News Articles

FROM THE STATES: Okla., Calif., Mo. evangelism/missions news; ‘… [T]urn phone time into Gospel time’

Today’s From the States features items from:The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
California Southern Baptist
The Pathway (Missouri)


BGCO offers free
evangelism app
By Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY (The Baptist Messenger) — In September, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) Evangelism Office introduced a smartphone application (“app”) designed to help people share the Gospel. The “EvangelismOK” app, available for the iPhone and Android devices, has a wide array of features.

Mike Napier, BGCO evangelism specialist, said, “People may not always have Gospel tracts in their pockets, but they do almost always have their phone with them. This free app is a fresh way to share the Gospel personally.”

The “EvangelismOK” app is free to download. On your smartphone or mobile device, go to the iTunes or Google store and search for “EvangelismOK.”

‘EvangelismOK’ app features include:

— An interactive Gospel tract

— Audio and image-based tutorials on how to share the Gospel

— A “My Mission Field” tracking tool that allows the user to keep an ongoing record of personal evangelistic conversations

— Website links to various BGCO evangelism resources

— A church locator that allows the user to do a zip code search for a Southern Baptist church in the area

— Information about the annual State Evangelism Conference, including the ability to register

— Bible verse memory aides

— Customizable text and email templates and messages to help the user easily create an opportunity for conversations about the Gospel, and much more!

“We live in a fast-paced, high tech world,” said Napier. “We often think about the negative aspects of our cell-phone-obsessed culture, but this app offers a way to turn phone time into Gospel time.”

The “EvangelismOK” app was made possible through generous donations through the Cooperative Program, according to Napier.

“Not every church by itself would be able to commission and promote an app, but through our shared work as Oklahoma Baptists, we are able to make this free app. We pray it supercharges personal evangelism efforts across the state,” he said.

For more information about BGCO evangelism resources and upcoming events, visit www.bgco.org/sec.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.


Calif. immigrant population provides
big opportunities for ministry
By Karen L. Willoughby

FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) — In greater Miami, 38.8 percent of the population is foreign-born. That’s more than any other metropolitan area in the United States.

But Miami is the only Florida city to make that “top ten” list. California, with its population of almost 39 million, has five: San Jose, in second place with 37.5 percent; Los Angeles, third with 33.2 percent; San Francisco, fourth with 29.7 percent; San Diego, sixth with 23.7 percent; and Riverside/San Bernardino in tenth place with 22.2 percent.

“(Anglos are) a minority now, maybe 47 percent in Los Angeles city,” said Don Overstreet, church planting catalyst for Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Baptist Associations. “We’re doing a lot of praying that God will raise up people to reach their culture.”

Overstreet, Howard Burkhart, church planting catalyst in Northern California, and Brenda (name changed for security), a church planting catalyst in the Bay Area, talked with the California Southern Baptist about immigrants, their needs and how churches in California Southern Baptist Convention are reaching out to them.

“We have a team that has done some research and found more than 400 people groups in the L.A. area,” Overstreet said. “The people speak 200 to 250 languages.”

California Southern Baptists have work among 75 people groups in the L.A./Long Beach area, he noted, where about 50 churches a year are started. Half of those are predominantly ethnic; the others are “English-speaking” with people from many cultures and ethnicities.

“The world is here in Los Angeles,” Overstreet declared. “My goal is to help churches understand that. We’re trying to reach everybody.”

Anglo churches that minister only to Anglos probably aren’t as effective as they could be in reaching their community, Burkhart added, because though there are enclaves of people from a single culture, most areas in any urban setting are a mix of people from many cultures.

“I know the prayer is that we have work among all these groups,” Brenda said. “We’re reaching out in several ways.”

The largest number of Afghans outside Afghanistan lives in the Bay Area, she noted.

The team she works with has identified three tasks requiring different skill sets to reach people: research, caring and evangelism.

“We need to know what we don’t know, so we’re doing mapping to see where different language and people group live,” Brenda said. “We’re further behind Southern California in doing this.

“Second, we’re trying to serve the under-served, maybe with another group such as the International Rescue Committee, who has single moms from Afghanistan in Fremont, whose husbands were killed by the Taliban. That takes people with a caring skill set.

“Third, we’re looking for people under-represented in the Kingdom of God. That’s evangelism.”

Her team visits non-Christian places of worship to build relationships, goes on “chapel tours” to get to know and better understand various people groups, and attends cultural parades and festivals to interact with people they might not encounter otherwise.

“There’s a very large illegal population; we serve them differently,” Brenda explained. “San Francisco is a refuge city, a haven for Mexican and Central Americans.”

Spanish-speaking pastors are needed statewide because of the influx of people who speak only Spanish, Burkhart said.

The US Census Bureau in June released a report that said as of July 1, 2014, about 14.99 million Hispanics live legally in California, topping the 14.92 million non-Hispanic Caucasians who live here.

“The Hollywood of today is Hispanic and low-income,” Overstreet said. “Chinatown is now half Hispanic. South/South Central L.A. is at least 50 percent Hispanic.”

That being said, with 10 million or more people living in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Association areas, a strong need exists for more than the 50 churches being planted there each year, which join the maybe 250 Southern Baptist churches already established in both associations, Overstreet said.

“There are more Cambodians in Long Beach than anywhere but Cambodia,” he noted. “Our city here has at least a million Koreans and a large number of Filipinos. In East Hollywood is a large population of Armenians. One of the ever-growing groups is East Indians, professionals.

“We take a very grassroots approach,” Overstreet continued. “We reach them where they’re at and help them understand the gospel in a context they understand.”

Immigrants gravitate to the Los Angeles area because it’s sunny and warm, with many jobs available, and because others of their culture are already there, Overstreet said.

“America is a country of immigrants,” he added. “Immigrants are hard workers. They work jobs most Americans wouldn’t do.

“We need to see (immigration) as a missionary opportunity.”
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.


Mo. church reaches out
to 2,000 in Kansas City
By Vicki Stamps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) — Tower View Baptist Church in Kansas City found a way to make going back to school fun for students as well as giving parents a little breathing room. Since 2011, Tower View serves the community with a “Back to School Bonanza.”

“We are located in a working class neighborhood,” Darin Smith, pastor, said. “We want to provide help as these families get their children ready for school. We use the North Kansas City school supply list for elementary and middle/high school students and prepare 1,000 bags of school supplies. Our event is like a block party for the community and we had 2,000 people attend.”

“We make it a carnival atmosphere,” Judy Braden, event organizer, said. “We have a bounce house, popcorn, hot dogs and games. The prizes for the carnival games are the small items like erasers, rulers and children just love it.”

Both Braden and Smith emphasized the spiritual sharing during the event. “In addition to the school supplies,” Smith said, “we share the gospel in several ways. Since we are a diverse neighborhood with pockets of Arabic, French, Spanish and some different African languages, we are in partnership with Midwestern seminary to provide gospel tracts in different languages.”

Tower View also built the gospel into the online registration. “We always require registration for the event,” Smith said, “but this is the first year that we offered an online registration. When they register, the gospel is a direct link. The gospel page hits were through the roof, so they are reading it before they come.”

According to Braden, an evangelism team is set up to share during the event. “As part of our volunteers,” she said, “we set up a group to just visit with the people in the community. We want them to know we are here and we care about them. They sit with parents and it is the opportunity to plant seeds.”

Braden said the planning for this event began early in the year. “We start as early as possible,” she said. “We have a planning team of about ten, but for the day, we have about 80-90 members of the church volunteering. We also have volunteers from some of the area schools, because they know how important this is.”

“We hear every year about how critical this is for the neighborhood,” Braden said. “We serve a lot of blended families with five to 10 children. They depend on us to supplement what the children need for schools.”

Volunteers work all year to gather the correct items for the children. “We must contact the schools each year to find out what the need is,” Braden said. “We send out letters for donations and identify contacts to help us,” she said, “but, 90% of the school supplies and hygiene items come from our members and our outreach budget.”

“We’ve learned to be thrifty shoppers,” she said. “We also partner with other groups and people to come in to provide community resources. If it benefits the children and it is a family-centered program, we will use it. We want it to be a positive event for all of the students.”
This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Vicki Stamps is a contributing 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.

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