FROM THE STATES: Ill., Ala., Md. evangelism/missions news; 'Our prayer is that hundreds are saved and baptized'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Alabama Baptist
Chicago churches offer
gospel guidance for life
By Meredith Flynn
CHICAGO (Illinois Baptist) -- More than 800 churches in Chicagoland are committed to help people in their communities answer pressing questions about life and God. In January and February, congregations across northern Illinois will "Explore God" through a series of sermons and small group meetings designed to start gospel-focused conversations.
Scott Nichols is part of the steering committee for the interdenominational, region-wide emphasis. His Carol Stream church, Crossroads, has offered Explore God (XG) small groups after Christmas and Easter the last two years. Each time, Nichols told the Illinois Baptist, people have come to know Christ and have been baptized, including Kevin Poch (pictured above).
"The power of XG is aligning churches in pursuit of the Great Commission, the fundamental mission our faith (and the Lord) calls us to pursue," Nichols said. "Our people are excited by this campaign." So far at Crossroads, 52 people have signed up and been trained to lead small groups focused on seven big questions:
-- Does life have a purpose?
-- Is there a God?
-- Why does God allow pain and suffering?
-- Is Christianity too narrow?
-- Is Jesus really God?
-- Is the Bible reliable?
-- Can I know God personally?
Nichols will also preach a sermon series on the questions in January and February. Crossroads was the first in their region to adopt XG and has led the charge for more churches to join. Their goal is 1,000 congregations and 10,000 small groups participating in the emphasis this month and next.
"Our prayer is that hundreds are saved and baptized," Nichols said. "We're calling our people to risk inviting friends and co-workers into an open-handed gospel conversation for the purpose of sharing Christ in a safe, low-pressure environment."
To encourage other churches as they participate in Explore God, Crossroads created a video of testimonies from past group participants and church staff, including small groups pastor Nate Nupanga. "What you will find is that many people that might not set foot in your church building otherwise are going to be open to coming to be a part of this group," Nupanga said. "And that creates a great way to connect with people that you otherwise would not be reaching."
Across Chicagoland, hundreds of churches will do the same, mobilizing their members to invite people around them into gospel conversations around those seven major questions. Phil Miglioratti, IBSA's recently retired prayer ministries consultant, is co-chairman for the regional initiative.
"The DNA of Explore God Chicago is the heart of our Great Commission SBC churches," Miglioratti said. "My hope is that by participating they will be reinvigorated with a passion for sharing Christ through gospel conversations."
For more information about Explore God Chicago or to view evangelism and small group resources, go to ExploreGodChicago.com.
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.
24-day outreach bears
fruit on Ala. campuses
By Grace Thornton
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- Jessica Franklin says she's been a Christian for a long time, and over the years she's had the opportunity to plant a lot of seeds and help people grow in their relationship with Christ.
But she had never led anyone to faith before.
So when it happened during a recent 24-day evangelistic emphasis at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), "I bawled my eyes out," she said.
Franklin, student president of Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at UAB, was one of dozens of BCM students taking part in Engage24 across Alabama's campuses in October.
The event began several years ago as a national grassroots effort by BCM groups to help students focus on sharing Christ with students on their campus, said Mike Nuss, director of the office of student ministries for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
It was originally designed to be a one-day, 24-hour effort, but after the first year of trying it that way, Alabama BCM groups expanded it to 24 days of "intensive personal evangelism," Nuss said.
And during those 24 days, Franklin and others fanned out across UAB's campus, engaging students in conversations by doing spiritual surveys. Some students just humored them, Franklin said. But others seemed hungry for the message.
Joe was one of those people.
"He was an international student from China, and I could tell he was really interested in what I had to say," Franklin said.
He told her that his family was a different religion, one that frowned upon Christianity, so he didn't know much about it at all.
"I went through the salvation story and asked him if he had heard it before, and he said he hadn't," Franklin said. "That shocked me, that here in Alabama there are people who have never heard it."
She asked Joe if he was interested, and he said he was. They prayed together, and in the weeks since then, Franklin has talked with him regularly and helped him get involved in the BCM's Chinese ministry.
She said she can see that he's different. "I could tell the Holy Spirit has taken over in his heart."
And she's different too.
"That day as Joe and I talked I felt God move in me in a way I had never felt before," she said. "God showed me that it has nothing to do with me -- it is all Him."
Work of God
Bill Morrison, senior campus minister at UAB, said he saw God move in that way over and over through the students and local churches who partnered with them for Engage24.
Leading up to the event, SBOM and local church staff members came in to train BCM students in cross-cultural evangelism, and during the 24 days, they held several outreach events on campus in addition to conducting spiritual surveys. Across the state more than 20 students professed Christ during Engage24 -- and 16 of those were at UAB.
Morrison said that over the course of the 24 days, he watched as students got more and more bold in sharing their faith.
"We had some students that this was their first experience of sharing their faith," he said. "At the beginning they would hang close to the group, but as the days went on, they would fan out and boldly approach students to share."
Ariana Ramos, a UAB freshman, was one of those.
"God had laid on my heart that I really needed to be more bold about my faith and to just use my words and take a step away from ministering through the shelter of church," she said. "When I came to UAB and found out about Engage24, I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to do that and put it into practice."
Ramos said she originally thought people would be closed off to the message, but she found quickly that many were willing to listen.
"It took my fear away," she said.
This article appeared in the Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton writes for the Alabama Baptist Convention.
Md. church hosts
ESL Christmas Party
By Sharon Mager
KENSINGTON, Md., -- Kensington Baptist Church, Md., had their annual English as a Second Language (ESL) Christmas party on Dec. 17 at the church.
About thirty people attended, enjoying a carry-in meal with American, Ethiopian and Brazilian food.
Barbara Bryant, who teaches the church's ESL classes along with Barbara DeNoyer, who also teaches ESL and citizenship classes, said the evening was one of relaxing, sharing a meal together, and telling about their cultures' favorite holidays and customs.
"It's a way to practice English -- to tell about their favorite holidays and what they do," Bryant said. It's also a gentle way to share the Gospel.
Discussing Christmas, Filipino students shared that they begin decorating for Christmas in September. Ethiopian students explained that their calendar is different. They celebrate Christmas on Dec. 29, preceded by a time of fasting, then feasting and a big gathering with much food.
Bryant said that in Mexico they have "posadas," religious celebrations with processions, acting out the nativity, and hugging and kissing the baby Jesus doll before enjoying a time of music and dancing.
A favorite part of the Christmas party was hitting the piñata which was filled with candy from Mexico, brought by an ESL student.
"The kids were so excited," Bryant said, and they insisted the adults take turns batting at it as well, which brought much laughter.
Students also heard American Christmas traditions including the reading of, "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clarke Moore; the legend of the candy cane; and, the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke, shared by Kensington Baptist Church Pastor William George, and his wife, Diane.
This article appeared in BaptistLIFE (baptistlife.com), newsmagazine of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Sharon Mager is communications specialist for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
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.