Baptisms Surge at Kentucky Church Thanks to Jail Ministry
A Kentucky church is using a jail ministry to add hundreds of lives to God’s kingdom each year.
Jessamine Christian Church baptized 227 people during 2016—a number that is notable because the church averages 525 in weekly worship attendance. That’s an average of 43 baptisms per 100 people in attendance.
Only a handful of churches in Christian Standard’s annual church statistics issue—which was compiled by Kent Fillinger and published in May—reached a baptism ratio of 10 per 100 in attendance.
Wally Rendel, senior minister of the church in Nicholasville, a city of 29,000 people south of Lexington, said the baptism surge was the result of a jail ministry the church launched nearly three years ago.
As an outreach project, a group of women from the church took baked goods to inmates at the Jessamine County Detention Center. The women decided they wanted to do more, so they went back and conducted a Bible study, and a handful of prisoners made professions of faith.The ministry snowballed from there.
Today, the church does Bible studies in the jail every Saturday, and it is not uncommon for someone to make a decision for Christ among those who participate. Those who profess their faith are transported by the county to the church, where they are baptized. Sometimes as many as a dozen people are immersed on one day.
“The jailer and a couple of his attendants van them in shackles to the church, and they are baptized,” Rendel said. The jailer lets them wear T-shirts [back to the jail] with our logo on the front of the shirt and the word ‘forgiven’ on the back.”
Church members continue to communicate with the new believers through letters and visits.
Rendel said jails are particularly fertile places for the gospel. Many of the inmates in Jessamine County are in jail because of drug-related crimes. They often are in their 20s or 30s, just starting out in life.
“Their sense of brokenness and need and desperation—it’s a very sobering experience to be behind bars.”
Rendel has a set of prison shackles hanging from the church pulpit as a symbol of the church’s ongoing mission to inmates and as a visual reminder of the gospel.
“It’s a testimony,” Rendel said. “My chains are gone.”
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Nebraska Christian College Restarts Athletics Program
Athletics are coming back to Nebraska Christian College.
The Papillion, Nebraska-based school is relaunching its athletics program this fall following its 2016 merger with California-based Hope International University. NCC will field men’s and women’s soccer and basketball teams during the 2017–18 school year.
The school had dropped its athletics department about three years ago to focus on its academic programs, said NCC Athletics Director Willie Williams. The renewed emphasis on athletics was the result of the merger with HIU and considerations about how to boost student enrollment, he said.
The school’s sports teams will be known as the Sentinels.
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Georgia Church Gives Hometown a Hand During Annual Service Day
Galilee Christian Church held its annual Serve the City event on May 6, sending 350 volunteers into its Georgia community to complete 32 service projects.
Members of the church, which is based in Jefferson, Georgia, spent the day building wheelchair ramps, painting houses, constructing sheds, planting gardens, cleaning schools, and spreading mulch—putting a hand to just about any need they could find.
“By far, it’s the largest one-day service event in our community . . . period,” said Nick Vipperman, pastor of Galilee, which has an average Sunday attendance of about 600.
The church conceived the idea for the service day while considering how to live out its mission of “advance, make, serve,” Vipperman said. The leaders wanted to come up with a plan to put the church’s members in a position where they could make a meaningful impact on the community and continue the work of discipleship.
“We want people to recognize that our church is more than what we do in our four walls, and if we’re going to do that, we need to be intentional,” Vipperman said. “We really want to have something intentional every year to make sure we are really doing what we are talking about.”
The church found service projects in Jefferson through word of mouth and by networking with community leaders. Jefferson, a city of about 10,000 people, is located northeast of Atlanta.
One of the church’s members, the superintendent of schools, was instrumental in finding some of the projects the church completed. The church also placed a half-page advertisement in the local newspaper asking people to submit ideas for projects.
“We’re a small community,” said Jefferson Mayor Roy Plott, a GCC member who volunteered during the Serve the City event. “It’s an immense help to get this additional manpower to go out and do the things that we [the city] can’t keep up with on a regular basis. It just helps the morale of the city employees to see everybody out there pitching in, helping to keep their city clean and to keep it beautiful.”
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Doug Priest Retires from Missions Career
Doug Priest retired July 31 as executive director of Indianapolis-based Christian Missionary Fellowship International. He served the organization in a variety of roles for more than four decades, beginning as a missionary recruit in 1974. Over the years, the child of missionaries to Ethiopia has served with CMF in Kenya, Tanzania, and Singapore. He has been director since 1995.
“I feel gratified and happy and just honored to have been in ministry now for lots of years,” said Priest, who served as president of the 2008 National Missionary Convention (now the International Conference on Missions).
Kevin “Kip” Lines will become the new executive director.
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SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT COMMUNITY.
Mobilize Illinois is praying and working alongside ICOM 2017 to raise $500,000 to start four churches in the state and five churches in global regions. Also partnering in the effort are Lincoln Christian University, Stadia, Ignite Church Planting, and Heartland Evangelizing Association. Visit www.mobilizeillinois.com for more information. ICOM 2017 will take place Nov. 16-19 in Peoria, Ill. // Dr. D. Clay Perkins concluded his presidency at Mid-Atlantic Christian University, Elizabeth City, N.C., on June 30. // More than 2,000 church-planting leaders will come together Oct. 2-5 for Exponential West in Los Angeles, Calif. “Dream Big” is the theme. Learn more at www.exponential.org. // Jay Mayernik, 31, a senior basketball player at Northwest Christian University, Eugene, Ore., was featured in the May 15 issue of Sports Illustrated. “Mayernik’s journey back to college basketball spanned 11 years, a graveyard shift, three kids and a chance encounter,” said the magazine. Mayernik played for Southern Oregon in 2003-04, but left for academic reasons. Northwest coach Luke Jackson “noticed Mayernik’s skill in a pickup game and offered him a spot on the team,” Sports Illustrated reported. “At 29, Mayernik returned to school. As a senior, the 6’7” center averaged 15.7 points and 12.4 rebounds, and was named an All-American.” // This spring, a total of 23,552 people attended Easter services at churches that have started in the past 20 years with the help of Orchard Group. Go to www.orchardgroup.org. // Johnson University, with campuses in Tennessee and Florida, has announced that president Gary Weedman will retire next summer, on June 30, 2018. At that time he will have completed his 11th year as president and his 50th year in Christian higher education. (L. Thomas Smith Jr. has been selected to succeed Weedman.) // Mark Johnson is the new international director of GNPI (Good News Productions International), based in Joplin, Mo. Johnson will play a key role in equipping GNPI’s global teams with vision, insights, strategies, and professional expertise. Johnson has spent the last nine years managing a television network affiliate in Virginia. Go to gnpi.org. // At least three Christian churches have produced sermon series that use Stranger Things as the hook. Stranger Things is a science-fiction/horror web television series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s. (Season two launches on Netflix on Oct. 31.) Among those churches: Canyon Ridge Christian Church, Las Vegas, Nev. (“Joining Jesus: From Stranger to Friend,” April 22—May 28); Parkview Christian Church, Orland Park, Ill. (“Stranger Things,” April 16—May 7); 2|42 Community Church, Brighton, Mich. (“Stranger Things: Strange Things about Jesus” and “Strange Things in This World,” Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, 2016). // After nearly 44 years of service, Darryl Bolen was set to retire from his ministry with Greenville (Ill.) First Christian Church at the end of June. Darryl and his wife, Sally, began serving with the church upon graduating from Lincoln Christian University. He first served as youth minister and associate minister, then became senior minister in 1977. He looks back fondly on his time with the church and the support he has received, saying, “This church wouldn’t let me fail.” // Two Lincoln Christian University students took first place for student papers in this year’s annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference held April 7–8 in Knoxville, Tenn. Jonathan Totty (sponsored by Dr. Steve Cone) won the graduate competition for his essay, “Irenaeus on the Economy of God.” Kory Eastvold (sponsored by Dr. Frank Dicken) won the undergraduate competition for his essay, “What, Then, Shall We Say? The Interpretation of Romans 4:1.” visit them online at www.lincolnchristian.edu.
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