FROM THE STATES: Tenn., Ill., Fla. evangelism/missions news; 'If the Lord puts a burden on your heart, don't hesitate to respond'
Today's From the States features items from: Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee); Illinois Baptist; Florida Baptist Convention
Tenn. church makes
By Michael Smith
BARTLETT, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) -- Danny Sinquefield, senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Bartlett, since October 1994, is so thankful that his church decided to make an eternal investment when it purchased Camp Cordova, now known as The Grove at Red Oak Lake, for $2 million in 2009.
Faith Baptist made its 10th and final $150,000 annual payment to the Mid-South Baptist Association during the church's morning worship service Feb. 3.
"We're so grateful that God allowed us to keep that great facility in the Baptist family, but also use it for its intended purpose," Sinquefield said. "We've seen over the last 10 years hundreds of decisions made for Christ -- students called to ministry, boys and girls making recommitments or beginning their first relationship with the Lord Jesus."
Sinquefield credits his congregation, many of whom have ties to the camp, for their generous financial support.
After Faith Baptist purchased the camp, it held a special offering to raise the $500,000 needed for the down payment. The offering came in at $720,000, larger than the offering for the church's new sanctuary, and allowed for improvements to start.
Sinquefield also applauded the camp's "awesome" staff and volunteers, led by camp director Matthew Coussan and maintenance director Keith Magness.
Sinquefield said the 75-acre camp, which was established in 1947, is thriving, meeting its budget and debt free.
The Grove has been full the past couple of summers, and it's filling up for 2020 and 2021.
"In a season when camping ministries had been really on the decline, we're seeing this property be used in a really powerful way," he said.
Sinquefield has a personal connection to the camp. His wife attended a Girls in Action camp there as a little girl, and one of his sons was saved at a Royal Ambassadors camp event.
Coussan said it's great being a part of the Faith family.
"We all have the same goals. We are intentional about the Gospel, live a missional lifestyle and do everything we can do to help strengthen the local church and expand the Kingdom," he said.
"I can't think of a better tool than camp ministry, and we are grateful that Faith Baptist Church trusted the Lord when purchasing the property."
In addition to churches, the Grove hosts a wide variety of other groups throughout the year, including the Girl Scouts, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) camps, FedEx, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, local schools, the University of Memphis and local and international businesses.
"We are a seven-day-a-week operation. In the summer we serve 1,000 meals a day. Our groups can range from 10 guests to 400-plus," Coussan said.
"We know every person is special and is a treasure from the Lord. It's an honor to serve the groups, and we are grateful for the pastors who trust us with their campers."
Sinquefield said he shares the Grove's story when coaching and mentoring younger pastors.
"It's just one of the real-time examples or illustrations that I use for trusting God for big things," he said.
"If the Lord puts a burden on your heart, don't hesitate to respond. We have a great, big God who calls us sometimes to do things that are step-out-of-the-boat, trust-Him-for-that kind of faith."
For more information about The Grove at Red Oak Lake, visit mygrove.org.
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector,org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Michael Smith is a contributing writer for the Baptist and Reflector.
Ill. churches merge for
the sake of their town
By Andrew Woodrow
STREATOR, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- When Mike Young first laid eyes on Streator in 2016, he saw a small prairie town in the midst of vast farmland. But he also saw a community in great need of the Gospel. Young, who moved to town to manage IBSA's northern Illinois camp facility, soon discovered that much of Streator was still unchurched. He started praying God would raise up a church to fill that void.
When Young started looking for a church to join, there was one that caught his eye every time he'd go into town. "I would pass a church right on the edge of town called Calvary Baptist," he said. "The building looked rough, and there were bushes growing all around it. It just looked like it was closing down." Many people in town confirmed what Young had thought -- that the church was on its way out.
Still, every time he passed Calvary, something kept tugging at his heart.
"Calvary Baptist Church was a long-standing church in the community," said Mike Blakemore. "It goes way back into the '50s, I believe."
Blakemore and his wife started attending Calvary in the early 2000s; he eventually became an elder. "It was a great church, great pastor, great fellowship," Blakemore said. But after their pastor retired, "that's when the struggle began."
The Southern Baptist church went through a series of interims and people just to fill the pulpit, and Calvary's numbers started dwindling. Soon, wear-and-tear to the church's building became evident, with mold growing inside the walls and roof.
By the end of 2015, with finances running low and numbers still dropping, the auditorium ceiling caved in after a severe hailstorm. "After much prayer and a lot of discussion, we decided to vacate the building," Blakemore said.
A few miles away, Streator's First Baptist Church had its own problems. The Conservative Baptist church was founded not long after Streator was incorporated in 1868. Longtime member Linda Abbot speaks fondly of her church. "I have a great, great grandfather who helped start this church," she said. "My mother was part of this church. And when I was born, I was brought into it as well. I've been here ever since."
At 13, she dedicated her life to Christ at the church. She brought her childhood sweetheart, Ken, to First Baptist where he, too, came to know Christ and eventually became an elder. The Abbots married at First Baptist and have raised their own children there.
"But in the years that we had been coming here," Linda Abbot said, "we noticed the numbers steadily declining. And we could just see things falling apart."
The numbers continued to decline until they were down to nearly 20 people, forcing the once large church to close down its main building and move worship into the fellowship hall, a stand-alone, neighboring building.
The move was made to sustain the church, Ken Abbot said, with the knowledge that if finances dwindled to a certain level, the church would dissolve and its Conservative Baptist denomination would take over the building.
Meanwhile, Calvary sat empty for nearly a year while worshippers met in homes or rented spaces, praying all the while for direction. "We had just been going from place to place, and the fear that came along with that is, how long is this going to work?" said deacon Mark Martin.
But, he added, the church's predicament drove them closer to God. "And that's what it did to everybody that was involved," Martin said. "Because God doesn't bring about situations like these to drive you away from him. There might be problems, but they are meant to bring you closer to the Lord."
Still, the uncertainty was unnerving. After months of worshipping in different places, Calvary gathered for a prayer meeting in a home one Wednesday afternoon, bringing their future and their tattered building to the Lord.
It was that same Wednesday afternoon when Mike Young, unable to shake the tugging in his heart, decided to finally investigate the rundown church building on the edge of town. He pulled into the church's parking lot, found a phone number on the door, and called. "I explained who I was and asked if there was anything I could do. I thought maybe they would need help with their building. I could help with that," said Young, who has facilitated extensive renovations at the camp.
"Right then, they stopped that prayer meeting and they answered the phone," Young said. "They didn't have a pastor, they didn't have a building, but they still had that core group of people."
The group eventually called Young to serve as interim pastor, sparking a new beginning that would soon include First Baptist. That church was still without a pastor, and wondering what to do with their building. That's when they heard about Calvary.
"When we heard that Calvary's roof caved in and they were without a building," Ken Abbott said, "we started praying for them. And while we didn't know it at the time, they, in turn, started praying for us too because of our situation."
"It was a challenging year for all of us," said Tim Walter, an elder at First Baptist. He and Abbot extended an invitation to Calvary to worship with them.
"We were two churches in need of each other," Walter said. "They needed a church home. And we had facilities, but we weren't using them because our building was pretty much all closed up."
Calvary accepted the invitation, and the two churches held a worship service in First Baptist's fellowship hall in January 2017. "Over time as we met," Young said, "worshipping together became so sweet, and the fellowship was just excellent."
At first, each church collected their own offerings and maintained separate prayer lists and bulletins. Church meetings were held in separate rooms. After a couple months of worshipping together, each church wanted a more long-term plan, and eventually took separate votes on whether to merge. The votes were unanimous -- both churches were fully in favor.
Prayer, love and willing hearts
Despite apprehension on each side that the other would want them to conform to their traditions, Blakemore said each church put aside their wants and traditions, focusing instead on God's desire and Streator's need for a thriving church.
Some described the experience as a marriage, with two parties making sacrifices toward a greater good. "When both churches came together, each naturally had their own tradition," Young said. "But like any marriage, you have to give and take. And the two were willing to do that. They were willing to rely on God and trust him for the results. That is the most important part."
"We had to come together as a new beginning," Walter said. "The past is gone; First Baptist had to cease, and Calvary had to cease. As Dr. Dan Eddington told us, we had to have two funerals and a wedding for this to work."
Both churches credit Young and Eddington, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association, for guiding them through the merger. But overall, it was God, through prayer, that gave the churches their success.
"We had to bathe the entire process in prayer," Blakemore said.
The Abbotts agreed. "From the beginning we were praying for Calvary and, without us even knowing, they were praying for us," Linda said.
In September 2017, the two churches officially constituted as one, with a new name: New Beginnings Baptist Church. The church affiliated with IBSA last November.
"It's new beginnings in a lot of different ways," Martin said. "Not only is it a name for two churches coming together and a new start for a ministry, but it's a new beginning for a work in Streator, as well as a new beginning to the lost who come here."
Mike Young continued as interim pastor until the church was able to hire their first full-time pastor. Aaron Jackson has been serving as pastor almost a full year. "We're already seeing what God is doing through ministries here at New Beginnings," he said. "This is a very unchurched area and we're doing as much as we can to get involved in the community."
The church has moved back into the main building and has seen significant growth. They're reaching out to Streator through multiple ministries. Walter describes the church as a family with a singular focus on Christ. "What is our mission? To preach the gospel and to proclaim Christ to a lost world. That is why we exist. And that's our direction for the church: so that everything we do is to glorify him."
This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (illinoisbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Andrew Woodrow is a multimedia journalist for the Illinois Baptist State Association.
Fla. church spends
Saturday helping neighbors
By Jessica Pigg
NAPLES, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- For more than 700 people, March 30th, 2019, was no ordinary Saturday at First Baptist Church Naples. Those 700 people were not there for a children's ministry event or a concert; they came together that day as a church family to serve and share the love of Jesus with their community.
"There is nothing more powerful than meeting here [FBC Naples] in the morning, seeing the auditorium full of folks wearing red shirts about to launch out into this community and share the love of Jesus," said Kevin Taylor, Pastor of Evangelism and Missions at FBC Naples.
After gathering together Saturday morning, the 700 members were assigned to 33 different Love Naples serve teams and then dispersed throughout Naples taking part in the various projects.
"We had teams in our public schools and even had principals inviting us to come back and to pray over their schools and for us to be a part of what God is doing there," said Taylor.
Some of the 33 projects and site locations included: four block parties, prayer and water stations at the beach, going into laundromats and paying for people's laundry and sharing the gospel with them, hosting over eleven concerts in local nursing homes, praying and encouraging local firemen, washing the entire fleet of officer cars for the Naples Police Department, community trash and debris clean-up, free car washes, and free dental treatments at a local women's shelter.
"We even had freestyle teams going out and doing street evangelism and random acts of kindness and loving on people. They had a chance to pray with folks and they even came to church with us that weekend -- that's fruit that remains," Taylor said.
FBC Naples even partnered with several non-profits including: Helps Outreach, a Pregnancy Resource Center, Protected Harbor, St. Matthew's House, and Habitat for Humanity.
"I could go on and on about the opportunities that God put in front of us," Taylor said. "It was an incredible day as our church family came together; we lived the Bible, we got out, we put our faith into action, and we showed the love of Jesus."
Though this is the first time FBC Naples has hosted a Love Naples Saturday, Taylor hopes that it is not the last.
"I pray that days like [Love Naples] Saturday are just the beginning of what we should be doing every day. We should be living the gospel every day, showing the love of Jesus right here where we live. And this will just be the beginning of an incredible story God is writing in the life of our church."
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Jessica Pigg is the director of women's ministry at First Baptist Church Immokalee in southwest Florida, where her husband Timothy is senior pastor.
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, typically 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.