FROM THE STATES: Ala., La., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; 'I know those encounters for Christ will bear much fruit'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
sparks gospel conversations
By Lanell Downs Smith
PRATTVILLE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- When Brad Neave of Boones Chapel Baptist Church, Prattville, approached senior pastor Phil Winningham with the idea of hosting a food truck festival, church leaders weren't certain the idea would work in their rural community.
"My first thought was, that might work in the big city of Atlanta but not in the rural community of Boones Chapel," Winningham said. "However, when you challenge the church to dream big and think out of the box it's hard to shoot down an idea without giving it a try."
Boones Chapel introduced its first Truck Fest in 2018 and Winningham said they have been "blown away ever since."
The goal of the event held on the Boones Chapel campus was to draw people to the church and create opportunities for gospel conversations.
"Most have heard about Boones Chapel but events like this connect what they have heard with the reality of who we are," Winningham said, noting that church members are encouraged to personally engage in evangelism.
Event planning began with prayer and promotion on social media, local advertising and word of mouth through church members.
"At all of our events members are encouraged to have the personal touch and to make connections whenever the opportunity arises," said Amy Fray, Boones Chapel ministry assistant. "We make sure our members keep that evangelistic focus."
This year's event held May 15 drew approximately 1,300 guests. In addition to the dozen or so food trucks, visitors enjoyed a festival atmosphere with a bouncy house, face painting and games like corn hole and horseshoes.
Food vendors attend by invitation only, ensuring a variety of food options. Neave manages the event, inviting food vendors and communicating with them from the start of planning through the event's end.
While the event provided a festival atmosphere it also offered a setting that encouraged one-on-one gospel conversations, Winningham said.
"Having a meal with someone offers a prime opportunity to share whereas a fall festival, moving from one game to the other, makes it nearly impossible for this personal conversation," Winningham said.
In line with the church's three-fold evangelism strategy the festival offered a live praise band, gospel conversations and a Serving Our Savior (SOS) ministry booth.
SOS Ministries for Evangelism and Discipleship is a national events-based ministry focusing on evangelism.
The SOS booth is a ministry tool designed to create opportunities to engage festival guests in gospel conversations.
Festival guests are asked the question, "Have you seen three things God cannot do?" A creative display board allows volunteers to lead guests toward the answers to that question.
"We ask the guests standing there if they are 100 percent sure they are going to heaven when they die," said SOS team leader Patty Mills.
"Then we ask if they would like to be 100 percent certain. A lot of times they say yes and that's when we take them back to trained individuals who will share the Gospel."
The SOS team then uses the Bible to walk them toward salvation.
Decisions for Christ
"I love seeing so many people from all over our community come to our campus," Fray said. "Everyone was smiling and having a good time and enjoying the good food, beautiful weather and the music and games. Seeing our church family engage with our community with the main purpose of sharing Christ has always been an encouragement to me."
Five decisions for Christ were made at the festival this year and the church continues to reap from the seeds sown at the event.
"I hear many of the stories that our church members share after an event like this and I know those encounters for Christ will bear much fruit," Fray added.
"I even heard that one of the food truck vendors expressed an interest in coming back for a worship service because the atmosphere was so loving and inviting."
Boones Chapel members hope to expand the event in all areas as attendance grows.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Lanell Downs Smith is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
La. church sows, waters,
harvests during VBS
By Brian Blackwell
PINEVILLE, La. (Baptist Message) -- On the final night of Vacation Bible School at Lakeside Baptist Church, Pineville, Pastor Lloyd Bye "watered" what had been spiritually planted, baptizing three young boys in a horse trough, May 31.
"Each year we have made announcements on Family Night about how many accepted Christ, but some parents do not get to witness a baptism because they are not active in church," Bye told the Baptist Message. "This time parents got to see the harvest we reaped from the seeds that were planted, and it made it special for the boys that their parents were witnesses."
"I accepted Christ at Faith Baptist Church in Tioga," Edwards said. "But my Granny asked if I wanted to get baptized here since I have spent so many summers at Lakeside."
He added that it was "special" because both churches are part of his spiritual life.
The Family Night worship service capped a fruitful week for Lakeside Baptist. Eleven children out of 46 who attended had repented for salvation by the end of VBS.
VBS and more
VBS is one of several evangelistic outreaches for the congregation, which averages 30 in Sunday morning worship service and another 25 in children's church.
Operation Christmas Child is another.
Throughout the year, members collect items -- hygiene products, small toys and school supplies -- that are packed in shoeboxes and shipped overseas to give to children. The church's VBS offering of $300 was used to purchase supplies for this year's Operation Christmas Child Collection. In 2018, the church packed 250 shoeboxes for the annual gift drive by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian international relief organization.
Members also volunteer with Helping Hands Ministry, a Christian non-profit organization in Tioga.
They sort through items at a distribution center, work in the ministry's store and hand out bags filled with toiletries to neighborhood residents, 175 every three months.
Other ministry efforts include financially supporting Main Street Mission in Pineville and many members participated as volunteers with the Hope4U2018 Crusade at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria.
"Through the years the Word of God has been proclaimed here at Lakeside Baptist," Bye said. "Within the inner city domain that is highly transient this is still needed today. Remembering the ABCs for children of all ages in this community, we will plant, water and reap in the ongoing harvest. To God be the glory!"
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.
Tenn. church reaches community
with Saturation Saturdays
By David Dawson
NASHVILLE (Baptist and Reflector) -- In the business world, this method would be referred to as "flooding the market."
In the spiritual vein, it's a means of carrying out the Great Commission.
During the past few weeks, the members of Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville, have been involved in "Saturation Saturdays" -- an initiative in which church members fan out in the community to distribute door-hanging bags that contain information about the church, DVDs about Jesus, invitations to VBS and other items.
Thus far, the ministry has reached more than 7,000 homes in the East Nashville area, with one more Saturation Saturday planned for the coming weeks.
It's been amazing. Absolutely amazing," said Inglewood lead pastor Kevin Shrum. "We've been blown away by the response from our people. We had more than 100 members who participated in at least one of the Saturation Saturdays."
The ultimate aim is to reach everyone who lives in the 37216 zip code. Shrum said roughly 90 percent of the homes in the zip code have been reached.
"The goal is to get as much information to as many houses as quickly as possible," said Shrum. "We really wanted to saturate our area with a blitz of information."
The Saturation Saturdays are just one phase of a broader plan that Inglewood has designed to impact the community and share the Gospel.
"This fall, we will be following up with what we're calling (the) 'slowing down' (stage), where we are leveraging where we live in that neighborhood," Shrum said. "It's focused on the street that I live on, so to speak, in terms of digging down deep and having gospel conservations with our neighbors.
"It's going to help us examine questions like 'how can I leverage my home, my work place, my job, where I play sports -- how can I leverage those places for the advancement for the kingdom of God?" he added.
David Evans, evangelism specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said the energy surrounding Saturation Saturdays is a reflection of the overall culture at Inglewood Baptist. And that, in turn, is a reflection of the church's leadership.
"It's hard not to be excited about evangelism when you are around Kevin Shrum," said Evans. "Evangelism is truly contagious. And when someone is excited and passionate about it, others tend to quickly pick up on that and they want to be a part of it, too."
Shrum noted that Inglewood has partnered with Saturate USA -- an organization that operates with the express purpose of helping churches reach their communities for Christ.
"We had a couple of people who traveled to Arkansas in the fall and attended the training for the National Day of Prayer," said Shrum. "While they were there, they ran across the information for Saturate USA. We found out that they basically would provide the (door-hanging) bags and the Jesus films. They also provided us with maps, which broke down our area into manageable segments."
The Saturate USA website states that the organization's goal is to "take the love of the Gospel to 60 million households by the end of 2020. The hope is to spark true repentance and revival in our beloved country."
Evans, the TBMB evangelism specialist, said there is a reason that "saturation initiatives" -- such as the one at Inglewood -- have been making a significant impact in recent days.
"Saturation is a process, not a program -- and there's a big difference," said Evans. "Programs generally need a large amount of resources and a large amount of people. Processes, on the other hand, don't tend to strain a church's budget and they can be effective with two people or 200 people. The bottom line is that programs are often mechanistic, where as processes are organic."
Shrum said the Inglewood congregation was enthusiastic about the project from the very beginning. More than 70 people participated in the "packing party" -- where the hanging bags were filled -- and the excitement continued to build in the days that followed.
Although the exact numbers are hard to track, Shrum said Inglewood has already had several visitors on Sunday mornings as a direct result of the Saturation Saturday projects. He said he is also optimistic that the ministry will lead to an increase in VBS attendees.
The true impact of the ministry, however, might not be seen for several months, perhaps even years.
"It's kind of a long-term thing," he said. "And really, we've left the results to the Lord."
This article appeared in Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
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.