PHOENIX, Ariz. (BP)–Conjure up Phoenix in the summertime and you think about desert, cactus and heat, especially with this summer’s record 29 straight days of 110-degree or higher temperatures.
But for 90 students from across the United States who spent a week of their summer vacation in Phoenix, sharing the Gospel of Christ in the “Valley of the Sun” became a mountaintop experience.
The students were part of PowerPlant, an initiative of the North American Mission Board designed to teach students the principles of church planting and evangelism -– skills they can use long after their time in sweltering Phoenix.
PowerPlant participants presented the Gospel 314 times, resulting in 13 decisions for Christ, and they distributed more than 3,000 tracts and free Bibles.
While each PowerPlant project and venue is unique, the theme of the Phoenix outreach was diversity, said coordinator Daniel Stancil, a Southern Baptist church planter from Canton, Ga.
Among the students and adult leaders who journeyed to Phoenix to work with seven church plants were three ethnic groups: from First Chinese Baptist Church in Walnut, Calif.; El Encino Baptist Church in Fresno, Calif.; and the Muskogee Seminoles in Wichita (MSW) Indian Baptist Association from Oklahoma.
Those from the MSW Indian Baptist Association paired up with The Legacy Church, an African American church plant in the Phoenix area, with the aim of MSW participants gaining insights into how to plant a church in Phoenix, reflecting what group leader Roley Macintosh described as their “great desire to reach Native Americans for Christ.”
The Chinese group from Walnut, Calif., joined forces with The Well Community Church as part of the Phoenix congregation’s “Summer Funner Theater Fine Arts Camp.” Working with Phoenix-area children on a production geared toward relatives and friends, the Chinese Baptists prepared staging and props and helped children learn their lines. They also led a daily Bible study for the young thespians.
“Being at PowerPlant opened our eyes to what it means to be missional, a way to get out of our comfort zones,” said Hanley Liu, the First Chinese group leader. “We saw that the church is not about a building, it is all about the people.”
Phil McConnell, a North American Mission Board church planting strategist in Phoenix, said, “It was amazing to see how God can bring people of different walks of life together to reach a community for Jesus Christ.”
“PowerPlant exists to help church plants of any nationality or people group share the love of Christ in a relevant way,” Stancil noted. “It was really cool to have a diverse group of students participate in the Phoenix project.”
PowerPlant is based on a Saturday-Friday schedule. After arriving in the PowerPlant city on Saturday, the students attend Sunday worship at a local church plant and then take prayerwalks, visit door-to-door and start preparing for the week.
Monday through Thursday, the students are taught church planting and evangelism methods in the morning. Then they are off to work at pre-determined ministry sites under the direction of a church planter. Nights are spent in “The Gathering,” a time of worship and sharing.
Some 1,750 students and adults participated in 16 PowerPlant projects across the United States this summer, reported Jonathan Wilson, NAMB’s lead associate for PowerPlant, based in Alpharetta, Ga.
Nationwide, PowerPlant workers presented the Gospel nearly 5,000 times — resulting in 248 professions of faith — and partnered with 79 church plants.
“PowerPlant participants this summer also donated more than $16,000 in offering money back to local church planting efforts, and more than 370 students made commitments to vocational ministry or summer missions work,” Wilson said.
“Our mission for next summer,” Stancil said, “is to look at other communities in the Phoenix area and see how PowerPlant can partner with them to spread the Gospel, which will take more students than we had this year.
“Our week at PowerPlant in Phoenix was simply to plant seeds and to show the love of Christ. We accomplished that so our prayer for next summer is to see the harvest,” Stancil said.
Wilson said 20 PowerPlant projects are planned for cities across America in 2008. “We are excited to be in the San Diego and San Francisco areas for the first time ever,” he noted.
Other 2008 venues will include Seattle; Phoenix; Denver; Nashville, Tenn.; Savannah, Ga.; Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Austin, Texas; Cleveland; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Baltimore; Chicago; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charleston, W.Va.; Cincinnati; Halifax, N.S., and Ottawa, Ont.
Chad Hall is a junior speech communications major at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville who served as a mission communications specialist for NAMB’s summer 2007 PowerPlant initiative. For more information on PowerPlant, visit www.power-plant.net.