Today’s From the States features items from:
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
One military church
plant supports another
By David Roach
OAK GROVE, Ky. (Western Recorder) — Two church plants launched Easter Sunday in Oak Grove, Ky., each aimed at reaching military families from nearby Fort Campbell Army post. But rather than competing for members, the congregations have forged a unique partnership with one voting to send a percentage of its undesignated receipts to the other monthly.
In June, Faith Family Ministries began sending 1 percent of its undesignated receipts to The Church at Oak Grove. For the month that translated into $73 to help reach military families for Christ.
Both affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Faith Family Ministries and The Church at Oak Grove say the vast number of lost people around Fort Campbell demands as many healthy, evangelistic churches as possible. The post employs about 30,000 soldiers with tens of thousands of dependents.
Competition not fulfilling
“I’ve come to realize that [competition] is not fulfilling,” Faith Family Ministries pastor Dan Hunt said. “Not only is it not fulfilling to me personally, that’s not fulfilling the Great Commission. We’re not here to build our church. We’re here to build the Kingdom. And the only way we can do that is to work together.”
Hunt, a veteran Southern Baptist pastor, got the idea for Faith Family Ministries last summer when Christian County Baptist Association director of missions Bobby Melton approached him about planting a church focused on Army families. After intense prayer, Hunt agreed to become a church planter and Faith Family Ministries held monthly preview services beginning in December. The church meets every Sunday in a prominent Oak Grove building named Valor Hall and has anywhere between 40 and 90 in worship.
Church at Oak Grove pastor Carlo Gentleman, a cardiovascular ICU nurse at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., started his church because of a deep burden for lost souls that kept him awake at night and made him want to do more for Christ than participate in short-term missions projects and be an active Southern Baptist layman.
When Gentleman learned of the need for church plants in Oak Grove, he jumped at the opportunity, meeting in his home with a group of 15 people beginning in October leading up to the Easter launch. The church averages 15 in worship and meets in a rented metal building.
Both congregations forward 6 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program to support missions and ministries around the world. They also give to the Christian County Baptist Association as well as Oak Grove Church Planting Fellowship, a local ministry that supports Southern Baptist church plants. Both congregations receive support from the North American Mission Board administered through KBC.
Faith Family Ministries’ gifts to The Church at Oak Grove are in addition to its other missions giving.
Overwhelmed by support
“We’re overwhelmed” by the support, Gentleman said. “They’re starting off too. That they would think about us in that way and feel a call to do that — we’re just overjoyed and thankful.”
With a rigorous secular work schedule in addition to his pastoral duties, Gentleman said the support of a sister congregation lends encouragement as well as financial help. He works three 12-hour shifts in Nashville each week—nearly a one and a half hour drive each way—then devotes his off days to pastoral care, witnessing and sermon preparation.
“I may go to bed tired,” Gentleman said, “but I am so excited and so overjoyed to tell people about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Todd Gray, KBC western regional consultant and former pastor of First Baptist Church in Oak Grove, commended the two churches for eschewing competition. But he said two church plants only scratch the surface of lostness in Christian County, estimating that 95 percent of the 10,000 people in Oak Grove are lost.
“These are young military families in their 20s and 30s,” Gray said. “All of them have loads of children. And it’s just a wide open area for the gospel. There need to be more hooks in the water for trying to reach people for Christ.”
As for the two pastors, they hope God multiplies their efforts beyond their church walls and even beyond Fort Campbell as the soldiers they win to Jesus are reassigned across the globe.
“If you can disciple these military families and show them the love of Christ, they can become missionaries themselves for the gospel,” Gentleman said.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. David Roach is a freelance writer for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Summit brings together
Moldovan camps, leaders
By Melissa Lilley
ASHEBORO, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — During the Soviet Union day camps were not usually viewed positively, as these “Pioneer” camps sought to indoctrinate children with Soviet Union beliefs and systems.
Now, years after the Union’s fall, an interest in camps – especially summer camps – is on the rise as a way to provide a fun, meaningful experience for children and youth. In particular, churches throughout the Eastern European country of Moldova are seeking to step up their camping outreach.
“Camps are a major tool they can use. The Baptist Union sees this as a very effective way to reach children and youth with the gospel,” said Jimmy Huffman, director of Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro, N.C.
In May Huffman organized a team of five to lead a three-day summit for camping leaders in Moldova. About 95 percent of the 100 participants were volunteers, many of whom were church leaders or young adults who coordinate their church’s camping ministry.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) began a partnership two years ago with the Baptist Union of Moldova. The BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships coordinates the partnership with Moldova, which is the poorest county in Eastern Europe and has an evangelical population of less than two percent. More than 1,000 villages in Moldova are still without an evangelical presence.
The Office of Great Commission Partnerships funded the camping summit and the participants’ cost to attend.
“I am very grateful to Jimmy and his staff for leading this training,” said Michael Sowers, who leads the Office of Great Commission Partnerships. “The Caraway staff wants to be a partner with and equip churches as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission. I believe the impact of this training will be the gospel impacting many villages where Jesus is not yet known.”
Last year Huffman joined 10 BSC staff members on a mission trip to Moldova, and while there met with Baptist Union president John Miron who shared his desire for the Moldovan Christian camping community to become more effective in ministry.
A few months later in 2012, Huffman returned to Moldova and met with 20 leaders and visited six camps.
“Every person I met asked for practical training,” Huffman said. “They understood the theory of camp, and the potential for reaching children and youth, but they needed hands-on training,”
This year, Huffman and the team trained leaders in how to structure a camp experience using games, team building, crafts, age-appropriate Bible studies, object lessons and environmental education, all for the purpose of teaching biblical truths. They also taught them how to plan and prepare for camp with basic camp administration principles.
“It was a wonderful experience and tremendous blessing for us to teach what we do every day to energetic, eager and committed Moldovan Christians,” Huffman said.
Huffman knew that while many principles were transferable, the training needed to look different in Moldova than in N.C. Many camps in Moldova are held in villages, without a specific building or camp facility.
“It needed to be Moldovan,” he said. “If we taught them everything the American way, they couldn’t have done it because of resources. We wanted to help equip them. All the training in the world wouldn’t matter if it weren’t relevant. The team worked really hard to make this ‘Moldovan training’ because resources and materials are in short supply.”
During the camping summit, the team focused on low cost or no cost activities, and used materials readily available in Moldova. The summit marked the first gathering for the Baptist camping community in Moldova. “They learned from each other, which was a really positive outcome,” Huffman said.
Jeff Kohns, Caraway associate director, said many people shared with him that the ideas they learned during the summit were ideas they heard for the first time; everything was new to them.
“The people were so receptive to what we were doing. We prayed that what we prepared would be what they needed, and it was,” he said.
The team taught the leaders how to create a camp experience that encourages relationship building and friendships.
“You want the youth to let their guard down and open up. If they see their leaders being more open, they will return that,” Huffman said.
Huffman has served at Caraway 14 years, and seven years as director. He worked at Caraway in college and never thought he would have the opportunity to work at a camp full time. “I love the hospitality of camp,” he said. “It’s not church. But it’s a place where you can hear God’s voice.”
Huffman and the Caraway staff are available to assist N.C. Baptist churches interested in partnering with churches in Moldova and using camps as a means of outreach. For more information, call (336) 629-2374 or email [email protected].
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Melissa Lilley is research/communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (www.ncbaptists.org).
sights on community
By Jean Bihn
CORNVILLE, Ariz. (Portraits) — Members of First Southern Baptist Church in Cornville, Ariz., are on a pursuit.
In fall 2011, pastor Andrew Puett led an eight-week series based on Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community, and God inspired a new mindset among members.
“Every single weekend, we did a service project,” Puett says. “We began to see our folks embrace being a church for the community. We are embracing the biblical model of a church — we are pursuing our community.”
That quest has taken many forms. Earlier this year, the church hosted a fundraiser for a 9-year-old diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. Although Mikah Snowden and his family are active members of another church, he’s family to First Southern, Cornville. Every week church members, including Puett and his wife, Melissa, work side by side with Mikah’s grandfather, Greg Roeller, who runs the local food bank.
“This is what community support is about,” Mikah’s grandmother, Debbie Roeller, says. “When it all started, Andrew [Puett] helped us get to Phoenix [for treatment]. He’s been right beside us through this whole thing — the whole church has.”
Another project has turned into an annual tradition — one that brings many like Janice Best to First Southern, Cornville.
On the Wednesday before Christmas Eve, members hand out pizzas in nearby neighborhoods. Attached to the pizza is a card that contains church information.
“They showed up with a pizza, and I said I didn’t need any but my friend would like it,” Best recalls. She explained that her friend was gravely ill but still enjoyed pizza.
Best kept the card and attended Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services to ease the sadness she had felt since her only child was killed in a motorcycle accident four years earlier.
At the time, Best had the heart-wrenching task of going through her son’s belongings, where she found a copy of Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. In it, her son had written the date he accepted Christ as his personal Savior.
Still, she says, a question lingered: Would she ever see her son again? Beginning with a simple pizza delivery, First Southern Baptist Church, Cornville helped Best answer that nagging question once and for all.
The results were two-fold, she says.
“It gave [my friend] literally her last meal before she died,” Best says. “And me, I found Jesus and I’ve been saved and I will see my son again! If I had not come here, I would have continued to wonder — I don’t wonder anymore. And it was all through pizza and a little card with the name of this church on it.”
First Southern members delivered 108 pizzas that first year and 158 in 2012. Plans are underway for this year’s giveaway.
Church members John and Lila Wright reach out to the community with God’s Word — hundreds and hundreds of Bibles.
The couple works and saves for the Bibles, adds some church funding, then purchases them wholesale.
“Each time we order, we try to target a specific group — police, firefighters, college students, bikers, truckers, prisoners. And lots of children’s Bibles …” John says.
Community service isn’t limited to special projects. The church regularly feeds 45 to 60 on Wednesday nights, with individuals encouraged to stay for the service.
John, a former alcoholic and drug addict, shares his inspiration.
“I was radically saved, so I’m going to pour out my life for Christ until I draw my last breath,” he says. “Nothing is more important than my relationship with Christ.”
It doesn’t take a best-selling author to recognize Christ-like pursuits, whether they are carried out individually or by an entire church.
Jean Bihn, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of Mountain Ridge Baptist Church, Glendale.
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.