comes ‘Together As One’
By Chrysta Carroll
TAR HEEL, N.C. (Bladen Journal) — With images of diversity and segregation permeating mainstream media, any evidence of racial unity is a welcome breath of fresh air, and at least some Bladen County residents are inhaling deeply after Sunday.
A “Together As One” event was planned by the Rev. John Morrison of Clark’s Chapel AME Zion Church — a predominantly black church — and Rev. Devon Varnum of Tar Heel Baptist Church — whose congregation is mostly white — for the purpose of bringing together a diverse group of believers in Tar Heel to fellowship and worship together and to begin to unite for a common goal.
“There are supposedly 19,000 unreached people in Bladen County,” said Varnum prior to the effort. “Part of the reason we’re doing this is, if we’re going to reach that number, we have to work together. What Bladen County needs is the Gospel.”
A covered dish fellowship meal began at 4:30 p.m., followed by a worship service. Clark’s Chapel Choir started things off, followed by a sermon from Varnum on the commonalities to all believers. Tar Heel Baptist’s choir then sang, followed by Morrison’s sermon and a time of prayer.
“(Last week), Rev. Morrison called me to say that he felt led to preach on Ephesians 4, which was the same passage that I felt led to preach on. In fact, I’ll tell you how unified God had us — that night, we had on the same sport coat, and hadn’t planned it,” laughed Varnum.
The focus for the day, rather than being on the evident diversity, was on the fact that believers have much more in common with one another than they have differences.
“It was amazing,” said Varnum. “People showed up in droves — we had at least 200, which is as many as our church can hold — from at least 10 different churches of different ethnic backgrounds. God really moved.”
While the services were going on, children played on bounce houses outside with apparent disregard for their disparities.
“I’ve never been in a service where there was so much unity,” said Varnum, who previously expressed a hope that a diverse group united in worshiping one God would as closely mirror heaven as was possible on earth.
Around $1,000 was collected for an offering that will be distributed to Plain View Primary and Tar Heel Middle School. Principals from both schools, as well as numerous other county leaders, were present for the event. Morrison and Varnum plan to present checks to each school and afterwards discuss potential future plans.
“Our hope is that this is the beginning of something,” said Varnum. “My prayer is that revival would come to our churches and communities, and we would start to see the effects of people joining together, reaching out to help win people to Jesus Christ together.”
This article was originally published at bladenjournal.com. Used with permission. It also appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Ky. church tills garden
as community ministry
By Myriah Snyder
ASHLAND, Ky. (Western Recorder) — Central Baptist Church’s new ministry center, Hope Central, has begun ministering to those in need in its surrounding community in a unique way.
The church looked at the neighborhood and wanted to do something more, something different than they have done in the past. They saw that by-and-large their community had needs, and they wanted to do more than meet “immediate needs,” said children’s minister and pastor’s wife Renee Parsons.
“Everybody is meeting the immediate needs, but they are not really ‘long-terming’ it. It has created a society of dependency,” Parsons commented. “We said, ‘Okay, how do we stop doing that and start doing something much more productive?'”
Drawing from the cliché, “Stop giving them fish; start giving them poles,” the church stopped giving out money, clothes and, largely, food. Instead, they pointed people to other ministries and resources throughout the area, and they began focusing on a new approach, Hope Central, located in a house next door to the church, Parsons shared.
Two of the main ministries the center will offer will be tutoring and an urban garden.
In cooperation with the public school system in Ashland, Hope Central will use volunteers to offer tutoring services and homework help. Teachers will choose children who need help after the first nine weeks. From 4-5 p.m. four days a week, up to 20 children will meet with tutors in reading and math. From 5-6 p.m., more tutors will be available for homework help.
The urban garden was birthed out of this ministry and is a project for youth at Central. They will apply scriptural truths to gardening, as well as use it for outreach, John Clark, Central’s youth pastor, said.
In addition to growing a garden on the church grounds, they are starting a “pallet ministry,” Clark said. Each pallet will contain a small garden.
Instead of giving people boxes of food, they will give them a pallet garden. The pallets will open doors for evangelism as volunteers develop relationships with the community.
“We’re using our outreach to not just share the Gospel, but also help these people find what they need and get them the assistance they need to help better their lives and show them the love of Christ. It’s just a blessing all round,” Clark said.
The ministry center will be a hub for many things, including a place for the community to connect with other ministries that they may not have access to, otherwise. Central’s VBS ministry will operate out of the center, as well as other services offering job placement or pregnancy crisis help.
The center, which has been in the works for a year and a half, will be fully functioning by October.
“This will be an awesome way to get these people some help, some love, and just give them Jesus,” Clark added.
“The kids we are dealing with now are a generation of an already lost generation,” he added. “If we don’t make some drastic steps to go towards these children and make a difference in their lives, then what are we here for?”
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is a news writer for the Western Recorder.
Mo. church opens arms,
doors to community
By Brian Koonce
SARCOXIE, Mo. (The Pathway) — For First Baptist Church here, the recipe for being a loving church is as simple as opening the door.
That open door has led to the church of just over 100 canvassing their entire town in prayer walking and Gospel distribution, as well as inviting the local school district to use the church’s gym for PE classes, volleyball and basketball practices.
“That has created a really unique opportunity for us to partner with them but also to bridge that gap with the students, parents and teachers,” said pastor Scott Pogue. “It lets us meet their physical needs as well as let them know we’re praying for them and here for their spiritual needs as well.”
First Baptist’s relationship with the local schools also grew out of the church’s desire to pray for teachers and students. As part of a plan to prayer walk the entire Sarcoxie community of about 1,300, First Baptist was allowed to prayer walk the halls of Sarcoxie’s schools before classes began the past two years. This year, when busy schedules and other commitments caused the church to delay asking permission to come prayer walk, the schools actually contacted First Baptist to remind them it was time to help the school prepare spiritually for the upcoming year.
“When we weren’t thinking about it, they were,” Pogue said.
The local Head Start program also runs out of First Baptist’s facility, further raising the church’s profile in the community. Almost every evening of the summer some community youth sport is using the church’s gym as well.
“We end up reaching far more people than are in our seats on Sunday morning,” Pogue said. “Our objective isn’t to get all these people who come through our facility to come to our church, but to let them know that it’s a place where they have a connection. Maybe their kid comes over here for PE or Head Start. In some way, almost everyone in our city has some sort of connection to First Baptist.
“Our goal is to change their mind about who we are and what we stand for,” Pogue said. “I think a lot of ‘First Baptist Churches’ in small town get a reputation for being concerned only for the people inside the church, and we want to change that in our city. We feel like the best way we can do that is not by promoting ourselves, but by promoting the Kingdom. We want to be that bridge from where they’re at in life into a deeper relationship with Christ or to introduce the to Him for them– first time. ”
Pogue said the community is responding to First Baptist’s efforts and attitude.
“They know we’re concerned about them, and willing to engage them and meet their needs,” he said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we want to be the first resource people think of when they have any need.”?
This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway.
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.