FROM THE STATES: Calif., Ky., N.C. evangelism/missions news; "There's a race in today's culture to the heart of every child ..."
California Southern Baptist
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Calif. church focusing
on next generation
By Karen L. Willoughby
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- Kids come first at the nearly five-year-old Parkside Church in Oceanside.
"We have a massive focus on the next generation," Planter/Pastor Jim Britts told the California Southern Baptist. "This is not a church just for young families but it is a church for people who care about the next generation."
Parkside is an example of a California Southern Baptist church plant that has become a "multiplying" congregation -- one that is making inroads on lostness in the state by sending out church planters as well as starting other churches even as it is growing to about 225 in Sunday morning worship.
"It's not about this church; it's about the Kingdom of God," Britts declared. "Church planters need to be more like a missionary than a pastor: engaging the city and making disciples. That's what Jesus called us to do.
"He will build the church from the disciples. And out of the overflow of disciples, more churches are planted."
Parkside baptized 16 people April 28, and four more made professions of faith in Christ that day.
One of the congregation's five values is that kids from birth through age 18 come first.
"Every church in our country should have that same focus," Britts asserted. "If we just figured that out, it would change the way we do church.
"There's a race in today's culture to the heart of every child, and the first one there wins," he continued. "If we can disciple and raise up and empower kids and teens, they're actually the best way to reach our city."
Parkside's five values center around time: God time, Gather time, Group time, Go time and Grow time. What starts with personal time with God, worship on Sundays, discipleship in small groups and short-term (and longer) missions involvement, leads to planting other churches.
Parkside was planted by New Song Church in Oceanside, where Hal Seed is pastor; Hope Church in Las Vegas a couple of years later became a secondary sponsor. The church that won't reach its fifth anniversary until September is in the process of planting its fourth, fifth and sixth churches in the North County area of San Diego.
"The first one didn't make it," Britts said. "The second one we sent out 25 people to plant it. Then we adopted a three-month-old church plant about an hour away that we didn't send anyone to, where I discipled that planter. Parkside Español came next; it meets on our campus.
"Later this year we'll plant a church focused on people with addictions. And a year from now we'll plant another church in this area."
But, "It's not about church planting; it's about disciple-making," Britts reiterated. "Church planting is just an overflow of disciple-making. We used to pray for a church planting movement. Now we're praying for a discipleship movement."
Discipleship starts at Parkside with Nehemiah Kids, a midweek program for students in first through fifth grade that includes quiet time, scripture memorization and serving in a ministry. Those between sixth and twelfth grade do similar activities, age-appropriate, as part of Leaders In Training. Adults are discipled in small groups that meet throughout the week.
"It's all about discipleship," Britts said. "Without it, where would our kids be five years from now? Where would undiscipled Christian adults be? If we're not making disciples, we're missing the whole point.
"The metrics of salvations and attendance and offerings are important, but the bottom line is, are we making disciples who make disciples?"
Those who are discipled start serving in ministry, and some experience God's call to become leaders, pastors, church planters and volunteers at church plants, Britts said.
"It's about Kingdom expansion, not just growing our church," he added. "We say, 'North County, the West and the world.'"
Parkside's major North County ministries are through the local school district, which has six elementary schools within two miles of the church.
Britts, who early in the life of Parkside attended training at Hope Church in Las Vegas, for the last two years has been part of the Hope staff that coordinates three-day intensive courses on church planting, specifically in the western United States.
"Especially in the West, people are not looking for churches," Britts said. "Only 1 percent of the churches are growing through conversions; 15 percent are growing, but through transfer growth."
Parkside allocates 8 percent of undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program because "we are insanely grateful for the cooperation that helped us plant Parkside," Britts said. "We want to pay it forward and to be part of this bigger mission through the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program."
Parkside also has mission connections with church planters in Central Asia, West Africa, South Asia, and "we just delivered bunk beds to an orphanage in Mexico," Britts said. "We sure have a heart to give outside our doors. We say you don't give to Parkside; you give through Parkside."
Britts, who was in youth ministry for 15 years before planting Parkside, said a calling from God is the essential first step to becoming a church planter.
"I regularly need to lean back on my calling," Britts said. "It's too tough to not have that. You also need people on your team who are disciples you've made before the church started. You need a really supportive spouse. And you need a 'mother church' to come alongside and to help you."
What does Britts look for in a person expressing an interest in church planting? He has several questions of his own:
"Do they have a great prayer life? Are they really dependent on God? Do they have a heart for the lost? Do they reach people for Jesus? Are they entrepreneurial? Do they start things and raise other people up to do things? And, are they humble?
"You look at Jesus -- humility and love -- that's what a church planter looks like."
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention (csbc.com). Karen Willoughby is a writer in Utah.
Ky. church going the
distance to reach children
By Todd Gray
BRODHEAD, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- In the book, "In Praise of a God Who Saves: 110 Stories of Everyday Evangelism," Southwestern Seminary student Amy Carlson is quoted as saying, "The teenagers in today's society will rule the world in the near future. They are our future presidents, doctors, soldiers and teachers. If no one shares the gospel with them, this world will be plunged into darkness." It has been an accepted truism, substantiated by Barna Research in a 2004 article, that two-thirds of all born again believers made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
Brodhead Baptist Church, under the leadership of pastor Ralph Baker, makes certain they are reaching out to children and teenagers with the Gospel.
Brodhead Baptist, part of the Rockcastle Baptist Association, averages around 340 people in worship attendance, which has more than doubled since Bro. Ralph became pastor. Brodhead baptized 28 people in 2017, which is an evangelistically healthy ratio of one baptism per every 12 church attenders. Over half of those baptisms were of children under the age of 18. While it averages over 300 in Sunday morning worship, its most recent Vacation Bible School recorded a registration of 348.
When asked how the church measures evangelistic success, Baker says, "Fifty new members being added to the church is a good year, which has been the case for approximately 15 years with 35 of those being from baptisms." For Bro. Ralph, another measure of success recently was going 13 months with having first time visitors in the service every Sunday morning. Baker says, "The church is good at inviting people, and if they come to church, then there are six to eight people who will witness to those who come."
Part of Brodhead's success for reaching children and teenagers comes as a result of Bro. Ralph and several of the members being involved in the local school system. These classroom educators have a heart for kids and especially look forward to Vacation Bible School every year. They treat it like a summer evangelistic mission experience. He says, "They are bold witnesses and work hard during VBS."
He also works hard to assure children who attend their events are hearing the Gospel and that they are not being led into what he calls an "easy-believism." When asked about some of the most evangelistic members of the church he mentions a couple of retired school teachers who witness regularly and are highly visible in the community.
Evangelistic churches are led by evangelistic pastors and Brodhead Baptist is no different. Bro. Ralph keeps evangelism before the church members by talking about it in every service. He says, "For 15 years, in every service, I talk about two things: lost people need to be saved -- and for that to happen, Christians have to open their mouth and tell them how."
According to Randy McPheron, associational missions strategist of Rockcastle Baptist Association, "He not only talks the talk, but he also walks the walk." McPheron says, "Ralph is a champion for souls in Rockcastle County. I know of no other pastor whose heart burns to see lost people saved any more than that of Ralph Baker."
I asked Bro. Ralph about the challenges of leading an evangelistic church. He said, "Making evangelism a personal priority for the members of the church is the biggest challenge." He is highly evangelistic and expects the members of Brodhead Baptist to be as well. Baker tries to witness every day. He works in the school system and always has a 500-person mission field before him. He attends local sporting events, visits in the community, serves as a chaplain for Dirt Racing Outreach for Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and looks for open doors to share the good news of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
All pastors and churches have something to offer their community. For Baker and Brodhead Baptist, one way they bless their community is by having a heart that wants to see children become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bro. Ralph and Brodhead Baptist are going the distance to reach their community -- including the children and teenagers -- with the gospel.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Todd Gray is evangelism, church planting and collegiate ministry team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
'Ride to Clyde' raises
$77K for N.C. children
By Mike Creswell
CLYDE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Cheering children and visitors waved excitedly as they welcomed more than 100 motorcyclists who thundered triumphantly onto the grounds of Broyhill Home in Clyde on May 11 to deliver a record $77,674.88 for the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (BCH). It was a crowning conclusion for the fourth annual Ride to Clyde and not even the morning's sometimes heavy rainfall could dampen the spirits of the riders or those of children and guests gathered under umbrellas and pavilions at Broyhill for a music-and-barbecue celebration.
Riders were all ages. Tom Poston of Fayetteville brought along his 84-year-old father while several riders brought their children, riding along on the seats behind them.
Motorcyclists clad in brightly colored rain gear rode their wide assortment of two- and three-wheeled motorcycles around the Broyhill cottages and down the steep road by the children before dismounting to present the large, board-mounted check to BCH President Michael C. Blackwell, who beamed with delight.
This year's Ride to Clyde contribution to BCH was a healthy increase over the $55,000 the riders raised in 2018.
Ride to Clyde participants have raised in excess of $185,000 over the four years. Although the approximately 120 riders this year was about the same number of riders as in 2018, they raised more this year, said Ride to Clyde organizer Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
"Many of the riders have moved to a year-round fund-raising effort for the children's homes, and I think that accounts for this wonderful increase," said Davis, who again made the ride on his Harley-Davidson. "Some of the riders have become very creative with their fundraising and others are enlisting businesses that are giving generously to support the work of BCH."
That was confirmed by rider Terry Blake, a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Norwood, who rode his Indian Roadmaster Classic this year. His church takes up an offering during Vacation Bible School for Baptist Children's Homes and also brings children or other BCH staff to the church to speak. They also sponsor an annual motorcycle ride with 50 to 60 bikers to Oak Ranch, a BCH home for unwed mothers.
"Every time we do some ministry with the Baptist Children's Homes, God just blesses it so much," Blake said.
Not your typical motorcyclists
Ride to Clyde riders mostly favor black T-shirts and jackets as do some less savory motorcyclists, but many of the Ride to Clyde riders sported Bible verses on their vests, cross emblems or church banners.
That's because these riders included pastors and church staffers, plus riders from several Baptist biker churches and some of North Carolina's many Christian motorcycle ministries. More than 40 Christian motorcycle groups in the state are affiliated with the BSC.
The bikers covered more than 450 miles on some of North Carolina's most scenic byways over the four days, Wednesday through Saturday. Bikers are divided into smaller groups for safety and to reduce impact on small towns. Routes are carefully selected for both scenic value and safety. For example, left turns are kept to a minimum, because many motorcycle accidents occur when the biker is making a left turn.
They gathered May 8, at Fort Caswell, the BSC's seaside conference center on Oak Island, to prepare for the ride.
A walk in the woods
On May 9, half the riders visited Camp Duncan, a facility for girls near Aberdeen, and the other half visited Cameron Boys Camp at Cameron. Both BCH facilities are residential wilderness camps in which the young people build their own housing and live in the woods, with leaders providing structure and teaching.
May 10, the riders visited Mills Home, the main campus of the 21 BCH locations across the state. There the big event was parking the motorcycles and letting preschoolers sit on them -- and blow the horns, sometimes repeatedly. The kids had a great time, but no better than the bikers. Even some of the biggest, bearded and leather-jacketed bikers were shedding tears.
Friday evening (May 10) at Lake Junaluska, the riders heard Shawn Fitchett, now grown and happily married with his own family, tell how moving to Broyhill Home saved his life. He told of his adoption and having to live with people who did not want him before Broyhill.
Saturday (May 11) the riders concluded their ride at Broyhill Home, a BCH campus set among the mountains and hills of Clyde. Several riders were amazed to hear for the first time about these and other ministries that have become possible because Baptists work cooperatively together through the BSC.
A penny for your soul
At Caswell, each rider was given a handful of pennies, each coin with a cross cut from the middle. Use these for witnessing or give them to BCH children as you tell them God loves them and you do too, riders were told.
One four-member team from Brookstone Church in Weaverville was able to lead a 17-year-old woman to faith in Christ during a stop in a fast-food restaurant near closing time.
"A conversation turned into a gospel conversation, and that gospel conversation turned into her asking Jesus into her heart," said rider Dean Greene, weeping openly as he told of the encounter later and as other riders applauded and cheered.
Riders were urged to show Christian love to the children in BCH care they would meet along the way.
"Many of these children have been told that they are worthless," Davis said. "We want to make sure when we are interacting with them that they know they are not worthless, and we want them to know they have great value, because the God who created them thinks they are so valuable He sent His only Son to die on a cross."
"But the Good News is that Jesus did not die on a cross to remain buried in a grave, but He gloriously and victoriously rose again. The resurrection means He has power over sin, death and the grave."
Touching 94,000 lives this year
At a gathering at Caraway Conference Center on Thursday evening (May 9), BCH President/CEO Michael C. Blackwell told the riders the Baptist Children's Homes would touch some 94,000 lives this year through their variety of ministries. But he also bemoaned the horrible stories of child abuse so often in the news.
Blackwell challenged the riders: "I want you to ride with power. I want you to ride with Holy Spirit power. I want you to ride with supernatural power…Think great! Be great! You are a representative of the kingdom of God."
J. Keith Henry, the CEO of Baptist Children's Homes, urged the riders and churches represented to consider becoming Christian foster parents for needy children. And the need is great, he said.
"16,796 -- that's how many kids were taken away from their families last year due to abuse and neglect, just here in North Carolina," Henry said.
He said BCH has begun a new Family Foster Care ministry to provide training and licensing for couples to be foster parents through BCH. The goal is for BCH to have foster care families in all 100 North Carolina counties.
"What we need is to expand our foster care so there are Christian families these kids can go into," Henry said.
Henry also reviewed the orphan care ministry BCH has launched in Guatemala which has two homes operating with a third home being built now. He called for volunteers to come help that work.
Rider David Smith, a member of Pinnacle Baptist Church in Canton, backed up the great need for children to have better care. He is a deputy sheriff who works with a domestic court, and he often sees kids sent to homes not near as good as the ones Baptists operate. He was impressed with what he had seen earlier in the day at Cameron Boys Camp.
"It's a blessing to my heart today to see that these boys are being taught about the Lord, because if anything can change their lives and help them, it's going to be Jesus Christ," Smith said.
Smith told of talking to a boy who has been at Cameron for three months: His goal was to learn more about the Bible and to grow closer to the Lord.
"I don't care how much money you brought to this event; you want to bring more," Smith said.
The increased giving reflected in this year's Ride to Clyde total suggest many riders feel the same about supporting the Baptist Children's Homes. In a Friday night gathering at a hotel overlooking Lake Junaluska, 11 individuals and couples received special pins of honor from the Baptist Children's Homes for collecting more than $1,000 each.
The top fundraiser this year was Keith Austin, a member of West Oakboro Baptist Church, who collected $12,220. But that amount was not without cost: Austin had promised to shave his head if he raised as much as $10,000. He lifted a scarf to display his shaved head.
Rider James Norton is a big bearded man sporting a black leather vest. He is a tree surgeon who specializes in taking down dangerous trees. But he blinked back tears after hearing how children are abused.
"I cannot imagine people not caring for children," Norton said. "I have no words. There are no words to describe what it does to my heart. Those babies need love!"
Norton had set a goal of collecting $300 for the children, but wound up collecting well over $800.
The top church contributor this year was Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, whose pastor, Rit Varriale, has made all four Ride to Clydes. He and Davis helped develop the original Ride to Clyde concept.
Rider Dean Greene, a member of Brookstone Church in Weaverville and a professional firefighter, is so committed to the ministry to children that he got an OK from the Baptist Children's Homes to use their logo of children's hand prints for a custom paint job on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The small footprints on the front fender are those of his own children.
"There's not a time I don't look at that bike, whether it's in the basement or I'm riding it, that I don't pray for the Baptist Children's Home kids," Greene said.
Davis urged the riders to find other ways to interact with the Baptist Children's Homes during the year, but also to find other ways to minister to needy people.
Riders Todd Brady and David Wilder urged the riders to get involved with N.C. Baptists on Mission, whose volunteers continue to restore houses damaged by Hurricane Florence. Brady is pastor of River Community Church in Fayetteville, and Wilder works in rebuilding efforts with Baptists on Mission in a four-county area around his home in Scotts Hill, near Wilmington.
Wilder told of a young man whose house was flooded and stayed four months with the Wilders. Wilder was surprised to learn that the young man had spent time at the Cameron Boys Camp.
"We don't know who this [Ride to Clyde] thing will touch," Wilder said.
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Michael Creswell is senior consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
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.