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FROM THE STATES: Texas, Mo., Ky. evangelism/missions news; ‘You can be small and still have a huge kingdom impact’

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Today’s From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist TEXAN
The Pathway (Missouri)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)

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‘Small’ Texas congregation
plants 17 churches

By Jane Rodgers

HEARTLAND, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Any given Sunday will find Vista Church’s congregation of 180 gathered for worship in the local elementary school in Heartland, a small bedroom community just off Interstate 20 outside Terrell, near Forney and Dallas. As members assemble for worship, they do so aware of a common bond with the 17 churches from Boston to Toronto to Seattle to Bangalore that Vista Church has helped plant since its own founding in 2007.

“For many in our congregation, church planting introduced them to something they would have never known. Now it has become part of our DNA,” said Kevin Cox, the church’s pastor. “‘When is the next one?’ people ask.”

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Excitement about planting new churches has resulted in generous giving. A special offering the first Sunday in December 2015 brought in $35,000, Cox said, adding, “Our people have a kingdom mindset. Our giving [to church plants] will not expand our church numerically but will expand the kingdom of God.”

Cox’s commitment to planting churches solidified in 1997 when he and his wife started a church in Seattle. The Coxes returned to Texas nine years later, determined to make church planting a priority in whatever congregation they served. That chance came when Cox and five others sat around the family’s kitchen table in May 2007 to start Vista.

“We wanted to plan and multiply,” Cox said, noting that from the beginning, the six Vista members set aside 1 percent of their budget for assisting the first church plant. Within 14 months, the Vista congregation had grown, accumulating $2,500, which they used to assist a Southern Baptist church plant in Seattle.

“We started giving money to the Seattle church before our own grand opening in 2008,” Cox recalled.

Vista assists church plants in three-year cycles.

“We commit to three years of monthly giving to the churches we work with and partner with,” Cox explained. This January, Vista began supporting church plants in Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., in addition to continuing partnerships with churches in Bangalore, India, and the Texas communities of Rockwall/Heath and Mont Belvieu. Vista contributed $45,000 to partner churches in 2015 and will give the same amount again in 2016, Cox said.

This generosity comes from a young church in a commuter suburb of starter homes and young families. The average age of adult attendees at Vista is 32. Heartland is not even a town but rather a Municipal Utility District with a Forney zip code within the Crandall school district. Some 1,700 homes exist now; more than 6,000 are plotted.

Eventually Heartland will be a community of 25,000 with seven schools, possibly annexed one day by Forney or Crandall. For now, it is “really a gigantic HOA,” Cox said. Laws forbidding door-to-door solicitations make advertising church events or ministering to residents challenging, so Vista church has engaged the community through volunteering at local events and serving the elementary school where Cox’s wife, Kathy, teaches special education.

Vista is the only church in a community where, for many, Sunday is just another day.

“Out here off I-20, we are under the radar,” Cox said. “Many have gotten out of the habit of going to church.”

Meanwhile, Vista Church remains united behind sister congregations across the nation and world. Partner churches are chosen partly as an outgrowth of the church planter training Vista offers in a facility built for that purpose by a family in the church on 40 acres of private property.

“Teams come, stay for four days, and we work through the process of church planting with them,” Cox said, adding that Nic Burleson, pastor of Timber Ridge Church in Stephenville, has assisted in the training.

Last Easter, 275 attended worship services at Vista. But across the world, more than 4,000 worshipped in the churches with which Vista had partnered.

“We want to grow, but we want to see the kingdom extended even more,” Cox said. “You don’t have to be big to partner with churches. Don’t wait till you are big to partner with another church. You can be small and still have a huge kingdom impact.”

For more information on Vista Church, see their website at thisisvista.com.
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This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

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Missouri Baptists
partner in Italy

By Ben Hawkins

VENETO, Italy (The Pathway) –- From the moment he arrived in Belluno, Italy, Jeremy Sells soaked in everything he saw and heard. And this province with a population of nearly 200,000 people had plenty to take in, since it is located in the Alps of northern Italy and in a country that has Christian monuments dating back hundreds of, if not more than a thousand years.

But nothing prepared Sells, pastor of First Baptist Church in Scott City, Mo., for a meeting he and his mission team had with a local evangelical pastor. This pastor had arrived from Switzerland to plant churches in Italy nearly 20 years earlier, and he founded the largest congregation in the province — a congregation, however, of only 30 people. This pastor, Sells said, has labored and prayed that God would open hearts for the Gospel for two decades, yet northern Italy still remains in darkness.

But, perhaps, God is beginning to move through the team of nearly a dozen Missouri Baptists who embarked on a vision trip to the northern Veneto region of Italy earlier this month. Like Sells, many members of the mission team from Missouri were shocked by the extreme lostness of Italy.

“I was overwhelmed at the amount of lostness,” said John Vernon, director of missions for the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association and a former international missionary. “I’ve served in Muslim countries. … (Northern Italy) is currently more lost than the countries where I served.”

This reality is made more stark by Italy’s rich Christian history and by the numerous Christian basilicas and other monuments throughout the region.

“You see Christianity in the marble,” Jeremy Muniz, pastor of First Baptist Church, De Soto, and recording secretary for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said. “You see it in the beautiful places you would visit.”

In contrast, however, Christ is not in the hearts of many Italians. In fact, many have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.

For this reason, MBC Multiplying Churches Catalyst Rick Hedger hopes that God will call out Missouri Baptist congregations to partner with Italy, make disciples, and multiply churches.

“Northeast Italy consists of three regions containing fifteen provinces,” Hedger said. “I am personally asking God to send forth a minimum of 30 MBC churches to work in this corner of northeast Italy.

“Our missionaries have told me that the population in these three regions is 0.045 percent evangelical,” Hedger added, explaining the area’s need for a gospel witness. This means that only four-and-a-half people out of every 10,000 are evangelical believers.

“It is an exciting time for God to invite MBC churches to cooperate together on the front lines in northeast Italy to see lives and communities transformed by the Gospel,” he said.

Indeed, according to Muniz, working in Italy would not only allow Missouri Baptists to reach the lost, but it would also give them the opportunity to see and experience the impact of their Cooperative Program giving as they come alongside both MBC staff and international missionaries.

“We want to send our money through the Cooperative Program,” Muniz said, “and we want to send our men and women on mission in ways that can further undergird and support the work of the Cooperative Program.”
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This article appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway.

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Ky. church’s Upward ministry
to partner with BGR

By Myriah Snyder

RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. (Western Recorder) — Upwards basketball and cheerleading ministry at Southern Heights Baptist Church of Russellville has taken on a mission project to provide clean water by purchasing wells through Baptist Global Response.

The Kentucky church is raising funds for the wells by selling water at concessions during Upward’s games. Barry McReynolds, Upward commissioner for Southern Heights, and his daughter, Courtney, thought of the project while she was looking through a BGR catalogue after church on missions emphasis Sunday.

“We could buy a well for a missions project this year. But, Dad, they cost $1,000 each. Do you think we could raise that much?” Courtney asked.

“After we talked a bit longer, both of us felt impressed that God was leading us in this direction,” McReynolds said.

During the first Upward game of the year, they began to sell water bottles the church donated so that all proceeds went straight to the mission project. In addition, they didn’t have a set price for the water.

“We felt God could work through the generosity of His church by asking for donations,” McReynolds said.

Overall, the church has raised $6,008, enough for six wells and some filters.

The final Upward game took place on March 19. An awards service was held that evening, and a representative of Baptist Global Response attended to receive the check during the celebration.

McReynolds continued, “The generosity of God’s people has been on vivid display. We have had several donations where the donor has given hilariously.”

People outside the Upward ministry and the church family have donated to the cause as well.

“I think our church wants to be biblical Christians and serve the Lord, and they understand the call to be an outward focused people, a missional people. In our attempt to be obedient to the Lord, He just blessed it and provided,” said Jered Patrick, pastor of Southern Heights.

“It’s been really cool to see the Lord work and people be generous,” he said.

Patrick added, “We understand the greatest need. Obviously, we want to meet physical needs, but the great thing about being Southern Baptist is that we use physical needs to break barriers in order to get to the spiritual needs, which is the gospel to be taken to all nations. That’s played a role in God’s plan of redeeming His people across the world.”

Regardless of how many wells are purchased, God will be glorified, and Southern Heights will have had the opportunity to give water in His name.

“I can think of no better way to invest in the life of our church and our Upward families,” McReynolds concluded.
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This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is a news writer for the Western Recorder.

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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.