FROM THE STATES: Mo., Mich., Ark. evangelism/missions news; 'We minister to people in the cracks, on crack, and full of cracks'

Today's From the States features items from: The Pathway (Missouri); Baptist Beacon (Michigan); Arkansas Baptist News

Mo.'s Rock-N-Roll Church revs

up ministry to bikers

By Dan Steinbeck

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (The Pathway) -- The Rock-N-Roll Church of Cape Girardeau freely admits it is different. A tagline on the church website reads: "This ain't your grandma's church."

It's a church where rock and roll music is prevalent, and motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidsons are common.

"People called us the Rock-N-Roll church," Pastor Billy Garner said, adding the name stuck.

On Sundays, the church praise and worship band Stronghold plays Christian rock songs. At other times and events, they play secular rock and roll music.

"Jesus is the rock of our salvation. Roll means the church is on the move," Garner said.

'On the move' means ministering at biker events. 'On the move' also indicates their location. The church has no home, per se. They usually meet on Sundays at a restaurant called Dockside surrounded by bars on Spanish Street in Cape Girardeau.

He said the term Rock and Roll has its roots in Christian music, specifically black gospel music in the 1800s, but got a derogatory connotation in the 1950s.

Rock-N-Roll church averages 80 on Sunday mornings. On certain days – Easter, for example, where the service is held at a Harley-Davidson dealership, the crowd may number 200 people.

"We set up among the (showroom) bikes," Garner said of the Easter services.

Rock-N-Roll church began six and a half years ago with Saturday services, with Garner saying the church competed with the bar scene for people, until that building was sold. Then they moved to an adjacent building, called the Dockside.

Among the church ministries, Stronghold plays at a lot of festivals and recently took a third place in the Heartland Classic Rock band competition. Garner said, "They are very good at what they do."

Other ministries include "in the wind" bike rallies and bike rides for special causes; regular participation in the Red Star food pantry; art exhibits at a banquet hall; being involved in transitional ministries for ex-prisoners back into society; and KICKS -- Kids In Christian Karate School.

Garner is a trained MBC church planter, but admits he is doing non-traditional church planting.

"We believe it is not about stopping something, but starting something," Garner said of church planting. "Their lives are being changed. We minister to people in the cracks, on crack, and full of cracks."

They are working with a church plant -- Herrin (Ill.) House of Hope and have started a Sikeston Bible study in a central location to reach several smaller towns.

Although Garner said the baptism numbers are down this year, in past years they have baptized 30 to 40 annually. The baptisms are an unconventional celebration.

"We have a portable baptistery. We haul it out in front of the store on the second Sunday of each month. When I have them in the water to dunk them, the others rev their motorcycles, so much so it vibrates the water and shakes the windows at the Lutheran church three blocks away. It's the same (celebration) with older and younger people we baptize," Garner said.

Garner said his office is his Harley. "I ride it everywhere. We have a motorcycle ministry to the biking community at large."


This story appeared in The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Dan Steinbeck writes for The Pathway.

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Mich. church uses new

social app to connect

By Jonathan Guenther

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (Baptist Beacon) -- It's easy for churches to connect with people on Sundays, but how can they bridge the weeklong gap in between?

Redemption Church, a new church plant that launched on April 5, has turned to new social media app Periscope for its answer to that question.

"Over the last six months, some people I follow... would post, 'Live on Periscope," said Steve Busch, Redemption Church's worship pastor. "I started exploring this and thought it would be great."

Periscope is a live video streaming app that launched earlier in 2015. In March, Twitter purchased the startup responsible for its creation shortly after its launch, giving the app major traction.

The app offers live video streaming with a chat box integrated into the screen. Users can provide instant feedback through chat or tap the screen to give the broadcaster a "heart," similar to a "like" on Facebook.

"Periscope is a place where people can not only hear from us but interact with us," Busch said.

Redemption Church does not own a building, but instead sets up on Saturdays in a rented facility, hosts worship on Sunday mornings, and hosts small groups on Sunday nights. For Redemption Church, Busch said, Periscope met a need as the only way for the church to connect with its body is outside of a building.

"If they can connect with us on a Wednesday night on their couch, that's pretty awesome," Busch said.

Even for those for whom mid-week meetings are a possibility, Busch sees potential for using social media instead.

"I'm keenly aware of the fact that nobody wants another meeting," Busch said. "What are some ways we can utilize the technology at our disposal? How can we utilize this to not call them back out for another meeting?"

"I would argue that even at an established church that's been around for 15 years, people still desire to connect with the senior pastor and the church," Busch said, adding that Periscope provides a great way for churches to meet this need. "They want to feel like they're connected."

Periscope's interactive element gives people -- and churches -- the opportunity to connect with viewers personally. Many broadcasters use the platform for question-and-answer sessions or to take input from viewers as they share on a topic of expertise. Periscope's chat feature allows broadcasters to connect with viewers personally, even calling them by name as a comment or question is answered.

From Busch's perspective, the interactive element gives users an opportunity to connect in a way that isn't possible with other video streaming platforms.

"We're looking for ways to cast vision, teach, share discipleship ideas, share encouragement, and explain what we're all about," Busch said. "Periscope is a place where people can not only hear from us but interact with us."

Now that the church has used Periscope multiple times, church leadership has developed a strategy to be more effective. Busch found one major difference to be advance promotion.

"One time we posted on all social networks a few days in advance," he said. "We posted on Facebook a few days ahead and shared on Twitter two to three times a day. We also sent out ... a [message] explaining that first you need a Twitter pro- file, so as easily and simply as we could we explained that to our people."

He noted that viewership of the publicized broadcast was significantly higher than that of a recent Saturday evening prayer night that was not promoted. While broadcasts remain available for replay for 24 hours, only live viewers are able to participate in Periscope's chat feature.

"This was part of the success of the first one," Busch noted about the promotion. "The lead time is very important."

He believes broadcasting about once a week is an effective utilization of the app. Using it too much can "over-saturate interest," but, "If it was a regularly scheduled thing, we'd probably do it once a week in the evening," he said.

Redemption Church has found multiple ways to utilize the network.

As worship pastor, Busch communicates with his worship team, sharing new songs and explaining why the church runs things in the manner they have chosen.

"It builds buy-in with your volunteers and allows them to connect with you," Busch said. "We're going to use this to stay connected and build buy-in as to why we do what we do."

He also noted that, in addition to the recent prayer night the church held, they also intend to highlight ways to get involved in small groups and answer questions about baptism.

Even though Periscope has a lot to offer churches, the platform does not come without its challenges.

"Periscope isn't any different from any other social media [network] in that some goofball can make a comment that is ... flat out inappropriate, just like you can visit a Facebook page that is inappropriate," Busch said. "I say that as a disclaimer because Periscope is like a live webcam where anyone can record anything and nobody's policing that. It takes care and maturity to know how to use it."

Periscope has also been scrutinized for potential intellectual property violations. The app's terms of service forbids the rebroadcasting of copyrighted material and threatens suspension or removal of users who do, but major events -- such as the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight in May and HBO's Game of Thrones season premiere -- have seen a number of users filming their screen, allowing others to view these paid events for free.

Regardless, Busch sees the potential for churches to use the platform in major ways.

"As we head to the fall, every church has big seasons of momentum," Busch said. "The fall is it for us, [and] we will definitely be using Periscope as well as other social media [apps]."

"It will be huge," Busch said of its potential for impact. "People don't hear from their lead pastor a lot except for when he's preaching on Sunday morning."

SIGN UP FOR PERISCOPE

1. For non-Twitter users, Create a Twitter account at twitter.com/signup.

2. Download the free Periscope app at periscope.tv.

3. Tap the "Log in with Twitter" button at the bottom of the screen.

4. Follow other users to watch their broadcasts or start a broadcast from within the app.


This article appeared in the Baptist Beacon, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (bscm.org). Jonathan Guenther is managing editor of the Baptist Beacon.

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Ark. community garden

plants 'seeds of faith'

By Anna Hurst

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- A neighborhood in Arkadelphia will be fed both physically and spiritually for the second year in a row as a result of one church's community garden initiative.

A garden spot located on Second Baptist Church property at South 12th St. in Arkadelphia grows produce for residents of the surrounding blocks to enjoy. Classified as a "straw bale garden," all of the plants are grown in bales of wheat straw, which are considered cleaner than regular grass bales and are watered and fertilized regularly.

"The garden was actually the brainchild of two ladies in our church. They, themselves, had planted this type of raised garden at their home and had success with it. The church (had) a couple of vacant lots adjacent to our facility ideal for such an undertaking," said Randy Garner, associate pastor at Second Baptist. "The idea was to provide veggies for folks within a few-block radius of the church. Everything is free-for-the-picking, and our only request is that everyone, 'Pick what they want and eat what they pick.'"

The ladies are Second Baptist members Vaughn Clary, a mathematics teacher, and Tona Wright, professor emerita of kinesiology and leisure studies at Ouachita Baptist University.

"Two years ago a friend gave two of us an article from the Sunday paper about straw bale gardens. I am not a gardener," explained Clary. "I have planted squash and zucchini for five years and not produced five squash or zucchini combined! The article made it look easy, so we got eight bales of wheat straw and tried it out. We didn't line them up or really plant them properly, but the results were amazing. We had squash, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers of several kinds. We wanted to share the bounty."

And share the bounty they did. With the help and donations of fellow friends and church members, the new community garden produced 60 tomato plants and more than 200 other plants in its first year. This year, the number increased to 110 tomato plans and more than 100 zucchini, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers and herbal plants.

"Last year a lady from another church stopped by and offered to plant the seeds for the starter plants," Clary said. "We picked up three truckloads of plants for this year! One of the Sunday school classes donated funds for fertilizer and tomato cages. The wheat straw was donated again. A couple from our Sunday school class donated 50 bags of mulch. Everyone has been eager to help!"

As the garden has grown, so has the impact on, and interest within, the community.

"The response was tremendous last year. There wasn't a time when I left the office in the afternoons last summer that a community person wasn't there getting something for supper," Garner said.

He noted that, while a church member or two have been spotted in the garden, the main goal is simply "to be a good neighbor" to the outside community.

"The major impact is that we want the surrounding community -- which is somewhat depressed economically -- to see that we love -- and God loves them -- and care about them.  The garden is a small way to provide for a need they may have," Garner said.

"God has blessed us by letting us have this garden," Clary said. "We've gotten to talk to many of our neighbors, and even several people about starting gardens at different churches. Our hope is that the love of Christ will be seen in this garden and through this seeds of faith will be planted."


This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Anna Hurst was a summer intern at the Arkansas Baptist News.

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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 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.

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