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FROM THE STATES: Ala., N.C., La. evangelism/missions news; ‘Jesus is desperate for those who are desperate for Him’

Today’s From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)


Ala. evangelism conference speakers urge
Christians to stand firm, stand out

By Maggie Walsh and Neisha Roberts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) — The culture may be changing and separating more and more from evangelical Christians, but that only emphasizes the importance of standing firm on the faith and standing out for the cause of Christ, a slate of pastors shared Feb. 29–March 1.

Pastors from across Alabama and the Southeast preached on ways to reach the changing culture with the gospel during the Alabama Baptist State Evangelism Conference, held at First Baptist Church, Montgomery.

Daven Watkins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pelham, Ala., set the stage of his sermon around the dinner table of Simon the Pharisee. Drawing from Luke 7:36–50, Watkins pointed out that Jesus never ostracized or belittled those around Him.

“Jesus is desperate for those who are desperate for Him,” he said, referring to the “sinful woman” who entered Simon’s house and washed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume.

The woman was daring, Watkins said, to even step away from the wall where she was standing, as it violated the social custom of the day.

‘Picture of desperation’

“She has the audacity to come off the wall and approach the table. And she stands right behind the visiting guest. … I wonder to myself, ‘What would cause this woman to come off the wall?’

“There is only one answer — she is desperate,” he said.

Luke doesn’t disclose the name of this woman or even what her sin was, Watkins said. And he does that to invite us into the story.

“Luke wants us to identify ourselves as being as sinful as this woman.

“She is the picture of desperation,” he said. “Desperation can lead to daring devotion.”

This account is not given to us to be “models for morality but as mirrors.” We have been forgiven much, Watkins said, and that should influence how we treat others.

“Great grace leads to great love. If you have received great grace you will demonstrate great love — great love for God and great love for others.”

Leaning forward, Watkins asked participants, “How desperate are you for Christ?”

Along with showing love, the Church also must confront believers in their sin, said Dusty McLemore, pastor of Lindsay Lane Baptist Church, Athens, Ala.

After David commits adultery with Bathsheba, Nathan comes along and confronts him of his sin. “It’s our responsibility as pastors and Christians to do what Nathan did and confront the culture,” he said.

Just as David became numb to sin and the culture around him, McLemore fears the Church is becoming numb of conscience as it engages in “spiritual warfare with the culture.”

“It’s our responsibility as pastors and Christians to … confront the culture (of its sin). And by the way if we don’t do it, who will? … That’s why it’s imperative to be salt and light, to be the Church.

“Satan is in a battle for our mind and our conscience and our culture. … If we’re filling our mind with the Word of God and the Spirit of God then we’re working in the context of spirituality.

“The best protection against deception is to know God’s revealed truth — the Bible,” he said. “Let’s not put on our religious mask. Let’s not play church; let’s be the Church.”

Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., added that “we’re not doing what God is calling us to do in the way in which He demands each one of us.” The urgency of evangelism calls each and every Christian to give their lives to Christ.

“You were made to look like God, love like God and live with God,” Wilton said. “God who is holy and righteous can have no place with sin.”

Pulling from the entire book of Revelation, Wilton urged participants to fully commit to the Lord, using the phrase “give your life to Christ” as a refrain throughout his message to drive the urgency of evangelism home.

“You see, friends, the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that when we have in our heart these things that are written, we’re going to want to do everything we can to tell everyone we can about the true love of God and that ‘the Lord Jesus loves you.’

“That’s what [Christianity] is all about. … It’s not about knowing all the ins and outs and understanding the right order. … It’s about trusting Jesus.”

Preaching from Acts 10, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., also emphasized the need for personal evangelism.

“We should never confuse the good with salvation,” he said.

Take Cornelius the centurion from Acts 10:21 for example. Cornelius was a man of dedication, of inspiration, of devotion, of devoutness, of reputation, Brunson said. By all accounts he was God-fearing.

“But don’t mistake goodness with salvation,” he said. “[Cornelius] was lost.”

Christians also should “never confuse God’s call with personal perfection,” Brunson said. Each one of us has been shown immeasurable grace. Because of that, he said, we must ask ourselves: “Am I really serious about the grace of God and can the grace of God be as great in [others’] lives as it is in my life?”

For most of the participants, God has “ordered us to preach. Preach just what He’s given you — the gospel.”

But preaching the gospel in the current culture may be harder than in years past, a few preachers explained.

Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, said, “For the first time in our history in the United States, we are a Christian in an age of terror.

“As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ we have an awesome responsibility — even in times of peace and calm,” he said. “We have to keep the people stirred up in order to move forward. We have to stay on course.”

This is not the first age of terror, Jackson noted, and God gives pastors a job description for how to navigate in such times beginning in Jeremiah 1:8.

First pastors have to “root out” those heart conditions that hinder believers from having the caliber of Christianity that the persecuted Church exhibits on a daily basis. Second pastors must preach the full Word of the Lord.

“If we change it by adding something to or by subtracting something from it, it is no longer the Word of God,” Jackson said.

So how are Christians to act in a day of terror?

Referencing verse 17, Jackson said Christians, both in the pews and behind the pulpit, are to arise, speak truth and speak without fear.

Danny Lovett, pastor of The Church at Chelsea Westover, agreed that believers must be courageous.

“If there’s ever been a day that we need the Church to be courageous it’s right now,” he said. “We have been so defamed, so defeated, so discouraged because of political correctness.

“We’re living in a time when there’s never been a greater opportunity for the Church to stand in the gap for the lame so that God will not destroy…. There’s no doubt what we need — we need some men and women of God who will be courageous.”

Preaching from 1 Samuel about the young shepherd boy named David, Lovett said, “It’s not about the stature, the genius. It’s about having a heart for God.”

Employed by God

David was employed by God, Lovett said, and because he was employed by God the Scriptures pour out three encouragements for a Christian to be courageous:

1. Be ready for any call.

“Most of us are not ready for any call, we’re just ready for our call.”

2. Be ready for any circumstance.

“David rose early that morning … and nothing took him by surprise because he knew God sent him there (to fight Goliath).”

3. Be ready for any cost.

“David was not worried about fighting Goliath because He knew God was on his side. If it meant he was gonna die that was OK too. He was just gonna do what God asked him to do. You don’t worry about the outcome you just jump in and do what God says to do.

“If we will be courageous, any giant we face will fall,” Lovett urged. “Get filled up. Get studied up. And let the Church charge.”

Former Alabama Baptist Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, shared seven “I wills” from Exodus 6 that God promised to do because He is the Lord and still promises today.

“I will bring you out … I will deliver you … I will redeem you … I will take you for My people … I will be your God and you shall know it … I will bring you to the land … I will give you the land for possession.”

Gaines noted, “So when Pharaoh said, ‘I don’t know the Lord and I’m not gonna let the people go,’ God told Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and tell him that I Am will bring you out, deliver you, redeem you and give you the land — and oh, by the way, now you’re gonna see what I will do.”

Pastor Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., told participants that the world’s rock — what they set their value on and hope in — is not like our Rock.

“You don’t have to be in this culture very long to know that there is a group that we love and are trying to win, but their rock is not like our Rock,” the Sand Mountain native said.

Drawing from Deuteronomy 32, Traylor said he came with good news: “The Rock does not move. … It does not change course.”

As we go into the culture we should build on the Rock. That means building our house, our church and our city on the Rock, he said.

Believers also have to run to the Rock and be willing to suffer for the Rock whose message is “offensive” to the world, he said. “You must be willing to suffer for the gospel. … You must be willing to let the gospel be an offense.

“Time is short. … Stand on the Rock and tell it for Jesus Christ.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Neisha Fuson is a writer for The Alabama Baptist. Maggie Walsh and Neisha Roberts write for The Alabama Baptist.


N.C. ‘Reveal’ conference encourages
life-on-life discipleship

By Chad Austin

GREENSBORO, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — When Dhati Lewis felt called to the ministry, he didn’t sense a call just to preach the gospel. He sensed a call to make disciples.

“Disciple-making is not a ministry of the local church,” said Lewis, who serves as lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga. “It is the ministry of the local church.”

Lewis shared how he lives out that calling to a group of 350 pastors and church leaders on Monday, Feb. 29 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., as part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2016 disciple-making conference.

The theme of the conference was “Reveal: Share your life. Speak the gospel.” The theme is based on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 in which the Apostle Paul wrote, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

Lewis was one of several speakers at the event who shared biblical and practical ways to build genuine relationships that point others to Christ and help them grow in their faith.

Speaking from Matthew 9:35-38, Lewis challenged attendees to recommit themselves to reaching their neighbors for Christ.

“(Jesus) says the harvest is plentiful,” Lewis said. “The problem is that the laborers are few. The problem is that too many of us as believers have reduced Christianity to conferences, concerts and church services. Now all the laborers are clustered together.”

Lewis added that too many believers have become “addicted to our comfort,” and reaching our neighbors will require us to get outside of those comfort zones.

“We need to really think through, ‘How do we reach our neighbors?'” Lewis explained. “I think the first thing God is saying (in this passage) is that we need to pray that God would force us out.”

Lewis said reaching our neighbors means we must take time to get to know them and get involved in their lives. Lewis called this “the ministry of presence,” adding that we must rediscover the principle of life-on-life discipleship.

“We have reduced life-on-life disciple-making to a once a week meeting at Starbucks where I’m going to ask you about your life,” Lewis said.

Lewis is so committed to life-on-life disciple-making that he and his wife, Angie, invite six to eight single adults to live with them in their home for several months. Lewis and his family model for those individuals how to study and apply the Bible as they live life together.

The principle of life-on-life disciple-making is foundational to Blueprint Church. So much so that half of Blueprint’s members have someone living in their homes that they are discipling, Lewis said.

“Living in close proximity forces you to deal with the truths of scripture in real life,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ message resonated with Jeff Holder, pastor of Society Baptist Church in Statesville.

As Holder heard Lewis describe how he disciples individuals who live in his home, Holder said he was reminded of an individual in his community who is doing the same for someone else. Holder said he plans to talk to wife about inviting a young man from his church to live with them for a period of time.

“Discipleship does involve this idea of ministry presence and life-on-life presence,” Holder said.

Chuck Lawless, professor and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, opened the day by speaking on disciple-making and spiritual warfare. He reminded attendees that it is God who fights our battles for us.

“God leads us into impossible battles so He might be our warrior and the nations might know His name,” Lawless said as he walked through several passages of scripture to illustrate that truth and how it relates to disciple-making.

In examining the life of David, Lawless noted that the shepherd boy trusted in the Lord’s strength and power to deliver him against the giant Goliath. When he later became king, David would frequently depend upon his own abilities, Lawless said.

David’s example has direct application in disciple-making. “If we’re not careful, we will train people out of dependence upon God,” Lawless said.

In disciple-making relationships, Lawless challenged the audience to ask themselves this question: “Are you David the king or David the shepherd boy? Where are you really?

“The best disciple-makers are shepherd boys and shepherd girls who teach others to be the same.”

Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church near Asheville, concluded the day with a special word for pastors. Frank encouraged pastors to model the type of disciple-making that they want to see from their congregation.

“If you’re a pastor, you’ve got to put huge importance on the quality of model that you are,” Frank said. Frank reiterated the conference’s theme about the importance of building relationships that can serve as platforms to share the gospel and make disciples. While acknowledging that it’s easy to be critical of lost people and their lifestyles, Frank encouraged attendees to intentionally pray for and seek out friendships with the lost.

“They are not the enemy,” Frank said. “They are the mission field.”
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Chad Austin is communications coordinator for the convention.


Speaker encouraged by students’
response at La. collegiate conference

By Brian Blackwell

ALEXANDRIA, La. (Baptist Message) — Despite news reports and surveys saying the Millennial generation is not committed to the church, Michael Wood came away encouraged by this generation of students attending the recent Collegiate Evangelism Conference.

“I’m so encouraged hearing from so many of you who have put your yes on the table,” Wood told a crowd of around 700, mostly college students from Baptist Collegiate Ministries throughout the state. “Whatever it is, the answer is yes. Wherever it takes me, the answer is yes.”

Wood, who is pastor at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, challenged the students throughout the two-day conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria to make a difference for Christ in the near and far places.

Citing Nehemiah 2:8, Wood said the prophet Nehemiah was presented with a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He said Nehemiah realized what his mission was after four months of praying and fasting and thus approached the king to seek permission and funding to carry out the task.

“Rebuilt walls stand on the foundation of God’s presence and power,” Wood said. “And they are framed with a clear mission.”

Likewise, students are tasked with a similar mission today, he said … advancing the kingdom of God by rebuilding one life at a time.

He also said too often, this mission is muddied up with activity. He said that interferes with Christ’s commandment to take the gospel to the nations.

“So I ask you today, does that truth move you to rebuild lives?” Wood asked. “Now is the time. We’re done with excuses. We’re done with apathy.

“The God of creation gives you a clear mission,” he said. “He says I’m not sending you out on your own, I’m with you in this. Let it be said of this generation they were faithful, they knew God was with them.”

Wood’s messages were part of a conference Feb. 19-20 that included testimonies from Baptist Collegiate Ministry students from around the state, worship by The City Harmonic, a late-night fellowship and small group prayer times.

Students open up

Conference organizer Chad McClurg said the fellowship among the students reflected the close-knit nature of the state.

“For this year our theme was Near and Far,” said McClurg, director of the BCM at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “Our hope out of everything we did was to inspire our students that taking the gospel starts with those near and ends with those who are far away. The students after the conference talked about everything from going to mission trips to getting called to ministry to sharing with international students in their class. So I think we accomplished our purpose.”

During a time of student testimonies — about various ministries BCM members can be a part of throughout the year — Noah Whirley from LSU shared about a mission trip he took with others to Chinatown of New York last Christmas. He said it’s a way God has called Christians to fulfill the Great Commission.

“Whenever we have those breaks in the school year, what better way than to use them to share Christ,” he said. “It’s really easy for us to think I need to go to mission trips out of the country. The truth is we have people in our own backyard who have never heard of Jesus before.”

Hunter Humble, a member of the BCM at Louisiana Tech University, talked about his time as a member of the Go Louisiana (GOLA) VBS team. In its eighth year, GOLA VBS is part of an emphasis by the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Louisiana.

GOLA VBS allows college students to serve on teams that spend the summer sharing God’s love through Vacation Bible School at Louisiana Baptist churches.

“All the churches where we served have one thing in common,” Humble said. “It was that they love to share the love of Christ. During GOLA, we answered the call God has given us.”

Grace Kerr, a member of the BCM at LSU, said even though this was the third year to attended CEC, she said the fellowship with students around the state never gets old. She added that Wood’s messages caused her to pause and reflect on the short time she has to make an impact as a college student.

“I liked how he talked about the Lord has us here for such a time as this,” Kerr said. “All aspects of the conference reinforce that we have a mission field and no matter where we are, whether it’s in our dorm or overseas, Jesus’ name needs to be shared with people.”

Jacob Anderson, a member of the BCM at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said CEC reminded him of his purpose.

“We have this opportunity in college that we won’t have later because this of this season of life,” Anderson said. “And that made me pause and think on the fact that we are called as college students to do what needs to be done for Christ.”

No need to fear

Mark Robinson, state BCM director for Louisiana Baptists, closed CEC with a word of encouragement for students struggling with the fear of losing their TOPS funding for next year.

On Feb. 11, Louisiana’s colleges and universities received an unprecedented notice by email from the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid that said it was suspending all payments of funds from TOPS, or Taylor Opportunity Program for Students. The decision was reversed the following day, but Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne announced the program was $28 million short of the scholarship funds necessary to last until the end of the semester. Legislators are discussing the fate of TOPS right now during their special session.

Robinson told the students that when they are overcome with fear, they should recite the words “When I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord.” He added that if any students do indeed lose funding, the end result could be God moving them to another campus and state for a greater purpose.

“When I saw that announcement I thought what an opportunity it was for God to show his power,” Robinson said. “Right now this situation we’ve got is an incredible storm. It is a financial storm.

“As a believer we can pray,” he said. “If we do that, we have victory.”
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.


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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