FROM THE STATES: Ala., Okla. and La. evangelism/missions news; 'We want to get to every county'
Today's From the States features items from: The Alabama Baptist; Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma); Baptist Message (Louisiana)
circling Alabama with prayer
MONGOMERY, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- "Everybody needs prayer and everybody needs revival."
Phillip Cook said he knows that to be true and for the past several years as he's been riding around Alabama on his Harley Davidson he's felt a burden for that to start right here.
So this year for the months of June, July and August, he and other members of F.A.I.T.H. Riders Alabama will circle the perimeter of the state on motorcycles, praying for churches, pastors and communities and asking God to bring revival.
"We don't want it to stop there but to begin there," said Cook, state coordinator for F.A.I.T.H. Riders Alabama and a member of Enon Baptist Church, Montevallo. "We want this to be something this ministry consistently does. We want to encourage pastors and church people and show them we care and that God cares."
The plan consists of using the men and women of the 30 local F.A.I.T.H. Riders chapters throughout the state to cover specific regions on the map. F.A.I.T.H. Riders, a Florida-born motorcycle ministry that migrated into Alabama more than a decade ago, focuses solely on sharing the Gospel through practical ministry. It's in the name itself -- F stands for forgiveness, A for available (forgiveness is available), I for impossible (it is impossible to please God on our own), T for turn (from sin) and H for heaven.
Chapters will work to cover 150- to 200-mile stretches of road around the perimeter of the state.
Robert Rhodes, pastor of Cottonton Baptist Church in Russell Baptist Association and national F.A.I.T.H. Riders chaplain, says the heart of the effort comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14.
"God has told us that 'if My people will humble themselves and pray, seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land,'" Rhodes said. "Our Alabama chapters of F.A.I.T.H. Riders believe our state can lead the way for healing here and around the country."
While the project will begin on the state's perimeter, it will not end there. Cook said after the perimeter is covered, the organization will begin working through its local chapters to cover the interior of the state.
"We want people to know we are taking this seriously," Cook said. "We want to get to every county and as many Southern Baptist churches as we can. We want to meet as many pastors and church members as we can. We want them to know when we are going to be in their area so we can pray for them and with them. There's something very encouraging about experiencing another brother or sister in Christ praying with you."
Mike Stewart, national director of F.A.I.T.H. Riders, said it is only through prayer that meaningful ministry can take place.
Catching the vision
"The primary focus of this incredible motorcycle ministry is evangelism, but without prayer and the support of local pastors and churches our ministry would not be effective," he said. "This vision and outreach in Alabama will set the standard for the other 28 states with F.A.I.T.H. Riders chapters. We pray that other states will catch this vision and follow in Alabama's tracks."
Anyone is welcome to join the ride this summer, Cook said.
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
By Katie Gilbert
OKLAHOMA CITY (Baptist Messenger) -- Mission trips can play a vital role in spiritual formation in young individuals. GoStudents is just one way the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) supports churches in making missions a priority in students' lives throughout Oklahoma.
GoStudents is an organization founded on the belief that God is raising up a generation to complete the task of sharing Christ with a lost world. GoStudents is a tool used to help students embrace an "onmission" lifestyle.
"We believe that every student should experience a mission trip in their key developmental years," BGCO Student Ministries Specialist and GoStudents Director Brian Baldwin said.
GoStudents has sent young people from churches all over Oklahoma to places like Canada, Portugal, Latvia, East Asia and many more places across the globe, mobilizing the Good News of the Gospel using the strategy of creating awareness of unreached, unengaged people groups. By equipping students for readiness through education and training in the Gospel, students are then equipped to go in obedience to be witnesses throughout the earth.
In 2018, Oklahoma students will have the opportunity to participate in a GoStudent's project within Oklahoma state lines.
"Though it is important to go to the ends of the earth to engage the unreached nations with the Gospel, it is every bit as important to engage our own state," Baldwin said.
Oklahoma has been added as a destination to the GoStudents projects and will include three opportunities for students to reach out in the Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Lawton areas.
Allowing access to mission opportunities in Oklahoma will allow more students to embrace the "onmission" lifestyle that GoStudents encourages youth to adopt.
Many times a reason a student cannot attend a mission trip is do to the cost of travel. Baldwin said this won't be a reason students can't serve with GoStudents Oklahoma.
"These opportunities will have scholarships available for those who can't pay the registration fee," Baldwin said.
The Oklahoma mission projects will allow an opportunity for churches to engage their students in mission opportunities in places which they are familiar.
"Entire youth groups can participate freeing up the youth leader to spend more time with students instead of the time-consuming tasks of preparing mission trips," Baldwin said.
"Churches can also simply send individual or clusters of students and know they are in good hands."
The three Oklahoma mission trips are open to middle school and high school students grades sixth through 12th. College students and adults are encouraged to attend as leaders on any of the trips.
On July 7-11, students will work in the Tulsa area with the Mobile Missions Network, which is a ministry outreach that serves mobile home communities through various activities. Mobile Missions Network works to take the Church to the people in mobile homes and surrounding communities through several forms of outreach.
"Through block parties, kids Bible clubs, and other creative ministries students will get to share the good news of Jesus in Tulsa," Baldwin said.
On July 14-18, GoStudents will serve with Mission Norman as a part of the Oklahoma City mission trip. Students will assist Mission Norman in the metro area, fulfilling physical needs of people, allowing the opportunity for spiritual needs to be met.
"Students will work in apartment complexes, carnivals, VBS, serving the needy and more, all while sharing the Gospel," Baldwin said.
On July 20-24, in Lawton, GoStudents will join forces with M28 Ministries. M28 Ministries is an organization that is based on Matthew 28, known as the "Great Commission." M28 is a not for profit ministry established in 2011 to serve native pastors and ministry partners in the U.S., South Asia and "wherever God leads us," that demonstrates the love of Jesus Christ by serving people from all walks of life.
"In Lawton we will be serving by meeting the needs of the homeless, canvasing communities, and hosting block parties," Baldwin said.
Everyone involved in the Oklahoma projects are strongly encouraged to attend the GoStudents Training Retreat. This retreat will also provide information about GoStudents trips to Portland, Seattle, Canada, Belize, Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Cambodia and East Asia. Training will be at Oklahoma City, Eagle Heights on April 7. The training retreat will help equip all students including those participating in these Oklahoma mission trips.
"Please spread the word and help impact our state and the spiritual formation of teenagers across Oklahoma this summer," Baldwin said.
All Oklahoma projects will cost $165. At all locations, participants are expected to bring adequate bedding because they will be lodging at churches.
Student ministries or small groups of individual students interested in attending a GoStudent's project Oklahoma mission trips should apply at GoStudents.org/apply by April 2. For further GoStudents information contact Brian Baldwin at email@example.com or call 405/942-3800 Ext. 4683.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Bapgist General Convention of Oklahoma. Katie Gilbert is a BGCO multimedia technician.
Baptism service ignites
La. church's revival
By Brian Blackwell
MONROE, La. (Baptist Message) -- The front lawn of New Hope Baptist Church in Monroe was the scene for a special baptism service last August that served as a visible witness for friends and family, and also for motorists who passed by.
One by one, each of the nine new believers stepped into a horse trough filled with cold water on a hot summer Sunday afternoon, to publicly restate his or her individual faith in Christ by being baptized.
"Everyone was gathered together, singing praises to the Lord for all the things He did that day," said Gray, winner of the 2017 Exemplary Bi-vocational Pastor of the Year for the North region. "It was really cool for people to pass by and see what was going on -- to see entire generations baptized together, from age 10 to 65, was something I never will forget."
The baptism service signifies a personal revival New Hope Baptist has experienced since Gray's arrival in April 2017.
When Gray became pastor of New Hope Baptist, the Sunday morning worship service attendance averaged 30 and baptisms were a rarity, according to church records. Eleven months later, attendance for worship services has more than tripled, and 16 new converts have participated in baptism.
"The people here were so hungry for the Word," said Gray, who previously served as pastor of Harmony Baptist Church in Delhi from August 2013 to March 2017. "They got on fire when I came. My family and the church family came together and started appreciating what God was doing so much. It was and still is a move of God."
Movement of prayer
Gray credits prayer as a factor for the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of the congregation.
Not long after he arrived at New Hope Baptist, Gray designated an area in the church building as a prayer room. He then established men's and women's prayer teams.
Gray said before God could revive the church, the congregation had to participate in a season of prayer.
"There is a huge untapped power in prayer," he said. "Prayer is a communication with God. Communication is essential for any relationship, and it's not different with God. When you don't communicate, you drift away from that relationship. We have to communicate with Him on a daily basis."
Much like prayer moved the church to a deeper love for Christ and their community, it also was instrumental in Gray embracing his call to ministry in 2002.
During a visit in the office of the late Joe Senn -- who died in 2016 while serving as pastor of Crockett Point Baptist Church in Crowville -- the two men participated in a prayer session.
Among Gray's prayer requests was regaining a passion for God he had as a young adult.
Senn responded by anointing Gray's forehead with oil and praying God would change his heart.
"From that moment on, I was on fire for God," Gray said. "Everywhere I went I wanted to tell them about the experience I had.
"God called me into the ministry when I was younger, but I let several years pass before I was obedient to accept the call," he continued. "I didn't feel like I was the right fit and didn't feel like I knew enough about the Bible. Looking back I knew it was a true calling but I put off being obedient."
Though he didn't pastor a church until nine years after his prayer meeting with Senn, Gray began teaching Sunday school at Crockett Point Baptist. The leadership position provided Gray with valuable experience in the areas of discipleship and teaching the Bible.
Gray believed that when the time was right, God would call Him to serve as pastor of a church.
Moment of ministry
Gray preached his first sermon in 2011, after he received an invitation to supply the pulpit at West New Home Baptist Church in Holly Ridge. He soon assumed the role of interim pastor until Harmony Baptist Church in Delhi called him as pastor two years later.
"After the congregation asked me back that Sunday night, God provided a place for me to preach every Sunday from that day forward," Gray said. "I preached and really started to love what God called me to."
When he is not performing his duties at pastor of New Hope Baptist, Gray can be found patrolling the highways and bi-ways of Franklin Parish as a deputy sheriff.
While the job requires long hours and managing difficult, sometimes dangerous, situations, Gray is thankful how the job allows him to use the secular job as an avenue to show Christ's love.
"I have the opportunity to minister everywhere I go," he said. "God has been so good that he's given me a job where I take my pastoral gifts with me, right here in my own Jerusalem."
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.
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.