Today’s From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Baptist Courier (South Carolina)
264 people saved through Ky.’s
‘Tell Your Story’ initiative
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) — In a warm, friendly voice, a lady identified as Betty S. shares a gripping story about how she came to faith in Jesus Christ as a 12-year-old girl growing up on a farm in rural Kentucky in the 1940s.
The death of her 21-year-old brother, Butch, a soldier killed in action in France during WWII, caused her to think about where she would spend eternity when she dies.
“As I reflected on his life as a Christian, I realized he was in heaven with Jesus, but if I died I was not prepared to see him again,” she explained in an audio recording on the www.tellyourstory.todaywebsite, a joint initiative of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. “For the first time, I realized I was lost and a sinner.”
That prompted the young girl to pray to accept Jesus as her Savior.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful my life has been as a Christian,” she said. “Yes, I have experienced trials, discouragement, temptations and grief like everyone else does, but I had the constant presence of God’s Spirit who strengthens me when I faced all these things. God gave me hope and joy, and I look forward to seeing my brother Butch in heaven.”
More than 600 people have recorded similar stories about their salvation experiences through a cutting-edge evangelistic outreach that church leaders hope will spark revival in their Bible-belt state and beyond. Some of the stories are heart-rending. Others humorous. All document personal encounters with Jesus.
“What we’re trying to do is make it the quintessential evangelistic tool in the state of Kentucky,” said Chuck McAlister, head of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s evangelism team.
McAlister briefed the KBC’s Evangelism Committee on the Tell Your Story initiative in a meeting this week.
In the past year, he said, people from 25 states and five foreign countries have recorded their stories on the website. Nearly 20,000 people from all 50 states and 79 foreign countries have listened to those stories. And 264 have indicated they made salvation decisions after listening.
It would be impossible for anyone who listens to the stories not to have their interest in Christianity aroused by ordinary people talking about their encounters with Jesus.
A man identified as Emery R., like so many others who have recorded their stories on the website, said his outlook on life was forever changed the instant he became a Jesus follower.
“At that moment, I felt peace like I’d never known in my life,” he said.
The 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious organization, began the Tell Your Story initiative as a way to allow the unchurched to hear how regular people met Jesus and about how He changed their lives for the better.
McAlister said everyone is invited to record salvation stories by calling 888-564-7773. The recordings go automatically to the www.tellyourstory.today website.
Within 24 hours of the call, participants are texted a unique web address they can share with others on Facebook, Twitter and other social media or print on business cards.
“This is a simple way for ordinary folks in the pews to share their stories with lots of people,” said Any McDonald, an evangelism strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
La. church plant on the move —
literally and figuratively
By Brian Blackwell
SHREVEPORT, La. (Baptist Message) — Shortly after graduating from seminary in early 2013, Greg Shyne found himself at a crossroads in his spiritual life.
His pastor had passed away and Shyne was searching for where God wanted him to serve.
That’s when a meeting with fellow pastors and with Lane Moore, the Northwest Louisiana Baptist Association director of missions, led to a vision from the Lord — he would join the Southern Baptist Convention and start United Outreach Church.
“When I heard the stories in that meeting, the Lord gave me a vision of starting a new work,” said Shyne, recently honored as Northern Exemplary Bi-vocational Pastor of the Year. “God has been so good to us and we pray that He continues to give us the vision of where to go.”
United Outreach Church, one of 78 new churches receiving Cooperative Program funding through the Louisiana Baptist Convention, is a congregation on the move.
The church was born on Nov. 3, 2013, when 28 people attended the first official worship service in Shyne’s Shreveport home. In a month, to accommodate its growth, the church moved the worship services to a Holiday Inn Express. The church continued to grow so rapidly it needed a new place to worship just two months later.
The congregation now averages 265 on Sunday mornings in its current location, a former Seventh Day Adventist church building in Shreveport.
They baptized 50 in 2014 and more than 30 so far during 2015, and there are plans to move to the former Ingleside Baptist Church nearby to allow for more growth.
Shyne credits the increase to God leading the church to utilize the “each one, reach one” strategy. Every church member is asked to identify one person in their family who is not a Christian or who has not attended a worship service in a while.
United Outreach sends weekly invitations to those who are new in the area, inviting them to worship and offering to meet their ministry needs.
In 2016, the congregation hopes to conduct door-to-door outreach in the area around their future home.
The leadership team also uses social media to reach community members.
Events are posted on Facebook, and a clip of Shyne’s sermon is available which directs people to the entire sermon on the church website.
Other outreach efforts include adopting families for Christmas, working with the Salvation Army and volunteering at the Shreveport/Bossier Rescue Mission.
“We try to be personal and have that family concept,” Shyne said. “People not only want to be loved but they want a family.”
Shyne credits a supportive family and congregation for helping him effectively lead as pastor, while he also works at the Caddo Parish Clerk of Court office, where he has been employed the past 31 years.
He tries to show up whenever a need of a church member arises, but when his secular job does not allow it, he utilizes a team of leaders who intercede on his behalf.
Moreover, his leaders regularly pray for him, including Sunday mornings before the worship service begins.
“I can’t do this on my own,” he said. “I train leaders. I show them how to embrace people.”
“It takes team work to make the dream work,” Shyne continued. “When we all work together as a team, the church works perfectly as a well-oiled machine to get the job done.”
Shyne said he also draws strength from his wife Lisa and their children.
“You cannot do this work without the support of your wife and family,” he said. “It can be easy to neglect the family. Every week I do something with them. We stay in God’s Word, showing an example to our church by remaining unified so they can have an example to follow.”
Shyne offers several pieces of advice to anyone praying about entering vocational ministry:
— Make sure the calling to be a pastor is genuine.
“Not everyone is called to be a pastor,” Shyne said. “Some are called to preaching or evangelism, but not pastoring.”
— Find a mentor or group of fellow pastors such as those in a local Baptist association to serve as a support system.
“My mentor, Dr Austin Tucker, has been with me since I got the call,” Shyne said. “He is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that I need and will continue to need throughout my years of pastoring. You need that someone who has been down that road before who will help you.”
— Enroll in seminary and take advantage of continuing educational opportunities.
“Every preacher needs some form of seminary,” he said. “There are some things you need to know about ministry that you can’t learn just by showing up.”
— Be transparent with the congregation.
“One thing that I think boosted my ministry is when people come to the church, I make it my business to get to know them,” he said. “That has paid dividends in relating to them as their pastor. They know who I am and that I can be trusted.”
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.
S.C. church adopts ‘outward
focus,’ changes ministry approach
By SCBC Communications
GAFFNEY, S.C. (Baptist Courier) — Five years ago, Central Baptist Church in Gaffney was a completely different church than what it is today. Its fractured congregation struggled with financial debt from a building project, a painful experience with former leadership, and declining attendance. Today, Central Church stands transformed, with a new ministry focus that it is carrying forward and into the community.
Pastor Johnny Bridges and worship leader Scott McClellan were called to Central Church within about a year of each other. In the face of the church’s struggles, they, along with church members, quickly realized the hope and future of Central Church would only be found in God. About three years ago, representatives from the church attended an informational meeting about a discipleship-coaching and -equipping process through the South Carolina Baptist Convention called the Intentional Church Multiplication Process (ICMP). McClellan said the church jumped into the process and began to see God move.
“If you have the opportunity to get involved in any church health processes offered through the South Carolina Baptist Convention, take advantage of it. It’s not a magic bullet. It is difficult because you have to look at what you are doing and ask if it is a ‘good thing,’ or a ‘God thing.’ But take the plunge, and see where God takes you,” he said.
“Process” is the key word in ICMP. The purpose is not a new program for a struggling church. Rather, it is a carefully planned method of developing and equipping pastors, church staff, and laity to reset the vision and course of ministry that God has planned for that church. Congregations involved in ICMP participate in regional cluster groups, receive personal coaching, and will have a specific strategy plan to use moving forward.
Joe Youngblood, church health group director at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, praised the leadership of Bridges and McClellan as being key to Central Church’s success in experiencing a complete turnaround through the ICMP process.
“Central Baptist has done a wonderful job of implementing the church health principles of the Intentional Church Multiplication Process. The church was in a divisive condition with little or no sense of direction and was declining. Now it is growing both numerically and spiritually, with a true spiritual impact on its community. These two men have provided positive and clear leadership to the church to implement discipleship and evangelism strategies, and, as a result, the church is reproducing disciples,” Youngblood said.
“The biblical principle of Jesus calling 12 men and then pouring Himself into them is the same thing that is happening here through the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Joe Youngblood is pouring his life into a group of men who are in turn pouring their lives into others. That’s how transformation is taking place,” McClellan said.
Bridges noted that the congregation went into the process thinking of itself as a fairly healthy and strong church. “We realized we were actually sick because we were doing mostly inwardly focused ministries, trying to keep the church going from the inside. We realized that is not what God has called us to be. He has called us to be a disciple-making church and to impact our community. That is our goal now,” he said.
McClellan adds: “As a church, we have refocused as a result of the process. We used to be focused on what was going on inside of our church — but through ICMP, we came to a vision from God to become disciples that make disciples. Now we have set about that task.”
A pivotal question that was asked during the ICMP process: “If Central Church no longer existed, would the community even know it was gone?”
“As we wondered about the answer to that, our eyes were opened, and God showed us that we have to be about sharing the Gospel with people right here beside the church, in our community, and all over the world. Also, we realized that we can’t make disciples if we aren’t discipled ourselves. Discipleship is more than a Bible study on Wednesday night; it is about building relationships with God and with each other, and allowing Him to work through you to change other people’s lives,” Bridges said.
Today, shifting the purpose of Sunday morning classes to “life groups” that dig deeper into discipleship together, Central Church is showing signs of life through small groups that meet on Wednesday nights, and the church is in better shape financially. All are examples that McClellan cites as proof of a transformed congregation.
“Everything we did as a church used to be here, physically. Now, more folks are going out into the community. Groups of young people have started prayer-walking on their own in the evenings and are engaging folks they meet by asking how they can pray for them. We are holding block parties at a local housing complex. Over the holidays, life groups from our church took complete Christmas dinners to 56 families that live there and shared information about the church with them,” said McClellan.
As a result, Bridges said outreach efforts are reaching more people in the community with the Gospel. “We now have a lot of young people from the apartment complex coming to our Wednesday night student ministry. I see the impact of ICMP in the attitudes and the perspectives here at Central. Several members have told me that they can feel and see God at work in the church and in their lives, and that they are excited about getting into the Word and building relationships with each other,” he said, quickly adding that it’s nothing he or McClellan have done. “It is what God is doing here. Right now, Central is being obedient to what God is doing through us.”
McClellan points to baptisms as another indicator of God at work in his church today. “Prior to engaging ICMP, we had a year with no baptisms. That was an awful thing for us; we couldn’t come to grips with it. Now, we get a little antsy if we don’t see water in the baptismal pool every so often! We have already held baptisms several times this year,” he said.
The next steps in Central Church’s ministry will include hosting other churches and church leadership looking to experience the ICMP process. However, according to Bridges, every pastor should go through the ICMP reconnect retreat and the leadership track to identify their leadership style, to grow as a leader, and to reconnect with God.
“Pastors need to stop what they’re doing, get alone with God, talk to Him, and then be silent and listen to what God says. Too often, pastors are leading and doing things they think are important but not what God is telling them to do. God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason: We need to do less talking and more listening to what God is telling us,” Bridges continued.
“The retreat is designed to help pastors reconnect with God. It had a profound effect on us to be more obedient to God and where He wants to take us and the church,” McClellan added.
“Johnny and Scott have so grown in their leadership abilities that both men serve as coaches/consultants with the church health group. They will be facilitating the leadership track for over 30 pastors from the Gaffney area over the next 12 months. These men are now ready to equip other pastors with the leadership principles that they have learned and implemented. Central Church is making a true spiritual impact on its community through the leadership of these two men,” Youngblood said.
“We believe God is telling us that our next step is to develop more leaders, to make more disciples who make disciples. We are taking our staff and leadership team at Central through the same training starting in October. It is so interesting to see how God is working in our church right now,” Bridges said.
For his part, McClellan says that Central Church’s experience with ICMP has charted a new course for its ministry in Gaffney. “It has revolutionized and changed what we do, how we act, our worship, every gathering time that we have, where we go. It’s been pretty amazing. It is a great time to be here.”
“Central is modeling the church in Jerusalem as found in Acts 2:40-47. Through discipleship, this church is growing in each of the six functions of the church. As the church members mature in their faith in Christ, the result is the sharing of the Gospel with the lost. Discipleship and leadership is at the heart of all that Central does and is experiencing,” Youngblood said.
For more information about ICMP, visit www.scbaptist.org/icmp, or contact Youngblood by phone at (803) 227-6037 or by email at [email protected].
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.