FROM THE STATES: Ga., N.M., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; Cultivating ministry from 'Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate'
Today's From the States features items from:
Christian Index (Georgia)
Baptist New Mexican
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
College football rivalry
spurs ministry in Ga.
By Adam Wynn
McDONOUGH, Ga. (Christian Index) -- At Confluence 2018, "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," the name given to the grand rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech on the football field, produced some outstanding love for those in need. During the annual convention for Baptist Collegiate Ministries from across the state of Georgia, the rival schools donated more than 600 backpacks through Christmas Backpacks.
Like any great rivalry, that feeling of mutual disdain stretches far beyond the Hedges of Sanford Stadium or the Flats of Bobby Dodd. For many alumni and fans of both institutions, it's a yearlong celebration of how much the other guy stinks.
And if you happen to be the most recent victor, as the Bulldogs currently are after last November's 38-7 drubbing of the Yellow Jackets, then that is a pretty sweet year when you get to rub it in. However, all that was put aside for the Gospel.
Spiritual and tangible needs met
"To impact kids all across the nation for the Gospel of Christ, what an awesome opportunity for us to do that," Kenneth Brock, a fourth-year business management major at the University of Georgia and the president of the BCM at UGA, said.
Overall, BCM campuses from Georgia gave 1,013 backpacks to this ongoing program. The bulk of those came from the internal competition between Georgia and Tech.
"Not only are they getting physical needs and tangible things, they're also getting a Bible and the Christmas story laid out," Powell Fennell, the BCM president at Tech who also happens to be a fourth-year business major, stated. "A lot of what we do is to impact Georgia Tech, but getting to share the Gospel with kids we'll never meet is so, so cool."
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board and its cooperating churches have been coordinating the Christmas Backpacks since 2012 and have seen more than a quarter million backpacks given to children in need.
Children who receive a backpack from the GBMB are going to get small toys, hygienic supplies, clothes, and something far greater: their own Bible.
"We are here to equip students to reduce brokenness and lostness in our world," Brock explained, citing the official mission statement for his BCM. "Taking that definition and applying it to these backpacks, we are equipping students, giving them a very tangible way, saying, "Hey, get these items and fill it in a backpack.'"
Brock also emphasized that these backpacks serve to reduce brokenness and lostness by making sure that every child has that copy of the Gospel and the Christmas story in front of them.
"When you look at the Scripture, you often see Jesus meeting spiritual needs by first meeting physical needs. It's an easy access point," Brock noted.
Giving spurred by rivalry
For the student presidents at both of these schools, getting to show children the love of Christ is far greater than any rivalry.
Even one with its own name.
"Two or three years ago was the first time we said, 'Let's try to make these backpacks part of the rivalry.' Some videos were exchanged … because competition is a great motivator, but there's a mountain of backpacks on both sides," Fennell pointed out. "Yes, it's a competition and a rivalry, but at the end of the day, getting to stand beside each other, all of this is so, so good."
The backpacks also go toward the overall standings in the Confluence Cup, a trophy awarded to one school at the end of Confluence after compiling points for athletic competitions, spirit competitions, and charitable events.
"I remember two years when Tech beat us in back packs but we beat them by just one second in the Mega Relay," Brock reminisced. "So there was a little trash talk, obviously, but it was a lot of fun. We realize everything we do here is for the glory of God.
"You have to think that, at some points, the disciples had competition, as well," Brock joked.
Tech had won the Confluence Cup for the last three years, but Brock and the rest of the Bulldogs from UGA wrested it out of their hands and brought Confluence Cup honors back to Athens with them.
Doing ministry together
Both Fennell and Brock were excited about this renewed instance of the rivalry for several reasons. While collecting backpacks was a phenomenal opportunity to minister to people in need, it also served as an excellent chance for the students at each campus to do ministry together in a way that builds fellowship on-campus.
"To see the whole BCM come together and to make trips to Wal-Mart, that's where the memories were made doing this," Brock elaborated.
"It was really cool to see everyone come together. Each community group was trying to bring in the most … and seeing community groups who don't even know each other well build community," Fennell said. "Seeing the camaraderie and the community, that was really energizing."
That spirit of cooperation and community is exactly what Confluence is supposed to be about, and getting to spend time with students at UGA and Emory and Georgia State and several other campuses is exactly what Fennell loves about the weekend away.
"The mission of Confluence, or at least how I see it … is being able to come here each year and see that we're not in this alone. There are believers at other campuses going through the same challenges we are," Fennell explained.
"Okay, so Tech and UGA may be rivals, but at the end of the day, I know that anyone at UGA's BCM would be there wholeheartedly for anyone at Tech, and vice versa," Fennell added. "Confluence is where that starts."
The students at Georgia made it their goal to provide 111 backpacks this year in honor of their theme for the year, which is based in Colossians 1:11.
"To be able to meet that goal and to pass it, that was awesome for us," Brock noted.
UGA provided 199 backpacks while Tech surpassed their own goal with 403.
Standing in awe
"I just stood in awe at everything that was going on," Fennell beamed, talking about the massive number of backpacks each campus unloaded.
While the students at Georgia Tech brought in twice as many backpacks as the delegation from UGA, Brock chose to focus on the incredible amount of good that was done by both campuses.
"Man. Congratulations to Tech, but I'm very proud of my students at UGA. We surpassed our goal by almost double," Brock noted.
Brock, Fennell and the students at their respective campuses may never have their names uttered alongside legendary athletes in this series, names like Theron Sapp or Harrison Butker, but they know that they all contributed something pretty amazing to one of the more unique and certainly least spiteful instances of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."
"To stand out here to see 600 backpacks between both campuses, that's a lot of time and effort by these students," Brock proudly acknowledged. "I'm proud of both these students at UGA and at Tech."
This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Adam Wynn writes for the Christian Index.
N.M. church staffs
school's reading room
By Danny Porter
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Members of Del Norte Baptist Church, Albuquerque, and administrators at Governor Bent Elementary School have partnered to impact students and their families, encourage faculty and grow the community bond.
In January 2018, Governor Bent Elementary School won a competitive $25,000 literacy grant to fund a reading room. The school received the grant in large part because of its preexisting partnership with Del Norte.
The reading room allows Del Norte volunteers to provide weekly one-on-one reading and tutoring to first and second graders. For the 2018-2019 school year, Del Norte has 21 tutors trained to assist the school's students and faculty. Tutoring for the fall semester launched Sept. 13.
Shine School Partnership, an Albuquerque-based Christian nonprofit that pairs local churches with APS Title 1 schools, approached Governor Bent's principal, Jonathan Saiz, with Del Norte's interest in helping the school. A Memorandum of Understanding enabled the partnership to begin.
According to Shine, their partner churches "work with the school to identify the needs of the students, families and teachers that are obstacles to the school's success. Shine Partnerships go in asking the school what they need and then tailor strategies to meet these needs, realizing that the needs of each school will be different."
Lillian Moon, Del Norte's children's minister and primary liaison, helped the school secure the grant. During a presentation to the grant board, Moon explained her passion about child literacy, "I have grandchildren in another state that struggle with reading, and I can't help them. But, maybe, I can help another child."
Describing the partnership's impact, Saiz said, "Not only have we seen positive scores with our students, we've seen real relationships built with the students. The kids are really excited to see their mentor once a week and to read to their mentor." He said scores increased after three or four months of the program work. "It's exciting to see the work we'll be able to do in one year," he said.
While some schools may be hesitant to work with a church, Saiz said this was never the case with Governor Bent. "I trust the work of Shine, and I've seen the work that Shine does in our community," he said. "I wasn't worried because I trusted the organizations knowing that their best interest was for children and the betterment of the community."
Beyond tutoring, Del Norte helps the school meet other student and teacher needs, including running a care closet that offers students a free change of clothes when needed. The church also provides weekend food bags for roughly 40 students who otherwise would go hungry. Del Norte volunteers help with the school's book fair and Thanksgiving lunch, too.
On Oct. 30, Del Norte and Governor Bent will combine the church's Trunk or Treat with the school's Halloween Carnival in Del Norte's parking lot, across the street from the school.
Moon said the partnership has provided "a way to be able to reach children we never could through our church." "This is our mission field. Jesus said go into Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria. This is our Jerusalem," she said.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (gobnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Danny Porter is a staff writer for the Baptist New Mexican.
Tenn. pastor has a
plan for revitalization
By Lonnie Wilkey
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Church revitalization is one of the Five Objectives adopted by Tennessee Baptist messengers at their annual meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood in 2014.
The objective is simple: Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.
Defining church revitalization is not as simple. Some might think that church revitalization is simply an increase in numbers.
Not so, say those who are involved with church revitalization across the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
"Church revitalization is a process," said Steve Holt, church services director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
The process moves a church that is plateaued or declining "toward a healthier and more sustainable environment in which the following becomes a greater reality: greater evangelistic effectiveness, increased participation in worship and Bible study, a renewed faithfulness in stewardship, and growth in community and mission involvement," he said.
One of the many Tennessee Baptist churches across the state that is in the process of revitalization is Pleasant View Baptist Church in the Cumberland Heights community of Clarksville.
Pastor Jerry Jeter is quick to point out that when he arrived three-and-a-half years ago, the church was averaging around 150 in attendance. Today, the number is about the same, he noted.
Yet, he is seeing revitalization that goes beyond just a head count.
When he arrived at Pleasant View the median age of the congregation was 70-plus, Jeter noted. Now, the median age is around 42 years, he said. Reasons for the reduction in age vary, but it relates mostly to older members who have died or can no longer attend church while an increased emphasis on evangelism and outreach has brought new, younger families into the congregation.
"There has been a major shift in the age (of the church). That will help us to reach more lost people," he affirmed.
Also, in the three years before Jeter arrived, Pleasant View averaged 11 baptisms a year. In the past three years the church has averaged 24 baptisms a year.
A former church planter, Jeter had experience in helping revitalize a church in Pulaski before accepting the call to Pleasant View. He has tried to incorporate things he has learned from both experiences including helping the congregation to become immersed in the Bible and prayer along with a greater emphasis on worship, fellowship and evangelism.
There is more to being a Christian than just coming to church, Jeter said. "We should expect believers to grow and to be leaders. Jesus does."
Jeter has tried to instill in his congregation a missionary mindset.
"That can only happen if we are prayed up and prepared," he observed.
The Clarksville pastor has seen his members embrace the concept of being on mission.
"We are sending out workers and they have returned home from mission trips excited," he noted.
Thus far, there have been no shortage of opportunities for Pleasant View members. In addition to those who are serving going on mission trips, three men in the church have begun "supply preaching" in the association.
"Once you raise a person up to be a missionary, God will send them somewhere," Jeter said.
"We are a church on mission," Jeter said. "We are the body of Christ living out the mission He gave us."
The pastor added that those "who have experienced the call of God to participate in the mission He gave us and have said yes to His call are not disappointed. Praise God for His allowing us to be part of His plan."
Rick Stevens, director of missions for Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville, has witnessed the transformation of Pleasant View Baptist.
"From day one, Pastor Jerry Jeter has been intentional about leading his church to be outwardly focused," Stevens observed. "They have seen new people recognizing gifts and calling for ministry and they have been intentional about verbal witness and have seen an increase in baptisms," he continued.
Stevens noted the church has developed new focus on missions, including a Mexico partnership and an outreach to motorcyclists.
"Bro. Jerry is clearly Great Commission focused and has a heart for loving a traditional church, while leading them to make an impact for the Kingdom. On a given Sunday, they have people assisting other congregations with pulpit supply, while also looking after the needs of Pleasant View.
"He has provided a healthy focus on practical discipleship that leads to people who share their faith outside the walls of the church. He has been a blessing to Pleasant View and to our association," Stevens said.
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector.
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.