Today’s From the States features items from: Baptist Message (Louisiana); BaptistLIFE (Maryland); Western Recorder (Kentucky).
La. church sees 50 new
believers in extended revival
By Brian Blackwell
ROBELINE, La. (Baptist Message) — Evangelist Sam Moore originally planned to preach just 10 days at the revival he led for the First Baptist Church in Robeline.
However, what began with a Disciple Now youth weekend retreat at church on Jan. 18 continued until Feb. 6, an additional nine days after the congregation extended the revival services two times.
Church officials reported 50 people repented and committed to live for Christ and that 38 of the new converts were baptized during the services.
Moore thanked God for sending the Holy Spirit to stir the people’s hearts.
“The altars were full every night as the invitation was extended, and believers prayed for the lost and for themselves,” Moore said. “Many publicly declared they had experienced personal revival in their lives. This church has really been in a state of revival for several years now. This church is very serious and intentional about prayer and outreach. God blessed their efforts and faithfulness.”
Brian Ray, pastor of First Baptist Robeline, said the extended revival was not about the pastor, congregation or who was on the schedule but was all about God’s presence in the services.
“Every ounce of glory goes directly to Him,” Ray said. “It’s not about the church. We can’t save anybody. That light always reflects Him.”
Praying for revival
The church made preparations for the revival months in advance.
In October, each member was asked to pray for five lost people by name. Moreover, the congregation faithfully prayed in the following months, asking for wisdom, discernment and revival, as well as to plead that God’s presence fill the worship center during each service.
“Without prayer it is impossible,” Ray said. “We prayed that God would give us clean hearts and then prayed others would change their hearts. Calling out names specifically to God is a big part. Many of those names are now names that are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
Katherine White was among those who responded to a call of repentance. She turned to Christ during the Jan. 22 revival meeting, and was baptized the following evening.
“At that moment I heard Sam Moore give the invitation, I started crying and struggled to stop,” she said. “I knew he was talking to me. Satan didn’t want me to get up and walk down the aisle, but I realized I needed Jesus, that I needed a relationship with Him.
“So I took that courage that Jesus put in me and walked down the aisle,” she said. “I felt a weight off my shoulder. It was the best thing I have ever experienced. I thank Jesus every day for saving me.”
Seeing continued revival
First Baptist Robeline’s revival services have concluded, but Ray believes God has much more in store for his church and the community.
“Just because the meeting is over doesn’t mean the revival ended,” Ray said, “and we know we have to be good stewards of it moving forward.
“When we get our hearts as Christians aligned and we get humble and repent of our sins, our hearts begin to match up with the heart of God,” he continued. “We are seeing people not only invite others to church, but see them in the community invite people to follow Jesus on the spot. We are blessed with a church family that consists of a lot of soul-winners. That’s the heart of revival — to have a stirring inside our hearts that others might be saved.”
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.
Md. church equips college
students to share Jesus
By Sharon Mager and Shelley Mahoney
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (BaptistLIFE) — Aletheia Church, in College Park, a five-year-old church plant, is not only “plugged in” to campus ministry — that’s their primary focus. Rob Stephens, the pastor of Aletheia Church, recently had an opportunity to share the story of Ruth with a University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) freshman at an international student dinner.
A young woman, in the U.S. for the first time this year, asked Stephens for a suggestion for an American name. He thought for a moment then suggested “Ruth.” Addressing the group of students sitting around her, he asked, “Do you know about the Bible?” They shook their heads. So, he explained. Ruth was a “stranger” in the land, who left her home and her “gods,” to follow her mother-in-law and worship the God of Israel. She eventually became the great-grandmother of King David and was in the line of Jesus. The young woman was thrilled. “Jesus!” she echoed, with a huge smile on her face.
Asked about such a perfect story for a young Chinese woman, Stephens later said the Holy Spirit brought it to his mind.
Stephens has had many such opportunities. “When we moved here, the reason we chose this area was to influence students with the Gospel. We started with a handful of young singles, who had just graduated and a small core group of college students. We did a lot of evangelism, and that’s how we grew,” he explains.
Alethia is not an “events” driven church, Stephens says. “Most of our evangelism is very organic, constantly challenging them to be missionaries where they are. We do have some avenues. We go out sharing every week at specific times, and we walk around campus and have conversations about the Gospel.”
They recently set up a “stress relief” table outside the student union. “I took my dog,” he laughs. As students stopped by to pet the dog, Stephens, and others offered to pray with them. “It’s a good opportunity to have a conversation,” he says.
The church also has an annual chili cook-off that draws many guests who church members have opportunities to engage. “We had over 50 people for that,” he says of the last cook-off.
With the bulk of their members being college students, attendance naturally fluctuates. During the school year, Stephens said they average 115 people weekly. During Winter break, and in the summer, that number looks entirely different he says.
A crucial element to the church is the help of several mature Christian families. “They ‘get’ the mission of what we’re doing, and they set aside the idea of being a consumer and have opened up their homes to college students and the students have blessed them,” he says.
The church regularly baptizes new believers, and Stephens is overjoyed when he sees college students “falling in love with Jesus and serving Him.”
A part of collegiate ministry is having to say goodbye, and the church works diligently to prepare students for the transition. Many have been involved with parachurch campus ministries, such as CRU, that provide wonderful opportunities to grow in their faith, but without being in a church, Stephens says they miss a significant component of Christian living.
Stephens says, “Sometimes in parachurch ministries, students don’t understand how to live, breathe and move in a local church. Part of our calling is that we want to see college students, when they have to leave us, plug into a local church and be ‘ready to roll,’ because they know how to function in a church.”
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager serves with the convention as a communications specialist and correspondent for its BaptistLIFE newsjournal. Shelley Mahoney is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of communication at Anne Arundel Community College.
Ky. church reaches people
no one else is reaching
By Todd Gray
MURRAY, Ky. (Western Recorder) — “To reach people no one else is reaching you have to do things no one else is doing.” This mantra has been quoted over and over by church planters and is being lived out by Darrin Miller and the members of Riverwoods Baptist Church in Benton and Murray, Ky.
Riverwoods Church was a 2018 KBC Baptism Milestones Award recipient since they baptized 129 people in one year having begun the year with 185 people in attendance. Intentional evangelism runs through the heart of this pastor and as a result it is deeply embedded in the culture of the churches he has planted.
One of the primary ways Riverwoods reaches people is through their Celebrate Recovery ministry. Celebrate Recovery is a Christian twelve-step program that began as a ministry of Saddleback Church in California under the leadership of John Baker and pastor Rick Warren. Baker had found help dealing with his own struggle with alcohol through Alcoholics Anonymous. He wanted to develop a recovery ministry that was specifically Christian in its approach and Celebrate Recovery was born. For Riverwoods, Celebrate Recovery is one of the key outreach arms of their church. They reach many people who come to them initially to find help dealing with their addictions and in the process realize that Jesus is the one they really need.
One man reached through Riverwoods recovery program is Randy McDaniel. He was ministered to through Riverwoods and then went on to be involved in the ministry.
Darrin said, “Randy is naturally gifted to talk to people about the Gospel. Many of the people who were baptized through Celebrate Recovery were witnessed to by Randy.”
Randy and his wife recently relocated to Pineville, Ky., where he is now a student at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College. He is part of Clear Creek’s 3 + 1 Church Planter Initiative where he will receive three years of Bible College training and the fourth year will be spent working alongside a Kentucky Baptist church planter as he makes plans to plant a church himself one day.
I recently asked Darrin how he keeps the Riverwoods congregations motivated toward evangelism. This question is relevant because pastors understand that a church will drift into fellowship but will drift away from evangelism. For a church to be evangelistic there must be a pastor who continues to lead in that direction.
Darrin said he challenges them with a baptism goal for each year, he trains the members in personal evangelism at least annually, and before the services he meets with the volunteers to remind them of their mission of reaching far from God people with the gospel. In addition to these practices they also saturate their services in prayer.
“They pray over every seat in the auditorium,” Darrin said, adding, “We do multiple events to reach out to people in the community.”
One of the ways Darrin makes evangelism part of the church culture is in the way they counsel those who are responding to the Gospel and receiving baptism. He doesn’t do the counseling himself but instead has trained members to talk with those who respond during the invitation. Sharing in this ministry allows church members to lead someone to the Lord. Letting others be involved in the soul-winning work of the church is a priority for Darrin because, as he said, “it is contagious when you lead someone to the Lord.” Some of their members have also been authorized by the church to baptize those who have come to faith, further involving them in the evangelism process and more deeply cementing the culture of evangelism into the life of the congregation.
I asked what challenges he faces in leading the church to be evangelistic. He said, “Getting people to do what they know they should do because it’s not natural, there are spiritual influences at work. People are scared and helping them get past their fears and witness is the challenge. Getting them past the fear,” Darrin said, is the biggest challenge.
Pastor Darrin Miller is just one of the 2,400 Kentucky Baptist pastors and church planters who are faithfully doing the work of evangelism to reach Kentucky for Christ. With a state population of more than four million people, the vast majority of which are not in any church anywhere on Sunday morning, we have a big job to do and need all hands on deck to do it. God is using all of us together to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. We truly are better together.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsmagazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Todd Gray is team leader for the Evangelism, Church Planting & Campus Ministry Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.