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FROM THE STATES: N.C., Mich., Ark. evangelism/missions news; ‘We’ve been captured by the vision to reach the unreached with the gospel’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Baptist Beacon (Michigan)
Arkansas Baptist News

Rocky Mount church adopts
South Asian metropolis
By Hope Livingston*/IMB

The food, the traffic, the poverty, the smells, the seemingly unending masses of people can be overwhelming at first, says Pastor Robin Fisher after taking a team from his church to India.

“But before we left, every person on the team had fallen in love with the people there and hoped to be able to return.”

Fisher, with Sunset Avenue Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, N.C., accepted the challenge to adopt an unengaged unreached people group issued by International Mission Board President Tom Elliff at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

Back home, he shared his vision with his church family.

Then in February 2012, Fisher traveled with five other pastors to a large Indian metropolis packed with people groups.

Rather than picking a single group, Fisher felt the Spirit leading him to adopt sections of the city where many unengaged unreached people groups would be represented.

Fisher brought that vision back to the United States, and his church decided to move forward.

As the first team from Sunset Avenue prepared to go in early 2013, they prayed regularly and fervently for help in recognizing the persons of peace around them (Luke 10).

When the team went out into a slum the first day, Fisher’s initial conversation generated a religious debate. The team moved down a few doors, and Fisher prayed for a sick man.

When he turned from the sick man, Fisher saw the smiling face of a 16-year-old girl who motioned for him to join her. The girl expressed an interest in Christianity as well as a lack of knowledge on the subject.

“What a clear invitation from God to share the gospel with her,” Fisher said.

After he shared the gospel with her, she professed faith in Christ. Before the week ended, she had received discipleship and begun to share the gospel with her friends.

“God showed me that day that He would honor our prayers for the persons of peace,” Fisher said. “And He did so every single day we were there.”

A key part of the trip was working alongside a local South Asian church. “What a wonderful privilege to see that kingdom work is going on all over the world and not just in our little corner of the world,” said Fisher.

“There was a shared passion for Christ, a ‘family connection’ that surfaced very quickly,” he said. “We met senior adults who have faithfully, courageously served Christ there for decades and young teenagers wrestling with a call to preach.”

As the week continued, Fisher went out with the pastor and another young man, who shared his testimony — how as a young man, he was aimless and needed direction for work.

After he came to Christ, his life changed, and God blessed his career and his ministry. As the young man finished sharing his testimony with Robin and the local pastor, the three men began a conversation with a young man who had tried many religions and prayed to many gods.

“He was desperately looking for help with his future and in what he was supposed to do with his life,” Fisher said.

As Fisher, the pastor and the young man told him about Jesus, Fisher felt led to ask the young man to share his testimony with this young man.

“Their common stories played a part in that young man receiving Christ that day,” Fisher said. “I left that church leader to begin follow up. It was a great, God-authored experience — one of many we enjoyed that week.”

During that same week, two South Asian women from the pastor’s church went out with Christian worker Francis Tanner*.

In one home, Tanner played with a little girl while the two South Asian women shared the gospel with her parents.

They discovered the father had attended church when he was younger but had not returned since getting married. As they departed that day, one of the women, Archana,* felt burdened to return.

About a month later, Archana began bringing the family into her home for Bible study once a week.

Soon, Archana’s church was offering training to Bible study leaders.

Fisher said he’s heard from their host pastor that his church has already started a new small group in the area where his team worked.

“We’ve been captured by the vision to reach the unreached with the gospel,” Fisher said. “That’s why God led us to South Asia, where so much spiritual darkness abounds. … We will be going back on an ongoing basis — at least once a year and hopefully more often in the future as the work progresses.”

“It added so much to our experience to be able to share it with a church family there. Our partnership is one we’re looking forward to pursuing. I’ve already traded emails with my fellow pastor as we seek to build a relationship of encouragement and support.”
*Name changed. This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Hope Livingston is a writer with the International Mission Board, serving among the peoples of South Asia. Visitsouthasianpeoples.imb.org.
God’s Plan for Sharing helps
churches reach communities
By David B. Smith and Baptist Beacon Staff

FENTON, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) — Baptist churches always like to mix a meal with an event.

Michigan Baptists took that one step further, hosting ten meals at ten different locations over a five-day period, January 13-17, 2014. These events were used to promote the God’s Plan for Sharing evangelistic strategy called “Serving Across Michigan.”

Michigan Baptists took that one step further, hosting ten meals at ten different locations over a five-day period, January 13-17, 2014. These events were used to promote the God’s Plan for Sharing evangelistic strategy called “Serving Across Michigan.”

“The GPS evangelism meeting was well worth my time, even though the weather was a challenge,” said Arthur Werry, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Fraser. “I was able to glean several outreach ideas along with a very helpful strategic planning outline for GPS.”

“The GPS evangelism meeting was well worth my time, even though the weather was a challenge,” said Arthur Werry, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Fraser. “I was able to glean several outreach ideas along with a very helpful strategic planning outline for GPS.”

The recommended kick-off date for the “Serving Across Michigan” days of service projects is Saturday, May 31, 2014. Churches can participate in one of five Operation 1-Day project events or create and implement other service projects in their own communities. Following that Saturday in May, the Days and Seasons of Service are encouraged to begin statewide.

“An evangelistic strategy is not about satisfied saints sitting in seats. It’s about sending saints out of their seats to tell people about a Savior,” said Bobby Gilstrap, Lead Missionary and Executive Director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, at the meetings. “This isn’t just a six-month strategy; we want to encourage you to carry this out through 2014 and 2015.”

The overall goal in Michigan and across North America is simple, to have every believer sharing and every person hearing the gospel by 2020. To accomplish this objective, NAMB has outlined four biblical markers to keep the program on track.

The first of the four is praying. The GPS strategy stresses that every church should first be in prayer for the lost. Next is making sure that every believer is equipped to share the gospel. The third biblical marker is sowing. The plan calls for every lost person to receive a witness. Rounding out the goal is harvesting souls. Every church is to be harvesting and celebrating every salvation response.

Between now and 2020 NAMB has planned bi-annual campaign themes. Two of those have been completed — in 2010 “Across North America” and 2012 “Reaching Across North America.” The 2014 campaign theme is “Serving Across North America” with a media campaign theme of “Purpose. Find it Here.” State conventions are encouraged to adapt the theme for their state.

By the end of February, the Michigan GPS website, GPS. bscm.org, will be launched with numerous resources available for Michigan Baptists’ churches. Included on the GPS site will be video recordings of the training provided at the GPS evangelism meetings/meals and dozens of links and downloads of printed, audio and video resources. In addition, banners and lawn signs will be provided on a “first-come, first serve” basis that supports the national “Find It Here” media emphasis. All resources are provided for cooperating Michigan Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program. Additional banners and resources can be purchased at a minimal cost.

At each meeting, participants were provided a NAMB planning guide for pastors and churches, service project ideas and resources to make prayer an integral part of the strategy for the local church. The participants were also exposed to testimonies about how GPS has worked in other places and to media resources they could use in promoting their own efforts. All of these resources will also be made available on the GPS website, GPS.bscm.org.

The participants were also exposed to testimonies about how GPS has worked in other places and to media resources they could use in promoting their own efforts. All of these resources will also be made available on the GPS website, GPS.bscm.org. The mapping center can provide churches a list of residents in their community for identifying and targeting population groups for outreach or service activities. The new Impacting Michigan website, www.ImpactingMichigan.net, was also introduced to assist churches be more effective in reaching their communities.

“Serving Across Michigan” will be a blessing as hundreds of churches join together reaching the lost and impacting the Kingdom for Christ.
This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon (baptistbeacon.net), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.
First Baptist, England, Ark.,
ups giving, sees God at work
By Caleb Yarbrough

ENGLAND, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) — Economic and cultural factors resulted in attendance dwindling at First Baptist Church, England, leaving the church a shell of its former self.

But the church was determined to not end up like many small-town churches in the United States and be swept under the rug of history.

The past several years have seen growth fueled in large part by Robby Sherman, the church’s pastor who came in 2011, said Joey Adams, First Baptist’s chairman of the deacons.

According to Adams, First Baptist has experienced growth by sacrificially giving to the Lord and has adjusted its priorities in favor of seeking God’s will together as the Body of Christ.

Shortly after Sherman came to the church, he set a goal for First Baptist to raise $5,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. At the time, it seemed to be a large — and inconceivable –- amount for the small, rural church to raise. However, after hosting events such as a church-wide auction, a “noisy offering” for the church’s children and a bake sale, they raised nearly $9,000.

Bobby Jones, longtime member and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist, said the offering was a turning point for the church.

“People were not just buying cinnamon rolls. They were going to give either way,” said Jones.

First Baptist has set a higher goal for Lottie Moon every year since.

In 2012, the church’s goal was $10,000, and they gave more than $20,000. In 2013, the goal was $25,000, and they gave more than $30,000.

The amounts are uncommon for a church that averages 100 in Sunday school and 150-175 in weekly worship.

Sherman said First Baptist’s giving is simply one aspect of their transformation and a result of their decision to follow God in every aspect of their lives as a congregation.

“We began to learn how to dream and envision. Instead of doing what we had always done in the past, we began to look at what we could do in the future and where God could lead us,” he said. “It’s not like we are a big church. Everybody is just starting to get on the same page with the Lord and what He is wanting to do.”

Sherman said that when he came to First Baptist, he was afraid that because he was a “city boy” coming to a rural farming community it would make it difficult for him to connect with the congregation.

He quickly discovered that the church was open to change and that the work ethic and values of members aligned well with his own.

“These guys had seen so much change and transition in the industry of farming. They don’t change what they do in the field because something new comes along. They change because they see the value in what is put in front of them,” said Sherman.

“They (First Baptist) were not violent defenders of the status quo. They knew that some things needed to change for them to become what God wanted them to become,” he said.

David Nipps, worship minister at First Baptist, said Sherman was the “right person for the right time.”

“We certainly felt that God led this person here at this time to meet our needs. And I think God sent him here because we were something he needed also. … We were looking for a vision, and he has a plan and a vision for our church,” said Nipps.

“I have never had a pastor work any harder than him. The guy has got work ethic. He is like an old farmer or something. He gets up in the morning, works all day and goes into the night with you,” he said.

Nipps credited God with giving the congregation a much needed “attitude adjustment,” which allowed them to fully support the vision that Sherman cast upon his arrival at the church.

“Ten years ago we were not willing to change. We weren’t ready. I think God got us ready to make some of these changes,” said Nipps.

Sherman said most Arkansas Baptist churches are like First Baptist.

“I’m not different from many pastors. I think there are a lot better pastors, preachers and leaders than me, but it doesn’t matter who the pastor is. God has to do it,” he said.

Sherman added, “Ten years ago, they were unwilling to change. It didn’t matter who was here. When they got ready and were softened, that is when things happened.

“It doesn’t matter how much vision I cast if they are unwilling to follow,” he said.

Nipps said that the sight of their church and other churches losing members and becoming less effective at reaching their communities for Christ is what brought them to the point of being willing to change.

“The word that God has given us for the year is ‘chasing,’ chasing Him,” said Sherman. “When we get right with the Lord, God takes care of everything else. A church that is alive is attractive to people because they want to be part of something that is vibrant.”

“One of the things that fits farming communities all over the eastern delta is that we are in a shrinking town. This town was in its heyday in the 60s,” said Nipps.

“We have had people tell us, ‘You are never going to be the same. Your community is never going to be the same. Your church is never going to be the same as it was 30 years ago,'” he said.

“We had this negativism in our community and in our own minds. We had to get back to the point where we realized that if God wants this thing to grow, He can grow it. But we can’t,” Nipps said. “That helped us. It was a stepping out on faith.”

Sherman said that First Baptist is no longer simply a “little church in a little town,” but a church that seeks to make a “global impact” for Jesus Christ.

“We have met with missionaries from China about partnering with them and putting our footprint there, from England, Ark.,” said Sherman. “We do missions to New Orleans; we do missions here; we do missions around the state. But we are now looking at putting our footprints in China as well.”

In addition to mission trips across Arkansas and beyond, First Baptist emphasizes mission work within the England community.

They have hosted “Trunk-or-Treats” during Halloween; rebuilt, strengthened and grown their once dying vacation Bible school program, and increased their focus on reaching families through a growing number of available Sunday school classes and renovated youth and children’s programs and events.

“It’s not about what we can do, but what God can do and what we ask of Him,” Sherman.

“I asked God several years ago to give me the world – to where within every five years before I retire that I could put my footprint to where I actually have the potential to impact the world, and for God to send me places where I could do things from.”

“I believe this church is catching that vision as well,” he said.
This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Caleb Yarbrough is a staff writer for the Arkansas Baptist News.

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