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FROM THE STATES: Texas., Wash., Okla. & Mont. evangelism/missions news

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.

Today’s From the States features items from:
International Mission Board (Texas)
International Mission Board (Washington)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
The Montana Baptist

Texas woman building ministry
in Russia “one step at a time”
By Karen Pearce

HOUSTON (International Mission Board)–Nizhniy Novgorod is the fifth largest city in the middle of Russia’s heartland. Though it boasts 1.5 million people, there are only about 25 small evangelical churches.

God burdened Sally Hinzie with this city and she is now coordinating mission efforts from her home church, Houston’s First Baptist. After several mission trips to Russia she shouldered the strategic responsibility of making sure Nizhniy was saturated with the Gospel. She serves as the city’s virtual strategy coordinator, planning, praying and strategizing.

“It is very important to train national believers,” Sally said. “Russians know how to reach Russians. If the Gospel is to go forth, it will be through local believers.”

With this in mind, Sally has developed a relationship with Central Baptist Church in Niznihy. She has taken more than a dozen trips to the city, involving her home church in the process. The last trip was to hold a women’s conference. Between 300 and 500 people at First Baptist Houston were involved in the effort through giving, collecting supplies, praying and going.

Sally said when she first felt God calling her to this ministry she thought it was impossible. “I remember feeling the tug and thinking, ‘I can’t do that,’ but we are doing it — one step at a time,” she said.

Other churches are needed to take on similar commitments — there are approximately 500 unreached unengaged people groups (UUPGs) in Europe.

Sally gives a breakdown of how a church can reach one:

* Research your people group

* Study them to find inroads for the Gospel

* Build a prayer base from within your church or Christian community

* Take an advance trip to meet the people, experience the culture, eat the food and prayer walk the city

* Begin to partner with believers or a person of peace on the ground

To find out more about your church adopting a UUPG, visit our Embrace webpage and plan to attend a conference in the fall to learn more.
Karen Pearce is a writer for the International Mission Board (imb.org) in Europe.
Washington church’s involvement in Russia has
changed them “in every possible way”
By Karen Pearce

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (International Mission Board)–Billy Arnold’s church was going to be a big church, but it changed its mind.

“We were starting a building program and planned to expand our campus,” said Arnold, pastor of LifeWay Church in Federal Way, Washington.

But they felt God nudging them in a different direction.

“We had to change the mindset that we, as a church, just take care of our own needs,” Arnold said. “God wants to give each church a specific place where they are to put down a stake and affect change. First it is in their own neighborhood and then somewhere else in the world.”

That somewhere else was Bryansk, Russia.

Fourteen years ago, Arnold and his wife, Patty, sensed God calling them — personally and their church body — to take on the responsibility for reaching a lost world for Jesus. They had no idea what to do, Arnold said, but God was faithful to lead them step by step. Today the couple serve as the main strategists responsible for reaching Bryansk with the full backing of other LifeWay staff. He works in Russia, helping churches and starting new ones.

Arnold said his church’s involvement in Russia has changed them as a body in every possible way. “There’s nothing that is not affected by it,” he said.

The biggest change, he noted, is in the philosophy of the church. LifeWay planted five more churches in its area rather than building a bigger campus, and its work in Russia continues to undergird its strategy of church multiplication.

“Every church of any size can do this,” Arnold said.

For more information about how your church can invest in Europe, visit http://imbeurope.org/connect/embrace.
Karen Pearce is a writer for the International Mission Board (imb.org) in Europe.
Partnership missions: A
four-year-long prayer list
By Alisa Duncan

DEL CITY, Okla. (The Baptist Messenger)–Ken and Marie Harris have a prayer list for Olinalá, Mexico that’s four years long.

Ever since the couple from Del City, First Southern visited the church plant site in Guerrero’s eastern mountains for the first time, they took the place to heart.

Since then they’ve come back yearly with a group to help Mexican missionary Lilia Mejia plant a Baptist church in Olinalá. In early October, they visited the mountain town for the fourth time, bringing along one other church member, Annette Davis.

This year, their trip coincided with the celebration of the town’s patron saint, San Francisco.

Legend has it that people were carrying the statue of San Francisco from Chilpancingo to a place in Puebla for repairs. On its way through Olinalá, it became so heavy that those who were carrying it could no longer support its weight, so they took it as a sign that the statue wanted to stay in Olinalá and be worshipped by its inhabitants.

Locals see none of Isaiah’s prophetic irony in the fact that the statue of San Francisco, which can’t even carry itself, is now light enough to be carried around town in procession once a year. In fact, the town was full to overflowing the first week of October as folks living in other parts came home just for the event.

As part of the festivities, fireworks exploded regularly over the city well past midnight—not fireworks that give off any bright displays, just ones that make a deafening boom at their explosion.

One local believer said they set off those fireworks to get God’s attention.

“They have the idea that he’s an old man, that he’s maybe asleep or deaf,” he said.

In this county seat of 15,000 inhabitants, it’s hard to know where ancient customs end and Catholic devotion begins.

But some are trading all that for Christ alone.

Lilia Mejia, after four years of working in the community, has two small house groups meeting during the week and a handful of new believers she is discipling.

The First Southern team was in town in time to participate in one of those house groups Sunday evening. Nearly a dozen adults and more than 20 children were there. Ken taught the adults what the Bible says about marriage, while Marie and Annette helped Lilia with Sunday School for the children.

The team was encouraged by what it saw.

“From last year to this year the work has just exploded,” Marie said.

“It is amazing to see the work God has done through Dr. Lilia in Olinala,” Ken said. “They seem to have everything they need to start a church mission except for a pastor. Pray that God would call a pastor to this community.”

During the rest of the week, the First Southern team visited contacts in their homes to share the Gospel.

One couple who prayed to receive Christ was Maximino and Irene. They went to see Lilia, a general practitioner, in September when one of their four children was sick. Lilia invited the couple to the Sunday house group meeting. They’ve been attending ever since, but hadn’t yet made a profession of faith.

The First Southern group climbed the hill to their house one morning, and while Lilia, Marie and Annette taught the neighborhood children a Bible story outside, Ken explained the Gospel to the young couple. They prayed to receive Christ, and Maximino asked for a Bible to read.

The mission team members shared their testimonies and the Gospel in a number of homes, in businesses and with people on the street. Some prayed to receive Christ. Others didn’t. But doors were open nearly everywhere.

The team also stopped by the prison in Chilapa on their way back down the mountain. They left Bibles and materials for the group of believing inmates and shared about Christ there.

“We will leave the results up to God as He is the only One who can change A person’s heart,” Ken said. “We pray that the seeds fell on good soil.”

And that’s how the team from First Southern will work for the coming year— in prayer, with a list another year longer.
This article originally appeared in the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Alisa Duncan is a partnership missionary in Guerrero, Mexico.
Multi-site churches
spread to Montana
By Karen L. Willoughby

MISSOULA, Mont. (The Montana Baptist)–Multi-site churches are new for Montana: One church in more than one location.

Meadow View Community Church is doing it, where Craig Liscom is pastor.

So is Outdoorsmen Church, where Mark Hasenyager is pastor, but that’s a story for next issue.

“We were doubling every year, and running out of space even though we had bought a large building,” Liscom said about Meadow View. “We had more than 900 for Easter. The reality was that we can’t build that much space fast enough. We needed a different strategy.”

Liscom first heard of multi-site churches 15 to 20 years ago. That’s when he lived in Chicago and was on staff at a church that had 16 campuses scattered across the metro area.

“It’s not a great extension to look around our cities in Montana and see there’s some holes where we need some more life-giving churches,” Liscom said.

He put that thought together with his belief of the need to raise up the next generation of ministry leaders from Montana, rather than relying on Southern transplants, and he looked back at the multi-site model that had helped give him tools that led in time to him starting what to date is among the fastest-growing churches in Montana.

“Multi-site churches are a way for us to equip people in our churches,” Liscom said. “We hope over the course of four or five years to use this to raise up men to preach the Gospel, teams to lead worship, and people to lead in life groups. … We’re learning as we go. At this point we’re sort of hoping and praying to launch a new congregation every year.”

Liscom looked at Josh Gray, 36, who had learned to work with people during his years in insurance. He is married to Kerri; together they have three children. Even without any seminary or Bible school training, Gray has a great knowledge of growing and developing life groups that he credits his former church in Post Falls Idaho for mentoring him in for four years.

“In Post Falls I was in the middle of a modern day miracle,” Gray said. “I would see every Friday night five to ten people get baptized and all these people cheering around them. It was people from their life group.”

Gray and fellow member Adam McElderry developed the life group strategy at Meadow View that quickly branched into additional life groups.

“Guys who can shepherd people are hard to find. In our system, that’s basically pastoring,” Liscom said. “It’s the same skill set: recruiting, equipping, delegating, teaching God’s Word. Something else we saw in Josh: We saw him as a guy who was faithful.”

Josh Gray was 19 when he made a profession of faith in Jesus. That was 1994. He and his family moved to Missoula in 2005 for his work. Four years later he was impressed to get out of debt because he might be called into ministry. The following year, he and his family joined Meadow View. Within six months, he was involved with developing life groups.

In January 2011, at Meadow View’s leadership summit it became very apparent that the next campus needed to be launched. After much prayer and fasting, Gray said, he knew “it was time to follow the call that God had shown me in August 2009.”

The men began to plan together how Meadow View’s second site would work with its first, and for the next seven months, Liscom began training Gray in sermon preparation and the myriad of other responsibilities that are part of being a pastor.

When, last March, Gray approached Liscom with a clear understanding that God was calling him into Gospel ministry, Liscom knew it was time. The men began to plan together how Meadow View’s second site would work with its first, even as Liscom began training Gray in sermon preparation and the myriad of other responsibilities that are part of being a pastor.

They study and prepare for about 80 percent of Sunday’s sermon together, though each delivers the message at the site he pastors, using his own illustrations.

Together the men found a suitable location for a second Meadow View site: a former Chevrolet dealership on a major artery leading in and out of downtown, which had been renovated into a Christian worship center that eventually outgrew the space.

Many church plants start in a school or hotel — space rented by the hour. But because the two Meadow View congregations planned to work within one budget, there was enough money to lease the building 24/7.

“It can seat about 200,” Liscom said. It’s a nice setup to get a church going…. As far as a use of funds, it [a multi-site church] seems to be more efficient.”

Another benefit of the multi-site model: Name recognition.

“We’ve been around for four years now, and people have heard the name ‘Meadow View,'” Liscom said. “That gives the new church credibility from the get-go, and that’s a good thing.

“It’s a team approach,” Liscom said. “In Montana, it’s tough to plant a church. You have a lack of resources, you’re all by yourself, and usually it takes a great deal of patience to see fruit…. We can help him in sermon preparation; he can borrow our expertise. He has his own [part of the] budget based on their own giving. He just gets a lot of added experience that he can rely on. We believe a multi-site approach helps remove some growth barriers; it maximizes resources, allows us to work as a team, and we believe leads to more fruit as lives are transformed by Christ.”

There’s more:

“The statistics for church plants in Montana and the Northwest [U.S.] are, I think, one out of every 10 make it and thrive,” Liscom said. “But 90 percent of multi-site campuses thrive….

“It’s still a bit of a challenge,” the senior pastor acknowledged. “We’re still figuring out how these relationships work. Josh has to play on the team and yet be seen as the pastor. Sometimes that means the road is a little bumpy.”

Gray said the “thicker skin” he acquired as an insurance agent is a welcome attribute now that he’s a pastor.

“I think it’s a lot like being a successful small group leader,” Gray said. “Being in insurance, I think I’ve had a lot of good prepping for it.”

Meadow View North’s first service was Oct. 2. One hundred members of Meadow View South moved north with Gray. Within a month, attendance had grown to 150.
This article originally appeared in The Montana Baptist (mtsbc.org), newsjournal of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. Karen Willoughby is managing editor of The Montana Baptist.

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