News Articles

FROM THE STATES: N.M., Ariz., Fla. evangelism/missions news; ‘You need to light a candle … soon’

Today’s From the States features items from:
Baptist New Mexican
Portraits (Arizona)
Florida Baptist Convention


N.M. church passes
baptism goal

By Joy Pittman

SOCORRO, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) — Throughout 2017 God began teaching Phillip Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Socorro, that the biggest threat to the church was not the government, it was not the predominantly Catholic community surrounding Socorro and it was not the lack of a percussion instrument most Sunday mornings. The church’s biggest threat was complacency, Smith said.

Smith explained that the church has been blessed with stability. Finances, weekly attendance and ministries are all stable. The problem, however, is God never exactly called the church primarily to stability. Stability often means safety, comfort, complacency — all of which will render a church useless for the mission. Why worry about outreach if the ministry is getting by just fine?

Smith said he thanks God often for His grace and goodness toward First Baptist and for the chance to serve such an incredible church, but God’s blessings never suggest the work is done. “Consider Paul’s statement from his prison cell in his letter to the Philippians. In chapter one, he talks about all God had done through his predicament. Then, in chapter three, he starts talking about pressing forward. Paul was content in how God had blessed him, but he wasn’t complacent,” Smith said.

With that same desire, Smith decided that 2018 needed to be a year for the church to press forward. After seeking some godly men who have known ministry far longer than himself, Smith decided that pressing forward would best happen with a clearly communicated goal for 2018.

In January of 2018, the church launched a vision to see 18 people baptized in 2018 or “18 in 18” for short. In preparation, 18 battery-powered candles were set up in front of the baptistery with plans of lighting a candle every time a baptism took place. Smith said he was excited to see how the church would respond to the goal — and many people responded with excitement to have something to work toward.

January 2018 came and went, and nothing happened. Smith jokingly says, “I only had to take one math class in college, so math isn’t my specialty. But, I knew that, to reach our goal, we were going to need to baptize someone at least every three weeks.” After five weeks, the water had not yet been turned on.

In early February, the Smith family traveled to visit family, and Smith’s father-in-law asked how the project was going. Smith told him that there had been nothing so far, and Smith said he would never forget the response. His father-in-law said, “You need to light a candle … soon.”

After talking a bit more, Smith’s father-in-law suggested Smith think “low hanging fruit,” which encouraged Smith to find someone that had come to the church, but was unsure if he or she was saved or not. Instantly, a young man in the youth group named Anthony popped into his head.

Sitting down with the church’s youth minister, CJ, that Wednesday morning, Smith asked about Anthony. CJ said he would try to talk with Anthony to gauge where he was with Christ. Smith stated that the two prayed together for Anthony and went about the day. That night, during Bible study, without prompting, Anthony asked CJ, “CJ, how do you go to heaven?” Anthony got baptized that next Sunday, and the challenge began.

Soon after, the church baptized eight more people, including a lady saved through the jail ministry and her daughter; a young college couple recently married; two children from Vacation Bible School (one of whom was related to Anthony); a young man from Iran who had just finished his Ph.D. in engineering; and a young lady from China who was studying at New Mexico Tech.

With every baptism, the congregation lit another candle. And, as candles were lit, excitement within the church swelled. It was contagious. Following a baptism, someone would approach Smith after the service and say, “Pastor, I didn’t think we could do it, but now I think we can! Please pray for [so-and-so]. I want them to be one of those candles.”

The church ended up baptizing 20 people in 2018, Smith said, because the church pressed forward — and God worked.
This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (bcnm.com). Joy Pittman is a ministry/editorial assistant for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico


Ariz. pastor casts vision after
getting to know the ‘sheep’

By Jamie Mitchell

PAYSON, Ariz. (Portraits) — In the middle of a career in real estate, the call to pastor a small church in a small town was unexpected and unnerving for Dave Barber. But he knew it was God’s will. After living in Phoenix for 50 years, Dave and his wife, Dee, answered God’s call to Star Valley Southern Baptist Church outside of Payson in 2014.

About 20 faithful seniors were present when Barber came in view of a call. He was honest with them, saying, “I need to know you feel like God’s vision is for change, because I don’t feel Him calling me to do what you’re used to.”

The congregation understood that in order to grow, they needed a renewed vision — a vision focused outward instead of inward. But how does an inexperienced pastor (or a seasoned one for that matter) revitalize and make changes in a healthy, Christ-exalting way?

One change Barber believed was part of God’s vision was the implementation of a children’s ministry. Children had been few and far between at the church for years.

Barber would have made this change in the first week, he says, “but the Lord was saying, ‘No, not yet. Get to know the people first. You’re a shepherd. Shepherds need to know their sheep.'” Keeping this directive front of mind, Barber held off on leading the church through any major changes for more than a year.

Over time, through Bible study together, prayer and fellowship, Barber grew to know and love the congregation deeply. With that, he felt they grew to love and trust him in return.

Today, the church has more than 50 children and teens in Wednesday night ministries.

Other churches are even taking notice. Kim, a kids’ ministry leader, says, “Someone approached me at work just today asking if I would advise her about starting a kids’ ministry at her own church.”

There are also now more than 100 people attending regularly — some who’ve lived in the area their whole lives but never set foot in the church.

Ron is an example. Wanting nothing to do with Jesus until two years ago, his passion and servanthood is contagious now.

“It was hard for me to get close to anybody before [I knew] Jesus. Now I’ll tell you all my troubles,” Ron laughs.

Barber believes some of these new attenders are due, in part, to a prayerful process the church went through, based on the new vision, to change their name. “Rim View Community Church” was decided upon because it avoids any qualifiers that might unintentionally exclude some of the community.

“The key for me is this: If the sheep truly believe you love them, and that you’re listening to the Lord’s voice, there’s nothing more powerful,” Barber says. “That’s the Jesus model.” This doesn’t mean people will follow along blindly, he adds, “but if they know their pastor loves them, casting any vision becomes a whole lot easier.”

Barber has made mistakes and will make more. But God is graciously renewing Rim View Community Church and the community for His purposes. Barber believes God’s vision and empowerment are both fleshed out when you lead with the Jesus model: love the sheep well and know the Lord’s voice.
This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (http://www.azsbc.org/). Jamie Mitchell, a freelance writer living in Phoenix, is a member of First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale.


Fla. church aids Coast
Guard amid shutdown

By Keila Diaz

KEY WEST, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) — As the government shutdown entered its second month affecting at least 25 percent of federal employees, a church in the Florida Keys brought hope and encouragement to Coast Guards in their community who went unpaid.

“With the partial government shutdown, we found out that our Coast Guard wasn’t going to be paid,” said Josh Dryer, pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Key West. “In partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention [FBC] we gave out gift cards for groceries and other incidentals.”

Al Fernandez, Southeast Regional Catalyst of the FBC, said that he was impressed with the way Fifth Street Baptist stepped up to help their community. “They showed they are very community-minded,” he said. In a phone call earlier in January Dryer asked Fernandez how the FBC could come alongside them to help a group in need within their Key West community. “I asked, ‘what do you have in mind?’ and then came right beside them as they reached out.”

The Key West Coast Guard station is part of the Coast Guard’s 7th District. They are responsible, among other things, for stopping smuggling as well as search and rescue operations.

Fifth Street Baptist is also working in partnership with chaplains of the Navy and Coast Guard by providing them with a location from which to disperse bath products like diapers, toilet paper, shampoo, dental hygiene items and more. “Things that they might not be able to buy because they are not being paid right now,” said Dryer.

On Wednesday January 30th the church is going to host a big dinner for the Coast Guard personnel in their community. “We’re going to serve a traditional Cuban meal and let them know we are here.”

“This shutdown has caused us to consider what it really means when we say we love our neighbor,” he said. “It has challenged us to ask ‘what are we going to do about this? How are we going to show love?’.” He added that “it has been nice to see the church family step up to provide supplies and give donations for those who are in need.”

“I would challenge other churches who are in areas with Coast Guard personnel to consider reaching out to help because they might not ask.”

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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