FROM THE STATES: Mo., Okla., Ga. evangelism/missions news; '... [A] place where hope and faith is centered on the gospel'
Today's From the States features items from: The Pathway (Missouri); Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma); Christian Index (Georgia)
Mo. church plant
By Kayla Rinker
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) -- Nearly one year ago, 12 people met in Jernigan Schwent's northern Kansas City living room to discuss God's vision for a new church plant.
Today the fulfillment of that vision, Discover Church, has risen to about 340 people each weekend.
"What God has done through our church is unnatural," said Schwent, pastor of Discover Church here. "The trajectory and the velocity we've experienced in just the three months since we launched is amazing and not at all the norm. I'm not ashamed, but grateful to be able to brag on God for what He has chosen to do."
While its official launch date was Aug. 19, God has been orchestrating and strategizing the vision of Discover Church long before that. Schwent was on staff as a student minister at Abundant Life in Lee's Summit, when God began to stir his heart toward a new calling on his life.
"I knew I wasn't going to be a student pastor forever, but I didn't think I would be a senior pastor," Schwent said. "I wrestled with that thought for a while and then God told me to get over it. He said, 'I've called you to do this.' Then He began solidifying that my next step would be to start a new church."
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to each other, Phil Hopper, Schwent's senior pastor at Abundant Life, felt God stirring their church to be a multiplying church.
"Our visions converged together," Schwent said. "We wouldn't be where we are without his obedience to God's calling and the support Abundant Life has given us. They are highly invested in my calling as a church planter and in my family's well-being. They are highly invested in what we're doing and are a vital part of the vision God has planted in my heart."
After serving as a church planting intern and honing in on God's plan for what Discover Church would look like, Schwent hit the ground running this year building relationships and casting the vision.
During the pre-launch phase, they hosted multiple interest parties in order to gather people together, have conversations regarding faith and church, and allow the Holy Spirit to work.
"We learned that there are a lot of people who have memories of church, but at some point either decided it was irrelevant to their everyday lives or they were hurt somehow and never returned," Schwent said. "So now we must earn credibility that we never lost. We are trying to create an opportunity for people to come and experience church that is life-giving -- a place where people can find healing for past hurts, hope for present problems, answers to life's pressing and difficult questions, and a place where hope and faith is centered on the Gospel."
They stepped out in obedience, and God has certainly shown up. Not only in the number of people who have been drawn to Discover Church, but in the individual lives and hearts of those who have come to call this church home.
For example, Schwent said God recently called him to preach a difficult sermon message about tragedy and loss and the suffering people often endure. He preached Paul's words in 1 Corinthians that, despite the pain, God is good and affliction is momentary and light compared to the cross.
"So we should shift out perspective away from the pain, and toward what God can do in the midst of our hearts and lives in seasons of darkness," he said.
Schwent found out later that one family who heard the message had experienced terrible tragedy; they experienced the loss of their son just days after he was born. This tragedy had plagued the couple's marriage for seven years.
"The husband had never spoken about his son's death until after church that Sunday," Schwent said. "He pulled out his son's ashes from their bedroom and brought them to his wife and they cried and hugged and talked through the pain after seven years."
"That's the kind of thing that just makes you know it's your job to obey, and then get out of the way. God, you do your thing. You work through our work and do things that are unfathomable. God has seen fit to call us, bless us, and allow us to scratch out a spot to be used and I'm just incredibly grateful to be part of it."
This article appeared in the The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Kayla Rinker is a reporter living in southwest Missouri.
Okla. Baptists send care
packages to foster care students
By Emily Howsden
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- At the end of 2019, Oklahoma Baptists were presented with a unique opportunity to serve adults, who used to be children in foster care.
There are, reportedly, more than 100 college students who have aged out of the foster care system in Oklahoma. These students were never adopted or reunited with their birth families.
In the summer of 2018, Oklahoma Successful Adulthood Program contacted the Department of Human Safety about providing care packages to those students during finals week at the end of their college semesters.
Care packages are something colleges and universities offer for parents to buy for their student to send them snacks, notes, comfort items, among other things, to help students during the toughest time of the semester -- finals week.
For students with families, this can be a joyful time where they feel loved and supported. However, for students who were not adopted from the foster care system, it can be a painful reminder that they were never adopted.
"This is where we as Oklahoma Baptists stepped in," said Amy Cordova, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) women's missions and ministry specialist.
"DHS contacted (the) BGCO Women('s) (office) to see if we would be interested in providing finals week care packages for these college students. Without hesitation, we said 'Yes!'"
One specific care package to a female student included: lemonade, post-it notes, pens, highlighters, decorative tape, a notebook, ChapStick, fuzzy socks, a nail file, packages of tissues, a large throw blanket, coffee drinks, hot chocolate, a mug, gummy bears, popcorn, an Olive Garden gift card, snack cakes and an encouraging letter with Bible verses.
"If you don't have a biological family or a foster family, no one sends you a care package. We didn't want a student to go without one when everyone else was receiving one. So we were presented with the idea, and we hopped on board," Cordova said.
Within no time, Oklahoma Baptists had put together 97 care packages for students at 32 different college campuses. Many students picked up their care package at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) building on their campus.
This provided another way for the students to be loved and cared for, as they were able to meet students involved in their BCM.
The program manager for Successful Adulthood Program reported back to the BGCO Women's office. "They were so excited," Cordova said, "and text me saying, 'I got the care package today. It's a literal duffel bag full of stuff.'"
Because of the great response from Oklahoma Baptists, Cordova said they plan to provide care packages again in May, during the spring finals week for college students and potentially more finals weeks in the future.
"This is just one element of caring for Oklahoma's children. It ties in the initiative our state has so consistently driven home over the past few years emphasizing foster care. These children need us, and we want them to know we are here for them," Cordova said.
More information about finals week care packages will be given at the Oklahoma Baptist Women's Spring Retreat at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in April. For more information, visit www.bgcowomen.org and "like" the Facebook page, "BGCO Women."
This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Emily Howsden is a staff writer for the Baptist Messenger.
Ga. students urged
to take action
By Scott Barkley
MACON, Ga. (Christian Index) -- For two days last week speakers challenged approximately 4,500 students at the Macon Coliseum to treat 2019 as a year like no other.
The MOVE Conference, sponsored by Student Groups and Faith Development of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, has for years served to simultaneously evangelize attendees who haven't made a commitment to Christ while equipping believers to witness to others. However, an unfortunate stereotype for student conferences points to teenagers' emotions. Commitments made at the beginning of the new year, as adults can testify, often flare out as quickly as a roman candle.
Considering that, speakers and leaders urged attendees to claim the "Make Your Move" theme as one they will carry to their schools, hometowns and homes. Speakers Ed Newton and Brent Crowe addressed the crowd Friday and Saturday, respectively. Others appearing included music groups Building 429 and Tenth Avenue North as well as illusionist Jared Hall. For photos and social media posts search with the hashtag #move18.
"We asked students to consider the specific move God wants them to make," said Ricky Smith, lead state missionary for Student Groups and Faith Development. "Those 'moves' could then be written down on panels we'd placed throughout the exhibit hall. We read responses ranging from 'share the Gospel more' to 'read His word' to 'God called me to be a missionary in Kenya.'"
Also, students were given a magnet on which they could write their 'move.' That magnet can then be placed in a visible area -- such as their school locker -- to remind them of their decision. Approximately 200 students responded to an altar call Friday night, Smith added.
"We're wanting to drive the students toward action," he stressed. "God takes the commitments we make to Him seriously. So, we want to give teenagers tools to help them do that."
A relevant message
Leaders affirmed MOVE's commitment to be gospel-centered and equip students for ministry at their schools.
"This weekend was amazing and that doesn't happen by chance," Jim Williams, minister of students and communications at Friendship Baptist Church in Warner Robins, emailed Smith and state missionary Mike Ricks. "One of my students came from death to life Friday night and a couple of others had some really good seeds planted. Your genuineness for students and helping student pastors/student ministries is very evident and greatly appreciated."
Jeff Glenn, student pastor at Shirley Hills Baptist in Warner Robins, cited the conference's close proximity for the church's 21 years of attending. But it's far from the most important reason.
"We know the Gospel is going to be presented and most every year we have students make decisions," he said. "Our kids are going like the artists and hear about Christ in an environment relative to them."
This year two from Sherwood Hills prayed to receive Christ while another made a rededication.
And whether it was intentional or not, Glenn picked up on a common thread through the messages and even lyrics to songs during worship. It touched on a subject he's seeing more of in student ministry.
"I felt there was an emphasis on addressing student depression and anxiety, putting God first in dealing with those areas. It's a message our kids need to hear because they're dealing with a lot of stuff. God is our refuge and who we need to be going to.
"Brent Crowe's messages Saturday were really relevant to our students. He challenged us to ask questions like 'What is our purpose?' and 'Why did God put me here?' What is the story of your life and how are you going to let God write your autobiography?
"Our students need to understand their identity in Christ and live a life with purpose, not allowing the world to drag them down. It was spot-on with what they needed to hear."
Early steps for the next move
"The MOVE Conference happens at a strategic time of year," Smith pointed out. "Kids are on break and needing something to do before heading back to class. It's also the catalyst for the youth leader heading into that second semester of school. We want everyone to see God is on the move and wants them to be a part of it. It also fits in well with the 'This is My Story' initiative. Youth pastors can use that on the heels of this conference and have a tool to help students learn to tell their testimony."
Steps are already in place for next year's MOVE Conference, again at the Macon Coliseum, he added. Pastor Naeem Fazal of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, N.C. and Clayton King, teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., will be the speakers. Artists include David Crowder, Bethany Barr Phillips, Riley Clemmons, and Micah Tyler.
"We've worked hard to go ahead and have our speakers lined for Dec. 27-28, 2019," said Smith. "We encourage people to go ahead and register at the super-discounted rate that will only be good for the month of January."
This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is editor of the Christian Index.
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.