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FROM THE STATES: Fla., Tenn. and La. evangelism/missions news; ‘It dawned on me that we have this huge army of trained missionaries’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Florida Baptist Witness
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
The Baptist Message (Louisiana)


Fla. church finds door-to-door
evangelism still works

By Keila Diaz

BRANDON, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) — Bell Shoals Baptist Church is determined to reach its neighborhood with the Gospel, even if it means knocking on every door. Literally.

The church’s Brandon campus launched the “Every Door” ministry for the purpose of taking the Gospel to the community in which it was planted decades ago. So far, church members have visited more than 1,244 homes, shared Christ 166 times, and have seen 26 people pray to be saved.

“About a year ago we felt convicted as a church that God planted about 50 years ago in this community to knock on every door and give those people an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their savior,” said Debbie Weisemann, minister of outreach.

The idea was brought to the pastor by Howard Bryant after a conversation between him and his son in law, Jim Stoutamire.

Bryant travels to Cuba frequently for mission work, and Stoutamire joined him for the last two trips where the teams did door-to-door evangelism.

On their way back from the last trip Stoutamire asked Bryant why they didn’t do the same at home.

“Coming back from my second Cuba trip I was thinking about the people’s hospitality and the harvest we have when we go door to door there,” said Stoutamire. “But Jesus calls us to go door to door in our Samaria as well.

“It dawned on me that we have this huge army of trained missionaries who already know how to share their faith; so if I can get a dozen of them and a few more who want to do it but are a little inexperienced then we can do it and do it well in our community.”

After that conversation, Bryant spoke with Pastor Stephen Rummage, who liked the idea, and then it was brought to Weisemann who put together a plan for the church to do door-to-door evangelism.

Every Wednesday night a group of about 20 gathers at the church for prayer and some words of encouragement, usually led by Bryant. Then they break into groups of three and go knock on doors.

Every home within a five-mile radius of the church has been marked, and the missionaries strategically go out every week to knock on as many as 20 doors.

They don’t go in the home, but rather speak from the porch if someone answers the door.

The setup is simple. First they identify themselves as members of Bell Shoals Baptist Church and then ask three survey questions about what they can do to make the neighborhood better and how to serve the people best.

Then they ask if they have a couple of minutes for them to ask some spiritual questions. If the answer is yes, they will say: “If you were to die tonight are you sure you would go to Heaven?” said Stoutamire.

On average, one person makes a profession of faith every week.

“Some weeks we have one, some weeks we have three and some weeks we have none.”

When no one comes to the door the team leaves a door hanger with a short message from the pastor, church information and a Gospel tract.

Weisemann says that some of the people they have spoken with on those Wednesday nights have begun attending church, and some are even serving in ministries, though she was not sure how many.

The teams started in August of last year, and at that time they received some training on how to handle basic things like dogs, no soliciting signs, objections, praying for people and avoiding being argumentative.

The teams only go out during daylight savings time because they have found, says Weisemann, that people are less likely to open their doors to strangers when it’s dark outside.

Make no mistake, however, door-to-door evangelism at home is much different than it is in Cuba, says Bryant, adding: “The Cuban people love to see you come to their country and into their homes and share with them; it is rare that they don’t invite you into their home to share with them.”

In America, Bryant said, you don’t get invited in. If someone opens the door you stand there and tell them what you’re doing, and you might get to share the Gospel with them.

“Sadly, that is the time and place in our culture.”

Despite that challenge, the Bell Shoals missionaries continue to go out and share the Good News with those who will listen.

“Faithfulness to the call — that’s what it’s all about,” says Weisemann.
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.


Tenn. Baptists highlight
urban areas with ‘City Reach’

By Lonnie Wilkey

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — Last November messengers to the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention overwhelmingly adopted City Reach, an effort to reach the five largest metropolitan areas in the state — Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Clarksville, and Chattanooga.

Because Summit was in East Tennessee last year, Knoxville was chosen as the first city. Tennessee Baptists are responding well, according to leaders in the city and the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

“City Reach has had a significant impact on the churches that are part of our network,” observed Phil Young, director of missions for the Knox County Association of Baptists. “We have seen partnerships formed that have encouraged and enabled churches to connect with their communities in ways that have helped move people toward a relationship with Christ and the local church,” he said.

Steve Snyder, who coordinates City Reach and also Project Knox (a similar ministry of the association), agreed. Since the beginning of the year there have been about 43 projects involving about 725 volunteers. He estimated there have been at least 35 salvation decisions already recorded.

He noted that City Reach is resulting in lost people coming to Christ and is also helping to energize smaller churches. In addition, churches are developing stronger relationships in their communities, Snyder added.

Tennessee Baptists are reaching out “in the name of Jesus to share love in this strong East Tennessee city,” observed Roc Collins, director of evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Even though there are a lot of Baptist churches in the area “we still have a great number of unchurched and lost people” there as well, he observed.

Collins participated in a City Reach project last week, along with other TBMB staff members and spouses, and other churches during Camp Journey sponsored by Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Knoxville.

Camp Journey was held for two weeks and was part of a process to reach children in the Halls community with the Gospel, said Tim Hopkins, minister of education at Beaver Dam Baptist.

He noted church leaders met the children in their schools and took food to their homes in order to build relationships that have resulted in the children’s parents allowing them to attend the free two-week camp at Beaver Dam. “It’s about building relationships,” Hopkins stressed, noting that about 90 percent of those children and their parents do not go to church. “We want to reach both the children and their parents for Christ,” he said.

Evelyn Keech, one of the driving forces and implementers of Camp Journey, agreed. “Camp Journey has been an amazing experience for us. It has allowed us to get into our local community, meet their physical and emotional needs, and share Christ with them in both spiritual and tangible ways.”

She noted that Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

That principle is applicable for Camp Journey and the City Reach project. “When you help people with their physical needs, whether it’s food, utility bills, school supplies, child care, or transportation, you gain a better understanding of the difficulties they are facing.

“And as you share your time helping to meet those needs, you are building a relationship that blesses everyone involved. Through this they are seeing Christ as He works through those who have volunteered, given, and shared so much,” Keech said.

Hopkins is appreciative of the volunteers from the TBMB and other churches that joined in the City Reach project at Beaver Dam. “It could not have happened without the volunteer teams,” he noted. “God knew what the needs were and He brought the people here and put them to work.”

Throughout the two weeks the camp reached as many as 79 children each day, Hopkins said. “Every kid who came heard the gospel,” he stressed, adding that they did not press for a salvation decision at the camp. “We will do that during follow up visits in the home.”

Aaron Disney, pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church, Beech Grove, brought a 14-member team which included three people from Normandy Baptist Church, Normandy. He was pleased with the way the team worked with the children at Beaver Dam.

It was a fabulous week, the pastor said. “It’s a blessing to watch our kids grow spiritually and unite together,” he said.

TBMB Executive Director Randy C. Davis expressed appreciation to pastor Alan Price, Hopkins, and the laypeople of Beaver Dam Baptist. “They are setting a clear example of what it means to be practicing the Great Commission in their own community.

“Precious children here this week are experiencing real love and care and are being presented with the Gospel,” observed Davis who participated in Camp Journey along with his wife Jeanne.

Young expressed appreciation for the partnership with the TBMB and to Davis for his vision in helping to make City Reach “a reality in Knoxville and across the state.”
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector.


La. Baptists reach milestone
toward 300 church plants

By Brian Blackwell

ALEXANDRIA, La. (Baptist Message) — Celebrating the 200th church started in the state since 2010, Louisiana Baptists Executive Director David Hankins challenged and thanked church planters, urging them to not flag in their zeal and encouraging them with appreciation for the souls that have been saved because of their work to share the Gospel.

Hankins made his remarks July 12 at a reception at the state convention’s ministry center in Alexandria.

“I want to encourage you to institutionalize your churches,” Hankins exhorted.

“Sometimes the word ‘institution’ gets a bad rap — interpreted to mean ‘staid, lifeless, cold, dead and unmoving,'” he said. “But I think ‘institution’ is a good word. It says something about strength, substance, dependability, safety, character and longevity.

“That’s the kind of church I want you to plant,” Hankins continued, speaking to the group of church planters in attendance. “I want you, by God’s grace, to build a church that’s an institution, that people would look at that place where you gather for ministry and say, ‘That Baptist church is an institution of this town. We can count on it. It’s going to be there.'”

“In 10 years, if the Lord hasn’t returned, and we look at the 300 churches we planted, I want them to be institutions all over this state that God can depend on and the community can depend on,” Hankins added. “And all the guys God has called to seminary will be driving around through your town and will say, ‘Boy, I hope the Lord lets me pastor a church like this someday.'”

Pressing toward the goal

The reception — which began with a prayer led by Louisiana Baptists Language Strategist Carlos Schmidt — marked the two-thirds point of planting 300 churches by 2020 as part of one of the 10 action steps identified in the President’s 2020 Commission Final Report, which was affirmed by messengers during the 2013 LBC Annual Meeting.

Planting healthy, biblically sound, multiplying churches is identified in that document as a key component to the seven-year-strategy which seeks to engage two audiences — the next generation and every people group — in reaching Louisiana with the Gospel.

“We’re here today to celebrate a milestone,” said John Hebert, director of missions and ministry for Louisiana Baptists. “But we didn’t do it. It’s the work of the Lord. It’s amazing how when brothers walk together the Lord’s work is done.”

Through July 12, 16 churches have been planted in 2017. The goal is 35 new works by the end of the year.

The strategy is to plant churches where most Louisianans live, so the geographical emphasis is along the I-10 corridor and southward where 3 million Louisianans reside, about 67 percent of the state’s population.

So far, 151 of the new church plants are located in southern Louisiana.

There also has been a focus on ethnic diversity. Among the 200 church plants: 57 are African-American, 27 Hispanic, nine Asian and 17 have a largely multi-ethnic makeup.

Importantly, the 200 church plants, since 2010, have witnessed a harvest of more than 11,000 new believers, said Lane Corley, one of three church planting strategists for Louisiana Baptists. He also emphasized the broad cooperation among Louisiana Baptists, noting that churches have been planted in 91 communities, and 25 out of 32 associations, so far.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We still have at least 100 to go. Thank you for all of you who are involved, and we still have more to do.”

James Jenkins, Louisiana Baptists director of church planting, complimented Schmidt and Corley, saying, “Every day I get to work with two of the best church planting strategists in the nation.”

Although Jenkins credited Schmidt and Corley for the success, Hebert stressed that Jenkins has been the key leader for implementing the statewide initiative.

Exceptional is the rule

Checkerz Williams, pastor of the 200th new church plant, overall, in the state, and Jonathan Sayles, pastor of the 50th church planted in New Orleans, were given special recognition.

Williams is pastor of Renew Church in Baton Rouge while Sayles is pastor of Mission Community Church in New Orleans East — both congregations serve multi-ethnic communities.

Although months from official launches, both men are busy planning and organizing.

Williams is building his launch team, holding Bible studies and training in evangelism, with a planned preview service in January and February before having a soft launch in March and a grand opening Easter Sunday.

“We will use evangelism and marketplace missions to reach people and grow,” Williams said. “One of our core values will also be to focus on breaking down racial barriers that, too often, separate believers.”

Meanwhile, Sayles will launch Mission Community Church Aug. 6, already working with a core group of eight to nine people.

He said, using biblical principles of discipleship he hopes to see the church grow to 100 the first year and 250 within four years.

“Disciples making disciples is the best way for a church to expand numerically and spiritually,” Sayles said. “It’s exciting to be a part of this in my hometown city of New Orleans as we have 75,000 people we can reach in a five-mile radius who do not attend church on a regular basis.”
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. Except for minor style, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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