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FROM THE STATES: Calif., Tenn., Ark. evangelism/missions news; ‘But God had bigger plans’

Today’s From the States features items from:
California Southern Baptist
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Arkansas Baptist News


Calif. church event
leaves big impact

By Kelli B. Smith

OJAI, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — “My vision was too small.”

That was one of the many things Pastor Jason Blankenship of Ojai Valley Baptist Church in Ojai learned as he began planning for an outreach event in the fall.

He originally proposed to hold a community outreach at a park and expected about 200 to attend. His congregation of some 65 members was onboard.

The church typically holds four evangelistic events during the year, with this being the largest, requiring about $5,000 from the church budget.

“But God had bigger plans,” said Blankenship, who organized Stand Strong Ojai for the city of about 20,000. “And when He is in it, it’s going to work out.”

Stand Strong Ojai turned into a three-day community effort that brought nearly 4,000 residents to hear the gospel at a high school football field. Of those, some 550 made decisions to follow Christ and are now being discipled through various churches in the city.

“This was the biggest outreach event held in the Ojai Valley,” Blankenship said. “What started as a small outreach turned into a community-wide revival.”

It began with national speaker Nic Vijicic, founder of Life Without Limbs, who spoke at several local schools prior to Stand Strong. Vijicic used his platform to share about Jesus through his anti-bullying message to some 1,700 students.

The day of the outreach event, hundreds of volunteers gathered at Nordhoff High School, where Stand Strong was held, to clean up the parking area and spread $8,500 worth of mulch after cleaning other areas on the school grounds.

“The school district had to cancel its Saturday youth football league in order for us to be there, which opened a door for us to build a relationship with the principal,” said Blankenship, who had never worked with the Ojai School District before.

“It was amazing how God opened the doors for us.”

As a result the school district is now open to future partnerships with Ojai area churches.

Vijicic was featured speaker at Stand Strong, and the worship team from Lakeshore City Church in Corona led worship.

Blankenship believes there was a reason God chose to bless his area.

“The only way God moved in our city was because we had a loving, united ministerial association to begin with,” he explained. “We had nine churches working together.

“We started seeking God through prayer and began talking about different ways we could do a big event. God opened doors.”

In addition to local church support, a group of 1,000 prayer warriors committed to pray for the city and its youth for an entire year prior to Stand Strong.

Blankenship received a grant from SoCal Baptist Ministries, based in Norwalk, for a third of the funding, and local churches raised the rest, allowing Stand Strong to be fully funded.

“We never had to take a love offering, which could turn off some of the community,” Blankenship said. “Our goal was to bless the community.

“What started with just a handful of dedicated visionaries developed into more than 500 volunteers working to make this all happen.”

Blankenship has always believed God wanted to transform his city.

“No matter how big or small your congregation is, if you recognize God’s church is the vehicle to reach the community, you can be used by God.”

Churches across the Ojai Valley have continued to follow up on those who made decisions at Stand Strong, Blankenship said.

“We continue to see growth in our churches as a result of God moving,” he said.
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Kelli B. Smith is a writer in Grand Rapids, Mich.


Tenn. specialists say
1-5-1 still effective

By Lonnie Wilkey

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) — Since the 1-5-1 Harvest Plants strategy was introduced about three years ago, Tennessee Baptists have seen an increase in both church starts and baptisms.

1-5-1 was the brainchild of Bobby Welch, former associate executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention who retired last summer. 1-5-1 Harvest Plants are off-campus efforts (outside the four walls of the church) geared toward people who don’t know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.

Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort, with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, with the goal for each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.

With the retirement of Welch, 1-5-1 is now coordinated by Lewis McMullen and William Burton, church planting specialists for the TBC.

McMullen observed that 1-5-1 is “still the proven method of getting the church beyond their walls and into the harvest fields.” In addition, the strategy also is the best way to multiply churches across the state, he added.

“1-5-1 is a simple process of evangelism and discipleship in reaching people for Christ and then helping them to congregate,” he added.

Burton noted that continued use of 1-5-1 by churches across Tennessee will assist the convention in accomplishing at least two of the convention-adopted Five Objectives:

(1) Seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024.

(2) Having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024.

(3) Planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024.

(4) Realizing an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.

(5) Realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.

“In the last two years we’ve seen more churches planted and survive using the 1-5-1 strategy than we did in the previous 10 years without it,” Burton observed.

Churches that use the 1-5-1 strategy also have a tendency to multiply quicker because it enables the church “to get into the community where the lost people are. 1-5-1 fulfills the Great Commission command to go,” he added.

In addition, 1-5-1 has helped to increase baptisms across the state, the two specialists agreed.

“We had the greatest increase in baptisms in Tennessee when 1-5-1 was at its peak (in 2014),” McMullen observed. It is the best way to reach the 3.65 million lost people in Tennessee, he added.

Steve Pearson, evangelism specialist for the TBC, noted that baptisms increased in Tennessee by 1,593 people in 2014. Of those, he said, 1,184 can be attributed directly to 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, he said.

“When you get down to the basic strategy of 1-5-1, we took a tool our IMB missionaries have been using for years in an international setting and brought it to Tennessee. We are seeing the same kind of results our missionaries saw overseas,” Pearson said.

For Burton, the 1-5-1 strategy is “just good missiology.”

Similar strategies are occurring in developing nations around the world, Burton observed. “If it works there, it should work here.”

Churches interested in knowing more about the 1-5-1 strategy are encouraged to contact McMullen at 615-815-5095 or Burton at 423-231-6113.
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.


Thousands gather in Ark.
to focus on growth

By Staff

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — In what has become a highlight each year for many Arkansas Baptist pastors, pastors’ wives and members, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s (ABSC) State Conference on Evangelism and Church Health, held Jan. 25-26 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Little Rock, was a time of spiritual growth, fellowship and conviction.

“Every Christian is called to be a disciple; every Christian is called to share their faith; every Christian is called to help people know what it looks like to know and love Jesus,” Jim Putman, founder and senior pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho, told attendees at the conference.

“There is a spiritual army within every church that can be unleashed on a community if we understand what it means to be and be made disciples,” added Putman.

“We all in here can agree Jesus’ primary mission was to live a sinless life so that He could die on a cross and pay for our sins,” said Putman. “But He had a secondary mission closely tied to the first. His secondary mission was to create messengers that could deliver the greatest message of all time. … What good is it that He died all of those years ago if nobody is going to hear about it?”

Putman echoed a sentiment shared by all of the event’s speakers — the planet is desperately in need of revival and spiritual awakening, starting with the people of God and going out to a lost and dying world.

More than 1,000 Arkansas Baptists attended the conference. Those in attendance heard inspiring messages, learned during ministry-specific workshops and enjoyed fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ from across the state.

The conference’s featured speakers were Putman; Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Kevin Hamm, senior pastor of Gardendale First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala.; Vance Pitman, founder and senior pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, Nev., and Robert Smith, Charles T. Carter Baptist chair of divinity and professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.

In addition to the conferences speakers, The Skit Guys, a Christian comedy duo made up of best friends Tommy Woodward and Eddie James, performed between messages. Julio Arriola, global worship pastor at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and the Cross Church praise band led worship during the event.

On Jan. 26, attendees had the opportunity to participate in one of five workshops, including the Pastors’ Workshop led by Putman, Church Planting Workshop led by Pitman, Ministers’ of Music Workshop led by Arriola, Student Pastors’ Workshop led by Ben Trueblood and Preschool and Children’s Minister’s Workshop led by Ken Hindman. The Prayer Leaders’ Workshop was held Jan. 25 and led by Smith (see related story, Page 2). The Ministers’ Wives Fellowship, led by Jeana Floyd, wife of Ronnie Floyd, was held Jan. 26.

Following are summaries of the speakers’ messages and of the Ministers’ Wives Fellowship.

Ronnie Floyd

Floyd spoke about what he called “the solution to America’s crisis.”

“Now, unquestionably, there is a (sic) out-front, noticeable move to silence Christianity in America,” said Floyd. “My brothers and sisters, in Jesus’ Name, as pastors of local churches, … we can’t let that happen.”

Floyd urged attendees to refuse to be silenced and to “stand and speak at the right time, at the right place.”

Floyd said that “the solution to America’s crisis” is for Christians to “(1) seek the Lord, (2) reach the lost and (3) engage the culture.”

Speaking from Colossians 4:2-6, Floyd said that it is important to understand that seeking the Lord, reaching the lost and engaging the culture cannot be mutually exclusive. He said each serves as one aspect of the biblical solution to America’s crisis.

“Paul was something that we need to be. Paul was vigilant, and he was fearless. … We need to be vigilant in the battle, and we need to be fearless,” said Floyd. “The worst thing that could ever happen to a preacher is to begin to fear men. … Usually, when you fear men, it shows that you don’t fear God enough.”

Floyd said that while prayer may move God at times, more often “prayer moves the heart of man toward God.”

“The greatest need of the Church in America today is the revival of the Church,” said Floyd. “We need the manifested presence of God in the church house. … As America goes, so goes the Church. So if you look at where America is going, it tells you something about the Church.”

Floyd urged those in attendance to stop blaming the culture and politicians and begin to repent, pray and fast. He said there is never a “great movement of God” that is not preceded by prayer.

“My hope is in far greater power than the systems of America. My hope is in the King of kings and the Lord of lords,” said Floyd.

Floyd said Christians need to understand that lost people are going to act lost and that believers must get the gospel to them.

“We’ve got way too many pussyfooting preachers that don’t do urgency. We need to be urgent. These are urgent days,” said Floyd. “Preachers, light your pulpit up this Sunday. And I don’t mean ‘make it light.’ We’ve got enough ‘light’ preaching.”

“If we want to see awakening, we’ve got to reach lost people,” said Floyd. “I submit to you today that we need to become an adventurous Church, … praying desperately, evangelizing endlessly and influencing America seasonally.”

Robert Smith

Smith thanked the ministers and ministers’ wives for allowing him to “come back home.”

“It is for me a family reunion. … We are going to spend eternity together. So this is once again a dress rehearsal for eternity,” said Smith.

Smith spoke from Genesis 22:1-2.

“I want to talk about living at the intersection of history and destiny,” said Smith.

“How do you follow a God who no longer provides you a hunch and who has reduced His voice to a hush?” he asked.

Smith said that 15 years ago he and his wife, Wanda, were in New York City for an event hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Smith said they walked through the city exploring and taking photos as tourists.

“The residents never looked up. They never stopped their gait because they had all seen it before. I think when it comes to Scripture, we have to become more residents than tourists,” said Smith.

Smith said that the biggest obstacle for most Christians in learning about the Bible is what they already know about the Bible.

“God wants to say something new to us from a familiar text,” said Smith.

Smith spoke about the story of Abraham and Isaac. He said that God tested Abraham’s faith because “if faith isn’t tested, it isn’t really faith.”

Smith said that God can make Christians overcomers but that “until we are able to give up what has been given to us, we will not be able to grasp the One who has given to us.”

Smith spoke about how his son was murdered and how over the past few years he had begun building a relationship with his killer. Smith said that he had forgiven the man and plans to go visit him in person and share Christ with him.

“Forgiveness is not difficult. It is just impossible without God. … Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die,” said Smith.

Smith said that God wants Christians to worship before He works but that Christians want God to work before they worship. He said that the Father knew Christ would have to die before Adam sinned.

“Abraham had to know that he loved God more than anything from experience. God already knew it,” said Smith. “God is not logical. God is superlogical.”

“Calvary is not plan B. Calvary is plan A,” he said.

Kevin Hamm

Activating the power and presence of Jesus was the topic Hamm’s message.

“The church of God is trying to do the work of God without the power of God and the presence of God and the blessing of God and the favor of God,” said Hamm. “We need a revival, an awakening. We need a God-movement.”

He spoke from Luke 7, which tells the story of a woman, who was known as a sinner, who came to Jesus uninvited and anointed Him with oil and washed His feet with her tears.

Hamm used the passage to note three keys to activating Christ’s power and presence: (1) Christians should be desperate for Jesus, (2) Christians should ignore criticism and (3) Christians should worship with passion.

“We’ve got to get desperate,” Hamm said. “We can’t just run to church and sing a few ditties and preach a sermonette and call it church and go home, friends. I’m telling you – life is too brief, hell is too hot and people are too lost.”

Hamm noted that worship is about giving, not receiving, and that the woman in Luke 7 gave both her oil and her hair without asking for anything. Jesus’ response was forgiveness.

Fred Luter

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

This is the question Luter addressed during his first message.

Luter spoke from Matthew 26:36-46, using Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane as an example of how to handle confusing decisions.

He encouraged attendees to notice several things in the text: the sorrow of Jesus, the solitude of Jesus, the submission of Jesus and the strength of Jesus.

He noted that making decisions is important because one’s choices lead to consequences and results that can be either good or bad.

“If you’re in a dilemma, … learn a lesson from Jesus Christ and go to God in prayer,” Luter concluded.

In Luter’s second message, he spoke from Romans 7:15-25, addressing the question, Why is it difficult to do what God calls us to do?

He summed up the answer in two words – “spiritual warfare.”

Luter likened spiritual warfare to the Super Bowl, calling spiritual warfare the “Super Bowl for the soul.”

He spoke about how to prepare for the battle, encouraging listeners to note four things.

First, he told attendees to notice the key players in the battle — the flesh versus the Spirit. Second, he highlighted the key plays Christians are expected to “run” — the devil’s expectation for Christians to live based on the world’s ways versus God’s expectation for them to live according to His Word. Third, Luter highlighted the prayers that are prayed in the battle, noting sometimes all a person can do is call on the name of the Lord. Fourth, he encouraged attendees to take note of the Person — Jesus — in the battle alongside Christians.

“The reason we can win this battle is because of the Jesus Christ that’s in you, because of the person of Christ that’s in you, because of the power of the Holy Spirit that’s in you,” Luter said.

“We never know who’s going to win the Super Bowl,” he concluded. “(But) I have no doubt in my mind who’s going to win the spiritual Super Bowl … because the Bible says we win because of the person of Jesus with us. … In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.”

Jim Putman

Putman shared how he grew up as a pastor’s kid, fell away from God, came back and grew a discipleship-centered church of 8,000 in a small city in the rural West.

Putman told those in attendance that when he was growing up, both his parents were devout Christians. His father served as a pastor of multiple churches, and his mother worked full-time in order to help the family make ends meet.

Putman said that it was his father’s passion for sharing the gospel that led him to neglect his own family’s privacy. Putman said the lack of boundaries in regard to his father’s ministry allowed “the devil to sneak in the back door.”

Putman said he began immersing himself in team sports as a way to compensate for the shame and guilt he felt, eventually becoming an All-American wrestler in college. However, he said, at the same time that he was excelling in wrestling, he was also becoming more and more caught up in alcohol and drug abuse and addiction.

At the same time, Putman said he was also undergoing an immense time of personal exploration in regard to his faith. Following the challenges of college professors, he took on a secular worldview, which he said made his problems worse.

After a long period of time searching through the teachings of many world religions and the constant support of his father, Putman eventually accepted Christ.

After becoming a believer, Putman began looking at his faith through the lens of his teaching and competitive team sport background. At first, he saw the Church as a losing team that should be winning. Putman eventually came to the conclusion that the reason the Church was “losing” was because individuals were trying to build “their church” not Christ’s church.

Putman said he eventually developed a church strategy based wholly around discipleship, a strategy that he used in starting Real Life Ministries and that the church continues to use to this day.

Putman said that churches must (1) “use His (God’s) Playbook,” the Bible, and (2) make church about His mission. Putman emphasized the importance of churches seeing discipleship as central to their mission.

“If all coaches taught like most pastors, teams would lose and all players would be prepared for is being spectators and fans,” said Putman. “Most pastors are not engaged with their people, unlike Jesus, who was with His people.”

“Jesus modeled servanthood and love, and He told them to do what He did for them to others,” said Putman. “Every disciple has to make disciples.”

Vance Pitman

Pitman shared the story of a man who began a daily prayer meeting for business people in 1857.

What began with a handful of people praying for revival in New York City on Sept. 23, 1857, turned into an estimated 1 million-plus people accepting Christ within the next 18 months during what is now known as the Fulton Street Revival.

“It’s been 157 years since we’ve seen a sweeping move of God across our nation that is undeniably a great awakening. … I’m hungry to see God move like that again,” Pitman said.

Pitman read from Acts 1, noting characteristics of the early Christians.

“We cannot manufacture a move of God, but here’s what we can do: We can discern from the pages of God’s Word some characteristics that we can embrace in our lives that, should the Spirit of God in His sovereignty choose to blow among us, that our sails are up and we are ready for God to move,” Pitman said.

He noted that early believers in Acts were marked by an attitude of desperation for God and a passion for Him to move, and in addition, they acted in desperation by going to God in prayer.

“God in His sovereignty has chosen to limit His activity to the prayers of His people,” Pitman said. “I’m not saying God needs us. God doesn’t need us. But God, in His sovereign will, has chosen to move in response to the prayers of His people, and therein is why I think in our North American context we’re not seeing God show up.”

“It’s time for us to stop talking about prayer, to stop teaching about prayer, to stop planning prayer and just pray,” he added. “It’s time that we get on our face before God and grab a hold of the horns of the altar and don’t let go until God shows up like He did 157 years ago, like He did in the First Great Awakening, like He did in the Book of Acts, because listen to me, the same God that was sitting on the throne in Acts 1 is the same God that is sitting on the throne today and that God is at work in this world and He’s invited us to get in on it and the way we do that is by getting on our face before God in desperate prayer.”

Ministers’ Wives Fellowship

Dozens of women gathered to fellowship and hear from Jeana Floyd, wife of Arkansas Pastor and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd, during the Ministers’ Wives Fellowship luncheon following the 2016 evangelism conference.

Floyd shared from her book “10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know,” encouraging women in the role of supporting and loving their husbands. She exhorted women to love their husbands and let them be the leaders. She ended by leading women in prayer.

After sharing a meal, attendees heard from a panel of women, including Floyd, on topics such as what to do when one disagrees with how her husband handles a situation at church and how to deal with a situation where one’s husband isn’t living a godly life.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention.


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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