Attending the annual state evangelism conference which these days is known as the State Conference on Evangelism and Church Health affords me the opportunity to catch up firsthand with how God is using His people to impact His mission.
While at first glance the conference’s main focus is for pastors ministers and others to hear inspiring messages from some of the greatest evangelists and preachers in our nation much more happens in the conversations luncheons and hallways of the meeting place.
I see pastors and friends at the evangelism conference whom I don’t otherwise see during the year and it’s always great to catch up.
There was former Arkansas pastor Chris Sims who is now a pastor of WindCity Church a church plant in Casper Wyo. God moved in Sims’ heart compelling him to move his family in 2014 to a state known for its wide open spaces a state with the distinction of being the 10th largest state by area but the second least densely populated state in the country. Wyoming is twice the size of Arkansas but has one-sixth of the population. The need is great. Wyoming has 60 communities without a gospel church.
David Fox another former Arkansas pastor has a similar story having moved his family to the Stetson Hills area of Colorado Springs Colo. where 85 percent are estimated to be unchurched amid a population of 650000. The mission of Fox’s ministry is to simply connect people to Jesus cultivate a community of believers and change the world by serving others.
Speaking of church planting I met two men who are leading churches in the tough Delta region of our state. They are Nate Smith and Anthony Banks both of whom define what it means to be “sold out to Jesus.” Smith and Banks sat down to discuss opportunities and challenges of their ministries in the Delta region of the state for an upcoming Arkansas Baptist News Podcast. I can’t wait to listen to it!
One of the biggest success stories of recent months has been Camp Siloam and its Feed My Sheep campaign. Jason Wilkie executive director announced at the evangelism conference that Camp Siloam had exceeded its $3.4 million goal to build a new dining hall in what arguably can be referred to as in “miraculous ways.” Be sure to read about the camp’s recent surprise gift on page 10.
While it’s hard sometimes to see clear of the news of doom and gloom in today’s headlines the Lead>Defend conference on leadership and apologetics is designed to help high school and college students make sense of the times and proactively articulate their faith in today’s diverse culture. The passion of Lynn Loyd missions consultant with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) college and young leaders team and Chris Kohlman assistant team leader have for their ministry is contagious and desperately needed today. Lead>Defend is set for March 3 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
These are just a few stories of how God is using His people to make an eternal impact on Arkansas and well beyond our state’s borders.
Also in case you missed it ABSC announced some great statistics from 2017 that all Arkansas Baptists should know.
– Giving to missions through the Cooperative Program (CP) totaled $20.7 million.
– Arkansas Baptists gave $1.6 million to reach Arkansans which was $45000 over the state goal.
– It was a big year for disaster relief (DR) with volunteers responding to fires in Texas and Oklahoma flooding in northeast Arkansas and three major hurricanes. During the year the ministry of DR saw more than 60 people saved. What’s more 1500 newly trained DR volunteers took the message of “help healing and hope” to those impacted by disaster.
– Delta churches saw a record number of baptisms and salvations during the year which was a direct result of Arkansas Baptist churches across the state coming together to empower Delta pastors and to support church planting and community missions. In all 218 people who attended block parties in the Delta made professions of faith in Jesus Christ. Medical and dental clinics
– a key evangelistic outreach tool used in the Delta – saw 273 patients and witnessed more than 40 salvations.
God is moving mightily across Arkansas and allowing Baptists to be a big part of it. We all should expect – and pray for – even greater things in 2018!
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.