Today’s From the States features items from:
Southern Baptist TEXAN
Baptist & Reflector (Tennessee)
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Church planting network sees more than
300 come to Christ in Rio Grande Valley
By Alex Sibley
MCALLEN, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — Disappointment set in with Eliseo Arreguin’s church planting team when no one showed up to their inaugural Bible study in the local library by the 2 p.m. start time. Though they were ready to begin the service, Arreguin instructed them to wait another 10 minutes. Fortunately, within that time, two women arrived, one of whom had been invited the previous day by a member of the team at a nearby park. The service proceeded with this audience of two, and both women showed interest in the Word.
Following the service, one of the women asked if Arreguin’s team could conduct a Bible study at her home the following week. Arreguin agreed to do so.
“When we went to the house,” Arreguin says, “we were surprised to see that the house was full. There were 10 adults and two children. We had a time of music and prayer, and they were very interested in us praying for them and the needs that they had. We also gave an evangelistic message. After that, we got to know each other and shared a meal.”
Before they left, another woman asked the church planting team if she could host a Bible study at her house the following day. The team again complied, and the next day, they conducted another Bible study, this time to an audience of 16.
Thus, in a matter of one week, from two women came 30 people gathering together in two different homes to study God’s Word.
“None of these people have been saved,” Arreguin says, “but little by little, with the relationships we are forming with them, we know that God is working and will continue to do so.”
Arreguin’s church plant is one of several currently being developed in the Rio Grande Valley by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Missions Associate David Ortega coordinates the SBTC’s efforts in this area, working with local churches to reach the Valley through church planting.
Barna Research Group identified the Rio Grande Valley as the No. 4 most unchurched area in the United States, indicating the desperate need for new churches in this southernmost part of Texas. Ortega realizes the importance of cooperation between believers to overcome the challenges associated with doing ministry there, which led him to form a church planting network.
“I started casting vision with a number of pastors,” Ortega says, “and I challenged them about coming together in a fellowship with the goal of church planting. We’d like to see 100 churches by 2020. And it’s all of us working together to accomplish that goal.”
This fellowship of pastors and church planters meets once a month to share needs, give praise reports, and determine ways they can work together.
The network now has nine church plants in early stages of development. Few have permanent locations, so their ministries mainly include evangelism and visitation as well as Bible studies in local parks and libraries. Even so, God is clearly at work among them.
“We’ve seen how God worked to prepare the people, and we’ve had at least 300 people receive Christ since Easter of 2014,” Ortega says. “These church planters have come and have developed into competent planters, and we’re still working, but that’s been exciting. I see a potential that we can really do some impact here in the Valley.”
Ortega encourages his fellow SBTC churches to join in this effort, whether through prayer and financial support or through planting churches themselves.
“We’re not going to reach our goal if we don’t all have this vision of reaching the Valley; if we don’t have this network,” he says. “It’s going to take pastors, laypeople and church planters. And I think that’s the way the Lord wants it; so no one gets the glory but Him.”
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net). Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Revival, community events yield
results for Tenn. church
CHARLESTON, Tenn. (Baptist & Reflector) — In the fall of 2014 the Lord began to compel Candies Creek Baptist Church here to give themselves to a renewed emphasis on disciple-making for 2015, said Pastor Jamie Work.
He noted that ministry leaders and pastoral staff prayerfully planned the coming year around the theme of “Disciples Making Disciples: Reach, Teach, Equip, and Release.”
A team of the church’s pastors from both of Candies Creek’s campuses put together a “Disciple-Making Blueprint” designed to guide mature believers through a yearlong process of discipling new, or soon-to-be, followers of Christ, Work said.
In the early part of this year, church members were asked to write the names of family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, and relatives for whom the church could pray that they would experience spiritual transformation.
The names were written on a large, double-sided white board in the Worship Center during worship gatherings, Work said.
“Members were asked to make themselves available in 2015 to become a disciple willing to disciple those for whom the church was praying,” he continued. Everyone willing to become a discipler was given a copy of the Disciple-Making Blueprint, he added.
“As the summer months of ministry approached the church family began to pray that God would use their various ministry efforts to birth 100 or more commitments to Christ; either first time, or renewing, commitments to Christ,” Work said.
The summer efforts culminated in the church’s first-ever Sportsman’s Expo, followed by a four-day evangelistic Harvest Revival, both of which incorporated the ministry of full-time evangelist Morris Anderson of Maryville.
Between April and August, the church sent missions teams all over the nation and globe — Atlanta, Alaska, Kenya, Romania, Chicago, China, and Mongolia, Work said. Locally, the church sponsored its annual Vacation Bible School, Student Ministry Camp, and weekly outreach called Compelled to Action, he added.
“All the while the church family was seeking the Lord on behalf of those precious ‘names’ on the large, double-sided whiteboard,” Work said.
Before the Sportsman’s Expo and Harvest Revival even began, the church had already seen 40 commitments to Christ, Work shared.
During the evangelistic efforts of the expo and revival the Lord added an additional 43 professions of faith and 15 recommitments to Christ, the pastor continued.
Since the conclusion of the Harvest Revival, an additional seven people have committed their lives to Christ, Work said.
The church held an afternoon, outdoor baptism in the Hiwassee River, on Sept. 13, baptizing 11 individuals. Other baptisms have already taken place and others are yet to be planned, he said. “All glory, honor, and praise belong to the Lord Jesus Christ for the great things He has done.”
This article appeared in the Baptist & Reflector (http://tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Employing ‘The Bridge,’ La. BCM
experiencing decision after decision
By Brian Blackwell
THIBODAUX, La. (Baptist Message) — Before the fall semester began, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry leadership at Nicholls State University was praying for at least one student to come to a saving relationship with Christ.
By the end of September, they had gotten much more — 19 to be exact.
“It’s pretty wild,” said Nicholls BCM President Zach Vorenkamp, a senior from Houston, Texas. “The Lord is really moving. If it’s anything we are doing, it’s being intentional — sharing the Gospel and creating disciples.”
The catalyst for the growth began when BCM Director Conan Sherlin and his wife, Christy, and a friend of the BCM attended a national conference for BCM directors. It was there they were led to discuss with the leadership team at Nicholls a vision to share Jesus with students through the Gospel appointments method.
Gospel appointments begin with someone in leadership connecting with a first-time visitor to the BCM, asking for a phone number with the intention of sending a text and invitation to coffee within 48 hours. Then, two BCM members –- one experienced and one just learning -– sit down with the individual and explaining the Gospel using the Bridge illustration. Through this method, the BCM members will present the Gospel, using a bridge near the end to show Christ is the avenue to link God to man over the valley of sin that previously separated the two from one another.
“The Bridge is fantastic because it allows for the individual listening to respond and even to visually comprehend where they line up in life,” Sherlin said. “Whatever response these folks give us we have something for them. This is an advantageous method as it catches people who are spiritually seeking or even folks who are not where they know they should be, because in truth they are usually in one of those categories when they decide to walk into the BCM.”
Decisions after decisions
The end result is for the Nicholls State BCM is the most decisions in five weeks than they average for an entire semester, which is normally two to three decisions. Vorenkamp said this new method is much more effective than presenting the Gospel in a large setting, such as their Thursday evening Merge Bible study, which averages 85 each week.
“The decisions we have seen almost are exclusively on a one-on-one basis,” Vorenkamp said. “If I had to guess, it’s about that relationship. In as much a group setting of 90 people you can try to make it warm and a feeling of community, it’s all about people being people and connecting with one another. You can earn someone’s trust one-on-one much easier and that leads to a way to share the gospel that you just can’t do in a large group of people.”
Harley Grandstaff is one of the 19 students who accepted Christ through the Gospel appointments method. Through a late August meeting at an on-campus coffee shop with Vorenkamp and Sherlin, he learned of his need for Christ.
“The two drew a diagram of where one needs to be spiritually in order to be accepted into heaven,” he said. “And when they asked me where I thought I was if I had to draw myself on the diagram I realized that I’m not on the right track, and I knew I had to change that. I then prayed with them and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Ever since he decided to accept Christ, Grandstaff said he has felt as if the weight of any worries, doubt, or troubles has been lifted off him.
“The peace and unconditional love that God has shown me made me realize that I should have been seeking a better relationship with him all my life,” said Grandstaff, a freshman from New Orleans. “And over at the BCM, God gives us the peace and joy to help us produce a fun, friendly, and family like environment to allow all of us to aid one another in our walk with Jesus.”
Once the students accept Christ, the BCM leaders then immediately match them with a spiritually mature believer there. Vorenkamp said seeing them mature and grow in their faith is a key so they will continue their journey as a Christ-follower.
“Paul talks a lot in his letters about people needing spiritual milk,” he said. “You’re not doing someone justice where they see God for who he is and then leave them on their own.”
As for the remainder of the school year, Sherlin hopes that growth can continue. The goal for the remainder of the year is to complete 100 Gospel appointments.
He said that the plan is three-fold. Sherlin wants his students to continue engaging every visitor with Gospel appointments, present the Gospel spontaneously with others around campus and using group outreaches such as a meal or Pintrest Party for the Kingdom.
“I am confident through God’s grace that we will hit our projected target,” Sherlin said. “The difficult part will be to ensure all those who have made a response are being matched with solid teaching and discipleship.
“Evangelism without discipleship has been in my opinion a waste of time as new believers are rarely equipped to withstand the difficulties that quickly arise with their decisions,” he continued. “We need prayers and support from our church bodies as the task ahead continues to grow as every year more and more students arrive on campus with little or no church background. We are so thankful for the love and support we already get and look forward to partnering with our denominational body for a long time to see lives transformed and disciples made.”
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.
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.