News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Miss., Tenn., Fla. evangelism/missions news; ‘Our goal is to share the Gospel with as many people as we possibly can’

Today’s From the States features items from:
The Baptist Record (Mississippi)
Baptist and Reflector (Tennessee)
Florida Baptist Convention


Miss. Baptists share
Gospel with rodeo attendees

By Tony Martin

JACKSON, Miss. (The Baptist Record) — The Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo was the site of ministry for over 100 volunteers from Mississippi Baptist churches Jan. 31-Feb. 9, who were able to share the Gospel from a special evangelism booth with almost 1,300 participants and attendees.

“I greatly appreciate the many volunteers and the great work done by the evangelism arm of Mississippi Baptists on site at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds,” said Andy Gipson, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce under whose management the rodeo is held each year.

“During the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo, we have over 100,000 people, many of them youth and children, and each person has the opportunity to receive encouragement and hear the Good News from Mississippi Baptists. Thank you for sowing the good seed of the kingdom.”

Gipson, a Mississippi Baptist, most recently pastored Gum Springs Church in Braxton. He served as a Republican member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from the 77th District from January 2008 until Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, appointed him as the state’s agriculture commissioner on April 2, 2018. He replaced Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican who won the special election to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.

“This was our fourth year. We learn something new every year,” said Don Lum, director of evangelism for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. “This was the first year we were able do it while there were 4-H and FFA folks there.”

The ministry is offered from a tent situated where the midway for the Mississippi State Fair is located each fall. Volunteers not only shared the Gospel but also provided attendees with spiritual literature and Bibles.

“Our goal is to share the Gospel with as many people as we possibly can,” said Jeff Walker, a volunteer at the booth and a member of Grace Church, Brandon. “We just stand here and share our three-minute testimony with anyone who comes by.”

As of Feb. 8, Walker said, 39 people had prayed to receive Christ. “I went on a mission trip to Wyoming and we helped with a high school rodeo with a group that was doing this very thing and we said, ‘Hey, we can do this [at the Dixie National].’ So I’ve been doing this for five years — one year in Wyoming and four years here.”

Scotty Cooper is pastor of Cooperville Church in Cooperville. “I went to an evangelism conference in Meridian about three or four years ago,” he said, “and that’s where I learned about working at the rodeo so that’s how I got started. I just love it.”

Cooper spoke of how the volunteers are all trained to share a three-minute testimony, which he has used at the Dixie National and twice with a rodeo ministry in Wyoming endorsed by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Alpharetta, Ga.

Lum said, “The rodeo gives volunteers the chance to tell what Jesus has done for them, and people were saved when they heard those stories. This was the best year yet in terms of the volunteers who came to work. We’ll be doing the same thing next year, and we’ll need churches that will bring groups.”

Lum also wants Mississippi Baptists to be aware of another event: Cowboy Christmas Dec. 5-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada, during the National Rodeo Finals. “Mississippi Baptists have committed to send volunteers to staff this evangelism project. We need folks who will take a mission trip for this great opportunity,” Lum said.

For more information on the National Finals Rodeo evangelism effort, visit wyomingcowboypreacher.org/national-finals-rodeo/. For more information on Mississippi Baptist participation in the Las Vegas event or next year’s Dixie National evangelism effort, contact [email protected] or (601) 292-3278. Mailing address: P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530.
This article appeared in The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (mbcb.org). Tony Martin is associate editor of The Baptist Record.


Tenn. church reaches community
through ‘Witness Wardrobe’

By David Dawson

CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. (Baptist and Reflector) — The clothing ministry at Caney Spring Baptist Church is an example of how a small church with a big dream can make an enormous impact for Christ.

The clothing ministry, known as Witness Wardrobe, was launched in 2014, and has since grown into a project that ministers to an average of 70-80 families per week. All of the items of clothes are given away completely free of charge.

“It is not just for the people of Marshall County,” said Caney Spring pastor Tony Cansler. “We minister to people from all around.”

“There are people that drive down from Nashville to get clothes from us. Davidson County, Bedford County, Rutherford County, Williamson County, Maury County,” he said. “And there are people that come from Tullahoma, some from Fayetteville…. It’s just something you almost have to see to really grasp it.”

Last year, the program ministered to over 800 families, including 200 families that had never previously used the ministry, Cansler said.

“We gave away over 18,000 hanging articles of clothes, 1,600 pairs of shoes, and over 800 coats,” Cansler said, “and most importantly, we led people to Christ through the ministry even in the ‘store’ when they were shopping.”

So, what exactly does the ministry look like? Cansler provided a description.

“If you’re trying to picture it in your mind, picture 3,600 square feet; picture a mini-department store,” he said. “We’ve got clothing racks, and we have everything separated out by sizes. Children here, boys, girls here. Men’s, ladies here. It’s all separated out by sizes. There’s over 600 pairs of shoes. And we’ve got other things (beside clothes), such as household items and those things.”

Cansler’s church recently donated roughly 3,000 articles of clothing to Delano Baptist Church to help that church start a clothing ministry, too.

“We loaded them up,” Cansler said. “We filled up an SUV, a pickup truck with a camper, and half of their church bus — they’ve got a 30-passenger church bus — with clothes for them to help launch their clothing ministry…. And we let them see our structure, our layout, what we did, and how we used this to witness to people.”

Cansler said the ministry has put more emphasis on evangelism in recent days.

“Last February, God just spoke to me and made a revelation that for every customer that we have come through, we should ask them, ‘Is there anything that I can pray for you about today?’ And that changed the ministry to a different level of spirituality,” he said. “It built a connection to the people, and through that, we are able to lead people to Christ.”

Cansler said God has blessed the Witness Wardrobe ministry since its inception. He also said the tremendous growth of the ministry is a testament to the needs that are being met across the state.

“Our previous pastor was Stephen McCollum, and God laid it onto his heart to launch the clothing ministry in 2014,” said Cansler, ” and (the ministry) quickly outgrew the church.”

The church then rented a store front in a strip mall in Chapel Hill for about four years. The owner of the property gave Caney Spring a discounted rate and paid for the utilities, Cansler said.

“The ministry continued to grow, to grow, to grow,” said Cansler. “It was taking up four rooms in our church. Plus, our church hallway in the Sunday School wing was completely storage, so it was taking over.”

The church recently made the decision to build a facility on the church property, and will soon be getting its certificate of occupancy.

“We wanted to bring the ministry back to the church because — even as much as we were witnessing to the people — some people were still missing that we were a church.”

Cansler is excited about how impactful the ministry has been, but he believes even bigger things are in store.

“Now that we are freeing up the space in our building, we’re going to really turn the heat up, so to speak, on evangelizing,” he said. “We are going to be doing cold calls, and texts, and other messages to these people because we want them to understand why we do what we do.”

“We’ve got some other things that are in the works that will be a ministry in conjunction with the clothing ministry,” he said.
This article appeared in Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. David Dawson writes for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.


Fla. church meets need
with free counseling

By Keila Diaz

MIAMI (Florida Baptist Convention) — Christ Family Church is meeting a need in their Miami community by providing free, Christian counseling to anyone that needs it through their Christ Family Care and Counseling Center.

“We took this step of faith in offering free or donation-based counseling to anyone that needs it,” said Jonathan Palaci, one of Christ Family’s two pastors. “Basically, it’s a vision our church has had and something we feel God has led us to do.”

The counseling center, which is located less than four miles from where Christ Family meets for worship, offers counseling in 11 different areas as well as restoration groups and counseling training to local churches and has been doing so for about two years. The team of counselors is made up by Palaci; Jose Prado, Christ Family pastor; Mike Swihart, center director; and Veronica Bello, children’s and women’s ministry leader.

“Some people from the church [receive counseling] but it’s mostly people from outside the church coming to us,” said Palaci.

“Many of the people I see for counseling are being referred to us from other people who have received counseling from us previously,” added Swihart. He thinks it’s because “in Miami there is a disconnect in spirituality, people haven’t really sought a relationship with God in their lives and through the Gospel we help them see their destructive choices and help them understand that they are created in the image of God and He wants them and loves them.”

Christian counseling is different because it helps people understand that sin is at the heart of the problem and God has the solution, said Swihart. “Christ centered counseling comes from a place where we help others understand we’re created by God as men and women in His likeness and are dependent on Him [but] we have made choices independent of God and that’s what always leads to destructive sin.”

Swihart has found the greatest counseling needs to be in the areas of marriage, addiction and trauma. “One significant area we see is marriage counseling and quite a bit of counseling for people who experienced significant trauma as children and now are struggling with addictions to drugs, porn, etc.,” he said.

Christ Family Care and Counseling also offers restoration groups to help people heal and grow as a community. “People benefit from personal counseling, but they also need a community to be a part of and learn and grow together with.” There are two restoration groups available; one for women and another for men. While Christ Family church offers six community groups, Swihart says those are not environments designed to focus on issues like addiction because not everyone in those groups is struggling with that.

“God helps heal and change people through His church, so we work hard to keep connected with pastors and offer training,” said Swihart.

Churches and pastors can receive counseling training so they too may provide counseling to others. It’s usually an eight-hour training day that includes lunch. The cost is $25 per person.

For more information call Christ Family Care and Counseling Center at (786) 530-3022 and visit them online at christfamilycare.org
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida 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. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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