News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Fla., Ark., S.C. evangelism/missions news; ‘We … looked ahead as we cast a vision for [the] future’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Convention
Arkansas Baptist News
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)


Clearwater Fla., church celebrates
150 years of Gospel witness

By Barbara Denman

CLEARWATER, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) — Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater honored its past while casting a mission and ministry vision for the future as the congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary March 5-6.

“Founded in 1866, Calvary has stood for a century and a half as a faithful Gospel witness in our city and in the entire Tampa Bay area,” said Pastor Willy Rice. “We looked back to honor the past and expressed gratitude by worshipping God and thanking people who came before us; and looked ahead as we cast a vision for Calvary’s future.”

The celebration expressed a “sense of real gratitude to the past and indebtedness to the history of this church family,” said Rice, calling the anniversary celebration “a highlight of my ministry.”

Embracing the theme found in Luke 1:50, “His mercy is from generation to generation,” pastoral leaders and church members representing previous decades were “called home” for the church to “champion those who served before us,” added Rice.

Among the guests was beloved retired pastor William Anderson, who served the congregation from 1970 until 2002 and led Calvary through a period of dynamic growth. During the tenure of the well-known Southern Baptist statesman, Calvary started five new churches locally and made a renewed commitment to global missions. Anderson was one of 19 pastors to serve the church since its beginning.

Rice, who has served as pastor since 2004, first came to Calvary with his family in 1976 at age 12. As a teenager he flourished under the Anderson’s mentorship and discovered God’s call into the ministry. He met his future wife Cheryl in the youth group and was later licensed to preach and ordained by Calvary before serving churches in Alabama and Pensacola.

The weekend events included a Saturday afternoon reception and exhibition that featured hundreds of artifacts, memorabilia and visuals from the past 150 years and a celebration worship service that night.

Commemorative 150th Anniversary books were distributed to guests. The Sunday morning worship services were devoted to the anniversary at both its Clearwater campus and East Lake campus, which the church began in 2013.

The historic celebration also included a look ahead as Rice “cast a vision for Calvary’s future” through the “X150: Generation to Generation” campaign designed to multiply believers, leaders and churches in 150 ways.

Among its major goals was to multiply churches by planting 100 churches internationally, 25 churches nationally and expand locally by adding five new campuses and help revitalize 20 churches. The funding will provide upgrades on the Clearwater campus; an athletic center and fine art facility for the Calvary Christian High School; and build a worship center at the church’s East Lake Campus.

The X150 campaign is expected to conclude at the end of March 2016.

Reaching a landmark anniversary of 150 years proclaiming the Gospel as a thriving congregation is significant, according to Don Hepburn, author of “Flavored Florida: The History of Florida Baptists.”

“Typically most Florida Baptist churches that reach the 150 years or longer milestone are small, rural congregations,” he said. Currently there are 75 churches that have reached the 150 milestone, including seven larger membership Florida Baptist churches in metropolitan areas.

Founded as Midway Baptist Church a year after the Civil War ended in 1866, Calvary was the first organized church of any kind in what would become the city of Clearwater, and the first Baptist Church in Pinellas County. The church changed its name to Clearwater Baptist Church in 1878; and to Calvary in the 1920s.

In 1926 the congregation built a new facility downtown, featuring a magnificent, stained glass rotunda, which became one of the most recognized buildings in the city. But as the church grew in the last part of the 20th century, the facility’s location hindered additional expansion.

Under Rice’s leadership the church sold the downtown building and relocated to its present location west of downtown, near the Tampa Bay and minutes from the Courtney Campbell Causeway. The church now owns 40 acres in that location and has experienced explosive growth to more than 10,000 members.

As he reflected on the anniversary celebration, Rice said he would encourage pastors to find ways to celebrate the history of a church and those who were faithful before them.

“There is a huge synergy honoring the past that creates capital, buy-in and momentum to move a church to the next level.”
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.


Ark. cowboy churches
reach N.M. Indians

By Caleb Yarbrough

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Arkansas Baptist News) — Historically, cowboys and Indians don’t always get along. However, Arkansas Baptist cowboy church members recently broke cultural barriers by ministering to Native Americans in New Mexico.

Brian Adair, an Arkansas Baptist church planter and pastor of Cross Point Cowboy Church in Nashville, said that he first began working with the Navajo people two years ago when he was pastor of Circle Cross Cowboy Church, Glenwood.

“Two years ago … we (Circle Cross Cowboy Church) took 13 cords of wood out to the Navajos because they had the forest fires and everything and their main source of heat is wood,” said Adair. “We (Cross Point Cowboy Church) went back this past year with nine cords.”

Adair said that during their trip to New Mexico in October, he and members of Cross Point Cowboy Church came in contact with Tim Tsoodle, a Native American pastor based in Albuquerque. Tsoodle works with the Navajo people whom Cross Point had come to help. During their visit, Tsoodle told Adair and the members of Cross Point that if they felt God leading them to go, there were Pueblo villages that had been closed to outsiders for nearly 60 years.

“We were able to go. When we went the first time, we took I think 1,000 pounds of rice and beans, coats, blankets and things like that,” said Adair. “We went to that reservation. They have 2,500 on that one village. We just went to one village. There are 19 villages out there in the Pueblos, and there are still 18 of them that have not had anybody there in 58 years.”

Adair said that the door is now open to allow the gospel to be shared with the long-closed-off Pueblo people.

“We took the first trip out there, and they told us, ‘It will be three years before you can share Christ here. You have to build relationships,'” said Adair. “After the end of the first trip, they invited us back. That was in October we went. In November, they asked us to come back because they were having a big tribal festival. We went back, and with the help of Arkansas Baptist disaster relief, we gave out a ton of rice and a ton of beans. … We took five or six cords of wood with us also.”

Adair said that most of the Pueblo people living in the village that Cross Point members visit have no electricity or running water and use wood as their main source of heat during the winter.

“It’s like it was back in the 1700s or 1800s,” said Adair.

Little did Adair and Cross Point know when they arrived back in the village in November, the festival which they were invited to come back to participate in was a national meeting of Native Americans from across the United States.

“There were literally thousands of people there. It’s amazing how God put it together…. We had two big trailers, and we had no place to park them,” said Adair.

“We just had to pray and drive down the road and God opened the door, a place for us to park right to where the people had to stop and turn in to park. … It was no accident how God opened a door there. We were able to give everything we had away,” he said.

Tsoodle had told Cross Point during the festival that if they were invited to eat in someone’s home that they should go as that would be their best chance to share the Gospel.

“A man came by and invited us to his home, and we went. And it happened to be the brother of the governor of the reservation,” said Adair. “We got to eat in his home with probably 30 people in his family…. We were able to eat with them and share the Gospel. It has opened up doors for us to go back.”

Adair said that Cross Point is already planning to send another mission team back to the Pueblo village in the spring to continue building relationships through construction work.

“A lot of their houses are adobe houses, but they’ll add on something to it made out of a wooden structure that isn’t built very well at all. What happens is the heavy snows will collapse those buildings built around their adobe houses,” he said. “There is a guy at our church that has a portable sawmill. We are going to saw rough cut lumber and take it to them and help build structures that will withstand the heavy snow.”

In the summer, Cross Point is planning another trip to the village in which they plan to host sports camps for children and youth living in the villages.

“The door has been swung wide for us to do this, and we are trying to take advantage of it while we can,” said Adair.

“The pastor (Tsoodle) told us, ‘You don’t realize what you have done. What hasn’t been done in 58 years was accomplished. What we estimated would take three years took two months, and now the door is open,” he said.

Cross Point Cowboy Church is calling other churches to “adopt” one of the other 18 Pueblo villages where the Gospel has still not been presented in nearly six decades, Adair added.

Cross Point is currently working alongside other churches in the Little River Baptist Association and other cowboy churches across south Arkansas in efforts to reach the Navajo and Pueblo people in New Mexico.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Caleb Yarbrough is assistant editor at the Arkansas Baptist News.


Pastors in S.C. hope to
partner with churches in Cuba

By SCBC Communications

CAMDEN, S.C. (Baptist Courier) There are only 90 miles separating Cuba from Key West, Fla.

It’s that proximity to the United States that long ago tweaked the mission heart of Ron Underwood, director of missions at Kershaw Baptist Association in Camden.

“I grew up in a culture where Cubans were enemies of the United States, politically and militarily,” Underwood said. “But as a retired Air Force chaplain, I know a number of Cubans who love the Lord, and their stories have always grabbed my heart.”

Working closely with a Christian worker, Kershaw Association sent a team of pastors to Cuba last October to connect with a similar association of Cuban churches. Kershaw pastors met with more than 30 Cuban pastors over five days, learning about their ministries.

“When the revolution occurred in 1959, many of the churches closed, but some were allowed to remain open. Since that time, most of the newer churches have been house churches.”

Pastor Steve Lee of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Camden, and Chuck Everett, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Lugoff, were also on that October trip to Cuba.

Lee says: “Cuba has two formal church structures, and most are more of a home fellowship. They are smaller and very energetic. It’s my understanding that when the Berlin Wall came down in 1996, Cuba lost a lot of income with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cuban government began to open up, and part of that relaxation was with regard to the church. People from the United States were able to come and serve.”

Underwood acknowledges that some of that openness is economics. Missionaries are bringing American dollars to a country that is suffering economically.

“There are two seminaries there, and they are turning out some great, younger pastors who have a zeal and love for people,” Lee said.

In May, Lee will return with a group he hopes will bloom to five-to-six volunteers. The goal will be continued meetings with Cuban pastors, learning about their churches, toward a goal of church-to-church partnerships with Kershaw Baptist churches.

“We want to get to know the pastors a little better, put together packets on individual churches, and then we hope the 49 churches in our association will each adopt a church for prayer support and possible financial support.

“As an association, we are putting together a strategy that we hope will allow us to send Bibles, prayer guides, and additional vision teams.”

Unlike some international mission projects to economically poor areas, Underwood said Kershaw volunteers aren’t needed for building projects.

“They have educated people there,” he said. “They can build their own buildings. We want to help by leading revivals and providing evangelism training for pastors. The pastors are well-educated theologically, but they need help with practical ministry, like marriage enrichment in order to help turn back domestic abuse.”

“There is a great revival going on in Cuba, and the door is currently open,” he said. “We want to help Cuban churches start as many house churches as possible.”
This article appeared in The Courier (baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina 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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