FROM THE STATES: Fla., Mo., N.C. evangelism/missions news; 'Parenting is hard but we want to help you'

Today's From the States features items from: Florida Baptist Convention, The Pathway (Missouri), Biblical Recorder (North Carolina).

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Fla. church partners with parents

By Keila Diaz

MIAMI (Florida Baptist Convention) -- Christ Centered Church in Miami partnered with a local school on August 11th to bring parents a day packed with educational resources.

The two-hour event at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center featured a resource fair with dozens of exhibitors, learning sessions, breakouts, a panel discussion and backpack giveaways.

"The turnout was significantly more than we expected," said Derek Allen, pastor of Christ Centered. About 300 adults and children came to the event on Saturday morning and even the complimentary childcare service provided was at maximum capacity.

Originally the church had the idea to do an event for resourcing church parents but the school reached out with a similar idea for school parents and so the two decided to partner and make the event open to all parents.

"Parenting is hard but we want to help you," said Allen in a Facebook video inviting parents to the Aug. 11th event.

Al Fernandez, southeast regional catalyst of the Florida Baptist Convention, said that the event by Christ Centered and David Lawrence met a very real need.

"We have a generation that doesn't know what good parenting is because they are products of a culture of divorce, separation, cohabitation and so on," said Fernandez. "This is why we're having so many parents, even those who don't come to church, look to the church to show them how to parent."

The day was split into four learning sessions. It kicked off with a main session where parents learned about intentional parenting, followed by two breakout sessions which covered calm parenting and communicating with purpose, and it wrapped up with a parenting question and answer panel. The panel was made up of Allen and his wife Lindsay, parents themselves; Jason and Kelly Hill, parents and former members of Christ Centered; and Dennis Dalton, member of Christ Centered and single parent.

"We had lots of questions about technology, behavior control and time management," said Allen.

The church's ministries also set up tables at the resource fair to inform parents and students about the church.

"Over 30 parents signed up for our parenting small group ... a number of teens also signed up to receive more information about our student ministry."

In the coming days the parenting small group will launch in a church member's home and will run for six weeks. Allen hopes that during that time parents will build bonds with each other and the small group will become permanent. The group will follow a video-based curriculum written by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"We call it an on-ramp small group; we want to attract parents not just to the small group but to the church family."

On Sunday morning following the Partnering with Parents event, the church had over 15 first time visitors and three adults made professions of faith in Jesus.


This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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Mo. state fair's Baptist tent yields 50 decisions for Christ

By Richard Nations

SEDALIA, Mo. (The Pathway) -- The Baptist tent ministry at the Missouri state fair yielded 50 decisions for Christ during the recent Aug. 9-19 fair. Forty-seven were for salvation, with three decisions for recommitment to the Lord.

State fair committee co-chairman, John Brittain said, "We had a great group of volunteers who were willing to share their faith this year." There were over 22 Baptist associations, churches and ministry groups who assisted with the tent ministry.

"In addition to the Gospel conversations we had with the folks coming into the tent, we tried to send every Christian out with a NAMB "Life Conversation 3-Circles" guide to share with others at the fair," Brittain said.

The MBC staff sent a crew of state convention missionaries to the tent on Wednesday, August 15th. John Yeats, MBC executive director, said, "State fair ministry led by our directors of missions is a great opportunity for starting a gospel conversation."

Yeats added, "Sharon and I were able to engage several people with the simple truths of the Gospel. Several state missionaries were with us on that day and I was fascinated how the Lord paired us up with different people who could easily understand our message. This is a super opportunity to train someone about obeying Christ through sharing their faith. Plenty of support, plenty of prayer and plenty of lost people."

Calvary Baptist Church in Sedalia, sent several volunteers with their pastor, Don Satterwhite, on three different days. Some of their members worked at the fair in concessions and parking and would come by to help before or after their shifts.

Satterwhite said, "On Saturday morning during orientation with a team from Bowling Green, Mo., I was telling them how to share their story in three minutes or less when a mom came in the tent with her two children and said, 'Where do I sign up?'

"I could have told her that we weren't open yet, (It was 9:50 a.m.) but I said, 'Sit down at the table.' I proceeded to share my story with the team watching and this woman made the decision to be saved. She prayed right there at the table.

"After she filled out the registration card I told the team, 'That is what we would like to see happen with every person that comes in the tent.'"

Pastor Satterwhite and his twin brother, Ron Satterwhite, director of missions for Mt. Salem/Wyaconda Baptist Association, Ewing, worked in the tent together a few days. One day a couple of twin girls came by to see Ron tying balloon animals for the kids at the entrance to the tent. They got to talking about being twins and the Satterwhite brothers were able to connect with the two little girls on the basis of being twins.

At the conclusion of the fair, three names were drawn as winners of the retail gift cards being offered to the fair attenders.

Organizers will send the gift cards to the winners of the fair "giveaway" as they like to call it. The people signing up for the opportunity to win the gift cards give "three minutes of their time" to the volunteers who then tell their Christian story in that amount of time. They then ask if anything like that has ever happened to them and proceed with more gospel conversation if allowed by the registrants. Most people are willing to take a little more time if they are interested in the conversations.

"Next year sign up for the Baptist tent ministry in your association," John Brittain said. He encouraged people to talk to their director of missions to volunteer. The ministry is sponsored by the Missouri Baptist Director of Missions Association with funding and volunteers from MBC affiliated associations and churches as well as a grant from the Missouri Missions Offering funds provided by MBC.


This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Richard Nations writes for The Pathway

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Replanted N.C. church grows through cooperation

By Seth Brown

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) -- Four years ago Oakhurst Baptist Church was prepared to close its doors. Located just a few miles southeast of Charlotte's city center, the once-thriving congregation had weathered a changing demographic and economic climate but retained only a few dozen members.

However, today it is showing signs of new growth, the fruits of an effort rooted in local church partnerships and denominational cooperation.

"We wanted God's kingdom, not Oakhurst's kingdom," said Wayne Deffinger, the church's former pastor.

Deffinger, now serving as pastor of Flint Hill Baptist Church in Fort Mill, S.C., came to Oakhurst in 2012. He told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview the church had "lost connection" with the surrounding community and was in decline. In his first two years, nearly two-dozen of the aging congregation's core members died.

Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, said a significant number of area churches are in "serious decline," meaning worship attendance has decreased more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.

Deffinger began to help Oakhurst explore its options, hoping to find a solution that could revive a vibrant ministry. The church considered putting its building up for sale and looking for a more affordable meeting space, becoming a campus of a larger church or merging with another ministry.

An area pastor connected church leaders with David Russell. At the time, Russell was an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He was searching for a church revitalization opportunity.

"We didn't want to see churches become coffee shops and condos in neighborhoods that are now booming with population growth," Russell said.

Capitol Hill underwent a long-term revitalization in the 1990s under the leadership of pastor Mark Dever, and that story inspired Russell to invest in a declining church, rather than plant a new congregation.

"It gave me a picture of the power behind helping revive an old, historic gospel witness," he said.

Russell and Oakhurst's church leaders began a series of meetings in 2014. They eventually decided to "replant" the church -- a term used to describe the process of restarting a church while keeping significant aspects of the ministry, such as the name or location.

The replanting process often includes bringing in a number of new church members and leaders from a "sending" church or churches to unite with legacy members of the existing church. A handful of people, including one staff member from Capitol Hill, moved from Washington, D.C., to join the ministry at Oakhurst.

In consultation with Oakhurst's deacons and Russell, Deffinger decided to bow out of the process and pursue other ministry opportunities.

Lowman said the whole transition was "one of the most positive experiences, in terms of things going smoothly, that I have seen."

A neighboring Charlotte congregation, Carmel Baptist Church, provided financial support and "sweat equity" for the replant, Russell said. They sent teams to help make needed repairs and upgrades to Oakhurst's facility.

"The revitalization of Oakhurst has been a joy to be a part of," said Carmel's senior pastor, Alex Kennedy. "The Gospel is bearing fruit in that part of Charlotte because of the willingness of brothers and sisters in Christ to partner together. We are hopeful to see this replicated again and again in the Queen City."

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina also provided financial support to aid the replanting effort. Pastors at both Capitol Hill and Carmel have mentored and stayed in regular contact with Russell.

Russell told Oakhurst's leaders at the time, "If this church has had a good witness -- it's been faithful to the Gospel and has a good reputation in the community -- we don't see any need to rebrand the church or shut it down and start something new."

Oakhurst welcomed new leadership and expressed their support for the replant, Russell said. Their biggest concern, however, was whether they would continue to feel welcomed after the transition.

"Our response to that was, 'We're Christians. We don't want to run you out of your church. If you want to remain here, we want you here,'" Russell said.

Everyone involved in the replant went through a new membership process and joined the church in September 2015. The church now averages nearly 300 in Sunday worship, which includes "generational diversity" that likely would not have been present in a new church plant, Russell said.

When asked for advice to churches that are considering a replant, Russell gave three tips:

-- Be sure expectations are clearly stated by everyone involved. "We called it purchasing peace on the front end," Russell said, "so that once we got into the work there could be unity."

-- Have a group of lay leaders committed to give time and energy. "Without them," said Russell, "it just would not have been as fruitful."

-- Legacy members must support new leadership. "The freedom [Oakhurst's legacy members] gave us allowed us to feel confident to come in and make the necessary changes," Russell said. "The existing church trusted us enough to let us lead the way."

Both Deffinger and Lowman encouraged declining churches to work closely with local associational leaders as they weigh options for the future. Lowman added that an interim period, such as a pastoral transition, is a good time to ask trusted leaders for help evaluating a church's condition.

"The bottom line of all this isn't, 'Can we survive as a church?'" Lowman said. "It is, 'Can we be the church Jesus created us to be to reach the community around us?'"


This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder.

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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.

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