Today’s From the States features items from:
The Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
Old message brings new
life at La. church
By Brian Blackwell
MELDER, La. (The Baptist Message) — Jason Townley wakes up each Sunday with anxious anticipation about how God will move within the congregation of Pine Ridge Baptist Church.
Since January Townley has baptized more than 70 people of all ages and walks of life, and all wanting a new life.
“They basically are telling us we are tired of our way, we want a new way and that’s following Jesus,” Townley said. “It truly is amazing. Through the power of prayer and preaching the truth of the Word of God we have seen the power of the Holy Spirit time after time draw people to Himself. We never want it to end and believe that it doesn’t have to end.
“What’s amazing to us is that every Sunday God is bringing new people to Pine Ridge Baptist Church and we are seeing many of them come to Jesus,” he said. “People are looking for a place where the presence of God is and that’s what we pray for at Pine Ridge Baptist Church.”
All to Jesus
Changing lives at Pine Ridge Baptist Church “one family at a time” is what Kloee Martin and her husband Brett experienced.
During their first year of marriage they were on the verge of divorce.
However, hearing God’s Word as Townley counseled them one on one, both Kloee and Brett declared Christ as Lord and Savior.
“When we were young, we did not know completely what this world versus what being saved from our sin meant,” Kloee said. “We do now and we both were baptized July 17, 2016.
“With my son Rafe in my belly and my husband watching I was baptized, and I watched my husband Brett get baptized right after me. It was one of the best feelings,” she said. “Praise the Lord!”
Like the Martins, Joe White’s life took a turn in the right direction after an encounter with God at Pine Ridge.
For weeks Townley preached and for weeks God dealt with Joe, but he refused to take that step of faith.
While mowing his grass one afternoon, White finally stopped rejecting the Holy Spirit’s conviction and definitively said “yes” to Jesus.
“It was like He was right there and said ‘Joe, it’s you that’s holding back,'” he recalled. “I asked my daughters for Brother Jason’s number, and I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to do.
“The second I got his number, I contacted him and told him I was ready and he spoke to me about my salvation,” Joe continued. “That evening, we were at my grandson’s baseball game, and there was no better feeling than to share with my family that I would spend eternity in heaven. My life has changed forever and I’m thankful that the Lord never gave up on me.”
Prayer for the lost
The movement of God at Pine Ridge Baptist Church began a few years ago, when the pastor felt led to have old-fashioned prayer meetings on Wednesday nights.
The men meet and pray together, so do the ladies and even the youth -– all asking God to save souls.
Then they “put feet” to their prayers and go out weekly to tell people about Jesus.
Townley said revival has been spreading throughout the church and that has led to an awakening in the community.
He said each week people are declaring their need for Christ and for baptism and Sunday morning attendance has grown.
When Townley became pastor in 1993, just a handful of members came on a typical Sunday. He said now attendance is about 300.
Townley said he is grateful his congregation sees the value in not settling for the status quo, and the importance of reaching out to people with the love of Christ.
“Here at Pine Ridge Baptist Church we are growing as a result of prayer, preaching and pursuing people with Jesus on a day-to-day basis,” Townley said. “We have nothing to boast of but Jesus Christ and Him crucified and resurrected from the dead. It’s His power in us that makes the difference!
“We desperately want God’s Spirit to continually fill this place,” he added, “and His people to reach the lost and make disciples.”
Townley said his congregation’s mission is simply to see sinners saved by the grace of God and then prayerfully discipled to follow Christ.
“I have seen firsthand that all around us there are people starving for truth and many are wanting to be saved but don’t know how,” he said. “Recently we have reached adults and kids from 12 years old and upward that have never been to church a day in their life. We’ve witnessed so many that don’t even know John 3:16 or the 10 Commandments.
“God called me to Pine Ridge Baptist Church 23 years ago, but I have never seen the need as great as today for people to hear the Gospel,” Townley observed. “People need the Lord Jesus but how shall they hear if we don’t tell them?”
Great Commission Focus
Changed lives are a reflection of the Great Commission mindset and ministry focus of Pine Ridge Baptist Church, Townley explained.
For instance, he said this summer members began an initiative to feed local and state police.
Young children put together gift bags with their handprints painted on them and the phrase “these hands back the blue,” he said. Already they have fed the entire Alexandria Police Department and are working to do the same for the police force in Glenmora, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office and local Louisiana State Police units.
“If we want our communities to listen to what we have to say then we must gain their respect again,” Townley said. “The way you get respect is you earn it.
“Sometimes we earn it by cooking or helping in whatever way our communities need,” he said. “Once people know how much we care then maybe they will care how much we know,” Townley said, repeating a famous axiom of UCLA coach John Wooden who won 10 NCAA basketball championships using the philosophy.
“I thank God for a church family that is willing to get out there among real people in a real world, pointing people to Jesus,” he exclaimed. “If our churches don’t bring the message outside the four walls of the building then churches will die and dying is no fun.
“Jesus came so that we could have LIFE, and that we could have it more abundantly,” Townley said, recalling John 10:10. “He gave his life so we could give our life in order that others may have life!”
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.
Couple leads Texas church
in reaching Muslim neighbors
By JC Davies
IRVING, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Five years ago, Grant and Kimberly Goodrich were content serving the local church through youth and children’s ministry, but while participating in an apartment ministry, the couple’s eyes were opened to a people group in their own backyard in desperate need of the Gospel.
“We found out we had a large group of Somali refugees that were living in our apartment complex and in the apartment complex next door, probably about 30 families. We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know anything about culture, worldview, traditions, Islam, nothing,” Kimberly said.
Though the couple had no background working with Muslims, God soon burdened their hearts for their neighbors, and they saw that the need was greater than they ever realized.
Grant and Kimberly began learning from a church planter with the North American Mission Board who helped them understand and practice how to share their faith with their Muslim neighbors. While making weekly home visits to apartment units in their complex, the Goodriches soon met hundreds of Muslims from all over the world.
Two short-term trips overseas followed, offering Grant and Kimberly a chance to be immersed in Islamic culture and further softening their hearts for Muslim people. The Goodriches committed their lives to reaching Muslims with the good news of Jesus.
Though they were burdened for the millions of unreached Muslims overseas, Grant and Kimberly saw how God also was bringing the unreached to their own community in Texas, so in 2013 the Goodriches began attending MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, where they began a Muslim outreach program.
Irving is home to thousands of Muslims, Grant said. But despite growing numbers of Muslims, the Goodriches said many in their congregation had never before interacted with someone of the Islamic faith.
Early in their ministry at MacArthur, Grant and Kimberly learned that Muslim ministry would be a long-term investment. For Muslim hearts to change, the hearts of church members would first have to change, including laying aside any misconceptions or stigmas about Muslims.
“If there’s no transformation of hearts, they will never truly get behind it. They may agree that the church is to pray when we’re called upon in church to pray for (Muslims), but for it to extend to something we’re regularly doing there has to be consistency,” Grant said.
Their ministry began with only a few church members committing to pray alongside them. They now lead a group of MacArthur church members on a prayer walk around their community twice a month and are seeing God change hearts through the simple act of praying together for their Muslim neighbors.
“Different people have come, and the amazing thing is even though their heart might be still hard toward the Muslim people group, … it has been so powerful to watch as we’re standing there praying together, the Holy Spirit transform people’s hearts, even in the middle of their prayers,” Grant said.
Grant and Kimberly also lead seven-week training sessions for church members who want to learn more about how to effectively engage their Muslim friends, neighbors and coworkers with the gospel. They host weekly roundtable discussions to help answer questions Christians have when faced with opposition to the gospel by their Muslim friends.
No matter what steps individuals take, Grant said his desire is that everyone in the church would do something, would take some step toward loving their Muslim neighbors.
“Everyone has a place in this. That’s what we want to communicate. No one is exempt. Not everyone has to be called to do this for their life, … but if they can be lead in their hearts to at least pray, at least be willing to consider these people in Christ,” he said.
MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church pastor Josh Smith said Grant and Kimberly have been an “invaluable gift” to the church and have equipped the congregation with three major tools — awareness, engagement and training. Prior to the Goodriches’ arrival, Smith said the congregation had no established ministry geared toward engaging and reaching Muslims in the Irving area.
“They’ve helped take away, I think, some of the fear I know a lot of people have about Muslim people,” Smith said. “People now, particularly in the Metroplex, live around Muslim people but don’t have a clue anything about them, don’t get to know them. One of the things I appreciate about Kimberly and Grant is their consistent goal to say, ‘Go get to know a Muslim person.'”
Smith said reaching Muslims in their community is the “God-given assignment” of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church. Currently, an Islamic mosque is being built less than one mile from the church building, serving as a fresh reminder that now, more than ever, Christians in their church need to rise up and engage the thousands of Muslims who share their community.
“We’re not just trying to be a multi-ethnic church. We’re trying to be a church that reflects our community, and our community is one of the most diverse zip codes in America, so we don’t have an option. If we’re going to achieve our God-given assignment and reach our community, we’ve got to figure out how to reach Muslim people,” Smith said.
One of the Goodriches’ long-term goals is to have the mosque leaders and attendees know MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church by name and to know its members by the love they show.
That goal is being accomplished on a smaller scale as believers begin on a personal level, by intentionally seeking relationships with the Muslim people in their own lives, and by investing time into those relationships. Grant said this most often looks like an individual or couple from the church inviting a Muslim friend or couple into their homes to share a meal and get to know one another.
“Gospel conversations flourish in a setting of security and safety, and that’s usually in a home. What we’ve found is there are so many misconceptions, so many wrong ideas about what Christians stand for, what we believe and what is the gospel,” he said. “To have that opportunity to clarify and begin to introduce the gospel or stories from the Bible and what we stand for, it really happens on a one-on-one level in a home where they can trust.”
As they help lead the MacArthur congregation in obedience to the Great Commission, Grant and Kimberly also continue to learn more and more about what it looks like to accomplish this goal among Muslims.
“What we’ve learned the most is to be patient, loving people and seeing them as a person and a friend and not a project. In church ministry we talk a lot of programs. Everything is program-based. Muslim ministry has no program,” Kimberly said.
Though the couple strongly supports international mission work, the Goodriches believe God is providing unique opportunities for the gospel to reach the nations from right here in Texas, and they are committed to remaining here to be part of that work, in hopes of raising up a future generation of believers who will love and share Christ with their Muslim neighbors.
“We’re the first generation of the church that’s having to deal with this changing look of America, the change of Texas, but the youth right now are going to grow up and never know life without children of all these other cultures and faith backgrounds in their classrooms at school,” Kimberly said.
“So we have to be raising up our children and our youth in a church that stands upon the gospel and that loves other people. That’s the only way, long-term, beyond any of us, for this to be successful.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. JC Davies writes for the TEXAN.
Tenn. ministry meets hunger
needs with a school bus
By Lonnie Wilkey
ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — Hunger is a reality across the United States and Tennessee is no different. Some people view hunger, however, as a need found only in the larger cities in the state.
That’s simply not true.
According to Feeding America, one in six people in Tennessee struggles with hunger. In the state there are 1,103,580 “food insecure” people. The food insecurity rate for Tennessee is 16.9 percent, according to 2014 statistics. Food insecurity refers to the United States Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods, according to Feeding America, a network of food banks across the country that leads in the fight against hunger in communities nationwide.
This summer a ministry in upper East Tennessee helped alleviate hunger in rural areas.
Of One Accord Ministry, based in Rogersville, is an Appalachia ministry serving two rural impoverished counties in the state — Hawkins and Hancock. Hancock County is the lowest income county in Tennessee and 27th lowest in the nation with an average household income level of $23,907. The average income level for Hawkins County is $36,509, about $5,000 below the average income level of $41,715 in Tennessee.
Of One Accord Ministry, led by Sheldon Livesay, has four facilities in three towns operating three food pantries (in Rogersville, Church Hill, and Sneedville), two thrift stores, and a medical clinic. The ministry provides emergency food distribution, a meals on wheels program, a home repair program, and more. The food ministry gives out about one million pounds of food each year, Livesay estimated.
The ministry is funded by proceeds from the thrift stores as well as donations from individuals, churches, businesses, and other sources. The ministry is supported by many of the Baptist churches in Holston Valley Baptist Association, Livesay said. In addition, Of One Accord receives funding from the Tennessee Baptist Convention through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
In the summer months one of its primary ministries is the Lunch Box. The ministry now has four “retired” school buses that have been transformed into mobile cafeterias. Volunteers transport prepared lunches throughout communities in Rogersville and Church Hill. In 2015, 13,729 lunches were delivered to children in Rogersville, Church Hill, Mount Carmel, and Surgoinsville, many in rural areas. Livesay stated that about 1,600 meals a week were served this summer.
Livesay noted that in rural Tennessee there are not a large number of children at any one housing project. The Lunch Box is a way to take the meals to where they are needed, he said. “If you go to the neighborhoods where they live, they will come to the bus, eat, and return to their homes,” Livesay said.
“This ministry is very important. There are children who would go hungry without it,” he stressed.
Meals are delivered Monday-Friday as soon as school ends for the year and continues until the start of the new school year. This summer the program ran from May 31-July 29.
Jennifer Kinsler, who works with Of One Accord, said many local teachers tell her they worry that children will not be fed once school ends for the summer. “At least with this ministry we know they will get one meal each day during the week.”
Kinsler shared that some children have told her that when they climb aboard the Lunch Box on Monday that they have not had anything to eat since the previous Friday. “I can’t imagine that,” she said.
Volunteer Amanda Haun of Rogersville serves regularly on one of the bus routes. “I’ve gone home and cried after serving in this ministry,” she said. “I pray to God for strength for these families,” Haun added.
Wes Ramey, a volunteer and bus driver from Church Hill, served in the ministry for the first time this summer. “This makes you realize how many people go without food,” he said.
“The Lunch Box ministry fills the gap which poor families experience from the end of the school year until school resumes,” observed Joe Sorah, compassion ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
“Many of these children depend upon ministries like the Lunch Box to survive. Feeding hungry children fulfills the mandate of love as given by our Savior.
“The Lunch Box gives out more than food. They give out the life-changing message of Christ,” he said.
For more information about Of One Accord Ministry, contact Livesay at [email protected] 423-921-8044.
This article appeared in the Baptist and Reflector (tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector.
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.