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FROM THE STATES: Ala., Fla., Ky. evangelism/missions news; ‘We’re trying to do it the way Jesus did’

Today’s From the States features items from: The Alabama Baptist; Florida Baptist Witness; Western Recorder (Kentucky)


Ala. church seeks to disciple
by ‘living life together’

By Grace Thornton

TROY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — Malachi Gandy says hardly a week goes by that he doesn’t run into discipleship happening when he’s out and about in Troy.

His wife is part of a discipleship group that meets at a local coffee shop on Monday nights. If he goes into Chick-fil-A on a Wednesday or a Thursday night, he bumps into another group or two.

“It doesn’t matter where you go throughout the week, you’re running into discipleship in community, and I think that’s a great testimony,” he said.

Gandy himself has a group that meets on Friday mornings at McDonalds.

“This is my second one — it’s been going on for a little more than a year,” he said. “There’s four of us in it, folks in all phases of life.”


They study the Bible together. They hold each other accountable. They ask each other the tough questions.

And eventually, they’ll each move on and start new groups.

And that makes Dwayne Norman, pastor of Bush Memorial Baptist Church, Troy, thank God for what He’s done.

About three years ago, Norman got the church started with what he called D groups, three or four people meeting together for the purpose of discipleship and then multiplication.

“It doesn’t always work out this way, but we try to be intentional about being intergenerational, about pairing older people with younger people and college students,” he said.

Since it started, the church has seen growth, both spiritually and numerically. In November 2015 six people were baptized, followed by seven more on consecutive Sundays.

“We’ve got a lot to celebrate,” Norman said, adding that “some of those new believers stem from the D group ministry, and for the others we are trying to get them involved in D groups so they can be discipled.”

When Bush Memorial Baptist first started D groups in 2013, it used the curriculum “Discipleship Essentials.” Since then a shift was made to other books or simply to studying the Bible itself, he said.

It’s something God has really moved in as the church focused on discipling as Jesus did — in the framework of living life together, Norman said.

“We’re trying to do it the way Jesus did,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be something that was just for a season. This is too important. It’s equipping people to do the work of ministry.”

Because of that, Norman has intentionally worked to keep casting the vision for the congregation.

And as Bush Memorial has stayed pointed in the direction of missions and discipleship, leaders and members have seen God expand their ministry way past the city limits.

With the ministry to college students at Troy University, the church has seen how far discipleship can reach.

Opportunities to disciple

“It’s been an opportunity for us to disciple them while they’re here and teach them to disciple others, then send them out,” Norman said. “And God has sent them literally all over the world.”

For example, one college student graduated and moved overseas to share the gospel in a closed country.

“God is using him mightily, and we had a small part to play in his spiritual journey,” Norman said. “For all of us, keeping momentum in the D groups has not been easy always, but from obedience we’ve gotten to see God do some amazing things.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.


New home in Fla. opens Japanese
minds to new life in Christ

By Margaret Colson

MIAMI (Florida Baptist Witness) — Such a Japanese mission “was already in God’s sight and plans at least 10 years ago,” said Henry Gonzalez, pastor of administration at Iglesia Primera Bautista de Coral Park.

About that time the Japanese Consulate in Miami asked to rent space in the Hispanic church to conduct Hoshuko school each Saturday, a school devoted to teaching Japanese language and culture to children of Japanese descent.

Many Japanese executives come to Miami on a two-year work visa, said Gonzalez, and parents do not want their children to lose their Japanese culture and language skills during that time.

“What an opportunity to build bridges with Japanese people,” said Gonzalez.

Even as Gonzalez and Takaoka were gaining a vision for reaching Japanese people in Miami, others began sensing that need also.

For example, “On the very day when I pinned up a map of the Florida peninsula in my office to pray more concretely for Japanese mission to take place in Miami,” Takaoka recalled, a Japanese Christian woman named Luna in Miami called him to say she wanted to visit his church in Orlando because Miami had no Japanese church.

“Luna’s words touched my heart just like the cry out of Macedonia found in Acts 16,” he said.

Around the same time, Mike Yokoy, who leads Japanese Church Planting Network, contacted Takaoka, expressing his vision for a Japanese church to be planted in Miami.

“We had been praying (about starting a Japanese church in Miami) for more than five years. The time had come,” he said.

There are more than 12,000 Japanese people living in Florida, Yokoy said, making it the seventh most Japanese-populated state in the nation.

In January of this year, Takaoka led his first Bible study in Miami. Seventeen people attended. Since that time, he has traveled to Miami twice a month. That one Bible study has grown to three Bible studies — held at a Japanese restaurant, a home and Primera Iglesia Bautista de Coral Park. Each time Takaoka makes the round-trip between Orlando and Miami, the Florida Baptist Convention provides overnight lodging.

“Hiro has such a passion for what he does. It’s contagious,” said Gonzalez.

Primera Iglesia Bautista de Coral Park has agreed to help sponsor the new congregation, offering classroom and worship space and working alongside JCPN as it finds and begins the immigration process for a pastor in Japan to relocate to south Florida. It’s a process that can take one to two years, said Yokoy.

The partnership in how this Japanese church plant is coming together is “quite a testimony of what can and should be done,” said Gonzalez.

Al Fernandez, Florida Baptists’ regional catalyst/southeast Florida agrees. He believes the vision for and first steps to launching the Japanese mission have been an opportunity for Florida Baptists to “join God in what He’s already doing.

“It’s a God-thing,” said Fernandez. “It’s all coming together.”
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Margaret Colson is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.


Ky. student event
reaps 219 decisions

By Myriah Snyder

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) — The mission of the University of Louisville’s Baptist Campus Ministry is to show Christ’s love on the self-declared “most secular campus in the South,” John Adams, UofL campus missionary, said. In doing that, they are by teaming up with area churches to engage the campus.

Adams, who began his work with Louisville’s BCM a year ago this month, says the biggest challenge he faces on Louisville’s campus is helping students to identify themselves as Christians in a culture that is completely secular.

“On the University of Louisville campus,” Adams explained, “if you do not support the minority cause or minority push on a particular issue, then you’re looked at as being a bigot or a hatemonger or someone who is completely out of touch with today’s culture and society. I think for our students, the idea is to help them to learn how to engage that culture, because that’s where they live.”

Kari Woods, UofL senior and BCM president, echoed Adam’s thoughts about the struggles of being a student and a Christian on campus. However, she not only found a place of encouragement and fellowship in the BCM when she arrived on campus as a freshman, but she also found a place that taught her to be a leader and instilled in her a passion for discipleship.

“The BCM has really shaped me by giving me leadership skills and a desire to make disciples in that 12/24 window,” Woods said, referring to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s push for middle, high school and college evangelism and discipleship.

“I see that continuing even after my internship as a campus ministry intern ends,” she said.

“Just being part of a leadership team at the BCM,” she continued, “has instilled in me a desire to make disciples and to build up today’s youth to go to their friends and their schools and proclaim the gospel so that every person may have the opportunity to hear what the true gospel is and the truth that will be transforming their lives.”

The way that the University of Louisville’s BCM is expanding its outreach is through the local church. They have started Bible studies led not by BCM leaders but by churches connecting with students. Campus ministry interns, from Boyce College, Southern Seminary and graduate students at UofL are acting as “intentional bridge builders” from the church. They, alongside their local church, are helping to “disciple, lead, execute ministries and engage students on that campus,” Adams said.

“Churches of all sizes are involved,” he said. “Oftentimes churches think you have to have a huge college ministry to be involved.”

He noted that although they have large churches involved, they have multi-generation churches as well as small church plants doing their part to reach students.

“They are intentionally engaging to reach the lost but also to challenge the handful of students within their reach to be campus missionaries themselves,” Adams said.

With this new outlook on campus ministry, Adams has seen growth, from under 10 students involved to around 50-60 attending weekly worship, and as many being part of a campus Bible study. The BCM now offers ESL classes and other outreach opportunities to the international community as well. Over the last year, through BCM and KBC partnerships, they have seen seven professions of faith.

“The future is to have a gospel presence everywhere. That’s going to be a massive task,” Adams added. “The only way that’s going to happen is if the local church and the Kentucky Baptist Convention is focused on helping churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.”

That’s our plan, to literally reach Kentucky through our campuses,” he concluded. “As it is, the student ministry is the biggest mission field within the United States.” (WR)
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is a news writer for the Western Recorder.


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.

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