Today’s From the States features items from: Northwest Baptist Witness (Washington); Kentucky Today; Southern Baptist TEXAN.
Wash. church gaining
ground in growing city
By Cameron Crabtree
RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — In Washington’s fastest-growing city of Ridgefield, Go Church is gaining ground in reaching new believers and developing a congregation to influence the community.
Started with about two dozen people, Pastor Mark Ford and his wife Kristy have led the church in various outreach efforts since launching with public services last fall. That initial public service drew more than 160 people.
The church also recently drew about 160 people to local park for its first baptism celebration. Following a catered barbecue dinner and time for multi-generational activities and conversations, the church baptized 10 people.
“It was simply beautiful,” Ford commented after the service. “Ten stories, ten changed lives. Words fail.”
Standing waist-deep in Southwest Washington’s Gee Creek, Ford talked about the importance of baptism’s public profession of faith and making a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord as church attenders gathered around the candidates.
Ford stood with each of the baptism candidates and shared briefly about how they came to the point of professing their spiritual commitment and getting baptized.
Standing with one of the men, he spoke of the turning point that can occur by surrendering to Christ. “This not only represents the healing of a man,” he declared, “but it also represents the healing of a marriage.”
Of another candidate, Ford offered a general observation for everyone witnessing those being immersed in the water: “He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. None of us are perfect. We’re going to be a church of messed up people.”
Prior to starting Go Church, Ford moved to the Northwest from Missouri to become pastor of First Baptist Church, Longview, Wash., about 30 miles north of Ridgefield. After several years there, however, he experienced a restlessness in that ministry and sensed God wanting him to start a church. He resigned as pastor without a specific plan in place, but soon began exploring a vision for Go Church with a handful of believers wanting to form a Southern Baptist church in the north Clark County community.
Commenting recently about the launch efforts last fall, Ford indicated hard work, spending money on promotion, using social media, hosting preview events and other ways to build relationships with neighbors and community leaders were important for introducing the church to large numbers of people those first few weeks.
“We worked our tails off,” he noted. “We served the community. We prayed our guts out that people would show up and God would move. In short, we got a crowd in the doors on launch day, because that was our goal.
“And not unlike Pentecost, God showed up when the church assembled for the first service,” he added. “He continues to show up every Sunday and thankfully there are some people there to experience it. Some of the individuals we are baptizing now were there that very first day.”
The Washington State Office of Financial Management in June estimated Ridgefield’s population for 2019 at nearly 9,000 people, up more than 15 percent from the prior year. The town was also the state’s fastest-growing city from 2013-14, according to the state office. Washington’s 2019 population estimate overall is more than 7,546,000.
Begun in partnership solely with the Northwest Baptist Convention, Go Church has since garnered the additional partnerships, including the North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
It’s one of more than 60 church plants supported, in part, by the convention’s Cooperative Program and the Northwest Impact Offering.
Ford and Go Church’s other leaders intend to develop a multiplying church planting network as part of its ongoing mission efforts.
On the Internet, go to gochurchpnw.com to learn more about the church and how to pray for its ministry. The website includes a link to Ford’s church planting blog.
This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness (gonbw.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Cameron Crabtree is editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness
Baptism only the
beginning for Ky. church
By Mark Maynard
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (Kentucky Today) — Hillvue Heights Church leads the state in baptisms by a large margin but the work doesn’t stop there.
They do everything they can to begin discipling new Christians on next steps.
More than 600 have come in and out of the baptismal waters in the last fiscal year alone, a record for the church that has baptized nearly 11,000 since 1991 when Steve Ayers came aboard as pastor. The baptismal pool is never empty.
Baptisms are important to Hillvue. That’s obvious. So what comes next?
The church emphasizes to the baptism candidates that this is the beginning, not the end, of the Christian walk, said Jeff Crabtree, the pastor of faith development at Hillvue. Let’s put it this way: They don’t just hand them a towel and wave goodbye.
“It’s our work to follow up,” said co-lead pastor Jamie Ward. “Baptism is part of the discipleship process, not salvation. Our goal is to walk alongside people.”
They also make sure before anyone is baptized, they understand by being able to answer these four questions:
1)What is salvation?
2)Why do I need to be saved?
3)What is baptism?
4)Why do I need to be baptized?
So before they ever step into the water, Crabtree said, they are educated on the baptism process and exactly what it means. Classes are offered for children and adults and nobody gets baptized unless they understand, he said.
“We have classes (for childen and adults) before baptism and classes post-baptism,” Crabtree said. “We have a six-week small group session (after being baptized). People have that option to walk through and we begin discipling them. The next step (after being baptized) is to be in the Bible and begin studying Scripture.”
So it’s never about getting them into the baptismal pool but also helping them as they begin the new walk as a Christian. Crabtree said some who come forward to accept salvation don’t immediately agree to be baptized. But Hillvue doesn’t forget about them.
“Our Christian walk is a process and not everybody is in the same place,” Crabtree said.
Hillvue’s baptism team is charged with getting the candidate ready and making the experience memorable and pleasant, from providing clothes to taking photographs that come to the person being baptized before the next Sunday.
“All the focus you can bring to it,” Ward said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a funeral and they will have a baptismal picture there.”
The baptism ministry team — a busy one at a church that only went one week in the past fiscal year without a baptism — speaks to the candidates and gets them with a staff member if necessary and prepares them generally for the experience.
There are times when a candidate wants to be baptized the same day they come forward in church and the baptism team has clothes ready for them. No stone is unturned when it comes to baptism at the large church in Bowling Green.
Crabtree said they work just as hard with the rest of the discipling process, too.
Hillvue sets goals for baptisms and Crabtree said other churches should do the same. Baptisms bring electricity and motivation to the church, he said. It’s always a time of celebration within a congregation at Hillvue, which has assembled its own ministry team that deals specifically with baptisms.
“(Co-lead pastor) Jamie (Ward) asked Sunday during the middle (of three) service, ‘How many of you were baptized at Hillvue?’ There were hundreds of people that stood up,” Crabtree said. “Most churches are dipping and dropping. A dying church has nothing to get excited about.”
Crabtree said nothing motivates a church like watching baptisms because they are the result of someone coming to Christ.
“When is the church the most excited?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s during baptisms.”
Crabtree, who worked as a consultant in the western part of the state for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has been to a lot of different churches and he said, without question, Hillvue does it best when it comes to baptism.
“I’m not the end all of everything but I knew my 421 churches,” he said. “I guarantee you nobody is doing it any better than us.”
He said that goes from getting new believers into the baptismal pool to discipling them afterward.
“We don’t get 100 percent who say they want to be baptized,” Crabtree said. “But we follow up with them and try to answer their questions.”
This item appeared in Kentucky Today (kentuckytoday.com), a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today.
Texas schools, churches respond
to students’ fears after shootings
By Jane Rodgers
EL PASO, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) — The morning of the mass shootings at an El Paso Walmart, Immanuel Christian School was having a workday for teachers and church members to prepare the grounds for the start of school.
Immanuel Christian, a ministry of Immanuel Baptist Church, is but a 2-minute walk from the El Paso Walmart where 22 were slain Aug. 3 by a lone gunman.
“That’s our Walmart. It is always busy,” Immanuel pastor J.C. Rico told the TEXAN. “Anyone [at the workday] could have said, ‘We need paper bags. We need to run to Walmart.'”
In fact, unbeknownst to those at the clean-up day, the shootings were occurring about the same time the teachers and church members finished their tasks and gathered together outside in the hot, El Paso mid-morning sun, to pray.
“We were praying in the schoolyard at the same time the shooting was happening. We had no idea,” Immanuel 7-10 grade Bible teacher Eva Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez headed for the Cielo Vista Walmart after she finished up at school that morning, only to change her mind and drive to a Walmart nearer her home instead. While in that Walmart, she received a call from her husband, an El Paso policeman, warning her about the active shooter.
An Immanuel preschool teacher was actually in the Cielo Vista Walmart parking lot as people fled the store in panic. The school’s athletic director had been there 40 minutes prior to the shootings. Others were at the Sam’s Club next door.
The uncle of an Immanuel senior, German-born Alexander Hoffman, a citizen of Juarez, was among the victims.
Usually the start of school means shopping for supplies or finishing summer reading or acquiring new uniforms and shoes.
The first day of school for many public and private schools in El Paso was not what anyone expected.
For Immanuel Christian, the return of its 455 students to school Aug. 12 meant extra security and lockdown training its staff and teachers the week before, reassuring meetings with parents, and the presence of counselors, including Southern Baptist of Texas Convention Disaster Relief chaplains, for children and families.
“We have had security in the past and safety protocols in the past, but it’s really brought things close to home,” John Davis, Immanuel head of school, told the TEXAN, explaining that in addition to the measures already in place such as automatic locks and limited points of entry, the school added armed security officers — off-duty El Paso policemen — this year.
Families were asked to contribute toward the unexpected, non-budgeted expense and many have, Davis said.
Hector Vasquez, an El Paso policeman who was one of the first responders to the Walmart Aug. 3, is among the new security guards at Immanuel. He is grateful for the opportunity to be at the school.
“I like it. I am interacting with the kids a lot. I think it’s good. It helps out. Out there when I am working, I don’t get a lot of time to do community policing. Here I get a lot of time to do that, I actually interact with the kids and show them, hey, police aren’t bad. We are here to help out,” Vasquez said.
Davis said he believes it’s a great witness to the community and officers.
“The kids have responded really well. And having the officers here engaging with the kids, that’s been a great thing for our kids and for the officers, too,” Davis said. “The El Paso police department said this is one place where [their] officers want to be, because our kids are so respectful and engaging.”
By the time school began, the students seemed mostly back to normal, Gutierrez said, although some parents reported their kids were having trouble sleeping or being upset earlier.
Gutierrez took special steps to reassure her Bible students. “We start every single class with a devotional and prayer time,” she said. She said she now intentionally plays Christian songs encouraging letting go of fear and giving it to God. And with each day’s prayer requests, her Bible classes also pray for protection and a safe day.
“They hear that the Lord is with us in our fear. And they are hearing that we are praying that God keeps us safe,” Gutierrez said.
Unfortunately, the world has changed, she added. “It’s not if someone comes, it’s when someone comes. But we can’t live our lives in fear. We just have to trust in the Lord and keep going and be there for each other.”
El Paso area public schools also increased security and provided additional counselors for their students.
TIME.com reported that extra security guards and counselors were sent to Horizon High School, the school attended by the youngest victim, Javier Amir Rodriguez. Socorro ISD also increased security and had counselors meet with each classroom to check on students. Teachers received tips on how to spot signs of trauma and grief, and were offered their own mental health services.
In a video statement released by El Paso ISD prior to the start of school, superintendent Juan Cabrera reassured parents that the district’s schools are “safe learning environments,” calling the security of students and employees, “our top priority.”
“We continue to offer monitoring and patrolling by our team of police officers who work 24 hours a day and seven days a week to keep our students safe,” Cabrera said.
Manuel Castruita, head of EPISD’s counseling and advising department, told NPR.org that during the week of professional development prior to the start of school, teachers talked through what happened and brainstormed ways to help students.
“Having a week in between before the start of the school has really helped us,” Castruita said, noting that some administrators planned to hold moments of silence for the victims the first day of school, striking a “delicate balance” of acknowledging what happened without “re-traumatizing” students.
Castruita said the district also has strong support services, thanks to partnerships with outside organizations and a number of licensed professional counselors.
EPISD’s job, Cabrera said, is “to make sure [students] are safe, happy, sound mentally and physically, and to make sure they’re prepared for learning,” which may mean discussing the shooting.
“The worst thing we can do is not let them speak or not let them talk about what’s going on,” he added.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
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.