FROM THE STATES: La., N.M. and Ill. evangelism/missions news; 'Because I had nowhere else to turn I found the truth'

Today's From the States features items from: The Baptist Message (Louisiana); Baptist New Mexican; Illinois Baptist.

Man celebrates becoming new

Christian, new Louisiana Baptist

By Brian Blackwell

JONESBORO, La. (Baptist Message) -- Paul Wilkerson was enjoying high times from his worldly living until early 2016 when he lost nearly everything he valued.

Burdened with heartache, he began seeking hope, which he found in Jesus Christ shortly after.

Wilkerson celebrated his transformed heart and life a year later by being baptized by Michael Brakefield, pastor of the Hope Chapel in Jonesboro, La.

Brakefield spent the year teaching Wilkerson, but Wilkerson's delay in being baptized wasn't a factor of discipleship, but to wait until the church became an official member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention in early 2017.

"I grew up in the presence of the Lord as a kid in church but I had never received it," Wilkerson said. "I had heard the calling from the time I was little but ran from it. I was trying to fill this big massive void. I was the success story, thinking I was better than I was.

"Over a matter of six months I lost everything," he said. "I was homeless and in a position where I had no other place to turn. I was in the desert. Because I had nowhere else to turn, I found the truth."

Wilkerson is one of 13 new believers baptized in 2017 at Hope Chapel.

The church has grown rapidly from just the two persons who got together in January 2016 for a Bible study in Brakefield's home to an average of 20-30 for Sunday morning services, and another 30-40 for Tuesday evening prayer meetings.

"Growth is a result of the Holy Spirit using Spirit-filled, devoted followers of Jesus," Brakefield said. "Faithfulness to Jesus produces fruit in ministry and creates excitement and an expectation for more to come."

Not alone

Hope Chapel is among the 210 Louisiana Baptist church plants that collectively celebrated a record 512 baptisms in 2017. These new congregations are poised to experience another year of healthy growth, Louisiana Baptist church planting strategists project.

"I am encouraged in our task, because each day I get to work with two of the best church planting strategists in America --– Lane Corley and Carlos Schmidt," said James Jenkins, director of church planting for Louisiana Baptists. "Our church plants are an amazing preview of the book of Revelation.

"Louisiana Baptists are starting churches to reach every nation, tribe, people and language," Jenkins said. "LBC church plants enable Louisiana Baptists to proclaim the Gospel every week among 14 people groups and 12 languages. It is exciting to live in a time when the ends of the earth are coming to America and Louisiana."

According to the latest report by the Louisiana Baptists' missions and ministry team, the 512 baptisms performed by church plants in 2017 were an increase of 152 from the previous year. They also recorded 34,465 evangelistic contacts and 1,419 decisions to follow Christ.

With 27 churches planted in 2017, Louisiana Baptists are now just 90 away from reaching the 300th church planted since 2010. If that number is reached, it would meet a goal of planting 300 churches by 2020 as part of one of the 10 action steps identified in the President's 2020 Commission Final Report.

Plants, re-plants, revitalizations

Planting healthy, biblically sound, multiplying churches is identified in that document as a key component to a strategy which seeks to engage two audiences -- the next generation and every people group -- in reaching Louisiana with the Gospel.

Corley is confident Louisiana Baptists can plant their 300th church by the end of 2020, but says continued support from existing congregations is critical.

"We're seeing the product of healthy partnerships that have created a great culture for multiplication across Louisiana," Corley said. "Starting with the strategy laid out by the President's 2020 Commission, associations have set local goals for new churches.

"We also have seen growth in multi-site churches and revitalization strategies have led to churches being re-planted," he continued. "More existing churches are saying yes to sponsorship and partnership with church plants in various ways. In New Orleans, the partnership with the North American Mission Board has brought needed focus to the needs of New Orleans as well as partners from across the country to help plant churches in our largest population center."

The strategy places a special emphasis on planting churches where most Louisianans live, concentrating on the I-10 corridor and southward where 3 million Louisianans reside.

So far, 160 of the 210 new church plants are located in southern Louisiana. There also is a mix of ethnic identities among these church plants: 83 are predominately Anglo, 62 African American, 28 Hispanic, nine Asian and 17 of various other ethnicities (a stark contrast to 2010, when eight churches were started — seven Anglo and one Asian, with no African American or Hispanic congregations in the mix).


This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message.

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23 N.M. churches plan

simultaneous revivals

By Kevin Parker

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Twenty-three Hispanic Baptist churches plan to participate in the 2018 Simultaneous Revivals campaign organized by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's Hispanic ministry strategist, Ricardo Rivera. In 2018, 22 churches participated. Their reports back to the convention reported 800 lost people attended evangelistic events. Ten percent of them registered professions of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The idea, Rivera told the Baptist New Mexican, was to release churches to think outside the box on evangelism, to do something beyond traditional preaching revivals. He and former Hispanic church planting catalyst Pedro Escobar came up with the idea while discussing how they could mobilize Hispanic churches to evangelize their communities.

Each church that commits to some kind of evangelistic project receives $500 from CP through the convention. In return, Rivera asks the churches to do several things. They must pray for the event, plan it, share the Gospel during the event, extend an invitation for people to follow Jesus, conduct some kind of follow-up to begin discipling new believers, and report on their event. Churches have complete freedom to choose what kind of event they conduct and how it is organized. CP giving supports the effort.

The campaign, now in its fourth year, has grown each year. This year Rivera sought funding for 30 churches to participate. At press time the count was up from last year's final count by one church. He was still waiting for others to join. Most of the churches conduct their events on Easter Sunday and during the week before Easter.

In 2017, Rivera added a Four Fields evangelism training in Las Cruces. This year, the training will be offered in Albuquerque. So far, eight churches are intending to participate.

Rivera has communicated with all of the Hispanic churches in the convention. Some will not participate, he said, but others say, "Yeah, we want to get involved." A few churches may partner together, Rivera said, but more than that, the churches like doing something together simultaneously. Rivera said that when he reports the results, they applaud the effort, saying, "Hey, this is what we did as all the Hispanic churches in the state."

Rivera sees momentum gaining with the effort. More churches are becoming involved and more people are being reached, he said. During the first year's efforts, 200 lost people attended the evangelistic events. This year, he hopes to see it exceed last year's count of 800. He says, "Since we've been doing it now for four years, it has become something that they have grown accustomed to doing." Now, he said, they send back the participation form right away, with the event they are planning.

Among the 2018 participating churches are three Clovis churches, Iglesia Bautista Maranatha, Iglesia Bautista Belen, and Iglesia Bautista El Calvario; six Las Cruces churches, Iglesia Bautista Agape, Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza, Primera Iglesia Bautista, Iglesia Bautista El Shaddai, Iglesia Bautista Unidos en Cristo, and Mesilla Valley Baptist Church; and four Albuquerque churches, Iglesia Bautista Nuevas Alturas, Iglesia Templo de Alabanza, Iglesia Cristiana Anhelo, and Iglesia Bautista Emanuel; as well as Betesda Comunidad Cristiana (Anthony); Primera Iglesia Bautista (Dexter); Iglesia Celebración Cristiana (Hobbs); Iglesia Hermosa (Santa Fe); Iglesia Bautista Bethel (Lovington); Iglesia Bautista El Divino Salvador (Portales); Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel (Santa Teresa); Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza (Deming); Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Testamento; Portales); and Primera Iglesia Bautista (Silver City).


This article appeared in the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com/bnm), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Kevin Parker is editor of the Baptist New Mexican.

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Ill. churches accept

'Pioneering Spirit Challenge'

By Eric Reed

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Just three months into the new year, 115 churches have accepted the Pioneering Spirit Challenge. That's more than halfway to IBSA's 2018 goal of 200 or more churches. But for those churches the work is just beginning.

The Pioneering Spirit Challenge, timed to coincide with Illinois' bicentennial year, seeks to bring frontier fortitude to Baptist work today. Our forebears lived in trying times, meeting danger head-on, and forging a new state. Many of them brought solid Christian faith to the hard-won territory, and many of those first Illinoisans were Baptists.

If the concepts of wilderness, lostness and battle seem familiar, it's because they describe our spiritual frontier today -- 200 years later.

"It will take as much courage for today's believers to bring the Gospel to the millions in our cities, suburbs and crossroads communities as it did for first founders to carve out those communities starting at the time of statehood," said Van Kicklighter, IBSA's associate executive director for church planting. "Winning over wilderness has gotten no easier in 200 years."

"We have been encouraged by how many pastors and churches are taking this commitment -- and the critical challenge to advance the Gospel in our perilous times -- seriously."

Against the reality of at least 8 million lost people in Illinois, Pioneering Spirit engages IBSA churches in church planting, baptisms, missions giving and leadership development.

Kicklighter and his team have identified 200 locations in Illinois in need of an evangelical church. So far, 82 churches have accepted the challenge to "Go new places," praying for or partnering with a new church plant.

In addition, 111 churches have said they will "Engage new people," taking steps to increase their church's annual baptisms. The "One GRAND Sunday" emphasis on April 8, to encourage 1,000 baptisms statewide, is one aspect of this "engagement." It is led by Pat Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism.

Another 66 churches said they will "Make new sacrifices," by increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program. And 111 churches will "Develop new leaders," preparing tomorrow's pastors, missionaries and church leaders to continue the work in the decades ahead.

In all, 115 churches accepted one or more of the challenges since the Pioneering Spirit initiative was announced at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November.

"We have been encouraged by how many pastors and churches are taking this commitment -- and the critical challenge to advance the gospel in our perilous times -- seriously," said Kicklighter.

One example in the church planting area: Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City has taken on the challenge of planting a church in Carroll County. That is one of 10 counties in Illinois with no Southern Baptist congregation. Pastor David Starr told Kicklighter that his church began praying about making the commitment after seeing IBSA's "blue map" that illustrates lostness in the state.

To learn more about the four Pioneering Spirit challenges, and to register a church's commitment to one or more of them, visit PioneeringSpirit.org. Together, we will:

-- Go new places -- praying for or partnering with a new church plant.

-- Engage new people -- taking steps to increase your church's annual baptisms.

-- Make new sacrifices -- increasing missions giving through the Cooperative Program.

-- Develop new leaders -- preparing tomorrow's pastors, missionaries, and church leaders.


This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Eric Reed is associate executive director of church communications for the Illinois Baptist States Association.

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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 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.

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