Archives For witnessing

Eclipse through glasses

As eclipse-watchers turned their eyes to the skies Monday, Aug. 21, much of the attention in Illinois was focused on the southern part of the state, where several communities laid in the eclipse’s “path of totality.” In Carbondale, just north of the point of longest duration for the total eclipse, churches worked together to share the gospel with thousands of people who traveled to the region for the event.

“As we see this amazing event today that God has made, let’s point people to see the Son who paid for our sin so that we can have eternal life!” Pastor Scott Foshie posted on Facebook. Foshie, pastor of Steeleville Baptist Church and an IBSA zone consultant in southern Illinois, helped facilitate an area-wide evangelistic effort to hand out 50,000 eclipse-themed gospel tracts.

The churches of Nine Mile Baptist Association, working in partnership with IBSA, had the tracts printed and mobilized volunteers to get them into the hands of eclipse-viewers in a multi-day outreach effort. The tract was designed to serve as a souvenir of the eclipse experience. “This is going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever passed out in your life,” Lakeland Baptist Church Pastor Phil Nelson said in a video promoting the outreach.

“They’re coming to see this eclipse, but God wants them to meet his son Jesus…I can’t think of an easier way to tell somebody about Jesus,” Foshie said. “All you’ve got to do is smile, walk up to them, and say, ‘Would you like to have this souvenir? God bless you.’ I mean, it’s that simple, and then we’ve planted a gospel seed.”

In addition to the tracts, pray-ers were stationed at four points in Carbondale—Lakeland, Murdale Baptist Church, FBC Elkville, and the Baptist Student Center at Southern Illinois University. The volunteers, standing next to six-foot crosses, prayed for cars as they entered the city. It was estimated around 90,000 people would be in Carbondale for the eclipse.

Many churches in the region partnered together for the outreach, Foshie said. “It was encouraging to see so many jump in and respond to our call to partner with us to share the gospel. This kind of partnership to reach the lost is what led Southern Baptists to join together in cooperation, and it is what keeps our ties strong.”

Foshie had heard of a young woman in Goreville who gave her life to Christ after receiving the tract, and reported volunteers had also handed them out to crowds that gathered in Carbondale, Pinckneyville, Chester, Ellis Grove, Steeleville, and other places in southern Illinois.

“It has been so encouraging to see so many churches and pastors pull together to plant gospel seeds in this way. I think God has used this ministry to bring us closer together. No doubt, he will continue to use this increased cooperation and closeness to reach the lost for Christ in more ways in the future.”

-Meredith Flynn

totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com

totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com

When the sun goes dark Aug. 21, southern Illinois will be one of the best places to catch the first total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. since 1979. Churches in the region, along with others across the country, are planning to use the event as an opportunity to share the gospel.

Everyone in the contiguous U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, but the 70-mile-wide “path of totality,” in which a total eclipse will be visible, will pass through 14 states, including Illinois. Makanda, Ill., located just south of Carbondale, has been cited as the “greatest point of duration,” or the place where the eclipse will be visible the longest—2 minutes and 38 seconds, according to a city website devoted to sharing eclipse information.

Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale hosted an area-wide prayer and worship rally Aug. 14 to spiritually prepare for the influx of people. And Nine Mile Baptist Association, through a partnership with IBSA, plans to distribute 50,000 gospel tracts during the weekend prior to the eclipse. Additionally, people will be stationed at each of Carbondale’s four entry points to pray over every car that enters the city. “We want to cover our city in prayer,” said Lakeland Pastor Phil Nelson.

Elsewhere in the eclipse’s path, churches are utilizing the unique ministry opportunity to meet spiritual needs in their community—whether it’s inviting eclipse viewers to use their parking lots, or using the event to launch future ministries.

In Casper, Wyo., Mountain View Baptist Church and College Heights Baptist Church have partnered with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Central Wyoming to purchase copies of a DVD titled “God of Wonders,” which explains how creation reveals God and how salvation is available through Jesus Christ. Church members will distribute the DVDs during the eclipse along with 3,000 evangelistic bookmarks.

“Additionally,” Mountain View pastor Buddy Hanson said, “if our parking lot is utilized for eclipse watchers, we will take that opportunity to try and share the gospel.”
In Lincoln, Neb., the launch of Hope City, a North American Mission Board church plant, is set to correspond with the eclipse. The congregation’s first service is slated for Aug. 20. That day and during the eclipse, the church will distribute 2,000 “college survival kits” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., will host a gospel concert on Sunday, Aug. 20, and is inviting people to watch the eclipse from their parking lots the next day. “We have already handed out over 4,000 eclipse viewing glasses and have several hundred more for those needing them,” said Executive Pastor Bruce Raley.

Beginning just after 10 a.m. local time in Lincoln Beach, Ore., the total eclipse will take approximately an hour and a half to pass over Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Viewers are strongly encouraged to wear eclipse glasses or other protective eyewear.

– From Baptist Press, with additional reporting by the Illinois Baptist

Five to thrive

Lisa Misner Sergent —  November 30, 2015

IBSA Annual MeetingSpiritual results aren’t always easy to measure. And they certainly can’t be humanly manufactured. But one metric that can be at least an indicator of God’s Spirit at work, and of thriving spiritual health in churches, is baptisms. Healthy churches should consistently see new believers born into the Kingdom of God and united into church fellowship.

For the past several years, IBSA churches have reported right around 5,000 baptisms per year. But when the 2014 Annual Church Profiles from IBSA churches were compiled earlier this year, the total had dropped to just over 4,500.

There were a few extenuating circumstances in 2014, and I hope the total will be back up this year. But this stable-to-declining baptism rate has led our staff at IBSA to ask, “Is there anything we should do differently?”

Those discussions led us to some research. And we discovered that, while only the Holy Spirit can convict people of their need for Christ, churches that consistently baptize new believers are often engaging in one or more of the following five, seed-sowing commitments.

Vacation Bible School. 43% of Americans come to Christ before age 13, and 64% before age 18. An evangelistic VBS is still one of the most effective ways to reach children, and their families, with the gospel.

Witness Training. While most born-again adults believe they have a responsibility to share their faith with others, only 52% have done so within the past year, and 31% say they “never” evangelize. Churches that are seeing people come to faith in Christ equip their members with a variety of strategies and tools for sharing their faith story. And they create an atmosphere of encouragement, accountability, and celebration within the church that makes it “normal” to talk about how and with whom members are sharing their faith each week.

Outreach Events. Some Christians are confrontational evangelists like Peter and Paul. But many are natural “bringers” like Andrew. Churches that baptize new believers regularly have worship services that are accessible and truly inviting to guests each week. But they also provide multiple outreach events throughout the year such as block parties, concerts, fall festivals, or even service projects. These give their members natural opportunities to invite friends and family to meet other Christians and feel welcome at church.

New Groups. Whether it’s a new Sunday school class, new home groups, or new ministries such as mother’s day out or men’s service group, new groups can give a church multiple settings in which personal, evangelistic relationships can grow. Each new group can be a new bridge across which the gospel may flow, and across which new believers can enter the Kingdom of God.

Evangelistic Prayer. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more than 95% of those who accept Jesus as savior report that they were regularly prayed for by someone else for a significant amount of time prior to their salvation. An intentional, evangelistic prayer strategy may be the single most important commitment a church can make toward seeing people come to Christ. It is prayer that sensitizes the church’s heart toward specific lost people. And it is prayer that invites the Holy Spirit to be at work in their lives.

At the IBSA Annual Meeting this month, messengers were challenged to consider and commit to these five evangelistic actions. 146 of them did. During the coming year, our IBSA staff will be working in a focused way with these churches. If your church would like to be part of a regional cohort to focus on these areas, please contact us. We believe that churches that embrace these evangelistic commitments will thrive. And that just happens to rhyme with five.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

 

In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The International Mission Board’s pictures of the year show “light in the darkness” around the world. In the Philippines, hard hit by a typhoon just over a year ago; in Turkey, where a Syrian family tries to escape civil war (right); and in the Dominican Republic, where church planting efforts reach across geographical and cultural divides. See them all and more at IMB.org.


Almost 9.5 million people heard the gospel through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2014, and more than 1.6 million of those trusted Christ. “Our hearts overflow with gratitude to God for all He has done and is doing, and we are eager to keep pressing forward as He continues to open doors,” BGEA’s chief executive officer Franklin Graham wrote recently, The Christian Post reported.


Also from The Christian Post: Houston Baptist University will create a Center for American Evangelism, spearheaded in part by apologist Lee Strobel and directed by author Mark Mittelberg.


“I’ve been there, done that and I’d love to share with you a few reasons why, even though I’ve failed, I’m doing it again,” Trillia Newbill writes about her resolve to read the Bible in 2015. Read about the four step plan she chose at ERLC.com.


Most of us make and break them every year, but can New Year’s Resolutions actually be harmful? Author (and Billy Graham’s grandson) Tullian Tchividjian says yes, in this interview with Religion News Service. “When it’s up to you to go out and get the love you crave, create your own worth, or work at becoming acceptable to those you want to impress, life gets heavy,” Tchividjian told writer Jonathan Merritt. “New Year’s Resolutions are a burdening attempt to fix ourselves and make ourselves more lovable.”


The current basketball season has gone “in the opposite direction” L.A. Laker Jeremy Lin anticipated, he posted on his blog at the beginning of this year. But despite his slump, Lin—a known Christian—said he wants to live with more joy in the coming year. “…[T]hrough it all, I’ve been learning how to surrender the results to God, how to walk by faith and not by sight, how to be renewed through times of prayer/Scripture and how to fight for a life of joy in the midst of trials.”