Today’s From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Witness
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Fla. church uses art to
reach people for Christ
By Keila Diaz
FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) — A few years ago, Corey Sanders was pretty determined that he did not want to do church ministry anymore. At least not in the traditional sense.
He wasn’t upset with the church, and he didn’t have a faith crisis. Instead, he wanted to focus on art as a way of reaching people for Christ.
“I always felt that we serve this amazing God but don’t exemplify that on Sunday morning,” Sanders said.
Sanders, his wife, Robin, and their four kids moved to South Florida in 2014 to plant The Movement Christian Church in multi-ethnic Florida City.
“Art is a beautiful thing to captivate the beauty of God…. We knew we wanted to be a place for the arts,” he said.
A suburb of Miami but more often associated with Homestead, Florida City is a mix of whites, blacks and Hispanics, a major agricultural area in South Florida but where almost half of the population lives below the poverty level.
“It’s really neat to have him [Sanders] here to plant a Gospel-centered church,” said Alex Pecina, pastor of Summit Church of Homestead, who has been Sanders’ ministry and community partner since the latter moved in.
During the week, The Movement has arts classes at the KIX (Kids in Christ) Center. Sanders and his wife teach kids hip-hop and break-dance techniques, creative writing, theater and photography. While the classes are for kids and young adults, they also serve as a tool to reach the parents.
“The parents come and stay to watch their kids, and we take that opportunity to talk with them and build relationships,” Sanders said.
Sometimes, what the kids learn during Wednesday classes is showcased as part of a Sunday worship service.
Sanders and his wife are from Memphis, Tenn., where Sanders was mostly known as a Christian hip-hop artist and for the performing arts program he started with his wife in 2009, Out Loud Artistry.
Hip-Hope was one of the events that the Sanders would put together through their arts program. All sorts of artists would come out to showcase their craft and at the end Sanders would share the Gospel message with them.
Over the years, the couple was invited to youth summer camps in Florida that were sponsored by Youth For Christ (YFC), and they used their artistic background to engage the youth and lead them to deeper relationships with Christ.
It was after one of the youth summer camps that Sanders’ wife said to him, “Hey, babe, maybe we should start a church,” and he replied, “Hey, babe, maybe you’re out of your mind.”
For about a year prior to moving to South Florida, Sanders was on staff at Mosaic Church in Nashville, where he learned a lot about the multi-ethnic church.
“It was nothing like I expected and everything I needed,” he said.
The Movement currently meets for Sunday worship twice a month but meets for Bible study weekly at the Sanders’ home. The church’s official launch is set for September, and in the meantime they are making themselves known in the community through the arts program and relationship building.
“It’s about leveraging who you are in Christ to change the world around you,” Sanders said.
“For Florida City people to see Corey love his wife, love his family and love God while embracing hip-hop culture is really impactful,” Pecina said.
This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.
Reaching the nations by
reaching North Carolina
Chad Austin, BSC Communications
CARY, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — North Carolina has the largest and fastest-growing immigrant population in the United States, and several other southern states also rank among the national leaders.
Interestingly, states where the immigrant population is booming happen to be states where a majority of evangelical churches are located.
“That’s just a coincidence, right?” asks Terry Sharpe, strategist with the International Mission Board (IMB).
Sharp and his audience know such an influx of people from around the world is not a coincidence, but instead is an opportunity ordained by God to reach men and women of various national, cultural and ethnic backgrounds with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Many of those individuals who are migrating to the United States represent people groups that have little or no access to the gospel and are designated as either unreached or unengaged by IMB.
“Whatever reason they are here, God is sovereign, and God is providing an opportunity that they might have a chance to hear the gospel,” Sharp said.
“God is providing that opportunity. Will we as a body of Christ be faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them?”
Sharp and his IMB colleague Bryan Galloway recently spent time equipping and training pastors and ministry leaders from across the state in how to discover and engage people from different ethnic backgrounds who are moving to the region.
Sharp and Galloway led the People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop from March 30 to April 1 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary.
The goal of the three-day workshop was to help attendees learn how to carefully examine, naturally encounter and intentionally engage people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The event featured classroom training and a field-ministry exercise.
Attendees learned how to conduct research on PeopleGroups.info, a web-based resource that contains helpful data and information that can be used to learn more about the demographics of a particular community. Attendees also learned how to observe signs of cultural and ethnic diversity in their communities and neighborhoods. They also learned how to engage individuals through the use of culturally-appropriate questions (see below).
During the field exercise, attendees divided into small groups and went out into the community to visit ethnic restaurants and markets, as well as places of worship for people of other faiths. Attendees were encouraged to apply the skills acquired in the classroom during the field component by observing and asking questions about things such as family, their home country, language, beliefs, dress, decor, religious symbols and more.
Several attendees later said they were pleasantly surprised to learn how many individuals from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds were willing to interact and converse, even about topics related to faith and religious beliefs. Participants said they came away from the workshop realizing that they could begin incorporating aspects of the training into their everyday lives, while also training and equipping friends and members of their congregations to do the same.
“The great thing about this is we are not asking people to add something to their already busy schedule,” said workshop attendee Mike Fry, who serves as missions and evangelism pastor at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest.
“Instead, this is something that we can blend into our everyday lives. We can reach the nations as we live out our lives, and we can do it right here.”
And by reaching people here, they have the potential to take the gospel back to their home countries as they share Christ with family and friends.
“If we touch them here, it goes back there,” Galloway said.
The Five Fs
Asking open-ended questions is a good way to engage internationals in conversation and build relationships with them. Here are five topics that all begin with the letter F that you can use to begin building relationships with others in your community.
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.
Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network uses
brick pathway to show connectivity
By Shannon Baker
BALTIMORE (BaptistLIFE) — When Joel Rainey sat down with Deacon Bill Abbey last September, he learned that the Gunpowder Baptist Church was without a pastor. The church was down to around 45 people or so, and they were hurting pretty badly.
After spending around 45 minutes getting caught up with all the church was facing, Rainey handed Abbey a brick, engraved with the church’s name on it. Rainey explained that the purpose of the brick was to demonstrate the network of churches’ collective effort to build a path that links the past with the present and on to the future.
“Then it occurred to me that I had many years ago learned the history of the Network in relation to several churches, including Gunpowder,” Rainey shared. “So as I was explaining the concept of ‘We are part of something bigger, and we have a grand past, which is why we exist,’ I looked at him and asked, ‘Do you have any idea the role Gunpowder played in that past?”
Abbey didn’t know.
Gunpowder Baptist Church is one of the oldest Baptist churches in Maryland. In fact, in October 1836, six churches met at First Baptist Church, Baltimore and formed the Maryland Baptist Union Association, the precursor to the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network. Gunpowder was one of those original churches.
Rainey told Abbey, who has been at Gunpowder for 11 years, “You guys are struggling big time right now, but if it’s any encouragement to you, we will be voting on a $7.9 million budget for 2015, and if it weren’t for Gunpowder acting courageously more than 150 years ago, we wouldn’t even exist!”
Rainey instructed Abbey to bring his church’s brick to the Network’s Nov. 9-11 annual meeting (now affectionately called Annual Celebration), where he could place it in sequence with other church bricks.
When Abbey did, his reaction to seeing the display of bricks was priceless.
“It was nice to see how God keeps His Word and that He uses His church for His purposes,” Abbey responded. “I noticed a few older churches. That surprised me. Here we are a 200-year-old church, and there are churches even older than us!”
Now, Gunpowder is seeing brighter days. Transitional Interim Pastor Kenneth Quick is leading the church through healing and is preparing the church for its next pastor.
Surveys taken earlier this year of groups of Network pastors of various sizes of churches and language groups (as well as General Mission Board members) revealed many pastors felt disconnected from the Network.
In response, Doug DuBois, team strategist for the Skycroft Training Center, visualized using a brick to show the need for greater connectivity. The brick would symbolize the Network’s collective effort to build a path that links its past with its present and leads to its future. A single brick’s usefulness is far more limited than when it is used along with others in order to build something stronger and more enduring.
DuBois worked with a vendor to engrave the name of the 560 churches on individual bricks, which the Network staff later delivered on personal visits with the pastors. Staff then asked these church leaders to bring their bricks to the Annual Celebration to represent their part in advancing Christ’s mission in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.
To encourage pastors to bring their bricks to the Annual Celebration, the Network filmed video challenges from the staff and eventually from pastors, to urge pastors to #BringurBrick; developed social media and email campaigns to push out those challenges; and took celebratory photos as each brick was returned at the meeting. Even Comedian Dennis Swanberg, in promoting his appearance at the Celebration, sent along a personal #BringurBrick challenge.
A true celebration
On the opening night of the Annual Celebration, pastors and their church members placed their church bricks in chronological order on the “pathway” display in the foyer outside of the main meeting space.
The display matched this year’s theme, which was “Gofwd: Loving Neighbors, Sharing Christ.”
The atmosphere was festive as individuals and groups eagerly documented the moment through photos (including photos they took with their own phones!). Because of all the excitement of those gathering around the bricks, staff opted to delay the start of the first session by about 15 minutes.
Did all the effort really matter?
As a result of the personal brick visits, there was a substantial increase in the number of pastors and their church members who attended the Celebration.
To compare: 418 registered messengers, 100 registered guests and 282 non-registered guests (for a total of 700) attended this annual meeting. Previously, 269 messengers and 73 guests (for a total of 342) attended the annual meeting in 2013, and 260 messengers and 96 guests (for a total of 356) attended the annual meeting in 2012. That represented a 105% increase in attendance between 2013 and 2014!
But the greater hope for the #bringurbrick campaign was better connectivity with the pastors within the Network. Of the 560 churches in Network’s database, we learned that around 80 churches were completely unengaged with the Network (which alerted the Network to a future
opportunity for reengagement.)
Of the remaining 480 churches, Network staff visited 400 or 85% of them within a few short months! With such a small staff and a short time period to connect, this was a huge achievement!
Though anecdotal, it was apparent that the personal touch spoke loudly to those visited. Like Bill Abbey, a majority of the church leaders did attend the Annual Celebration.
Presently, the Network is continuing to connect with pastors and their churches. After receiving all the bricks back, the Network will use each of these bricks to build a similar path at the Skycroft Training Center to symbolize the joint commitment to “Gofwd” in all that God has planned.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org/), newsmagazine of Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network. Shannon Baker director of communications for the 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 3,800 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.