FROM THE STATES: Fla., N.M., Ark. evangelism/missions news; 'We're hoping ... our community will be drawn to our church'

Today's From the States features items from:

Florida Baptist Convention

Baptist New Mexican

Arkansas Baptist News

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Food trucks open

doors for Fla. church

By Keila Diaz

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee is using food trucks on Wednesday night as a way of engaging and building relationships with their community.

"You meet a lot of different kinds of individuals at food trucks," said Brooke Miley, missions ministry associate. "They offer a non-awkward opportunity to start a conversation with someone you might not get to talk to otherwise," added Josh Blight, community outreach pastor.

Tallahassee has a strong food truck culture. Food truck owners have even organized into associations and have robust social media followings. Everyday food trucks post where they will be located and people check on that and go grab food from the particular truck they're craving, said Miley.

"So we get people on our property who are not here for church but it gives us the opportunity for them to get to know us."

At Thomasville Road we are about uplifting and ministering to the community, said Blight. Their hope is that when someone in their community is looking for spiritual guidance or support they will turn to Thomasville Road. "Food trucks play into that because it gives us visibility," he said.

"You end up close to people as you're waiting for your food order and can start a conversation easily," said Blight. "You might open with 'Oh have you ordered that before? Is it good?' and build from there."

Also, food truck stops are set up in a way that strangers end up sharing a table to eat a meal together and that kind of setting is conducive to conversations and new relationships, added Blight.

As a college town, Tallahassee is also very diverse. Students come not only from other states but even from other countries. Sometimes they want a taste of their home countries or home states and food trucks tend to satisfy those cravings with diverse menu options. It might not be exactly the kind of food from their specific country, said Blight, but it's close enough to where it reminds them of home.

On a typical Wednesday night there will be between 100 and 150 individuals buying food at the trucks. That number includes church folks there for Wednesday night service as well as those just there for the food trucks.

"It's not just good for the people who come buy the food but it also helps local business owners," said Miley, giving them visibility and space to do business.

For a church wishing to start a similar service, Blight suggests first checking to see if there are any food truck associations in their area. And for those places where food trucks are not popular, he suggests integrating whatever mobile food service is popular. In some places for example, barbequing in parking lots is popular and the church can work to integrate that.

"Be open, honest and clear with the business you'll be working with," he said. "Let them know what your goals are and what you expect from them."

While still a very new community missions endeavor, Miley has big hopes. "We're hoping that with consistency our community will be drawn to our church."


This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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N.M. church aims to make

every member a missionary

By Kevin Parker

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Baptist New Mexican) -- Primera Iglesia Bautista, Las Cruces, sits near the center of its city. Violence is increasing in the area. Instead of considering relocation to a more favorable place, the church's pastor said, "We have an opportunity to stop the trend toward violence." Pastor David Serrano came to pastor the Spanish congregation approximately 18 months ago. From his perspective, the solution for the community is "Jesus in their hearts." More than speaking pastorally, Serrano has a plan and is guiding the church to change people.

As a shift from meeting to fellowship and to conduct Bible studies and services just because Sunday has returned, the church has altered its ministries. As part of the alterations, Serrano helped the church launch its Bible Institute. The Institute consists of 18 seminary-style courses gleaned from several seminary programs. Church members, through the Institute, can complete three courses each year by attending Sunday morning classes in place of Sunday School. Each course is three months long. Through the Institute, the church hopes to train every member to be a missionary.

The Institute is part of a larger strategy for Primera. The church continually invites its community to Tae Kwon Do and gymnastics programs. They also offer a music school and are launching an art school. Each effort has grown since its inception. Strategically, the church wants people to come to the classes, meet the church, meet Jesus, be discipled and enroll in the Institute. Eventually, those people will be missionaries to the community, the state, and the world, Serrano said.

The church also has a sequential plan for children being raised in the church. Using LifeWay's Gospel Project curriculum, the church teaches children the whole Bible with a Gospel focus. When they are done, they will be old enough to begin the Institute. Once the complete the Institute, at roughly at age 21 or 22, those young adults will be ready to take on leadership in the church in many capacities, according to Serrano. That, he said, is the church's goal.

There is also a plan for adults who become Christians. Before those individuals enter the Institute courses, the church has prepared three classes that offer a year of mentored disciple making. The church uses a new believers class, The Purpose Driven Life and Experiencing God as the material for that first year.

Serrano has already helped one church implement a similar training program. In Juarez, Mexico, he helped his church begin and operate an Institute for nine years before he left for Las Cruces. During that time, that congregation's Institute produced five pastors and three missionaries. The church also planted six other churches.

When Serrano left, the main church had about 150 in attendance and the other churches has approximately 60 each, he said. He noted that the home church found planting other congregations easier because the leadership for the new churches already existed inside the church family. "They were our people, not outsiders," he said. He has similar aims for the Las Cruces congregation.

The Institute's courses reflect Serrano's seminary experience. Classes like Old Testament survey (2 courses), New Testament survey (2 courses), hermeneutics, theology, spiritual gifts, church planting, small group ministry, and others sound very little like standard fare from denominational publishing houses. The approach is unique, but works for the church. Serrano said that the church wants its members to develop a theological way of thinking and to know what they believe.

Theology, though important, is only part of the Institute's offerings. Courses also include practical application with mentors who already practice their ministry area. Participants also take tests and do homework. At the end of a course, each one receives a grade. A graduation is also planned. Serrano says members like the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that their work and studying is taking them toward a particular goal. He said the church's previous approach of Sunday School had no such goals or sense of achievement and growth.

The church offers three courses at once, each having ten students or less. The course instructors teach the same course three times in a year, honing it as they go. The church has just finished Old Testament II, a new believers class, and Evangelism. Each course is designed so the material becomes practical. Serrano said the teachers want to "make it something you do."

Approximately 25 students are involved in courses right now. Four teachers are either teaching courses or preparing to teach. Serrano said the teachers, church members, are growing, too, and are really excited about what they are doing.

Some members are not involved in the Institute, Serrano explained. He said that implementing the new approach had some resistance. The church has retained at least one Sunday School class for those not desiring the more school-like approach. Serrano was honest about the journey. Some people wanted to go another direction. But, he said, the institute is "working really good.

One Institute student told Serrano, "Now, I feel that I'm really learning." He said that he liked being able to see that there is a plan. Another man, after taking the evangelism course, said, "I want to serve and share the Gospel." Serrano is helping him to do that. People in the spiritual gifts course enjoyed discovering their gifts and learning how to use them, he said. Likewise, some men taking a cults course immediately saw how the class material applied to situations they faced with friends in the community.

Serrano believes the church can change the trajectory of its inner city area. He also believes the church's Institute is an important component of the journey toward having that impact.


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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Ark. Baptist pastors,

staff pray for revival

By Sarah Davis

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News) -- "God wants your church to be the single most influential mover in the community, but that only comes through prayer," Bill Elliff, senior teaching and lead pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, told more than 300 pastors and ministers gathered for the fifth statewide prayer gathering Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27-28, at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Elliff, who served as facilitator of the event, added, "(And) that only comes through connecting with God. Prayer brings God into the equation."

The annual gathering, hosted by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) and planned by the Task Force on Revival and Spiritual Awakening, included focused prayer on different issues, including church life, the next generation and the nation.

Speakers included Steven Smith, senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock; Gregg Greenway, lead pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Stuttgart; Zac Reno, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Saline County; Todd West, directional pastor of Oasis Church in North Little Rock, and Don Pucik, senior pastor of Wynne Baptist Church.

"If we want to do the works Jesus did, it's only possible if we do it the way Jesus did," said Pucik. "Jesus never took the initiative or depended on Himself, but God supplied Him with what He needed through prayer."

In a session focused on the next generation, a forum of youth pastors discussed issues students face today, including false narratives and identities, acceptance of sin and use of pornography.

The forum consisted of Kyle Fowler, student pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock; Luke Harper, student pastor of Cross Church in Fayetteville; Bill Newton, student pastor of First Baptist Church in Hot Springs, and Chris Roller, student pastor of First Baptist Church in Rogers.

"My prayer is for modern day Josiahs to rise up," said Harper. "Josiah was 16 years old and decided to follow the God of his father, David. He is one of the greatest kings of Judah, and we need students like him."

Another forum focused on God's work in the Arkansas Delta and the racial tension that still exists today. Forum speakers included Jarvis Smith, pastor of Second Baptist Church in West Helena; Chanson Newborn, pastor of Fellowship Community Church in Forrest City; and Willie Jacobs, church planting strategist for the ABSC.

"People need to see unity in the body of Christ. They need to see Anglo-Saxon and African American churches working together," said Newborn.

Jacobs noted that understanding and respect are the way to reach people in the Delta and to overcome the racist atmosphere.

"We need to understand that we have different cultures, and we need to respect those cultures," said Jacobs. "You don't know the struggles that are in a different culture. The culture is not what you see on your TV or in movies. We need cultural training."

The gathering ended with Elliff giving five tips to build a culture of prayer in churches: 1) Develop a sustainable rhythm of unceasing prayer; 2) Use the church-wide app called PrayerLOFT; 3) Emphasize prayer annually; 4) Develop citywide movements of prayer, and 5) Pray about prayer.

"If you don't prepare to pray, you literally are preparing not to pray," Elliff said to close the gathering.


This article appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Sarah Davis writes for 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 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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