FROM THE STATES: La., Ala. and Ill. evangelism/missions news; 'It gets my blood pumping a little harder'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
The Alabama Baptist
La. seniors observe a
'youth movement' in baptisms
By Brian Blackwell
BASTROP, La. (Baptist Message) -- Wednesday she stepped inside Faith Baptist Church in Bastrop for a youth Bible study.
Years of a strained relationship with her father combined with difficulties in school had taken its toll on Musgrove – until that June 2016 evening when she learned about the love Christ has for her.
That night Musgrove turned over her troubles to God, declaring Jesus as Lord, and the following Sunday she was baptized.
Musgrove now enjoys spending time with her father, and even hopes one day to attend college as she pursues her dream of becoming a surgeon.
"Jesus has truly changed the way I see life," Musgrove said. "My home life has changed to the point that my dad is thrilled when I come inside the same room to hear me sometimes sing for the Lord. I am truly not the same girl that I was when I came to Faith Baptist Church two years ago."
Older reaching younger
Musgrove is one of 32 youth baptized since January 2016 at Faith Baptist, a church that has seen Christ move miraculously among its adult members, with an average age of 70, resulting in this effective outreach to youth.
Pastor Bodie Spicer said the catalyst for the change occurred during a Morehouse Baptist Association crusade in January 2016.
Many of the members in the congregation volunteered to serve as decision counselors, completing the training and then each night sharing Christ with those who came forward during the invitation.
Church members Don and Francis Willard did not have any children in school, but the couple felt led to bring some of the unreached youth to the evangelistic outreach.
Spicer said church members were transformed by the salvation experiences they were part of, but were especially moved by the youth who submitted their lives to Christ, including half of the eight young people who attended Bible study at the church Wednesday evenings.
Now between 60 and 80 teens and their siblings attend Bible study each Wednesday evening because the adult members were inspired to reach the youth in the community, and, the four new teen believers in their youth group began to reach their friends.
Spicer is amazed at the changes God has brought, with the church now ministering to teens not just from families in the congregation but to many young people in the community who struggle with addictions or come from troubled homes.
The pastor also has been blessed by the upbeat attitude of his older members, who have taken on the challenge of assembling care packages, holding corporate prayer, and purchasing clothing and school supplies for the youth.
Open arms ministry
"We have kids who have been in terrible situations at home," Spicer said. "I didn't really know how my members would take to these kids, but they have been tremendous to welcome them with open arms.
"We are excited about all the Lord has done and what He has planned for us in the future with the kids He has entrusted us with."
Willard admits he did not expect the God-sized change that has taken place, but is thankful.
Seeing young lives changed, he said, has made this labor of love worth every ounce of effort the adult members are putting forth.
"We do what we can and love them," Willard said. "They've been told so many times they aren't loved. But we tell them that God loves them.
"You beat your head against the wall and don't think you're doing any good one day, and then all of a sudden they walk up there and give their life to Jesus to remind us that this is worthwhile," he continued.
"It gets my blood pumping a little harder to join Christ in stepping out in faith to reach these kids with His love. That's something they will have with them, no matter what life puts in front of them."
More blessings ahead
Faith Baptist members have been preparing to take part in an area youth evangelistic rally this week at the First Baptist Church in Bastrop.
Casey Johnson, pastor of Bonita Road Baptist Church in Bastrop, will be the guest evangelist and Broken Vessels, a Christian band from DeRidder, will provide the special music.
"Our church embraced what took place that [January 2016] night and developed a burning desire to continue reaching out to those who needed Christ," Spicer said. "The spirit in the church hasn't gone away and we're looking forward to what God will do with this youth crusade."
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.
Ala. country church
experiences remarkable growth
By Grace Thornton
WARRIOR, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Earl Goode said if he understood exactly how it was happening, he'd be happy to share it.
"But I don't know why it's happening," he said. "It has to be God."
Goode, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Warrior, in Alabama’s Sulphur Springs Baptist Association, has watched his country church grow to bursting at the seams over the past two years.
"I'm an old school kind of guy," said Goode, who is in his mid-60s. "But somehow our ministry attracts younger to middle-age couples."
His church, which he described as "traditional, but a little bit country traditional," has a southern gospel praise team and has its seats packed full every Sunday. It's got a building program underway, with more than $256,000 already raised.
'God is blessing them'
Dan Nichols, director of missions for Sulphur Springs Baptist Association, said God "is just richly blessing" the church.
"It seats about 130 or so, and most Sundays they can't bring the children over from Sunday School because there's no space for them," said Nichols, a member of Calvary Baptist. "[The Barna Group] research would tell you that age of the leader and the location would be two detriments to growth. But he is a good solid preacher and has encouraged those folks, and God is blessing them."
The biggest growth is not in numbers, Goode said -- it's in spiritual depth. "I was out for 10 weeks (for health reasons), and the church didn't miss a beat -- it kept growing and functioning as a church ought to function. To try to explain what God is doing in the congregation is impossible. I just preach and believe that God is going to give the increase."
He does something else, too -- he takes visitors to lunch.
"If someone comes to visit a second time, my wife and I will take them out for a meal to get to know them," Goode said. "Many times when people visit a church like ours, they are looking for a place. They are looking for something.
So we try to make ourselves available to answer their questions and see what it is they are looking for."
Goode said he is a strong believer in personal evangelism.
"I think a lot of the time we depend on the church facility and its programs to do the job," he said. "God is depending on us as Christians to be the message bearer. If we fail to do that, we're missing our calling."
And members of Calvary Baptist are living that out. They consistently invite friends and family to come to church with them, he said. They've seen many people saved, including some out of drug and alcohol addiction.
Taking care of each other
And for many years, they have taken care of the people around them.
When the pastor before Goode declined in health after 20 years serving the church, the congregation continued to pay his salary after he retired. Then after he passed away, they continued to provide housing and other needs for his widow.
They've "loved on" Goode as well as he's faced major health issues in the past few months, he said.
"This is a special church, as far as just being together. They want to help and try to be faithful to Scripture and dynamic in their faith," Goode said. "I wake up every morning grateful to get to be a part.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
Ill. summit addresses
Chicago's major need
By Andrew Woodrow
BROADVIEW, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- "Many of our churches are suffering in the area of leadership," said Steven Glover, IBSA's zone consultant in Chicago, describing a major need in the Windy City.
Reversing that trend was at the heart of IBSA's first Illinois Leadership Summit in Chicagoland, held at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church March 23-24.
"I'm excited having this conference in Chicago," Glover said. "We are gathering together to develop leaders. And that's key because we can use that here in Chicago."
Nearly 70 percent of the state's 13 million people live in the Chicago metro area. But only 32 percent of its residents say they are actively involved in their Christian faith. And there is only one Southern Baptist church for every 34,000 people.
"We once had a rich history of missions," said Phil Miglioratti, a Chicago native and IBSA prayer consultant. "But many of our congregations have suffered because their generations didn't pass on the Christian faith. So many churches are suffering through a lack of proper spiritual leaders."
The Illinois Leadership Summit focused on pastoral leadership training through 20 breakout sessions and three general sessions led by Daniel Im, director of church multiplication for Lifeway Christian Resources.
In each session, Im emphasized the need to make disciples and train leaders.
"You can't achieve the vision God has for your church without two key elements: a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline," Im said.
Despite the threat of snow, nearly 120 people attended the summit. Many who gathered at the conference were grateful for the chance to attend an event in their city. When asked how many in the audience had previously attended a Leadership Summit, fewer than 10 people raised their hands. The annual Illinois Leadership Summit and the Midwest Leadership Summit, held every three years, are traditionally hosted in Springfield.
"Having the conference up north is more accessible for me," said Jeong Hun Lee, pastor of Korean Baptist Church in Schaumburg. "And I hope there will be more conferences like this in the Chicago area."
Others commented on IBSA's partnership with churches in Chicago and how the summit could go a long way in promoting spiritual leaders because of its location in such a diverse city.
"Partnership is important simply because the church is more effective," Miglioratti said, "And that's how it is when churches partner with IBSA. Churches are called to fulfill the Great Commission which is for all people -- all ethnicities. And Chicago is a great place to live out the Great Commission."
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibonline.IBSA.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Andrew Woodrow is a multimedia journalist for the Illinois Baptist State Associaion.
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.