Today’s From the States features items from:
The Christian Index (Georgia)
The Alabama Baptist
Northwest Baptist Witness
By Jim Burton
GRATIS, Ga. (The Christian Index) — Mike Peavy felt troubled the day he realized he didn’t know the neighbors who lived near his home in Walton County. Though he was an associate pastor just down the road at Bethlehem First Baptist Church, God redirected Mike through a dream to the unincorporated community of Gratis.
“I dreamt that we were having a baby,” Mike said. “We already had four children and weren’t expecting any more. My wife, Angie, also had a dream that she was holding our baby.”
A friend soon offered them an interpretation of their dreams. “Having that baby is about birthing a new ministry,” said Linda Blechinger, mayor of Auburn.
Meanwhile, Mike’s oldest son, Caleb, had been leading worship in Virginia and Tennessee churches in congregations of up to 3,000 attendees. Just out of college, life was good for Caleb and his wife, Ana. But God interrupted their secure life and called them to church planting. A father-and-son team was soon partnering to plant Gratis Church.
Starting in Mike and Angie’s home in 2011, attendance grew to between 40 and 50. Today, Gratis Church has hosted nearly 200 attendees at Walker Park Elementary School near Monroe.
“The Lord told us just to start with Him and trust Him,” Mike said.
Bethlehem Church supported them financially for the first two years. The Georgia Baptist Convention issued an initial $5,000 grant. The church is now part of the North American Mission Board’s Send Atlanta initiative. In 2015 the Stone Mountain Baptist Association New Work Foundation is providing monthly support. Initially, NAMB provided a monthly stipend for a staff intern who is now the church’s family minister.
Creativity as a core value
A creative approach to church ministry is central to this new church plant, whose name means “free” and offers a double meaning. God’s grace is free as are many of the services the church offers to the community.
Caleb thrives on the creativity Gratis Church offers and often leads those efforts. He writes original music and involves the congregation in interactive worship.
“We meet in a cafeteria with white chairs, white floors, and white ceilings,” Caleb said. “That’s the pallet we work in.”
Creativity extends beyond their Sunday-morning services. During the recent Christmas season, Gratis Church played music at a local Walmart and attracted up to 30 people to their table.
At a community fall festival last year, Caleb, who is also a professional photographer, did free portraits. Many who responded had never had a family portrait. They have done gas giveaways and sponsored a golf tournament to raise funds for Walker Park Elementary School.
“Creativity is just a way we can express more who God is,” Caleb said.
Their creative approach serves their community well. The Peavys refer to their church as having “high-tech rednecks,” educated folks who live in the country and enjoy technology. Most are either unchurched or de-churched, Caleb said.
Their creativity is not without levity. Along with their family pastor, Joseph Brown, who is also Caleb’s brother-in-law, the church produced a Bubba Dynasty video in 2014. Bethlehem Church had labeled Mike as the Bubba pastor. Caleb said his dad ran with the moniker and made it an evangelism tool. To Mike, Bubba means believe and u (can) be born again.
When Caleb left a mega-church position to join Gratis, he figured that being in a smaller church would reduce opportunities for influence. Then he got a call from the Georgia Baptist Convention, which commissioned him to write a song titled “Bridges to Missions” for the 2015 missions emphasis. Now he sees the Cooperative Program (CP) as another tool of creativity.
“I don’t think we realize the depth of how far CP goes,” said Caleb about its direct and indirect impact worldwide.
Father-and-son church-planting teams are rare. But for the Peavys, the ministry relationship is working.
“The Lord has blessed me with a great son,” Mike said, who likens their relationship to iron sharpening iron. “The blessing within our church is that Caleb is able to take the technical part and the worship part.
“I’ve been around the Word for quite a long time, so we have a good blend of what is needed to reach the young people with a timeless message that never changes.”
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Jim Burton is a photojournalist based in Cumming.
Alabama Baptist prepares to take gospel
to Montana service-industry workers
By Doug Rogers
RED LODGE, Mont. (The Alabama Baptist) — Plow the snow off an elderly woman’s sidewalk. Check. Help serve meals to 80-plus people on a cold November evening. Check. Drive a team of missions volunteers around town hoping to catch a glimpse of a moose. Check.
The to-do list is quite different these days for Chris Baker and he absolutely loves it. After serving eight years as Clarke Baptist Association’s director of missions (DOM), Baker and his family moved from Alabama to Red Lodge, Mont., in May 2014. He has been working as a church planting intern with the North American Mission Board and helped launch Church of the Rockies in September.
“It’s part of the process, coming to a place like this to spend six months to a year on the field without having the responsibilities of being a lead church planter,” Baker said. “It’s been great … learning the Montana culture and understanding who it is we’re ministering to.”
Baker knew the process would ultimately lead to the planting of a new church somewhere else in Montana but he didn’t know where. After two months of praying and talking with Montana Southern Baptist Convention leadership, Baker visited the Kalispell-Whitefish-Columbia Falls area — 450 miles northwest of Red Lodge, near the Idaho and Canadian borders — and knew he had found the answer.
“As we pulled in we sensed the Lord’s leadership there,” he said. “It’s a resort kind of area much like Red Lodge with great opportunity.”
Their target audience is not tourists, however, but the people who live and work there, Baker said, noting the thousands of hotels and 40-plus restaurants represent a huge missions field made up of those who work in the service industry.
About 110,000 people live in the Kalispell-Whitefish-Columbia Falls area but only 6 percent would be considered evangelical and only seven-tenths of 1 percent of the population is Southern Baptist, he said. “People come to this state because of its beauty … but the lostness is also great and the opportunities are vast.”
Building relationships has been a key part of the strategy in Red Lodge and will continue to be in their new location. One of the ministries Baker has been involved with in Red Lodge that he hopes to continue in the Whitefish area is Common Ground, a weekly meal provided free of charge to anyone in the community.
“There will be a millionaire sitting across the table from somebody on the verge of homelessness. There will be a senior adult couple that’s just trying to make ends meet sitting across the table from a single mom with four children,” he said. “A place like Common Ground gives a community atmosphere, a place to connect, since many don’t have that church home they can connect with.”
Vital team members
Baker is quick to point to his family as vital members of the team. His wife, Kim, and sons Andrew, 18, and Samuel, 17, are involved in a variety of ways from worship leadership to cooking to hosting volunteer teams to building relationships in the community.
“I couldn’t do this on my own,” Baker said. “I couldn’t do this if they were just ‘okay’ with it. They’re not just okay with it, they’re all in.”
The Bakers move to Whitefish in early January and will begin the process of building relationships and gearing up for a busy summer. The need for volunteer teams from Alabama will be great, helping with sports camps, cooking and serving meals, connecting with the community and prayerwalking.
“One of the things I’ve learned here the last few months is that presence is so important,” Baker said. “I just can’t tell you what that does for a community to see volunteers coming and not taking but giving.”
Baker’s roots in Alabama are deep. He was raised in First Baptist Church, Wetumpka, schooled at Samford University in Birmingham and served as pastor of two Alabama Baptist churches before his role as DOM. Being connected to Baptists in the state through the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections means a lot to him.
“It’s a source of encouragement to me,” he said. “I’m humbled by it … and I am grateful that Alabama Baptists would take on that Acts 1:8 challenge and partner with us in this Great Commission work.”
To learn how to partner with the Bakers or other Alabama-based missionaries around the world, visit www.a18c.org or call the office of global missions at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 239.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Doug Rogers is director of communications for the Alabama Baptist Convention.
Church planter answers
call to unreached city
By Sheila Allen
PORTLAND, Ore. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — Josh Carter was enjoying his role on a church staff when he began feeling the first stirrings to plant a church in a place of great need. Thirty months later, he and his young family relocated to Portland’s Bethany area on a journey of discovery and grace to follow God’s leading.
“I had a crazy life growing up and my parents split when I was a boy,” Carter said. “But my grandfather was a bi-vocational pastor of a small Appalachian mountain church and he was a praying man. I remember him praying for an hour at a time on his knees in the corner of the living room – really talking to God. That made an impression on me and created a desire on my part for a relationship with God.”
Although his wife, Amy, first said “no way” to church planting, Carter took the process a step at a time, eventually traveling to Georgia for an assessment as a potential church planter from his home in Johnson City, TN.
“It was an incredible process to be that vulnerable in front of these people who are unbiased,” Carter said. “I’m loyal to a fault and can worry about what others think of me, but God made this thing happen.”
After praying, the Carter family accepted the invitation from the North American Mission Board as church planting apprentices and initially moved to Las Vegas for a period of learning.
“I struggled because I didn’t know where I was going to go and my family and others were counting on me,” Carter noted. “The definition of that year was to value Jesus in me rather than what I do for Jesus. That’s where grace came in for a guy with identity issues.”
After two vision tours through the west, Carter and his wife couldn’t escape the call to Portland. They arrived on the scene last fall and recently celebrated the birth a daughter, who joined another son and daughter at home. Two families from their home church in Tennessee have joined their efforts in Portland and God has blessed them with jobs and homes.
Now laying the foundational elements of Remedy City Church under the sponsorship of Westport Church in Hillsboro, Carter is excited about the potential for God to work in the marketplace in the next 10 years.
“Northwest planting is seeing some exciting times,” Carter stated. “I believe we see more money and people coming here to see the kingdom expanded than ever before, but multiplication is the only way to push back the darkness for the long term. Northwest churches must work together to plant more Northwest churches. We are seriously on the front side of seeing the church mobilized in big ways here and some awesome church planter/pastors are moving into the area to get in on it.”
Carter realizes that to multiply at a more rapid pace to keep up with population growth will necessitate thinking differently about church.
“There are many manifestations of church and we have to celebrate it all,” Carter said. “Whether it is gathering at a school, a small meeting in a house, a businessman using his business to be the church, whatever it looks like. We need to celebrate ‘normal’ people that are allowing Jesus to live in them and start churches in their homes, businesses, neighborhoods and all domains of society. We must celebrate discipleship, not just conversion.”
Carter has enlisted partners to join the endeavor financially, while he also pursues a secondary career as a realtor to keep his faith connected to the marketplace.
“We have got to be authentic and relational,” Carter remarked. “It is a slow process but we must find out where God is working and jump in. It has been a process for our people to learn to walk with lost people and just go to their homes. Too often, Christians in the Northwest have had a foxhole mentality. We are looking for what people here need, so we can be an asset. Families make a good income in the Bethany area, so that is not their need.”
After he sent an email message to all school leaders in the area, one elementary school principal responded and mentioned a need for a greenhouse on campus. Carter recalled a landscape contractor who offered assistance upon their meeting in Las Vegas and he is working to make the project happen.
“We hope to become a network of community churches that work together for Portland and the world,” Carter said. “We have a multiplication strategy and must lower the platform from professional missionaries to disciple-makers in everyday streams of culture. If we just start a church, a gathering of people, and stop there by calling that success, population growth along will make us relevant no longer.”
Several families that attend Westport Church but live in the Bethany area have already expressed interest in joining the effort.
“God brought me out of a large church and ministry to something else,” Carter said. “There will come a day when Northwest churches are multiplying at a more rapid pace, but it will take us all working together to see this happen.”
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness.
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.