FROM THE STATES: Okla., Ky. and Va. evangelism/missions news; 'That just confirmed for me what God wanted to happen'
Today's From the States features items from:
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Western Recorder (Kentucky)
Okla. church's ongoing revival
includes dozens of baptisms
By Chris Doyle
MADILL, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- Located nine miles east of Madill's town square is Little City Baptist Church. The rural church sits on Highway 199, surrounded by a few blocks of houses and a whole lot of farmland. Cecil Mackey has been Little City's pastor for 16 months, and during this time, God has brought revival to this community.
Since Mackey arrived, Little City has observed 32 baptisms. According to Gary Dempsey, director of missions in Johnston-Marshall Association, Little City has not reported 20 baptisms in a year in its history before this recent movement of the Lord.
Little City also increased its Sunday School attendance average from 35 to 80. The church recently experienced high attendances of 117 in Sunday School and 172 in worship. With extra chairs and seating people in the choir loft, the small sanctuary had standing room only that morning.
How has this happened? What led the Lord to abundantly bless this small church near Lake Texoma that currently has a pastor who surrendered to preach two years ago with no seminary training and has only been a supply preacher before accepting Little City's call to be its pastor?
The story begins with looking at the church prior to Mackey's arrival, then how the Lord worked in Mackey's life, concluding with how God brought both church and pastor together.
Refining Little City's focus
Little City is not much different than other rural churches. It is a family-oriented, Bible-believing body of Christ. For years, Dempsey said, they have been calling similar pastors and following a common trend of church attendance.
"Little City has been one of those churches in their history that has typically had a seminary student (as pastor)," Dempsey said. "It seems like they were on a roller coaster. They would get a pastor, and they would grow. Then the pastor would leave, and they would decline. It was just a roller coaster."
The list of seminary students who pastored Little City includes Hance Dilbeck who is now senior pastor at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs. Little City still treasures the years Dilbeck served, and Dilbeck thanks the Lord for his time at Little City, saying it is the church that "taught me how to be a pastor."
Recently, Little City had a pastor named Kenneth Stacy who had a little longer tenure than previous pastors. Dempsey said Stacy helped give Little City more purpose and direction on functioning as a church body.
"(Stacy) instilled a mission statement in the church, and they bought into it," Dempsey said. "He eventually left, but they didn't decline as much after that. They weren't just dependent upon a pastor to lead them. They were more inclined to do the work of the church. They have been steadier with their membership, and when good leadership came, it has just taken (Little City) to the next level."
The next level Dempsey describes is currently demonstrated at Little City, but the pastoral leadership they now possess came from a rural fire coordinator from Atoka, who admitted he was not answering the Lord's call on his life. But that soon changed.
Putting Mackey on the path
Mackey lived in Atoka his whole life. He had a secure job, working as a state liaison with 125 fire departments in 10 counties. He and his wife Tammy and their son Jeff and daughter Leslie were faithful members of Southside Baptist Church in Atoka. But God had other plans for Mackey.
"I knew for at least five years God was dealing with me," Mackey said. "I didn't want to do it, but I finally submitted when we were having a revival in our church. Doug Miller was the evangelist, and during one service he said, 'I believe God is dealing with somebody here about ministry.'"
That's all Mackey needed to hear. He answered God's call to ministry that night, and it did not take long for Mackey to fulfill the call. He started doing supply preaching at various churches.
"For the next eight months, I probably went to my home church on Sunday mornings about five times," Mackey said. "I was preaching at different churches almost every Sunday."
During this time, Little City needed someone to fill its pulpit. A call was made to Southside Baptist, as a Little City member heard about a young man who surrendered to youth ministry. The young man said he had an obligation but recommended they call Mackey.
Bringing church and pastor together
The next phone call was made to Mackey, and the caller and Mackey hit it right off.
"You're country, ain't ya?" the caller asked Mackey.
"You can tell on the phone I'm a redneck, can't ya?" Mackey replied, and they both laughed. "Don't wear a tie because if you do you'll be the only one wearing a tie," the Little City member advised Mackey who accepted the request to preach.
For five Sundays Mackey preached at Little City. At one point, he was asked if he would be interested in being Little City's pastor, but Mackey said he thought he should just do supply preaching and still work his regular job. In his heart, though, Mackey struggled.
"I lived in Atoka my whole life," he justified. "I lived in the same house I grew up in. I had a good job."
After that fifth Sunday of preaching at Little City, Mackey walked back to his truck and was stopped by Mike Pickens, chairman of deacons, who told him this was the last Sunday Mackey would preach because the church was planning on calling a pastor.
On that drive home, Mackey's heart sank. He told Tammy, "God's calling me to this church."
"I know that," she replied. "I've just been waiting for you to figure it out."
The next day, Mackey called Pickens, asking him if they could meet. They met for lunch, and Mackey noticed when Pickens arrived he was having a long phone conversation in the parking lot.
Pickens eventually came in the restaurant, and as the two men talked, Mackey said, "You probably know why I want to meet with you."
Pickens replied, "Well I hope I do, but let me tell you something." He explained to Mackey that Little City has a rule that the church confers with one pastoral candidate at a time in order to be fair with the candidate.
Mackey started to get discouraged, but then Pickens said he was just on the phone with the candidate who said he withdrew his application. "He just felt Little City is not where God wanted him to be," Pickens told Mackey.
Little City asked Mackey to come in view of a call on Easter Sunday in 2016. Pickens told Mackey beforehand the church's rule was the candidate needed 70 percent of the votes, but Mackey said he would not come unless he got 90 percent of the votes. The church voted 100 percent in favor of Mackey to be pastor.
"That just confirmed for me what God wanted to happen," Mackey said.
Blessings abound at Little City
The Lord began to bless the work at Little City. Mackey said one reason for people coming to Little City and giving their lives to Christ is from hearing people share their stories. Mackey himself started, as he gave his testimony soon after he became pastor. In that service, four people came forward to make professions of faith.
"Every Sunday night that we don't have business meeting we have one or two share their story," Mackey said. "It speaks to people. It's not academic. It's from the heart. The stories have varied widely from 'church kid stories' to the 'wrong road stories' that involve drugs and alcohol to the 'good person who never went to church stories.'"
From there, Mackey said the Lord has led people from all over to come to Little City. Some live by the lake, he said; most are "just country folks around the county." But they come, and many give their lives to Christ. Of the 32 baptisms, many were regular members who were never baptized or knew when they actually surrendered their lives to Christ, they needed to follow up with believer's baptism. Still others were new converts who heard the Gospel for the first time.
"If you come hear me preach, it's nothing I do," Mackey said, admitting he does not have a seminary degree but does attend Bible conferences. He plans to do online studies with Oklahoma Baptist University. "For me, what I preach most of the time is love. The Bible says God is love. If you don't have love then God is not in you. That's the way I go at it."
Dempsey believes Mackey's humble demeanor bonds well with Little City members.
"He fits the community," Dempsey said. "He has a like mind and a like heart. He connected very well."
Dempsey also believes Little City was ready for God to work in this church. "The pump was primed, and they just took off," he said. "It's been exciting to hear the reports and about the good things happening."
God continues to provide big blessings at Little City.
Chris Doyle is managing editor of The Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Kentucky Raceway Ministry
reaches NASCAR fans
By Eric Harrough
SPARTA, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- More than 200 volunteers representing Baptist churches across the commonwealth and the nation came to the Kentucky Speedway July 6-9 not to see a NASCAR race, but to help fuel the gospel. Assisting Kentucky Raceway Ministry, they gave out 6,000 Bibles to race fans from all 50 states and five countries over the three-day weekend.
The raceway ministry that now reaches thousands of people was born about 17 years ago when JT Marsh and a friend started passing out water from the back of an El Camino. "We thought we would just hand out some water and tracts and go to the race, but God just started to laugh at us. He had a bigger plan," said Marsh.
Since then, the Kentucky Raceway Ministry has branched into different areas of service. "We have the largest race outreach in the country now in terms of raceway ministries and NASCAR tracts," said Marsh. "We are one of the few ministries allowed to do trauma response in the grandstands. For an event this populated, it's a blessing to have that amount of saturation."
Along with distributing Bibles, the ministry hands out approximately 30,000 driver's cards with gospel tracts on the back, said Marsh.
While volunteer opportunities range from information booths to personal evangelism teams, KRM has the unique opportunity to reach race fans in the center of the speedway, noted Tom Ragland, a chaplain who has served with KRM for seven years. "The races are at night, so during the day and the mornings we get to feed military servicemen, policemen, firefighters, and all of the campers," he said.
An important part of being in the center of the raceway is praying with anyone they can, Ragland said. "The most prevalent problems here are health issues," he explained. "When we ask how to pray for people, that opens up a whole new door to talk to about spiritual things," he said. "We try and meet people where they're at."
Another area where volunteers serve is in the kids' camp, which provides an opportunity to reach children with the Gospel. "Everything here is free. That's a big draw," said Ray Henaky, the lead volunteer of the kids' camp. "Tomorrow (Saturday) is our biggest day, it will be shoulder to shoulder.
"Now we have about 20 volunteers; tomorrow we will have close to 50," said Henaky. "There are people from all walks of life. It's amazing to see how different people come together to serve and make this a great experience."
NASCAR reports that 100,000 people come to Sparta annually. With Sparta becoming the third largest city in the state of Kentucky for three days, it is crucial for the Kentucky Raceway Ministry to take advantage of every opportunity they have to reach people, Marsh said.
"God promises that when His word is given out it won't return void, so there is nothing better that we can do," said Marsh. "Companies pay thousands of dollars to get their logo on a NASCAR racecar so that it is seen. We are blessed to get to do that for free, and we have a better product," said Marsh, referring to the Gospel.
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Eric Harrough writers for the Western Recorder.
Partnership between Va. churches
bonds students and community
By Shawn Ames
DANVILLE, Va. (Proclaimer) -- It was a February Friday night in Danville, Va. The air was electric with excitement, the gym was full of people, and only the PA system could cut through the ambient noise. Students were snaking their way through the crowd in their typical three- to-five-person groups looking for a spot to sit down in the bleachers, as the walls around the basketball court began to bear the weight of the overflow crowd. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were at a basketball game between archrivals -- but the basketball games were over, the victories had already been determined, and this crowd had come for something different.
As chaperones spread around the perimeter of the gym turned-meeting hall, an energetic master of ceremonies came to the center of the room, welcomed the masses, and tried to bring order to the chaos. He introduced himself as Pez. I immediately imagined one of my favorite stocking stuffers from childhood. But this was no diminutive candy dispenser; this was Pez, The Instruction Giver. To many in the crowd, he was no stranger. While he spends most months of the year as a college student and athlete, he uses his summer months to minister in youth camps. It was at such a camp that the students at The Tabernacle in Danville became acquainted with him. His zany efforts soon gained traction, and the audience quickly became focused on his instructions. One might say -- and pardon the pun here -- he had them eating out of his hand. But Pez wasn't the point of this gathering. This event had been brought about by a group of youth pastors who wanted to do something big for their community.
Three months earlier, Allen Payne, student pastor of The Tabernacle, approached me about his desire to connect with other SBC of Virginia youth pastors to do an area-wide youth outreach. I was able to connect Allen with two other youth pastors (Roger Jones of North Main Baptist Church and Ross Riley of Shermont Baptist Church), who had been working on a regional DiscipleNow (DNow) event for a couple of years. Together, we four SBCV next-generation ministers began to plan the event that was now unfolding before my eyes.
In the beginning, we weren't sure how many churches would be willing to partner for this. Although Danville is a city full of churches, the churches don't always want to cooperate on events. Fortunately, there was a good bit of evidence that the time was ripe for an area-wide student outreach. The three Danville youth pastors began reaching out to other pastors and youth pastors. Planning meetings grew to over a dozen ministers, and many more said they were on board. The event would be called Fifth Quarter (not original with us, to be sure). It would take place on a Friday after area basketball games were over.
We had selected a speaker and had made arrangements to fly Pez into town as our emcee. Various churches volunteered to buy door prizes to encourage youth to come, pizza had been ordered, parking lot attendants had been enlisted, and the night seemed to be all set. Initially, we thought the gym could easily hold 300. That number sounded like a longshot to me. I was going to be happy with 150. As the day approached, we began to get excited about the possibilities. A simple Facebook advertisement for the event was shared over 2,900 times. Needless to say, we began planning for an overflow crowd.
Then came the night of the event. I was standing there looking at a crowd of 565 students representing 85 different churches. I walked around and asked youth pastors and chaperones their thoughts on what was happening.
"I think it is great that [the community] sees a church that is packed on a Friday night … that different people from different churches can come together," shared Ross Riley.
Casey Stowe from Bridgetown Church responded, "Unity ... I think it is so awesome that every church in the city of Danville and the surrounding area can come together."
Tyler Morris, also of Bridgetown Church, quickly agreed. "... The amount of kids and the amount of different churches represented tonight is good for unity in the church as well as outreach outside the church."
Wayne Porch, a parent and chaperone from The Tabernacle, was serving pizza to students as they entered the event. He said to me, "Kids in Danville are always complaining, 'we have nothing to do.' ... The youth in Danville have needed it for a long time.... We've always been kind of segregated into groups ... especially by schools and by cliques, and even by churches. And even though we know people in each church and each clique, until we get together in an outing like this, you know, we're not together."
Kevin Begley brought his youth all the way from Grace Baptist Church in Virgilina. Standing before us was the evidence of what cooperation can bring about -- a room full of students from all over the region. "There is so much competition between churches, and that's got to stop," Kevin explained. "That's just got to stop!"
As the games drew to a close, Pez introduced the speaker for the evening, Dr. David Wheeler, North American Mission Board missionary and Liberty University professor of evangelism. He spoke about the difference between toxic religion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I estimate that over 60 students stood up in front of their peers, confessing to living a "toxic, religious" life. Then each picked a person sitting nearby and repented to that person and committed to going forward living for Jesus. Several others responded that they needed to be saved. Then they came forward to receive counsel and pray with an adult.
What a night and what a demonstration of what God can do through leaders and churches who are willing to work together! It reminded me that the Church of Jesus is one team, and He works in mighty ways when we come together to serve Him.
This article appeared in the Proclaimer (sbcv.org/proclaimer), newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Shawn Ames is the SBCV's student ministry strategist.
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, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.