FROM THE STATES: Georgia, Texas, Kentucky ministry news; 'When you care for people's needs it opens doors to share ...'

Today's From the States features items from:

The Christian Index (Georgia)

Southern Baptist TEXAN

Western Recorder (Kentucky)

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Mobilizing Georgia Baptists for such a time as this

By Scott Barkley

DULUTH, Ga. (Christian Index) -- On Monday morning Lorna Bius paused in writing a response to an Atlanta-area school.

Lorna Bius, left, talks with Beth Ann Williams at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth. Bius serves as Mission Georgia mobilizer through and under Georgia Baptist Women, of which Williams is lead strategist.
Photo by Scott Barkley/Index
They had students who were homeless. Some were pregnant. Others were part of the 15,000 children in the state's foster system. A school representative had heard Georgia Baptists could help.

"The social worker assigned to them is overwhelmed," says Bius, who serves as Mission Georgia mobilizer. "It's a place where churches can get involved."

This has been Bius' sweet spot for nearly 15 years – helping churches identify the needs in their community and get off the sideline to address the issue. It started long ago as a participant with Girls in Action and learning about the 10/40 window, the area of the world with little to no access to the Gospel. That desire continued to grow as a youth ministry leader in her native Valdosta at Northside Baptist Church as well as First Baptist Cuthbert and Pleasant Grove in Americus.

In 2005, Bius took a one-way ticket to Reno, Nevada for a missions leadership position with the Nevada Baptist Convention. Her assignment? Help churches begin local ministries in an area where less than 4 percent of the population identified as evangelicals.

"God has for quite awhile been weaving in my heart a love for the local church," she told The Index.

During her time in youth ministry in Americus, Bius witnessed the power of collaboration between several churches and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Georgia Southwestern State University, then under the direction of campus minister Marshall Kerlin, to reach students.

"I learned cooperation is a powerful tool of community importance," she says. "In my career I've seen how several smaller churches working together can make a bigger impact than a large one working alone."

Flip the script

A flag screaming "Zags!" on her door welcomes visitors to Bius' office at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth.

Bius became a fan of the Gonzaga University basketball team in the 2000s when living in Nevada. Though somewhat of a recognized power now, Gonzaga at the time was a bunch of scrappy upstarts who made a habit of beating larger, more recognized schools. In time, they changed the expectation that this private university of around 5,000 students in Spokane, Washington couldn't do big things.

It mirrors the script Bius wants to help write. No church is too small nor congregation too remote to be a part of Mission Georgia.

At the annual meeting in Fayetteville in November, guests joined executive director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., on the stage at New Hope Baptist Church to tell their story. Each had been personally impacted by Georgia Baptist involvement toward fighting human trafficking, foster and adoption care, pre- and post-natal care, ministering to refugees, and promoting literacy -- the five areas of focus for Mission Georgia.

Helping churches connect with their neighbors in ministry, and then seeing that open into Gospel opportunities, strengthens Bius' resolve of the power in the local church.

"So many times out West I saw communities built up from a Christian foundation," she says. "It's happening [in Georgia]. When you care for people's needs it opens doors to share and invest in their greatest need, spiritual."

Bius served from 2005-2012 with the Nevada Baptist Convention before being named a NAMB national missionary. That change effectively placed her over 13 states in the West. Three years ago she moved to Georgia and joined Clarkston International Bible Church, remaining a NAMB missionary working with refugees. While no longer a part of NAMB since joining the Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff, she remains an active part of her church's ministry.

So many times out West I saw communities built up from a Christian foundation. It's happening [in Georgia].

Establishing a relational beachhead through service opens up opportunities to share the Gospel, she asserts.

"This lines up with biblical justice," Bius claims. "God wants His kingdom peace to be evident through every conversation. We know we live in a broken world and biblical justice pursues the restoration of His goodness."

Most impressive trait

Beth Ann Williams, lead strategist for Georgia Baptist Women, immediately thought of one person when approached by Hammond on suggestions for who could effectively mobilize Georgia Baptists for Mission Georgia.

"The name that came to my mind was Lorna Bius," Williams told those gathered for the GBC Executive Committee meeting preceding the annual gathering last week. "I thought, 'Gosh, if we can get Lorna to come and be a part of the Mission Board staff that would be a huge win.'"

Williams' time as executive director for WMU in Utah overlapped Bius' time in Reno. As such, Williams was familiar with Bius' work. And while her skills in mobilizing churches is assured, it's not what impresses Williams the most.

"It's her love for the Lord and calling for ministry," she testifies. "In Nevada she saw how a few churches working together could make a great impact. She spent ten years doing that."

Mission Georgia, admits Bius, is still in somewhat of a conceptual phase. Next year will involve a lot of "laying out the runway" through training events and helping churches assess ministry opportunities near them.

One false narrative Bius hopes to eliminate is that churches can't partner with other groups to address a need. The Atlanta school from earlier is a perfect example. The situations faced there are real, and staff at that institution are looking for a partner.

They need help in flipping the script for their students.

"There is an opportunity to engage with community partners in a more intentional way … and Gospel transformation in a community will not happen without the local church," Bius says. "The guest speakers for the Mission Georgia report at the annual meeting showed the potential for it.

"This isn't just a concept. It's happening. God is at work in the darkest places."

For more information, email Bius or call (770) 936-5326.


This article appeared in the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Scott Barkley is editor of the Christian Index.

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Texas church plant reaching souls, strengthening families

By Erin Roach

CYPRESS, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- As God was nudging Joseph Ogletree toward church planting, he also was burdening Ogletree about the need in today's culture for strong families. A result of that dual vision is Image Church in Cypress, a new congregation partnering with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Joseph Ogletree, pastor of Image Church in Cypress, and his wife, Sherrell, with their three sons: Jaiden, Josiah and Jaxon, ages 12, 10 and 6.
Submitted photo
About four years ago, "God really started putting on my heart church planting and family," Ogletree said. Beginning with telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, "the family was essential to God's advancement of his will," he said.

Yet families today are broken. "In order to restore that, we believe that the gospel is a great place to start," Ogletree said.

He started talking with mentors about possibilities and ended up serving in a residency program at CityView Church in Pearland. "That's how I got connected with Southern Baptists," Ogletree said.

"God gave me some clarity of the vision," he said. "I learned more about church planting, and in November 2016, we were officially sent by CityView, and we just basically had small group Bible study for an entire year."

During that year, God sent people to form the core team, and Image Church launched in October 2017.

"Our mission was always centered around the family and growing the family of God," Ogletree said. "We centralize it on two aspects: making disciples and building families. That's been our mission since day one."

Much like its attention to the family, the church's name came from Genesis.

"God made us in his image. We are to be the image bearers of God," Ogletree said. "In Colossians, Paul said that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. Wherever we go, we are to be the image bearers of Christ. We are his representatives on the earth."

The predominantly African American congregation meets at Black Elementary School in Cypress and averages about 75 people. Though the journey is still new, lives have been changed already, Ogletree said.

"One that comes to mind is a guy who's really just blossomed and grown. He shares that he was lost and he didn't know how to be a man and lead his family. His marriage was not in the best place. He and his wife came to us, and he got connected, and now he's serving. He's leading our men's ministry, and he smiles every Sunday," Ogletree said. "His testimony is about how the church has changed his life.

"It keeps you going, stories like that."

Ogletree is a bivocational pastor, retaining his full-time software sales job while serving as a church planter. His secular career gives him opportunities to share his faith, he said.

"I'm in customers' offices. I get to demonstrate to everyone who I am as a believer, my journey. From that aspect, I really enjoy the bivocational role," Ogletree said.

At the same time, being a bivocational pastor is "extremely difficult" because of time constraints. He and his wife, Sherrell, have three sons: Jaiden, Josiah and Jaxon, ages 12, 10 and 6.

"Family is my first ministry, so I do my best to cut out time for family and be available to them, be at football games and basketball games and have our time. I try to make sure ministry and work doesn't interfere with that," Ogletree said.

Ogletree is thankful for the relationships he has developed in the SBTC and the resources available. "They're very missions-minded, and that's what our church needs," he said, adding that he appreciates that the convention is supportive of Image Church's vision.

He wants to encourage other church planters who have to work full time to provide for their families in addition to leading ministries.

"Maybe it's for a season, but it's where God has you and you've got to manage it to the best of your abilities," Ogletree said.

Interested in church planting? Contact Doug Hixson at the SBTC.


This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Erin Roach is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

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New Kentucky church born of two

By Alan Dodson

SOMERSET, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- On Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 the atmosphere of the room was mingled with excitement and apprehension. Two Somerset congregations -- Buena Vista and Faith-United -- had voted on officially merging to create a new church.

The two had been worshiping together on Sunday mornings for nearly two months. The "what-if" questions laid heavily on minds. However, when the vote count was announced, anxiety quickly melted into exhilaration. The congregations, like Peter in the New Testament, stepped out of the comforts of familiarity and onto the sea of the unknown by faith. They casted an overwhelmingly positive 93 percent vote to create the new Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Some would say for two churches to lay aside names, leadership and programs to form a new congregation is miraculous. Undoubtedly, Cornerstone formed through a mighty work of God. Pastor Jamie Taylor pursued it because he was prompted by the Lord. Lake Cumberland Association leader Tommy Floyd and I quickly joined him in prayer as we heard his vision. The lay leadership, workgroups and members from both congregations saturated the efforts in prayer. When God's people pray, great things happen. As scripture states in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect" (CSB).

Adding to the prayer efforts, Taylor and workgroups from both congregations labored many hours. An old saying attributed to Saint Augustine states, "Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you." Fervent prayer and hard work definitely joined hands in this effort.

Among the many tasks that had to be accomplished leading up to the vote were working through legal issues, developing a new constitution and bylaws, choosing a name and putting together a leadership structure. Under Taylor's devoted, steady leadership, the tasks were accomplished, and a formal plan was developed. The plan included articles of merger that clearly indicated how the new church would function and use merged resources when they launched.

Taylor points out that the KBC resource, For the Kingdom's Sake, blessed and guided the effort. He said that the book is "full of great insights" and is thankful for it.

For the Kingdom's Sake is a simple five-chapter book with two appendices. It was written by KBC's regional consultant group in 2017. In the first chapter, I present the biblical foundations that are important to guide a church that is considering making a major change such as merging with another congregation.

Chapter 2 was written by Rick Howerton, and it addresses the potential for kingdom impact available to churches considering different forms. He states, "One of the most important goals of every church is to impact God's kingdom. That is, to establish the kingdom of God in the location where the church exists and to establish the kingdom of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of every believer."

Larry Purcell deals with emotional barriers in chapter 3. He points out that when churches make decisions such as merging, there are emotional implications that should not be overlooked. "Significant decisions ask us not only to be aware of emotional barriers, but to account for them as we navigate God's will and direction for the future of our church buildings and ministry." He provides a helpful guide for navigating emotional barriers.

The church merger, legacy church, restart, multi-site, multi-use and sale of property and donation kingdom works are options explored by Alan Witham in chapter 4. He presents these options in detail and admonishes the reader to "prayerfully consider which of these options may be God's plan for you."

In chapter 5, Rob Patterson exhibits how to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones when churches consider options regarding their futures. He notes that while there are blockades to be navigated around, "compelling stories of successful mergers, replants or legacy churches are inspiring an ever-increasing number of churches to courageously take the risk for the sake of significant kingdom growth."

Appendix 1 includes a case study of a church that gave its facilities as a legacy and a case study of two churches that successfully merged. In the second appendix, Paul Badgett explains how to deal with the legal issues inherent in such changes.

Pastor Jamie Taylor and his congregation expressed their gratitude for the help and resources of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Taylor urges churches across the commonwealth to use resources such available to them such as For the Kingdom's Sake.

On Sunday, Sept. 15, the newly-formed Cornerstone Baptist Church enjoyed a wonderful afternoon service of celebration. The service included video greetings from myself and Todd Gray, KBC executive director-treasurer; remarks from associational leader Tommy Floyd and a timely sermon from Western Recorder interim managing editor Chip Hutcheson. This new church had much to celebrate. Since coming together it has conducted VBS, a weekday workers' lunch open to workers in Somerset and a door-hanger blitz throughout the city. God has blessed the church to witness three baptisms and six other membership additions. To God be the glory, great things He has done!


This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Alan Dodson is regional consultant, South Region, for the Kentucky 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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