FROM THE STATES: N.C., La., Ill. evangelism/missions news; 'The responsibility ... is on the believer'

Today's From the States features items from:

Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)

Baptist Message (Louisiana)

Illinois Baptist

**********

N.C. mapping initiative going

strong amid demographic changes

By Liz Tablazon & Seth Brown

CARY, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- As North Carolina's population continues to shift toward greater ethnic and cultural diversity, the Peoples Next Door N.C. (PNDNC) strategy to bring the gospel to unreached people groups across the state hasn't changed.

That is because "we already had the mentality that we're equipping people to go to these individuals," said Zac Lyons, senior consultant for Great Commission partnerships of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

"The responsibility of crossing the barriers, whether it’s linguistic or cultural, is on the believer, not on the person that's in the harvest," Lyons said in an interview with the Biblical Recorder.

Unreached people groups are ethnic or cultural communities with little or no Christian presence, according to the International Mission Board. In seeking to equip churches to discover, engage and disciple unreached people groups, PNDNC takes into consideration expected demographic growth in the generations following immigrant parents and grandparents.

As migration increases worldwide, the U.S. has undergone significant population changes in recent years due to natural factors, such as fertility and mortality rates. Beginning in 2016, there has been an absolute decline in the white, non-Hispanic population for the first time since the census began 1790, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.

In fact, white children born after 2007 are the nation's first minority white generation. North Carolina is among the top 10 states experiencing the greatest declines in the white population under 10 years old. Since 2016 other populations in the U.S. have increased by 4.7 million due to natural factors.

A recent study by Baylor University revealed the percentage of multiracial congregations in the U.S. has nearly doubled, although those churches still lack as much diversity as their surrounding neighborhoods.

The increase in American cultural and ethnic diversity, coupled with the PNDNC strategy to share the Good News with unchurched communities among immigrant populations, means calls for ethnic unity and cross-cultural evangelism are happening simultaneously in Southern Baptist life.

PNDNC trains individuals to share the Gospel across cultural boundaries, even within a single people group.

Lyons described three categories that exist within many immigrant communities: a culturally religious core, a fringe population and the majority population. This pattern does not fit every people group but can be observed in most, Lyons said.

The core segment is the most religiously and culturally non-assimilated, he explained.

"They are mostly likely to have been older when they immigrated, most likely to very highly identify with the context in which they came from ... and the cultural pressures that keep them from changing and choosing to follow Jesus."

Lyons said the fringe population embraces many "American values."

"A lot of times, they're existing in both worlds," he said. "They're existing in the majority world around them, but they're also relating back to ... their own background.... They're asking questions that their culture doesn't typically allow them to ask, because they're being exposed to more things that they haven't been before."

The PNDNC manual identified the majority population within a people group as ranging "from non-English speaking to semi-bilingual and are fairly tied to the cultural and religious norms of their group.

"However, there are some small changes taking place within their worldview."

Lyons said all three subgroups are often found in one, multigenerational home.

"It makes it incredibly complex in terms of how you would engage them. All that's required, though, is to train laypeople to become adaptable missionaries.... It's a missional mindset rather than trying to create a place that's comfortable for every generation."

In the process of multiplying disciples, the new believer from any generation then receives the responsibility to cross barriers to take the Gospel to the others, Lyons explained, pointing back to Jesus' model in Luke 10.

"Jesus says to stay with the home that receives you.... If someone receives the messenger and the message of the Gospel, and then they're also receiving the mission themselves, we need to empower them to reach the rest of the community."

Lyons emphasized the importance of meeting and discipling people groups in their own cultural contexts. The PNDNC manual notes that going to the unreached is about reproducing believers, not "Americanizing" communities.

Since 2016, teams from local congregations have launched disciple-making strategies in 25 of the top 80 unreached people groups in North Carolina -- the top 10 of which are in eight population centers.

There are currently 154 known unreached people groups in the state.

For more information visit ncbaptist.org. Visit the PNDNC Facebook page or follow them on Twitter: @pndnc.


This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Liz Tablazon is a staff writer and Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder.

**********

Special needs youth, adults

shine at La. Champions Camp

By Brian Blackwell

WOODWORTH, La. (Baptist Message) -- A meeting room at Tall Timbers Conference Center was transformed to a karaoke hall for 14 people with special needs during the first ever Champions Camp in late June.

Some sang country tunes while others tried their best to mimic popular pop artists on stage as each participant enjoyed their moment in the spotlight. Among those was Amber Gillespie, who like many others savored her first camp experience.

"I got to sing and it was so much fun to be up there," said an elated Gillespie, a member of Dixie Baptist Church in Sieper. "I would tell anyone who is thinking of coming to come because you will really have a fun time out here."

The first-ever Louisiana Baptist summer camp for people with special needs matched participants with buddies who accompanied them during the event June 25-27 at Tall Timbers Conference Center in Woodworth. The camp featured games, activities, worship and Bible study for children and adults from ages 8 and up who have intellectual or development disabilities.

"Every one of them heard clearly how much they are loved by God and that He has a plan for their life," said camp organizer David Anderson, children's ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists. "They also got to have a camp experience that they normally would not have access to. They were able to play bazooka ball, go pedal boating, do crafts, go swimming, worship and hang out with friends. Even the buddies who attended and helped the campers had a blessed and amazing time. Several of the campers have already asked if they can come to camp every year. We, of course, said yes."

Loved by God

Jarrod Hawthorne, who served as camp pastor, said the event allowed each person to realize they are a champion and loved by God.

"It's so important because special needs families need the body of Christ and the reality is the body of Christ needs special needs families," Hawthorne said. "To see that connection this week in a real tangible way where they are loved on and focused on is really good. Sometimes serving special needs families is overwhelming because the need is so great. And to set aside time and resources and a place to really give them the attention they need and deserve is huge."

Idea born years ago

Anderson said he has always dreamed of bringing the camp to Louisiana so those people with special needs like his daughter, Chloe, could have a chance to experience camp like so many others.

"The dream for this camp was born in my heart years ago," he said. "My own daughter has some special needs, but, all she wanted was to lead a 'regular' life. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma does a special needs camp every year and my family has been involved with that for at least 10 years.

"For the last several years I have prayed and asked God to open a door to bring this experience to my home state here in Louisiana," he continued. "This year was our initial adventure. However, we feel like it is only the beginning ripple of a move of God to share His love with special needs families and friends. I truly believe that special needs families are one of our large unreached people groups in Louisiana. So many special needs families feel like they do not fit in anywhere due to the care needed for their family member. Our hope is that this camp might be the spark for many of our churches to see the ministry opportunity directly in front of them with these amazing families."

Champions Camp will return June 13-15, 2019 at Tall Timbers. For information or to be put on the mailing list e-mail david.anderson@louisianabaptists.org or Jessica.dubea@louisianabaptists.org.


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.

**********

Ill. church says

'Game On' in Poland

By Meredith Flynn

RICHESTER, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Rochester First Baptist Church had sent individual members on mission trips. What they hadn't done, said pastor Chad Williams, was send a team to serve together. In June, Williams and five others from his church traveled to Poland to serve alongside missionaries who are building relationships in a country characterized by institutional religion.

"Like most of Europe, it's not the easiest place for ministry," Williams said. The team originally planned to host sports camps in partnership with the Hesskew family, who serve in Poland through the International Mission Board. But the makeup of the mission team, which included several pre-teens, made them a good fit for ministry in local schools.

The group held a field day at a Montessori school and an after-school program at an international school, teaching English as a Second Language in both. They also helped missionary Albert Hesskew minister to athletes he coaches on baseball and football teams, and his church's Upward sports program.

The Hesskews are familiar faces to many Illinois churches this summer. They're featured in LifeWay's "Game On" Vacation Bible School curriculum, a fact Williams was unaware of until he started receiving messages from fellow church leaders saying they were praying for the Polish missionaries in VBS, even as the Rochester team was flying across the Atlantic to meet them in-person.

The focus on relationships that is so central to the Hesskews' work can have an impact on how his church does ministry in their own community, Williams said.

"The opportunity to work with people in Europe, whether it's Poland or somewhere else, I think it's an opportunity to further strengthen how we view ministry here," he said. "You have to build a relationship, and make connections, and then you have to follow through with that relationship."

Rochester FBC is planning two international trips next year—to Toronto, and back to Poland.

"Even for small churches, there is the ability and opportunity to go overseas," Williams said. "We're not a huge church, but we sent six. And that willingness to be obedient to God's call to go to the ends of the earth, I believe, will be a bigger blessing than maybe anything else we do this year."


This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (illinoisbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

**********

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.

Download Story