News Articles

FROM THE STATES: N.C., Texas and Okla. evangelism/missions news; ‘It is imperative that we encourage and involve the next generation …’

Today’s From the States features items from: Biblical Recorder (North Carolina);
Southern Baptist TEXAN; Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma).


Young Pastors Network
promotes cooperation in N.C.

By Seth Brown

APEX, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — Competition can be tempting when two young pastors lead churches less than 10 miles apart. Ministry can quickly become a race to build the largest kids program, market the flashiest worship service and employ the most innovative outreach philosophy.

But that’s not what happened when Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, and John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, began ministering down the road from one another.

Cooperation was the result of their proximity, and now they’re encouraging other young pastors in the state to work together too.

Capps and Harrison created the Young Pastors Network in an effort “to connect the next generation of Great Commission-minded Southern Baptist pastors in the state of North Carolina.”

Their goal is to help church leaders build relationships, share resources, learn from one another and talk about how to “steward our future together.”

The idea came as their personal friendship developed.

“John Mark and I encourage and challenge each other,” Capps said in an email to the Biblical Recorder. “One of the benefits of our relationship is that, while we agree on primary theological issues, we have our differences in ministry philosophy.

“One of our desires was to model healthy camaraderie focused on the Great Commission and centered on the common theological framework laid out in the Baptist Faith and Message.”

The network hosts gatherings alongside state convention or national entity events. Their first meeting occurred last November during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. It attracted more than 100 young pastors.

They also have smaller, more decentralized meetings. A group of North Carolina pastors recently met for lunch during The Gospel Coalition’s 2017 National Conference in Indianapolis.

A video conference call April 19 was set up to discuss next steps for the network with several young pastors in North Carolina.

“We don’t need another job,” said Harrison. “We’re not trying to build another big organization or event.”

They want the group to be a network in the truest sense. “Organized and organic” is how they describe it.

Capps and Harrison also hope to see more young pastors get involved in denominational life.

Capps said, “Southern Baptist structures are part and parcel to our mission as a body, namely, to combine the efforts of autonomous churches for ‘one sacred effort,’ the propagation of the gospel.”

The pair discovered at the inaugural Young Pastors Network event that many of the attendees had never been to the state convention’s annual meeting. In addition, when they asked where the group of pastors went to find ministry resources, very few of them named the state convention. Young pastors also expressed a desire to receive training on the basics of denominational practices and entities.

“In other words, many of the young pastors are not connected to the work of the associations or the state convention,” Capps said. “They are, however, engaged with entities like the seminaries, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. We have some things to figure out, some work to do.”

Harrison said feedback on the first gathering was positive.

Despite feeling somewhat disconnected from Southern Baptist entities, the group of young pastors told him they were excited to “participate and add value” in a conversation about denominational life.

“It is imperative that we encourage and involve the next generation in Southern Baptist life. The generations before us passed the baton well, so we want to make sure we do not drop it,”

Harrison said. “The work of the Southern Baptist Convention will not be complete until our King returns. Until then, we must steward our resources well, and proclaim the gospel of salvation in North Carolina and to the ends of the earth.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Matt Capps and John Mark Harrison are also advisory council members of a young leaders initiative, formed through a partnership of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and the North American Mission Board.)
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder.


Texas church planter stresses
culture of hospitality

By Keith Collier

LAS COLINAS, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — If churches want to reach those far from God, they must cultivate a culture of hospitality, church planter Nic Burleson told a packed room of pastors and church members at a breakout session during the SBTC Empower Conference in February.

“Hospitality is not one thing; it’s 100 little things,” Burleson said. “And it’s 100 little things in our churches that will determine if people far from God feel welcome and wanted.

“Hospitality creates a culture where people can say yes to the gospel of Jesus.”

Burleson planted Timber Ridge Church in Stephenville in 2011, and the church has grown exponentially to more than 1,000 in attendance each Sunday, filled mostly with college students and people in the community that many would have never expected to see darken the doors of a church. He explained that when most non-Christians visit a church, they are asking, “Will I really feel welcome in this place?”

Burleson said churches must move from evangelism as a program in the church to evangelism as the culture of the church.

“If reaching people far from God is a program, it will always only involve the people who sign up to go on Monday night visits,” he said. “But if evangelism — reaching people far from God — is the culture of our church, it affects everything we do. It’s no longer a program, but it’s the heartbeat of our church.

“When we create that culture, more and more people who are far from God come, and it’s messy … but lives are changed.”

Burleson offered three principles for effective evangelistic hospitality, which guide Timber Ridge Church in their approach to reaching their community.

First, he said, “words matter.” This involves avoiding “churchy” words because “the biggest tool for creating culture is language.” In sermons and Bible studies, he seeks to explain the Bible to people as if they had never read it.

“Whose language are you using … yours or theirs?” Burleson asked. “Are you using language that lost people understand?”

Second, he said, they think of people as “guests,” not “visitors.”

“Guests [we] prepare for. Visitors stop by unexpected, and we’re not prepared for them,” Burleson said. For this reason, they seek every opportunity to honor their guests, such as a VIP room for first-time guests where they can talk with the pastor after a worship service. In everything, Burleson wants to lead his church to remember that what is familiar to the regular church member is not familiar to guests. They consistently ask those new to the church what they see as needed changes in order to view the church through fresh eyes.

Third, they measure what matters. While hospitality is everyone’s job, someone must be in charge of it. “If it’s everybody’s job, it becomes nobody’s job real quick,” he said.

One simple tool they use is a guest survey through email or phone call for all first-time guests. The survey is brief and asks four simple questions: What was your overall impression? What did you like best? What did you notice first? How can we pray for you?

“They don’t come back the second time because of the preaching, the music or the kids ministry,” Burelson said. “They come back the second time because they feel included and welcome.”

“Hospitality is way bigger than putting out coffee and donuts; it’s about creating a culture where people belong.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Keith Collier is editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN.


Okla. church’s Spring Break
sports camp serves city

By Emily Howsden

OKLAHOMA CITY (Baptist Messenger) — Spring break is a popular time for mission trips and service projects among church youth groups. For the past 19 years, Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City has taken the time off from school and served the children of the Oklahoma City area.

Champs Camp is a popular destination for those not on the beach or in the mountains for spring break. One would quickly know why many chose to spend their spring break at Northwest Baptist after spending time in the high energy and fun-filled environment.

A unique attribute to Champs Camp is the student-led environment. Members of the youth group and members of partnering churches’ youth groups are leaders of small groups of children, leading them in Bible studies and sports lessons.

When asked about the importance of members of the youth group leading at what some may perceive a young age, Chris Gulley, student pastor at Northwest Baptist, explained, “It’s a training ground for our students. They’ve spent about 12 hours on Sunday evenings (leading up to the camp), going through training, equipping on evangelism, leadership development and behavioral modification with kids among other things. So it’s a rich opportunity for our students to be developed as leaders.”

Glenn Barber, childhood ministries specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and interim children’s pastor at Northwest Baptist, emphasized the primary focus of the event.

“We’re focusing on evangelism, introducing God, Christ and the Bible to them. We are also focused on training students,” he said. “One of the things I was very impressed with is the intensity of the students we’ve got in leadership here. You realize how in tune they are in being a leader and serving Christ.”

Student volunteers went through rigorous training in order to obtain leadership roles at Champs Camp. Students who serve have to be “emotionally invested in the local church, not just attend. There needs to be a buy-in at the church level,” explained Gully.

“We have three Sundays’ worth of training. Two of those are four hours long, and the Sunday before is a full day of training from noon to 8:30 in the evening, ending in a time of worship and prayer,” said Gulley.

Students at Northwest Baptist need to be a part of the leadership team. However, Champs Camp is a group effort by many churches in the metro. Students from other youth groups are encouraged to send in a letter of recommendation upon applying to help for the week.

Partnering with other churches extends the reach and area of impact of Champs Camp.

Through the sports camp, doors are opened to the lives and families of children who attend.

“Sports are simply a funnel or conduit to engage kids in fun activity,” said Gulley, “Our key focus is to build teamwork, comradery and unity, which builds a relationship and that is when you earn the right to share the Gospel.”

Champs Camp is an all-day event for the duration of spring break, solving many parents’ need for a place for their children to go while not in school. Through early drop off and late pickup, the church has seen attendance dramatically increase over the years.

“In any venue that we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with kids, I’m all for it,” said Barber, “But the way Champs Camp is structured and set up lends itself to warming up families to the church and to what we do.”

What is one of Gulley’s favorite elements of Champs Camp year after year of the Metro outreach program?

“From the student pastors’ perspective, I look forward to seeing the transforming power that leading kids does when you are intentionally living with that missional mindset, constantly being stretched with your skill set with these kids, you see transformation happen in front of your eyes.”

Through Champs Camp, Northwest Baptist continues to look outward and strive to transform the community through serving Christ and serving others.
This article appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Emily Howsden is a staff writer for the Baptist Messenger.


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. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

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