Today’s From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Small Texas churches have
big hearts for missions
GRAPEVINE, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — When it comes to missions giving, generous support of international missions comes in all sizes of churches.
First Baptist Church of Swan, near Tyler, is a small congregation with an average ACP reported attendance of 38. For the last three years, the church set an ambitious goal of giving $10,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“The amazing thing is that they have exceeded their goal each year,” said Wayne Livingston, SBTC field ministry strategist. “They also raised $5,000 at the same time for a missionary connected to the church.”
“It’s because of the hearts of our people for missions,” FBC Swan Pastor Bill Minson said, explaining his congregation’s generosity. “As in so many small country churches right now, we have a lot of seniors, not so many young people. We have several people who really have hearts for missions. The whole church does, across the congregation.
One couple has a son and daughter-in-law that are missionaries in Zambia. Another family has a son who was a missionary in Japan for 11 years. The church’s organist took many medical mission trips to Africa as a nurse.
“I preach that the Lord has told us to make disciples. Since most of our church is made up of those who are inactive in going based on their age, they feel that is a way they can fulfill the Great Commission,” Minson added. “I don’t push or preach hard. I just say pray about what God would have you give, and our people are faithful.”
On the other end of the spectrum in size is First Baptist Church of Rockwall with 1,850 in attendance and giving the largest amount of any SBTC congregation at $559,644 last year.
“Our people have bought into the fact that people really are lost without Jesus and have been willing to give sacrificially to see that others come to know him,” stated Pastor Steve Swofford.
“In a day when the number of lost people in the world is growing larger, we dare not let the size of our missions force grow smaller,” he said, referring to the revenue shortfall that prompted the International Mission Board to encourage voluntary retirement of missionaries. “So this year we give more than ever before, not to send more missionaries, but to keep them from having to come home.”
Ferris Baptist Fellowship averages 58 people in attendance but gave $10,392 to LMCO last year. The Ferris congregation makes missions giving an emphasis, Pastor Bob Mashburn explained, crediting the church’s lack of debt for its ability to give generously.
“Our commitment has been that you can either pay debt service or you can pay missionaries. So we go that [missionaries] route,” Mashburn said, noting that the philosophy begins with church leadership.
“We’re getting ready to build another building, and we’ll build that one debt free, too, Lord willing. In the meantime we have no intention of letting go of our Lottie Moon commitment,” Mashburn affirmed. “We don’t have any rich people, by the way. No [one person] writes a check for that every year. We are all in.”
Commitment to missions at Ferris Baptist Fellowship is also enhanced by the active participation of church members in meaningful mission trips. The church has sponsored outreaches to China, Mexico, Thailand, Belize and Alaska, in addition to mission trips to Kansas and Tennessee in the continental United States. Next year, Ferris plans to send a group to Appalachia, Mashburn added.
“You’ve got to get your people involved in missions themselves,” Mashburn said. “And if you can’t go, helping others to go is vitally important.”
“We’re nobody special. We’re just out here in Ferris, Texas, trying to serve the Lord,” Mashburn said. “It’s humbling when a small church can give big. All we want to do is brag about what God did.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention.
Former Muslim now pastors
‘A community of outcasts’
By Sharon Mager
LEESBURG, Va. (BaptistLIFE) — S.D. Abraham is a soft-spoken, middle-aged man born in Baghdad, Iraq. He lives in a nice quiet northern Virginia neighborhood with his wife and children. And, he travels the world helping Muslims convert to Christianity.
Abraham has seen thousands of Muslims come to Christ. In fact, in his role as pastor of Salam Church, Abraham serves as a father figure to many who have lost everything as a result of following Jesus.
Abraham is quick to note that Salam Church isn’t and can’t be a typical church gathering. It is, however, a community. Congregants don’t meet in large groups; they network to find other believers for support. In many Muslim families, Christian converts are cast out, disowned, and sometimes even killed for their faith. It is a dangerous ministry but God is blessing and there is much fruit.
“We are a community of outcasts,” Abraham said sadly. “Outcasts reaching outcasts.”
He is considered a trusted resource for those new to the faith. Many have no one. Many stay in their Muslim communities without revealing their true belief. One man said he goes to the mosque and prays to Jesus while others are praying to Allah.
There are plenty of Muslims masquerading as new Christians in an effort to root out and target Muslim converts. That’s why people like Abraham, who are known to be trusted, are priceless.
While in Jordan, Abraham recalled a young woman in her 20’s who came to him wearing a veil. She was a believer in Jesus but had not told her family. “They found a good Muslim man for me to marry, what do I do?” the panic-stricken girl asked. Abraham introduced her to a former Muslim turned Christian who is now her husband.
That’s just one example of many. Men and women contact Abraham, frantic and in need of answers. Sometimes they’re desperate to just find other believers that they can trust.
People are searching for community, Abraham said. In the United States, many immigrants arrive lonely and lost. They desperately need help and direction. Muslims meet them and take them to the nearest mosque, get them in a community with the support system they need.
Abraham has been seeking to build a support system for Muslim to Christian converts.
It was while trying to convert non-Muslims that Abraham discovered truth. He explained that Islam is a works-based faith. The good and bad are weighed on the scales. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, Abraham was worried. What if a bomb fell and killed him? Where would he be? He decided to get some more “good” credits for the scales and work to convert non-Muslims. To be effective, he decided to get a Bible and read it to understand Christianity. When he began to read, his life changed.
According to the Quran, the Bible, Abraham had been taught, had been corrupted. But that didn’t make sense to him.
“As soon as I started reading [the Bible], it didn’t sync,” Abraham said.
There was much more information in the Bible about creation and about Abraham. “The Quran just gave glimpses,” Abraham said.
Abraham began to wonder, why would God preserve the Quran but not the Bible? Either Allah was weak, or he was strong enough to preserve the Bible like he did the Quran.
In the Bible Abraham found that the first Adam ate the fruit and died but the last Adam, “Jesus,” was sinless, and brought restoration. Abraham lost faith in the Quran.
It was the beginning of his faith journey. He grew, as he trusted the Bible. He became a believer in 1991. Later, as a refugee in Europe, God used him to minister to Muslim refugees, and he taught Bible studies to Christian and Muslim-born Arabs.
Later, Abraham became a webmaster for www.answering-islam.org, where he writes articles and interacts with curious Muslims and those being drawn to Jesus. It’s a huge opportunity.
Years ago, Abraham said, it was much harder to get the Word out. They used short-wave radios. Now, you can’t stop it, he said.
In 2004, he became the Islamic Ministries Specialist with Avant Ministries, through which he speaks at seminars, recruiting and training missionaries and other Christians how to minister to Muslims.
Abraham is available to work with churches to help them understand Islam, and as they prayerfully consider how to interact and minister to their Muslim neighbors.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network. Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.
Okla. church sees
abundance of baptisms
By Brian Hobbs
CEMENT, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger) — Situated in Caddo County, the town of Cement has a population of just north of 500 people, according to the most recent U.S. Census.
On an average Sunday morning, you will find more than 100 people gathered for worshipping God at First Baptist Cement, which has seen an explosion of baptisms in 2015.
According to Mike Price, who assumed his role as pastor in April, God is bringing in a “harvest of souls,” with 28 baptisms since the spring alone.
“This is a wonderful congregation that loves people,” said Price. “We are trying to be faithful to teach and preach the Gospel to every person. People are responding in amazing ways, and it is all due to the Lord.”
Member and deacon Stacy Cogburn, who has been active at the church for the past 10 years, is overjoyed to see people from the community come to the Lord.
“This is a praying church, this is a loving church,” he said. “We are seeing a real harvest of God’s provisions, and in my life, I have experienced answered prayer.”
Several of Cogburn’s family are members of the church, including his mother and grown children. First Baptist has a wide age-range of members, including many children and youth. According to Price, 10 students were saved at Falls Creek alone and later baptized.
A ninth grader named B.J. was among the numerous students who professed faith in Christ and were baptized. A student at the local high school, he hopes to make an impact for Christ with his life.
On Oct. 4, the congregation held “Harvest of Souls” celebration Sunday, as an outpouring of thanks to the Lord for the recent baptisms, which have seen older children, youth, men and women follow Christ in believer’s baptism.
After the worship service, which featured music, an offering and preaching, the congregation gathered for a huge potluck meal, symbolizing God’s abundance, said Price.
Plans are in place for a mass distribution of New Testaments, as well as taking the youth to an evangelistic event. Later in the fall, Price has scheduled a revival featuring Marty Brock, which he hopes God will use to advance the harvest.
“We are not doing anything unusual or fancy for evangelism,” said Price. “We are just intentionally sharing the Gospel with every person we can in the church and surrounding community and leaving the results to God.”
He continued, “Jesus chose a handful of followers to take the Gospel to the whole world, and we are grateful to be part of that Great Commission today.”
Caddo Association Director of Missions Chuck Shilling, who served in an interim capacity prior to Price’s arrival, believes the congregation is a committed, hard-working group of believers.
“It was a very good experience to be with them for my wife, Charlene, and me, as we got to know several of the families well,” he said. “We are very excited about what God is doing there.”
About Price, Shilling said, “He is someone who loves the Lord Jesus and he loves sharing Jesus with the lost. He also loves his church. He is a wonderful pastor. He cares about his flock. And he is someone I have always been able to count on to help in the association when I ask him to do so.
Price and his wife, Jean, hope the baptisms continue to abound at Cement. For any good that is coming at Cement, Price attributes the glory to the Lord.
“To God be the glory, great things He has done,” he said.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Brian Hobbs is editor of 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 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.