Today’s From the States features items from:
Northwest Baptist Witness (Washington)
Biblical Recorder (North Carolina)
Va. church takes
‘3 Circles’ to Zimbabwe
By Randy Aldridge
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (Proclaimer) — In 2012, the Lord led GraceLife Baptist Church in Christiansburg, Va., to accept a challenge from the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention to reach an Unreached/Unengaged People Group (UUPG). This prayerful and intentional journey brought Pastor Tim Hight and the congregation to adopt the Ndau of Zimbabwe in a long-term mission partnership with the IMB and the Zimbabwe Baptist Convention. Other Southern Baptist churches have also participated by sending team members, financial support, and prayer support.
Located along the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the Ndau are a tribe of people numbering approximately 450,000. This “forgotten tribe” of Zimbabwe is considered the only UUPG left in the nation. Less than 2 percentevangelized, most of the Ndau have heard little or nothing about the truth of Jesus and His saving work on the cross.
“The mission we have [currently] embraced is to send small teams into select unreached Ndau villages where there is no Gospel witness,” shares Pastor Hight. “Each team of 4–6 spends their mornings sharing the Gospel in homesteads and leading evangelistic meetings in the evenings. Afternoons are spent leading discipleship sessions, children’s ministries, and doing leadership training.” As of 2017, they have been able to plant four new churches and establish another three more preaching points.
In April 2015, Hight’s team, along with local pastors and the Zimbabwe Baptist Convention, planned a leadership conference in the village of Muanganidze with a two-fold purpose: 1) to provide evangelism training for the leaders and new believers; and 2) to explore this new village as a potential preaching point. Hight and SBCV church planting strategist Randy Aldridge held training sessions at the local school during the day and evangelistic services at night.
The 3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide was the evangelistic tool used for the training event. Approximately 50 people attended the sessions. Each participant learned the 3 Circles Gospel presentation and had the opportunity to practice the presentation with several people before going out to do evangelism in the village homesteads.
The conference attendees found the 3 Circles presentation easy to learn and an excellent cross-cultural tool for sharing the Gospel. The participants practiced drawing the circles in the sand as they explained the Good News. One associational leader, Pastor Karakadzai Manyanga, says, “We can use this method all over Zimbabwe to share God’s salvation with His people.”
“One highlight of the weekend,” says Hight, “was when an unexpected opportunity arose to share the Gospel with a local soccer team of young adults. The 3 Circles presentation was used, and nearly the entire team — 21 to be exact — made commitments to follow Christ.”
Many of the new believers came forward in the evening service and later joined the new church plant. All in all, some 165 people made decisions to follow Christ over the three days of witnessing and evangelistic meetings. Pastor Hight rejoices, “[On this trip,] a new church plant was birthed in a previously unreached and unevangelized village, and the congregation is still prospering nearly three years later.
“The 3 Circles presentation proved to be practical, reproducible, and transferable among the Ndau tribe of Zimbabwe and is still being used there to introduce others to Christ and the Gospel.”
This article appeared in The Proclaimer (sbcv.org/proclaimer), newsjournal of the SBC of Virginia. Randy Aldridge is a church planting strategist for the SBC of Virginia.
Wash. Hispanic church
focuses on discipleship
By Sheila Allen
RENTON, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — It may seem like explosive growth, but Carlos Rodriguez believes changes and growth at Iglesia Vida in Renton, Wash., have been steady and deliberate.
Rodriguez assumed Iglesia Vida’s pastorate in 2011, when the church had 40 members. Now worshiping at two afternoon services, the congregation has grown to 400 people attending weekly services and begun establishing systems to produce committed disciples.
“I was a missionary with the Northwest Baptist Convention and was trying to assist this congregation and they saw me as a denominational worker there to help them,” Rodriguez said. “The church did not see me as the pastor there to do their work.”
Even though smaller in number, members sensed their own responsibility for ministry. “I believe some churches stagnate because church members expect the pastor to do everything, but that was not the case with us,” Rodriguez said.
When the church’s founding pastor relocated to California, Rodriguez accepted the call to lead the church, with his wife, Paola, by his side.
“Paola got a children’s ministry going and God gave her wisdom to recruit and lead volunteers, and now we have 80 people participating,” Rodriguez noted. “With this many involved, we do not overburden anyone. It is key to place people in service, for when they serve they grow in faith and become more committed to God.”
The Hispanic congregation is increasingly drawing members from the greater Seattle area, with attenders driving from Tacoma, Everett, Kirkland, Federal Way and Bellevue. Rodriguez is praying for the opportunity to start another campus somewhere.
Currently the church meets at Sunset Community Church (formerly Calvary Baptist) and outgrew the auditorium before beginning a second service, which allowed it to break the 300 barrier.
“Growth doesn’t happen without change and it is painful,” Rodriguez said. “In God’s timing, all things changed for us. We now have an elder-led body and discipleship groups that meet for three month cycles with a month of rest in between. I create the Bible study courses which are scripture, relational-based and deep, but which apply to life.”
Iglesia Vida is a culturally mixed Hispanic congregation. Members hail from Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Columbia and more, according to Rodriguez. The goal is for every new attender to go through a 12-week class that infuses them with the DNA of the church and clarifies what the church is about.
“We are a beautiful picture of different cultures and after seven years we still have new believers coming,” noted Rodriguez, who is also in a doctoral program through Gateway Seminary. “I originally didn’t want to become a pastor, to avoid the pain and suffering. In church you live with each situation daily. We now have four generations of people being saved, by friends sharing with one another.”
While Rodriguez has been praying for a larger facility for years, those doors have not opened.
Exciting worship fills the auditorium since the addition of a worship leader in recent months. Previously, the church used recorded music in its services.
“I see the future of our church as bi-lingual, because our children are growing up in an English-speaking world,” Rodriguez said. “My dream is to be all we can be, but not mediocre,” Rodriguez said. “We have one life and that is to fulfill what God wants. Our church can make a difference in the Hispanic world for the kingdom.”
Toward that end, Rodriguez is making an impact through a website he created to help others in their development of believers. (www.firmesenlaverdad.com)
“The church is helping to fill the role for our families in generational needs,” Rodriguez added. “I have crafted 12 marriage Bible studies and 70 couples have gone through them in home groups. All the glory is to God and what he is doing.”
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (nwbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness.
‘story of hope’
By Chad Austin
TAR HEEL, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — Drive through the town of Tar Heel in southeastern North Carolina on a Sunday morning and chances are there will be about as many people worshiping inside Tar Heel Baptist Church than the population of the town itself.
Tar Heel Baptist Church isn’t a megachurch. It’s not even a church in a growing community.
But thanks to a renewed focus on loving God and loving others, the Lord is moving in the church and in the community, where the population was just 117 people according to the 2010 census.
“If God can move at Tar Heel, He can move anywhere,” said Devon Varnam, who has served as senior pastor of Tar Heel Baptist Church since March 2015.
Prior to Varnam’s arrival, Tar Heel Baptist was like many churches in the United States — in a state of plateau or decline. According to various studies statistics, as a great majority of churches across all denominations can be classified as plateaued or declining, and many close their doors each year.
One characteristic of many churches that are plateaued or declining is that they have become more inward focused than outward focused. Varnam says that was true of Tar Heel Baptist when he arrived.
When he began his tenure as senior pastor, Varnam says his focus was simply on preaching the Word, following God and encouraging his congregation to do the same. As Varnam and his congregation connected and got to know one another, a vision to reach the community and surrounding area in Bladen County was birthed.
Over time, Tar Heel Baptist Church shifted its focus from inside its four walls to others around them by sharing the love of Christ with neighbors, friends and others. Part of that focus involved Varnam and church leaders shifting Tar Heel Baptist’s ministries to focus on the community.
“Tar Heel Baptist wants to make much of Jesus in the community by loving God and loving our neighbors,” Varnam said.
Every Sunday School class adopted a local organization to serve, which included local schools, nursing homes, law enforcement, firefighters, first responders, substance abuse treatment centers and more.
Sunday School class members serve their respective organizations in a variety of ways on a consistent basis, and the church engages in weekend service initiatives in the community periodically throughout the year. As a result of those local missions efforts, more members are engaging in missions beyond the community. In the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the church sent volunteers to Florida and Puerto Rico to share the love of Christ by assisting with in the recovery and cleanup efforts.
By reaching out into the community, more people are coming to know Christ and growing as disciples. Varnam says average worship attendance on Sunday mornings has grown from about 80 to about 116. Sunday School attendance has increased from about 60 on a typical Sunday morning to about 100.
Plus, the church is attracting younger individuals and families from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Varnam says the fastest growing demographic in the church is 20-to-30 year olds. Tar Heel Baptist has gone from a church with an average age of 65, to one where the average age is now approximately 40.
From September 2017 to January 2018, the church has baptized 16 people.
Varnam says many church members have caught the vision of reaching and discipling others in the community and surrounding area.
In an effort to be a consistent presence in the community, Varnam said one young man has started a men’s Bible study at a local restaurant where men come together weekly to fellowship, read God’s Word and pray. A young woman recently began a women’s mentoring ministry called “Woman 2 Woman” based on Titus 2.
A senior adult man also started a monthly prayer breakfast where men from different churches and walks of life come together to pray, seek the Lord and encourage one another.
When asked to describe the impact of what’s happened at Tar Heel Baptist, one word comes to Varnam’s mind — hope.
“The story of Tar Heel Baptist Church is a story of hope,” Varnam says, “Hope that God can take a church in a small town that was on the verge of dying and restore it to be a light in the community.
“To God be the glory.”
This article appeared in the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Chad Austin is communications coordinator for the convention.
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. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.