FROM THE STATES: Ill., Ariz., Fla. evangelism/missions news; "... [T]he only way we're going to reach 8.5 million people ..."

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Today's From the States features items from:

Illinois Baptist

Portraits (Arizona)

Florida Baptist Convention

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Hundreds baptized in

Ill.'s 'One GRAND Month'

By Meredith Flynn

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- Pat Pajak gestures to a small piece of paper filled with neat script. Each line is the name of a different IBSA pastor or church that has called him to report baptisms in the month of April. On one car ride alone in the middle of the month, he talked to three leaders who were celebrating people who had come to faith in Christ and followed their decisions with baptism.

One GRAND Month, marked in churches around the state in April, was, in a word, grand. Churches reported more than 700 baptisms during the month, and Pajak is still getting reports. And churches are still baptizing. Several pastors have said the April emphasis on evangelism resulted in professions of faith and people wanting to be baptized.

"How in the world are we going to reach 8.5 million people?" Pajak knows the question is overwhelming, especially when estimates say the state has around a hundred times more people who don't know Christ than Southern Baptists.

If One GRAND Month did anything, he says, it alerted church members to the fact that people all around them are living without a relationship with Christ. "It's a daunting task if you allow Satan to convince you that it can't be done. You just say, 'Let's give up. Let's not try.'"

But hundreds of churches took up the challenge in April, baptizing 271 people on Easter Sunday and 443 the rest of the month, for a total of 714. Pajak notes that if IBSA churches baptized 700 people every month for a year, it would more than double the number of baptisms reported last year.

"It has alerted people to the necessity of sharing their faith, and that it's not just the pastor. He's one guy in a whole town. Think about what happens if 35 or 40 people decide, 'You know what, I can do that.'

"It's the only way we're going to reach 8.5 million people in Illinois."

Change of venue, change of hearts

On their first Sunday in a new building, Grace Church in Metropolis baptized two people in a donated cattle trough. A young man sitting in the congregation heard the invitation to respond to the Gospel and did so. He was baptized two weeks later, along with four others.

"We had a big ole day," said Pastor Chris Sielbeck, who started the church two years ago in the front room of his home.

Grace met at the Union Baptist Association office for more than a year, and had been praying about a building when Sielbeck began to focus on a place he passed every Sunday. On a day off from his job with the U.S. Postal Service, the pastor began to research the building he thought would be perfect for a church. A local CPA owned the building, and Sielbeck dropped in to ask whether the owner would consider allowing a church to meet there.

"We're a small church, we don't have any money, and I need it for free," Sielbeck pitched. "And he said, 'I can do that.'" The church baptized two people their first morning in the building, and one the next week. Plus five more on the first Sunday in May.

When Sielbeck went to a farm supply store to purchase a $300 trough for the baptism, he ran into a sales representative for the manufacturer in the parking lot. The rep followed him inside, where he gave Grace a generous gift. Standing at the register, Sielbeck remembered, the man said, "I'm going to buy that for that church."

'Jesus steps in'

At Marshall Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Paul Cooper baptized nine people in April. And five more on the first Sunday in May.

"It's not normal for us," said Cooper, whose church moved into a former Walmart building two years ago. "I think we had 15 baptisms for the year last year, and last year was higher than most years. Having 14 in basically a one-month period is pretty amazing."

Marshall is the last stop on Interstate 70 before you cross into Indiana. There aren't a lot of younger adults in the community, Marshall said, but several of the people baptized at his church the last few weeks are in their 20s. Michael Mattingly and Ranae Clements were baptized Easter Sunday. The engaged couple shared video of their baptisms on social media, celebrating their life transformation with family and friends.

Just weeks prior, Clements was a Christian who had moved away from the church and Mattingly doubted the existence of God. She attended a conference where her faith was reignited, and she also met a member of the Marshall church. Mattingly agreed to attend the church with his fiancé to be supportive. He arrived at church on the Sunday Cooper was set to preach "Jesus steps into your doubts."

"My whole sermon was about how it's okay to have doubts," Cooper said. "God will speak into that, and Jesus will show up."

When he gave the invitation at the end of the service, the pastor asked people who had prayed to receive Christ to raise their hands. Mattingly's was one of the hands raised. A few weeks later, on Easter, he and Clements were baptized.

"There's a sense of anticipation in the church," Cooper said. "God's doing things, and God's reaching people, and people just want to share that. A lot of our new people have gotten really excited, and then they share it, and it keeps kind of multiplying right now."

After he baptized Mattingly, Cooper asked if he wanted to say anything. The young man responded simply.

"Jesus is Lord."


This article appeared in the Illinois Baptist (illinoisbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

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Ariz. church intentional

about reaching seniors

By Lainee Pegelow

KINGMAN, Ariz. (Portraits) -- Just off historic Route 66 in the heart of downtown Kingman, you will find Oak Street Baptist Church. This church, like so much of the rest of old Route 66, may seem to be out of date and forgotten. However, this is not the case. God is moving, and this congregation is growing in amazing ways.

When Pastor Jerry Dunn and his wife, Lynda, arrived in May 2010, the congregation had dwindled to about 20 members.

Early on, the Dunns, and the remaining members, tried to reach out to the families in Kingman without much success. Then, following a discussion with Tommy Thomas, director of evangelism/missions for River Valley Association at that time, Dunn felt called to cast a vision to transform Oak Street Baptist Church into an active senior adult church.

"Once this vision was cast and captured, the congregation grew immediately," Dunn says.

The church has baptized 32 seniors between the ages of 65 and 92 who have come to know Christ.

Janet Fischer is one of them. At the age of 82, she had never been invited to church nor read the Bible and only knew Jesus as someone related to Christmas. She connected with the Oak Street community of believers and, following eight weeks of intentional evangelism, gave her life to Christ and was baptized.

Brenda Sorenson came to Kingman to reconnect with the sister she had been separated from since childhood. She bought a house across the street from her sister, a member of the church, and was welcomed with open arms into this community of believers. At age 72, Brenda gave her life to Christ and was baptized.

"It's never too late to give your life to Jesus," Sorenson says. "I felt welcomed and loved."

This congregation purposes to evangelize, disciple and grow leaders in their twilight years. At a time in life when many seniors feel left out or left behind, Oak Street's mission is to develop a church in which senior adults can grow, thrive and serve.

This congregation of 55- to 92-year-old retirees finds commonality in a love of the traditional hymns, old-style Biblical preaching and a love of missions.

"We have a Godly pastor who preaches the Bible and is not afraid to call sin, sin," says Deacon Bill Huffman. Bill's wife, Bobbie, says, "Our pastor is people driven; he cares about all of us."

The Huffmans learned about the church from an ad in the local newspaper inviting them to come.

Mission work is also at the heart of Oak Street Baptist Church. Last year, they gave $48,000 to missions, and members have served on two trips to Haiti.

Dunn says the greatest challenge faced as a church is "to be more Christlike and missions minded to those that are lost."

From all evidence, Oak Street Baptist Church is on the path of knowing Christ and making Him known in their corner of Arizona and the world.


This article appeared in Portraits, newsmagazine of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Lainee Pegelow, a freelance writer and photographer, is campus missionary and communications specialist for Christian Challenge and is a member of Challenge Church, Flagstaff.

Get Involved

--Oak Street Baptist Church identified their community and then tailored what they did to serve that community. Has your church studied your community and determined the best ways to reach it?

--Do you need help determining God's unique path for your church? Contact one of Arizona Southern Baptists' church life team facilitators — Keith Henry, keith@azsbc.org; Eddy Pearson, eddy@azsbc.org; or Keith Durham, kdurham@azsbc.org — to learn about the Church Unique vision pathway process.

--Pray for Oak Street Baptist Church, which will celebrate their 25th anniversary in November, to share Christ with seniors in their community and then to grow and disciple members through Biblical teaching.

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Fla. church plant

poised for growth

By Barbara Hoffmann

YULEE, Fla. (Florida Baptist Convention) -- Considered part of the Jacksonville metropolitan area, Yulee, in Nassau County, is the home of a new master-planned community called Wildlight. Developers plan to build 24,000 homes there in the near and distant future. Anticipating the upcoming growth, Callahan First Baptist Church, also in Nassau County, began praying about starting a church to reach the folks that would be moving into that development.

"While we have been a supporting church many times, Exchange Church campus is our first experience as a sending church," says Lynn Hyatt, Senior Pastor of Callahan First Baptist. And as a sending church they not only provided one of their own staff to be the church planter, but also sent out approximately 70 adults to assist in starting the new church. "From the beginning of this process we have seen God's confirmation we were following His direction," adds Pastor Hyatt, who has served at Callahan First Baptist for 40 years.

Todd Carr, who had served on staff as Student Pastor for 18 years at Callahan First Baptist, said that about two years ago he began to sense that God had something different for him to do. As the church began to pray about starting a campus in Yulee, he and his wife Robin went through the Church Planter Assessment offered by the North American Mission Board, which provided a "huge affirmation" to their call as church planters. "I can't thank the Florida Baptist Convention enough for taking us through that process," commented Carr. And Hyatt added that Pastor Carr "was the logical choice to instill the DNA of Callahan First Baptist in Exchange Church".

Exchange Church meets at Wildlife Elementary School where Pastor Carr calls his good partnership with the school a "God thing". The church hosts a monthly breakfast at the school through All-Pro Dads, a ministry that focuses on helping men become better fathers, and about 80-100 fathers attend the breakfast. School administrators at Wildlight have noticed that the program helps build confidence in a child when their dad takes time to come to breakfast.

Exchange Church has also cultivated a good relationship with the Wildlight town developers; they allowed the church to provide a musical team last December that presented both secular and faith-based songs at the Christmas festival held at the Wildlight Community Center.

Launching in January 2019, Exchange Church has been averaging well over 200 in weekly attendance. The church had their first baptism service on May 19, with Pastor Carr baptizing six new believers.

"Sending 70 adults, many of whom were in leadership roles at Callahan First Baptist, was a difficult step, but God has been faithful to raise up new leadership. This church plant is one of the most exciting opportunities God has given us in my 40 years here," shares Pastor Hyatt.


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

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EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, typically 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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