FROM THE STATES: Ala., S.C., Tenn. evangelism/missions news; 'You could hear this dull roar around the room'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
The Courier (South Carolina)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Ala. pastor leads association
in focused, concerted prayer
By Anna Keller
RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Russellville's Patrick Martin came home from the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, excited to implement a prayer event he'd experienced there.
"My wife and I attended an event that was about a spiritual great awakening, where we talked about the need for spiritual renewal in our country," said Martin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Russellville, Ala. "There were 7,500 people praying together for two and a half hours. It was one of the most impactful things I've ever been a part of as a Christian. I left there and felt like God was leading us to do something like that."
So when Martin returned home he shared the concept with fellow Franklin Baptist Association leaders -- and they were equally as excited about bringing the idea to life in their churches.
"We were going to do it regardless, but I saw the vision for getting all 35 churches in our association on board with doing this on the same day -- one association praying for the same thing in all our worship services," Martin said. "Since I was the only one who had attended the annual meeting, I put together a worship service template, changing it so it was an hour-long program instead of two-and-a-half hours."
Most of the association's pastors were on board and they all began praying to decide when the right time for the event would be. They landed on early January, thinking that starting the New Year with this kind of unique service would help focus their churches in 2016.
On Jan. 10, First Baptist, along with several other churches in Franklin Association, hosted a special prayer-focused worship event, each at their own churches. At press time reports were still being compiled, but Martin estimates that at least 20 of the association's 35 churches participated.
Each of the participating churches structured things a bit differently, but at Martin's church they dedicated a full worship service to prayer.
"My folks loved it. They embraced it," he said. "We did prayer circles where we had folks gather up all around the congregation. It was fun standing up on the stage and watching and listening when folks were praying out loud. You could hear this dull roar around the room."
Longtime First Baptist member Calvin Parmer said the church has never done anything quite like this.
"This is the first time we have ever spent the entire morning service in prayer that involved active participation of all in attendance," Parmer said. "Beforehand there was some apprehension among our members, but this soon disappeared as soon as the program began. The prayer topics were areas of importance in our daily walk of life."
Martin divided the service into four prayer topics: "What would happen if God really moved?" (Acts 2); "It's time to repent" (1 John 1:9); prayers for leadership (ranging from pastoral staff to President Barack Obama and everywhere in between); and "We want to be filled with God's power" (Acts 1:8).
Martin said, "When I came to this church, we decided we wanted to build a Great Commission church in Russellville. The vision of our church is carried out by being a group of people that is excited and empowered by the Great Commission.
"Our aim as a church was for this event to give us a springboard for 2016, which we are calling 'A Year to Grow.' We want to grow financially, spiritually, membership-wise, through baptism, and this was a way to galvanize our people around one idea."
Larry Dover, Franklin Association's director of missions, said it was important to bring prayer to the forefront in the association.
"Our association is like most: we need to pray more," Dover said. "I sensed an urgency in our churches that I have not seen in a long time. Maybe God is up to something."
Importance of prayer
Though First Baptist dedicated the full service to prayer, other churches in the association used that Sunday to have a traditional service that emphasized the importance of prayer throughout the service.
"All of the other pastors preached a sermon on prayer and spiritual awakening," Dover said. "All of them had times of prayer led by various members of the congregation. Some of them had altar calls during or at the conclusion of the service."
Martin said he hopes his church and others in the association can experience an event like this again, although he would want to be sure it's not so frequent that it loses its impact.
"One of the best things about this was the fact that our association did it together," he said.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Anna Keller is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.
S.C. church's reading
ministry reaches students
By Julia S. Bell
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (The Courier) -- First Baptist Myrtle Beach's reading ministry in a local elementary school is only a few weeks old. What started with an offer to volunteer on-site with students, has quickly become a church-wide ministry supported by the congregation.
The idea came about last year, when Minister of Music & Worship Don Hansen attended an Impact Conference break out session, led by Emory Hiott, children's minister at First Baptist Charleston, who shared about her church's reading ministry. Hansen walked away with a changed heart about a ministry God continued to cultivate in him.
"A few months later, as I was teaching a children's Bible study, I asked a few to read some verses. They struggled to read, and it was excruciating to watch. I realized we can't make disciples out of people who can't read," Hansen said.
"When you think about Kingdom growth, you have to look outside the church walls. Ninety-seven percent of South Carolina's children will pass through a public school, and many of those children have never experienced the love of Christ. What better way to share this joy while also helping them to reach life-long goals," said Charleston's Hiott who is also an education strategist consultant with the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC).
In October, Hansen approached the principal of Myrtle Beach Elementary to get started because, as he put it, "I felt convicted that if I didn't do this, I would be disobedient to God's call." At first, Hansen met a few teachers and read to their classes. Then he was paired with two students that he now reads with for an hour on Mondays and tutors in math for an hour on Wednesdays. He also volunteers every Wednesday morning helping teachers with odds and ends and then in a classroom with students who need extra attention. He doesn't allow any moment at the school to be wasted.
"Volunteering has enabled me to learn children's names and pray for them while I'm in the classroom. My goal was to be dependable and positive as I prepared the way for what would come next," he said.
After establishing a consistent presence in the school, Hansen invited members of First Church Myrtle Beach to join him. "I was the first to jump in the pool and told them 'the water's fine, come join me,'" he said.
Interest increased as Hansen excitedly shared his experiences, and by November the church named First Baptist Church Reading Buddies as a formal outreach. Volunteers sought approval through the school district, and 16 went through a school orientation in December.
"I have been received with arms wide open at the elementary school. Someone thanked me for being there and said, 'you have already made such a difference in our school.' I thought, 'you ain't seen nothing yet!' I have a whole lot of friends who are preparing to invade this school for God's kingdom," Hansen said.
Hiott, from First Baptist Charleston, has been coaching Hansen through the start-up process. When Hansen discussed how to encourage school employees, Hiott connected him with SCBC grant assistance that enabled First Baptist Myrtle Beach to provide all 80 school staff members with gift cards. A church member provided additional restaurant gift cards because he wanted to 'blow (staff) away with God's love.'
"Our church is excited about this ministry like nothing I have seen in the last 10 years," Hansen said.
Hiott said, "I think what makes First Baptist Myrtle Beach extra special is that Don is the music minister. You don't have to be a 'kids' person to get this going and be a blessing in your community; you just have to understand that God is in our local schools, and we should be, too."
Through her own ministry, Hiott learned that the government considers third grade reading and test scores when planning the number of future jails and beds. She sites this benchmark third-grade year as critical to changing the trajectory of a child's life. "We should be changing our city for Christ and spreading His love in tangible ways. So if that means reading with a child once a week, or just eating lunch with them and being a positive role model, then Christians have an opportunity that we cannot pass up."
According to Lee Clamp, SCBC evangelism director, churches should look to public schools as strategic places to improve the wellbeing of a community.
"Ninety-seven percent of the population of a generation is flowing through the local schools; and if every student and their family is touched there, then you will basically touch nearly every person in your community over the course of a generation. Children learn to read by the third grade, and they read to learn the remainder of their life. If they are below grade level in the third grade, they may never catch up, risk dropping out, and ultimately lower the opportunities for employment in the future. The reputation of the church in a community will dramatically change when those unengaged in church see them taking the posture of a servant, especially with their most precious resource ... their children. As the reputation changes in the positive direction, the doors for spiritual conversations will swing wide open giving the church the opportunity to introduce people to the life that the kingdom brings through Jesus."
Hansen said he's already seen how spending weekly time with a child creates stability for them. "That time each week might be the only attention that child gets, so you become important in their world. There are people in Myrtle Beach literally dying for us to get out of this church and impact their lives," he said.
For more online information about school ministries, go to www.scbaptist.org/evangelism.
This article appeared in The Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Julia S. Bell is a contributing writer for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
ministry in India
By Lonnie Wilkey
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) -- Baptists in Cumberland Baptist Association, headquartered in Clarksville, Tenn., know they can travel to minister in India only on occasion.
For ministry to be effective there, it is imperative that Christians with a heart for their lost countrymen are trained to be missionaries to plant churches in the remote villages of India.
Thus, Mission Voice Network Ministries in India was formed in the United States to raise prayer and financial support for the suffering missionaries there. The Clarksville-based ministry is comprised of primarily Tennessee Baptists from area churches.
The organization sponsored a booth at The Summit held at First Baptist Church in Millington in November to introduce Tennessee Baptists to their ministry and to meet Viiayan Kochupillai (Bro. Vee), a converted Hindu who is dedicated to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in India.
Bro. Vee founded and currently serves as president of Mission Voice Network in India.
Since he developed the organization in 2008, MVN has developed 452 nationally trained missionaries whose primary focus is to plant churches in the remote villages of India.
Tony Evans is the United States director of MSN. He learned about the ministry in India on one of Bro. Vee's visits to the United States in 2009 to raise financial and prayer support.
Bro. Vee attended a home Bible study group that Evans hosted in his home. Evans noted that Bro. Vee's English was still in the beginning stages and that he was hard to understand. But after Vee returned to Clarksville the following two years, Evans went to India at Bro. Vee's invitation to see for himself the ministry his India friend had begun.
"God captured my heart for that ministry, said Evans, a member of First Baptist Church, Clarksville.
After returning home from that first trip to India, he started the non-profit organization in the United States and began to enlist other Baptists in the area to join him.
"God has called me to be the voice of those precious saints who are suffering for the gospel in India," Evans said.
Dwight Dickson, a member of FBC who serves on the MVN board of directors, has been to India twice.
"It's hard to comprehend what is taking place over there," he observed.
MVN raises financial support for the local missionaries. Evans noted that $50 a month provides income for a missionary family in India. While that doesn't seem like much money, a 20-pound bag of rice will last a family in India for five to six weeks, he said.
The work in India is challenging. It normally takes one to five years to establish a self-supported church in one of the villages, he noted.
Over the years the ministry has been able to reach more than 1,500 villages.
"We are seeing a transformation in these villages," said Bro. Vee.
MVN is effective because national missionaries are born and raised in India. They have an advantage over other nationalities in reaching their people for Christ, Evans said. Among them, the national missionaries know the languages, the culture, and the various mind-sets of the people, he observed.
"Because of their faithfulness and willingness to sacrifice, national missionaries have been able to share the love of Jesus Christ with literally millions of men, women, and children who had never heard of His name," Evans said.
"In India today, believers joyfully worship the Lord in places where no church existed before, but none of those accomplishments occur easily," he added.
Evans noted that national missionaries "are paying a high price" to see people reached with Christ's love. "Persecution is a part of life for many missionaries. Beatings, death threats, and imprisonment are a few of the things they encounter on a daily basis," Evans said.
Despite the dangers, these missionaries, who do not do anything without prayer and fasting, "press onward as they proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the unsaved souls of India," he added.
Evans and those involved with MVN in the United States provide monthly support for the missionaries, bicycles to the national missionaries for transportation and motorbikes to ministry coordinators in India as they travel to the villages to assist the local missionaries.
The organization also provides water wells and food, medicine, and education to local children in addition to many other ministries, Evans said.
These types of outreach and programs allow the national missionaries to be more welcomed in the villages, he said.
Over the years volunteers have traveled to India and led Vacation Bible Schools for children and helped train leaders. Thousands of children have accepted Christ as a result of VBS, the Clarksvillians estimated.
Vee continues to travel to the United States to share with groups, but Clarksville is one of his favorite stops. In November, he was ordained as a minister and officially became a member of First Baptist Church.
Rick Stevens, director of missions for Cumberland Baptist Association, has participated in the ministry in India. "The connection with the ministry has impacted some of our churches," he said.
Evans welcomes Tennessee Baptists who want more information about what God is doing among the Hindus in India to call him at 931-206-6725.
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & 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. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.