culture. This is an add-to Christian culture," Cochran said.
He believes Austinites eschew the theological for the philosophical, creating a self-prescribed Christianity in which there is "nothing wrong with being a Christian and 'doing this.' Or being a Christian and 'going there.' Or being a Christian and 'accepting this,'" Cochran said. "It's the Areopagus. It's just 'Let's hear something new today.'"
From East Texas to the Areopagus
Around the time Cochran could have been planning for retirement, God called him to plant a church. With the blessing and financial support of Macedonia Baptist Church in Longview where he had served as pastor for 15 years, he and his wife Karen set out to determine just where God wanted this new vine of his planting to take root.
Cochran was 54 years old.
That was six years ago and Crosswalk Church in Round Rock, Texas, is a thriving congregation that made its home in a former Hindu temple.
Cochran's age illustrates that church planting is not only for those just starting in ministry, Smith said. And Cochran hopes to leverage his age and 40 years in full-time ministry in the Reach Austin revitalization efforts.
Sometimes, convincing older Christians in an established but languishing church that changes are required to revive the congregation and reach their community with the Gospel is more difficult than starting a church from scratch Cochran said. His age signals he's been around the proverbial block and understands their hesitancy.
"If a person much younger than me went in they might be perceived as not respecting the history of that church," he said.
Whether planting or revitalizing, Reach Austin pastoral prospects must have a "fire" for their work and think like an entrepreneur and a foreign missionary, Cochran told those gathered at the Austin meeting. Starting a church from the ground up is not unlike starting a church in another country.
Pastor candidates must pass a vetting process to ensure they are prepared and qualified for the job to which they are called. Candidates must also show their entrepreneurial spirit by securing support -- financial, material, service -- from area churches. Financial support from state and regional associations is available for qualified candidates for up to three years.
Preparing the ground
God went ahead of the SBTC leaders to lay the ground work for Reach Austin, Cochran told the TEXAN. The ABA, which currently supports six church plants, sold its office building last year for $1.7 million and uses the proceeds to support church plants. The association staff now work from leased office space at Hyde Park Baptist Church.
Additionally, Austin comes with its own built-in prayer network -- a 10-year-old support system of about 57 churches, each devoting one 24-hour day a month to pray for the city.
And the need for prayer has only grown with the city's population. The number of people who move to or are born in Austin every day -- 150 -- could populate the average-sized Southern Baptist church, making the Texas capital the fastest growing city of its size in the nation according to the U.S. Census. It is the 11th largest city in the U.S.
Those numbers add a sense of urgency to the evangelistic effort, the pastors said.
And even with all of the support built into the SBTC church planting system Cochran admitted he struggled.
"I had plenty of hard days," Cochran told the pastors. "I laid across the bed of my apartment many days just, honestly, weeping saying, 'Lord, I don't know how I'm going to do this.'"
Cochran's experience pastoring established churches and the Round Rock plant makes him the best candidate to lead Reach Austin, Partain and Smith said. It also taught him to wait on God.
"It's been refreshing," Cochran said. "I've never lived by faith like these last six years."
The pastors agreed -- Austin is a hard place to plant the Gospel message.
"But I'm finding people want to know the truth. People here are eager to know the truth," Cochran said. "They may not respond immediately but there's an eagerness to know the way -- The Way."
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.
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, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.