FROM THE STATES: N.C., Tenn., N.M.
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.
Today’s From the States features items from:
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Baptist New Mexican
revival, hopeful about future
By Buddy Overman
CARY, N.C. (Biblical Recorder)–Armenia is a small country nestled between its much larger and predominately Muslim neighbors of Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is a nation with a unique and varied history, including a Christian tradition that dates to the apostolic age.
Sometimes referred to as the land of Noah, due to its proximity to the mountains of Ararat, Armenia’s population is 94 percent Christian (Armenia Apostolic Church). The Armenian Apostolic Church is a non-evangelical church with considerable influence inside Armenia. Only two percent of Armenian Christians are evangelical.
Surrounded by large Muslim countries and largely void of evangelical Christianity, Armenia needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) is working hard to get the gospel to this country through its partnership with the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia.
The partnership began in 2003 with an initial focus on construction. Through the coordinating efforts of NCBM, churches and associations from North Carolina began sending construction teams to Armenia to build church buildings for Armenian Baptists. The construction teams supplied the funding and labor that Armenian Baptists lacked to complete such projects.
The church buildings provide a public meeting place where Baptists can gather instead of meeting in private homes. Jim Burchette, NCBM Armenia Partnership Coordinator, said Armenian homes are not considered suitable for worship. “Most Armenians will not worship in a home. Most are too small and it’s against the social norm. They like to have a building where they can go to worship,” he said.
Another initial focus of the partnership was financial assistance for Armenian church planters and students at the Theological Seminary of Armenia. The seminary graduated its first class of 17 students in 2001.
Financial assistance from North Carolina Baptists has enabled more than 300 students to graduate from the seminary since 2003, including 100 students from a Muslim country.
Asatur Nahapetyan, General Secretary of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia and Director of the Theological Seminary of Armenia, is grateful for the support from North Carolina Baptists and believes the partnership has sparked revival in Armenia.
“We are so thankful for the partnership with North Carolina Baptist Men. Because of the partnership we have been able to start churches in areas where there was no gospel witness before,” Nahapetyan said. As the gospel of Jesus Christ is taking root, the partnership is expanding its focus.
“The construction teams and sponsorships for students and church planters are still an important part of the partnership,” Burchette said. “But in recent years, as the number of Baptists has grown, we have started sending additional teams to conduct Vacation Bible School, eye glass ministry, and training for church leaders and pastors.”
Vacation Bible School in particular has played an important role in the revival. “We have seen Vacation Bible School reach a lot of children and their parents with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Burchette said.
Altogether, the construction teams, sponsorships and various ministry teams have helped fuel a significant growth in the number of Baptist churches and the number of Armenians who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
“Before the partnership we had 60 churches, seven church buildings and 2,000 Baptists,” Nahapetyan said. “Today we have 150 churches, 30 church buildings, an orphanage center and 5,200 Baptists.”
Armenian law forbids children from officially joining the church, thus the overall numbers are actually much higher. “At last count there were 10,000 Armenian children actively involved with Armenian Baptist churches. Many of them have also accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior,” Burchette said.
Although the numbers are encouraging, Burchette and Nahapetyan know the job is not complete. As a former Soviet Republic, Armenia’s economy has never fully recovered from the collapse of communism.
The sluggish economy means nearly all Armenian Baptist churches are dependent on outside help for survival.
“Of the 150 Baptist churches in Armenia, only four are financially independent,” Burchette said. The need is great, but so is the desire to see the gospel flourish in Armenia. “There are no plans to end the partnership,” Burchette said.
“We will continue to help build church buildings, support seminary students and strengthen existing churches in Armenia through continued funding of church planters. We will also do that through discipleship efforts such as Vacation Bible School led by North Carolina volunteers.”
Nahapetyan welcomed the continued support. “We need more teams to come and help us with Vacation Bible School, medical evangelism and house visiting with personal witness,” he said.
“And we need more construction teams to come to Armenia because many of these planted churches do not have places to meet.” Nahapetyan is hopeful for the future and thankful for the support already received.
“We are very blessed by North Carolina Baptists. This revival could not happen without you,” he said. “God needs you on mission.”
For more information about joining the work in Armenia contact Jim Burchette at [email protected].
Learn about this partnership and other ministries online at baptistsonmission.org.
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Buddy Overman is a writer for the convention.
RAs, Dads Work
Together for Needy
By Connie Bushey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector)–The Royal Ambassadors of Forest Hills Baptist Church here bought 207 bikes for the annual Nashville Baptist Association Toy Store. They assembled and delivered 127 bikes. Because of a shipping problem, they were unable to deliver 80 bikes.
The 80 bikes which didn’t arrive in time will be saved for next year’s Toy Store, said Philip Glenn, RA director.
Last year the RAs of Forest Hills Baptist gave 142 bikes but the RAs really worked on the project this year, said Glenn. The boys in grades 1-6 in RAs raised $2,700 to add to the $4,500 budgeted by the church for the project. The church has about 100 RAs who meet weekly on Wednesday evenings in six grade-level classes.
The RAs of the church have assembled and given bikes to the Toy Store about 10 years. The association Toy Store has been held for over 50 years.
Members of Forest Hills Baptist also gave many new toys for the Toy Store. The church draws about 925 each week to Sunday School.
The 127 bikes were assembled by the RAs with help from their fathers on Dec. 2 and then many of the men and boys stayed all night at the church for a lock-in. The next morning the RAs and their fathers delivered the bikes to Shelby Avenue Baptist Church, Nashville, the site of the Toy Store.
One thing that helped motivate the boys was a challenge among the RA classes, explained Glenn.
As he watched boys and their dads get to work pulling out tools and bike parts and using mechanical skills they learned last year at this event and during the year in preparation, Glenn said, “I love this.” He added that many look forward to the bike assembly night.
“We have dads and sons being together doing something for Christ and that’s big,” he stated.
To witness through the project, each RA class chose a Bible verse to tape on each bike. Amazingly, each class chose a different verse, said Glenn.
Delivering the bikes also is a lesson for the boys and men because the church is very small compared to theirs and the neighborhood is old and needy, he reported.
This project provides bikes for kids of families “that can’t afford Christmas,” said Glenn.
Brian Holt of the church who also is a member of the state RA Affinity Team said the project is good for RAs because it is hands-on. “It’s one thing to learn about missions but it’s another thing to get hands-on and do it,” said Holt, who has been an RA leader since 1991 and an RA since 1978.
Don Green, minister to children, Forest Hills, said, “the magic” is seeing the dads and their sons working together and doing it though they know “the bikes are going to someone else.”
Greg Watkins, church support and community ministries director, Nashville Association, reported that Forest Hills Baptist is one of 60 “faithful partner churches” which make the Toy Store possible for needy families in Nashville. Those 60 churches are Southern Baptist, added Watkins.
This year 608 families received free Christmas gifts from the store for 1,580 children, noted Watkins. Even more importantly, he added, 14 parents “prayed to receive Christ as their personal Savior!”
This article originally appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Connie Bushey is news editor of the Baptist & Reflector
N.M. church celebrates
faithfulness of God
By John Loudat
FARMINGTON, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican)–First Baptist Church of Farmington celebrated the faithfulness of God and took time to reflect on its implications during the church’s centennial celebration this fall.
The observance of the 100th anniversary of the church’s birth began on Saturday, Oct. 29, with a two-hour open house, coat distribution and hot dog lunch.
The open house gave current and former members and guests the opportunity to tour the church’s facilities, including the worship center that was remodeled seven years ago, the Zaffke (adult education) Building and the church office.
During that same time, members also distributed to needy people in the community more than 300 coats that the congregation had collected over the previous six weeks.
“We wanted our community to be glad we’re here too,” the church’s pastor, Keith Berryman, told the Baptist New Mexican later.
The celebration resumed the following morning with Sunday school and a special worship service that included presentation of a congratulatory plaque from the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s executive director, Joseph Bunce.
Berryman, in his message that morning, challenged the church to “Celebrate God’s Faithfulness” by declaring it, living in its light and emulating it.
God’s faithfulness over the previous century, Berryman told the church he has led for nearly seven years, should inspire them to be faithful, as well.
Following the worship service, more than 300 people enjoyed a family-style dinner at the Farmington Civic Center, which had been adorned with decorations reminiscent of the early 20th century.
For the next 2½ hours, they were able to visit displays where they could view photographs and hear stories about the church’s first 100 years.
“It was a lot of fun!” the pastor said.
“First Baptist Church, at 100 years of age, is not a church returning to its roots, but is a strong, tall tree grown up from its roots,” writes Phyllis Jacobs, one of the church’s former church secretaries, in a historical book prepared for the centennial celebration.
The first roots were planted in the spring of 1911, when W.J. Downing came to town to preach a tent revival, Jacobs writes. On June 18, 1911, a group of 12 Baptists organized First Baptist Church.
By the end of that same year, the church had organized a Sunday school, a Baptist Young Peoples Union and a Woman’s Missionary Union. It had also purchased its first building for $700 and met for the first time for worship in it on Christmas Eve.
The church met at that location on the corner of Broadway and Commercial for 10 years, until several members left to form Calvary Baptist Church. One year later, Calvary members and more First Baptist members created another church, Harmony Baptist Church, which quickly purchased property and built a sanctuary on the corner of Auburn and Arrington.
On March 27, 1924, the remaining 29 First Baptist members joined the church whose name expressed its desire for harmony. The name was changed back to First Baptist Church in 1945, “since there was no other Southern Baptist church in Farmington,” Jacobs writes.
Over the years and decades more and more roots were planted, including the baptism of the first Navajo believers in 1924; First Indian Baptist Church occupying the church’s building on Broadway from the time the Native American congregation was started as a mission in 1948 until it constituted as a church in 2002; the decision to convert the old auditorium on the corner of Auburn and Arrington into classrooms in 1958; the dramatic leap in membership to over 1,382 two years later; a live television program beginning in 1970; purchase of additional property in 1971, 1975 and 2000; the decision in 1978 to start a mission that would become Mesa View Baptist Church just six years later; construction of the Zaffke Educational Building in 1992; dedication of the remodeled sanctuary in 2004; and the church’s participation in the ministry at Sun Ray Park & Casino horse race track that Berryman started shortly after he became pastor in March 2005.
“On its 100th anniversary, First Baptist Church is strong and tall in reaching out to San Juan County and around the world with evangelistic support,” Jacobs says. “Through the years the church has maintained strong ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Convention of New Mexico and San Juan Baptist Association.”
While First Baptist is extremely grateful for all God has done for the past 100 years, it is “excited about the future,” Berryman said.
Three years ago, the pastor explained, a survey of the congregation showed that the two largest segments of the church were those who had been members more than 31 years and those who had been members for a year or less.
The many new people who have been joining the church have been assimilating with the longtime members very well, Berryman said, and they’re just as excited about what God is doing as those who have seen what God has done for the past several years.
The church is now taking “determined steps” to fulfill its mission statement, which is “to lead the spiritual transformation of San Juan County” through disciple-making, prayer and community ministry.
Because of the past century of God’s faithfulness, Berryman explained, First Baptist Church is confident in God’s leadership and investing in it.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.