FROM THE STATES: Ky., Ga. and Fla. evangelism/missions news; Ky. churches 'Together as one body'
Today's From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Christian Index (Georgia)
Florida Baptist Convention
Six Ky. congregations,
three services, one motive
By Myriah Snyder
PEMBROKE & GLASGOW, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- In 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. said in a television interview, "I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that 11 o'clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour in Christian America."
His sentiment was echoed recently by Andy Haley, pastor of Pembroke Baptist Church in Kentucky. Hailey feels that "the church should be setting the example in coming together and be unified."
So his predominantly Caucasian congregation joined with a local African American congregation, St. Bethlehem Baptist Church in Pembroke, for two joint worship services. Both were held earlier this year, one hosted by each congregation.
A few months later, four churches in Glasgow -- Coral Hill Baptist, First Baptist, Immanuel Baptist and Harlow's Chapel Baptist, two predominantly Caucasian and two predominantly African-American congregations -- came together for a joint Easter Sunday service. More than 1,300 people attended the two-hour "celebration of the victory Christ secured on our behalf at the cross and proven at the resurrection," Ray Woodie, pastor of Coral Hill, said.
"Really, I don't think God ever intended for us to have a Black church or a White church," Haley said. "I think He intended for us to be 'the church' and we really need to be setting the example as the body of Christ on what the body of Christ should look like."
On a Sunday in January, the Pembroke service was held in Saint Bethlehem's sanctuary. The churches joined together for Sunday School and stayed together for a fellowship meal afterward. Haley preached for that service.
The second service in February was similar, but it was held in Pembroke's sanctuary. It featured a combined choir, and Rowland Butler, pastor of St. Bethlehem, preached. Both services saw more than 85 percent of both congregations in attendance, and as far as Haley could tell, everyone reacted positively to it.
When Haley and Butler decided to do this, they also bore in mind that the partnership should extend past the Sunday morning services. Both congregations are now looking for active ways to partner in ministry in the community, including a joint community cleanup.
Haley said their goal is for people "just truly coming together and being the hands and feet of Jesus together as one body under two different names."
The Glasgow service was held in a local high school gymnasium. Woodie encouraged members of all four churches to not only worship together, but to work together.
"We share a passion and a desire to see God do something unique in our community. That's what has given rise to the opportunity for us to join forces, join our faith together in a Sunday morning worship this Easter," he said in a promotional video, speaking on behalf of all four lead pastors.
The theme of the day was "the story" -- creation, the fall, the rescue, the restoration. Michael Rice, pastor of First Baptist, and Jeremy Atwood, pastor of Immanuel Baptist, shared how they think this "story" can impact a church and an individual.
To fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples together, there needs to be fellowship that leads to relationships, Keith Rowlett, pastor of Harlow's Chapel Baptist, noted. "The greatest impact of it all will be that we get to know each other, fellowship with each other, be friends with each other and even start a relationship with each other."
"Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death," the Glasgow congregation read corporately from Ephesians 2:14-16. The service also featured members of the choirs of all four churches joining together, and all four lead pastors speaking on "the story."
"The one thing that everybody in this room has in common is not the color of our skin or the money in our pocket, where we live, where we work, or where we go to school. Everyone in this room, myself included, we're all sinners," Woodie said, before extending the call to respond to the Gospel during the invitation.
Haley shared that the theme of both Pembroke services was "a glimpse of heaven on earth."
"I truly believe that's what heaven is going to be like. Every kindred, tribe, tongue and nation are going to be in heaven. And if we're going to worship in eternity together, we probably ought to get used to doing that here on earth," he added.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is assistant editor for the Western Recorder.
Small Ga. church goes
all-in to reach youth
By Scott Barkley
DALTON, Ga. (Christian Index) -- McFarland Hill was established in 1940. Like many churches, though, it had reached a time of struggling when Rogers arrived in April 2011. On his first Sunday, 35 people showed up.
A year or two into his tenure, Charles Rogers and the church decided to take drastic steps to reach youth.
"We made a commitment to make Wednesday nights all about youth," he explained. "I told the church that it would take every one of us if we were going to do it."
So, the church stopped having adult services on Wednesdays and instead directed those efforts to children and students. This remained the case for two years. Time went to planning for, inviting and working with young people.
Rogers ended up being right; it took all of them to do it.
"On the first night we had three children and 12 adults. Now, we run about 100 students on Wednesdays in senior high, junior high and Awana classes."
Consider that McFarland Hill averages 175-200 in worship on Sundays, with 75 or so being youth. What's more, Rogers is the only staff member. The youth program is run entirely by volunteers. Plans are, though, to one day hire a student pastor.
During the summer students continue to meet, though Rogers says things might be geared a little more to being "playful" alongside a brief Bible study or devotion. He also places a lot of credit with the church's music ministry and incorporating choruses alongside hymns. That consistency is important, but not the biggest difference maker.
Don't work in limitations
"People ask me about the key to our growth, and I don't have a definitive answer," he said. "The main thing I see is that in my time as a pastor (The 62-year-old started in the ministry at 24.) you have to get people going in the same direction. That should be the case from pulpit to pew. Have everyone on the same page; no arguments, no egos. Do what's best."
"It can be done," Rogers said, regarding smaller churches like McFarland Hill and efforts to reach students. "God can do that. So often, we get caught up in thinking we can't do anything because we're too small. We try to put limitations on God.
"Don't give up. Get on the same page with your leadership. Follow the Lord, stay scriptural, and God will bless you.
"When everyone is willing to work together for a common goal under the Lordship of Jesus things can happen and young people can be reached. If God can do it through us, He can do it through anybody."
This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is production manager for the Christian Index.
Fla.'s 'One Family' event
celebrates baptism, unity
By Keila Diaz
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- More than 300 believers of multiple cultures and backgrounds gathered at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park to celebrate the baptism of 79 new believers.
The One Family beach baptism celebration brought together 15 churches from South Florida for baptisms and fellowship on a day that started off with a brief rain shower but was quickly followed by radiating sunshine.
The shore filled with family and friends holding up phones and cameras trying to capture the moment their loved ones were baptized while others clapped and sang worship songs.
Emanuel Roque, Hispanic church catalyst of the Florida Baptist Convention, counted down the pastors as they simultaneously submerged those there to be baptized in the warm beach waters that day.
"This day is a fantastic picture of genuine love for one another," said Sherard Burns, pastor of Renewing Life Church.
"Today I am filled with a lot of hope," said Noel Lozano, pastor of Turning Point Baptist Church and one of the pastors who planned the event. "I hope that today is a little catalyst that will set more like this off in the rest of the state."
Big, medium and small congregations fellowshipped over burgers, hotdogs, games of dominos and beach volleyball while Spanish, English and Creole were spoken interchangeably.
Ana Antunes, of Iglesia Bautista Northside, was one of the many baptized and for her it was a moment filled emotion.
"It was very different from other baptisms I've seen and I was very excited. I don't really have words to describe it," she said as her daughter wrapped her in a hug.
Keane Carter of Renewing Life was also baptized.
"I feel totally renewed and refreshed," he said and added that it was a very special time for him as he was also in the middle of a fast where God revealed himself in a mighty way.
Itzel Arellano, from Turning Point, came to the beach to support her church family.
"I think this is such a great event. We get to fellowship and celebrate our faith in Christ as one family. I wish we did more things like this."
"It's not just about today," said Roque, "But about continuing this from today on."
See earlier report on the "One Family" event.
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida 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. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.