Today’s From the States features items from:
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
California Southern Baptist
The Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Okla. reaching internationals
to reach the nations
By Tiffany Zylstra
DAVIS, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) — Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) and churches have a desire to reach the world with the Gospel. Whether the world is the neighborhood down the street or thousands of miles away in a small Asian village, there are lost people far and wide.
April 8-10 brought more than 600 students, many of them internationals, together at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center for a Spring Retreat. Through the gracious giving of Oklahoma Baptists to the Edna McMillan State Missions Offering, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) collegiate ministry offered scholarships to international students, enabling them to attend the three-day event.
International students will fly into Los Angeles, New York or Houston, then ending in Oklahoma City, and many will not get other opportunities to travel. They want to see America and explore the culture. Through the Falls Creek Spring Retreat, many are able to get out of their college city and see a different part of Oklahoma.
Hailey Maddox is an Oklahoma City public school teacher with a passion for sharing the Gospel with international students. When she was a sophomore in high school, she went on a mission trip to China and learned an evangelism method called Creation to Christ. Now, in her spare time, she teaches people how to utilize the method.
“I use Creation to Christ not with just international ministry. This is my tool for sharing the Gospel now,” Maddox said. “Before I learned this, when I shared the Gospel, I just talked about Jesus and what He did here on Earth, but now I have to go to back to Genesis 1 and start at the beginning.
“I love being around international students and getting to share the good news of Christ with them.”
Maddox was one of 11 breakout leaders at the Spring Retreat, sharing new skills for sharing the Gospel. Other breakouts taught about world religions, articulating beliefs and how to have the difficult conversations without debating.
BCM ministries are intentional about reaching international students. The BCM ministry at Oklahoma City University (OCU) is one example of how effective this can be. They will pick them up from the airport, invite them to coffee and lunch, and start building a relationship with them. One way they do this is placing nearly 50 international students with Friendship Families. Friendship Families adopt a student for their time in America and share their lives with them. They have dinner together, attend events and church, and generally learn about American culture.
Shane Kammerer is the BCM director at OCU. He shares his excitement about Friendship Families because “this gives us the ability to train people from local churches on how to do international ministry. It also gives us the ability to follow up with the students and ask how their time with their Friendship Family is going. It gives us the opportunity to share with them and create relationships with them.”
Kammerer tells the story of Brian, a student from Taiwan.
“He came out of an atheistic background, and through relationships, church and then with (the BCM), it took a bunch of different people sharing with him. He went on a retreat with us to Colorado and gave his life to Christ. Then he was a baby Christian and didn’t know what to do. We met with him and started discipling him. Then he went home, and the last time I heard, more than 60 members of his family had come to Christ. There’s a huge idea of seeing international students come to Christ here and sending them out as missionaries because they are going to go back home.”
Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) professor Scott Pace was the general sessions keynote speaker at the Falls Creek Spring Retreat. Pace led those attending on how not to be of the world and then how to impact the world. He encouraged those attending to “let God use you, set aside your worldliness. The way you think, talk, act. Repenting of that, confessing that, turning from that. Through Christ it’s not your victory to win. Jesus has already won the victory.”
Young adults, ages 18-24, were able to get away from their local communities and experience fellowship, recreation and the opportunity to delve into the word of God. Cris Lowery, collegiate ministry specialist at the BGCO said, “the vision for the Falls Creek Spring retreat is to bring college aged students from churches and campus ministries together in one setting where they can discover Jesus for the first time, be challenged spiritually and network with other young adults from across the state and around the world. One of the highlights of the retreats is seeing churches and campus ministries work together for a common goal of reaching students for Christ and helping others take the next step in their walk with Him.”
Through the Falls Creek Spring Retreat leaders, students and young adults are able to build relationships and hear more about the Gospel. Thousands of international students come to Oklahoma colleges and universities each year. These students give Oklahoma churches opportunities to reach them with the Gospel. When the Gospel is shared, many will receive Christ and become missionaries when they travel back home.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Calif. church targets
By Karen L. Willoughby
MORGAN HILL, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — Community Christian is on-target with plans to replicate itself every 18-24 months throughout the Silicon Valley, reaching people in the 136 language groups who call the region home.
Once known as First Baptist Church in Morgan Hill, now more than 350 people gather for one of three worship services each weekend at Community Christian; more than 200 meet for one of two services at the campus in Campbell, started in 2012; and another 70 or more gather for one service at the campus in Gilroy, started last year.
The thrust of the Morgan Hill church morphed from inward to outward after Kyle Windsor was called as pastor in 2010.
“This isn’t about people’s belief (in the future of the church); it’s about God’s desire,” Windsor said. “Nothing gets in the way, because this is God’s church, not my church.”
Windsor, a San Jose native, first preached at First Baptist, Morgan Hill in February 2010. Don Fugate, senior pastor of Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, had introduced Windsor to the Morgan Hill congregation, and was key to helping the church recapture its future.
On Mother’s Day that year Windsor was called as pastor of the church whose name was changed to Community Christian, and they officially “relaunched” in September 2010. Of the four people Windsor started with, one has died, another retired out of state and the other two remain as Community Christian members.
“I am committed to honoring the people who started this church, and have stayed true to that commitment as we have become a multi-site church,” Windsor noted. “Silicon Valley will be won to Christ with many smaller-sized churches. We want to breed campuses like rabbits, not elephants. … Our goal is that no campus would be less than 250 or more than 500.”
Community Christian plans to start another two campuses somewhere in Silicon Valley by the end of 2017. The campus pastors meet at least weekly, and each preaches the same sermon, with the individual pastor’s illustrations augmenting the scriptural truth.
“We have a lot of collaboration,” said Windsor, the lead pastor, including Will Sawkins, Campbell campus pastor and Brad Schroer, Gilroy campus pastor, in his description. “This frees us to spend time with people and to plan for the future. Our name is ‘Community’ and we really believe not in programs but relationships with people and with God. Both equally.
“We find the strength of each other is one of the secret elements that help us grow,” Windsor continued. “We’re not isolated. Our campus pastors can focus on where they’re strong.”
Forty community groups serve as catalyst for Christ-followers gathering throughout the week. Occasionally all groups meet together, such as the annual Good Friday service and last October’s fifth anniversary celebration, where Community Christian’s 150th baptism took place.
“Living things grow,” Windsor asserted. “If God is in it, it will grow. Period.”
Community Christian’s stated mission is to change the spiritual landscape of Silicon Valley by having 5 percent of the population connected to a CC campus by 2030. Currently, only about 1 percent of area residents are in any church on Sunday morning.
“We do this by only focusing on helping people find their way back to God,” Windsor said, utilizing the church’s tag line.
When asked about people who had never found their way to God, the pastor said, “God created each of us, so all of us started with God. God knew us before the foundations of the world; He has dreams for us.”
Christians have the same need to find their way back to God, Windsor said, using himself as an illustration: “I need to find my way back to God every day, because I tend to wander.”
Community Christian’s discipleship pathway is through its “3Cs: Celebrate, Connect, Contribute,” the pastor explained. “We ‘Celebrate’ on Sunday mornings. We also celebrate daily as each individual has ‘alone time’ with God, as they read the Bible and pray.”
“Connect” takes place in the community groups Windsor said are a particularly significant facet of the church since in the groups “people are able to connect with each other and live out life with each other.”
“Contribute” is the outward focus in the use of people’s time, treasure and talent “to help people find their way back to God,” Windsor explained.
“Our plan is to plant campuses across Silicon Valley, ministering to each of the 136 language groups in the valley,” he noted. “As each campus is planted, it will replicate itself every 18 to 24 months, seeding and supporting a new campus site.
“One of the cool things we believe in and practice is community transformation,” Windsor continued. “The church exists for the world, not for ourselves. We are here to serve, bless and give of our time, treasure and talent.”
Among various community outreaches: a VBS-style after-school program attended by more than 50 elementary students in Morgan Hill; a free movie in the park in Campbell last summer that drew more than 400; and weekly Community Suppers that provide a free hot meal to anyone in the community in need.
Each leader at Community Christian is expected to have an apprentice because “the replication of leaders in cooperation with the Holy Spirit is key to achieving our dream,” Windsor explained.
That said, “The most important aspect of the church’s ministry is its focus on prayer.
“Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God; lack of prayer is a declaration of independence,” Windsor declared. In addition to other prayer emphases, Community Christian embraces 24-hour prayer links at least four times a year to listen to God’s direction.
“Our goal is to radically advance the Kingdom of God in Silicon Valley and in other specific places in the world,” Windsor said.
“This is God’s church and God’s dream. We have joined Him in His desire to simply help people find their way back to God.”
This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Karen Willoughby is a freelance writer in Mapleton, Utah.
La. church growing
By Mark H. Hunter
DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (Baptist Message) — When Willis and Shannon Easley accepted the call to Christ’s Community Church eight years ago the Louisiana Baptist congregation was meeting in a junior high school cafeteria and attendance could be counted on the fingers and toes of two people.
Now they are meeting in a spacious new building south of town, holding two Sunday services, averaging 500 in attendance, and, last year they baptized 135, Willis Easley said.
What is the key to the growth?
“Immediately we started doing outreaches – sowing seeds,” Easley said. “We’ve seen people come into the church as a result of ministry outreach that we’ve done and we’ve seen people come into the church for the opportunity to be part of something. It comes from both directions.”
“We pretty much have people with tattoos and piercings every Sunday,” Shannon added. “We really create an atmosphere that no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done or what you have on – you will feel loved and accepted. Our job is to love you and let God do the work. We teach the truth but we let God do the work.”
Last fall, for example, they had a back-to-school event which provided free haircuts and school supplies. One woman brought her children for the supplies and grooming, and another woman, a hairstylist, volunteered. Both got saved and are now members.
“The one lady who had children, had not walked into a church in 16 years,” Shannon said. “The first time in 16 years was to get the free haircut and the very next day she started coming to church with her children.”
“To see both of those ladies sitting next to each other in a membership class was really special,” Willis added.
The church hosted a “Be The Church” outreach in late February where 325 volunteers, all wearing purple T-shirts, fanned out to 35 locations doing everything from putting quarters into car wash machines and laundromats to visiting nursing homes and delivering food to area police and fire departments.
“We had somebody out in the community put on Facebook, ‘hey, I saw some teenagers going to a construction site and they had purple shirts on and they were giving water to the men who were working – it was very cool!'” she said with a big smile.
Another major outreach this year was an Easter-egg hunt in a local park. Before the kids were to be turned loose to find 50,000 eggs, Willis presented a Gospel message.
Look ‘out’ not ‘in’ for success
The church met for a while in the Eden Baptist Church building in Denham Springs. The former congregation had seen its attendance dwindle and so the group deeded the campus to the Eastern Louisiana Association.
That’s when they learned not to be complacent, Willis said.
“When we started being in an established, regular location we started doing all the things that regular churches do,” he said. “After a year or so we had only baptized about 12 or so – which wasn’t bad number – but I felt God wanted more from us.
“We refocused on not being what every other church is doing but to do what God called us to do and get back out in the community, reaching out to people and preaching the Gospel,” Willis said. “We spent a year in the book of Matthew and the story of Jesus and what he did and we saw baptisms go up to 40 or 50 that year.”
Baptisms in the river
The church has a portable, heated baptistery that looks kind of like a hot tub on wheels, and they use it when the weather is cold, but they do many more baptisms in area rivers, Willis said.
A recent indoor baptism of a young, paraplegic man moved many in the congregation to tears, said Shannon. Four men gently put a blanket under him, lifted him out of his wheelchair then lowered him into the baptistery.
It was just like the story in Mark 2 of the men tearing open the roof of a house to lower their friend to Jesus, Shannon said, as tears welled up in her eyes. “It was sweet!”
Last September they baptized 30 in the Amite River near Watson.
In May, 2015, they baptized 40 in the river near Robert and in August they baptized another 35 or 40 in the same place, he said. This month they plan another outdoor baptism and 35 are signed up, he said.
“We’re gonna keep sowing seeds and loving people and working on relationships, accepting them,” Willis said. “When somebody walks into the church here on Sunday morning they are going to feel loved and respected and we want them to know that we are glad they are here and we’ll let God worry about their piercings and how they dress and what they do.”
From web site
“In 1996 three families were impressed by God to begin organizing a new church.
“Arlon and Beverly Bardwell, David and Cyndy Branton, and Mike and Janet Smith were given a dream that soon became a reality. Meeting first in the Bardwell’s home, Christ’s Community Church became a living organism, calling Don Tuttleton to be the first pastor. Rapidly outgrowing the home, we moved to the Denham Springs High School Cafeteria.
“In 1999, we once again moved – this time to the Oddfellows Lodge. Once again we outgrew the available space and moved again in 2002 – this time to Skate Heaven. In 2008, we were able to move once again – this time to Denham Springs Junior High School Cafeteria. Brother Don retired as pastor during the summer of 2008, and the church called Willis Easley to be Pastor. In June, 2009, we moved into the building next to the Denham Springs Library, at the corner of Eden Church Road and Florida Blvd.
“On August 3, 2014, we began meeting in our new permanent home at 26574 Juban Road.”
On the internet: www.cccds.net
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Mark H. Hunter is a regional reporter for the Baptist Message.