April 2016

IMB’s ‘quiet force’ Holli Fish Lancaster, 51, dies

April 1 2016 by Caroline Anderson, IMB

Described as a “quiet force,” former International Mission Board (IMB) worker Holli Fish Lancaster died in Tennessee March 29, following a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 51.
Lancaster, a native Texan, and her husband Dan served in Southeast Asia for more than 12 years. Before moving overseas, the couple planted churches in the U.S.
Prior to her death, Lancaster’s family and close friends gathered in her room and sang songs, prayed and shared memories.
“The last few days, there was mourning and dancing, and they very much blended into one another, and although there was sadness, there was an appreciation of our lives being interwoven with hers,” Kara Garrison said. The Garrisons and Lancasters are close friends.


Holli Lancaster

After the Lancasters’ daughter graduated from high school in Asia, the family returned to the U.S. to help her move to Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and then took a leave of absence from IMB to work in the missions department at Union. The family learned of Lancaster’s cancer in October.
“Holli embraced the beauty of life. She loved deeply and generously,” Marci Fish, Lancaster’s sister-in-law, wrote. “From her beloved Texas to remote villages and refugee camps in her beloved Asia, Holli lived and loved with her whole heart.... She is forever my hero.”
Steve Fish, Lancaster’s brother and Marci’s husband, wrote in memory of his sister, “Holli, you ran your race so well. You truly lived your 51 years to the fullest. You had a wonderful marriage and raised amazing kids in some of the most challenging environments,” he wrote. “From Texas churches to gatherings in remote villages of [Southeast Asia,] when God said, ‘Go,’ you went no matter what the cost, no matter how difficult the assignment. In the midst of earthquakes, bombings and unstable governments you went and brought the Light. You brought life, peace and freedom to so many.”
The Lancasters traveled and led trainings with Southeast Asian believers. The missionary couple frequently traveled with Garrison to training events designed for displaced women from a variety of ethnic groups. At one point, the Lancasters and Garrisons lived in a Southeast Asian country where living conditions were difficult, and Garrison said, “We needed each other to survive.”
“One thing that I will always remember is her commitment to me. ... She was so supportive of traveling with me, and filling in, in a flash,” she noted.
On one trip, Lancaster had said she felt the Holy Spirit convicting her that they needed to train the women to use biblical storying. Garrison initially disagreed.
“I prayed about it, thinking God was going to agree [with me],” Garrison said. However, Garrison felt the Lord telling her to give Lancaster the whole afternoon. The women soaked up the Bible stories Lancaster told. The women were believers, but they had very limited knowledge of the Bible. Lancaster trained the women in the country’s main language, and the women were so excited by the material that they wanted to take it a step further and practice telling the stories in their individual people groups’ languages so they could share them with their families and friends.
Lancaster and Garrison felt they soon wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter the area where these women were staying. Many of the women were hoping to be granted permission to move to other countries. But Lancaster and Garrison thought God had something else planned for them.
“Many of you aren’t going to be going to a third country. We sense you are going to go back to [your country],” Lancaster and Garrison told the women.
Garrison said the women started weeping and they sensed the Lord had told them the same thing. Most of the women did return to their country – to a place Westerners cannot travel – and they returned equipped to simply and effectively share the gospel.
Sarah Garrison, Kara Garrison’s daughter, called Lancaster “aunt,” and she said Lancaster “has been as dear to me as my own mother the past 12 years.... Her kindness, wisdom and love live on through the wonderful memories she has left with us.”
Tess Rivers,* a friend of Lancaster’s, said the missionary family supported her as she developed a strategy for reaching exploited women and children in Southeast Asia.
“It became obvious that Holli was the quiet force that sustained them all. She was very quiet ... but she was always quick with a smile and a kind or encouraging word,” Rivers said. “She was a source of quiet strength, fun and immense spiritual depth, especially to her family but also to her many friends.”
Bethany White,* a close friend of Lancaster’s, said they regularly spent time praying in the red-light district.
“It is sometimes difficult to raise children overseas, and we both had four children,” White said. “We spent much time crying out to the Lord over our children and the needs of those around us. We went shopping and trying to find the goods our families needed, we celebrated holidays together, shared meals together – we were family. When we traveled, our children stayed in each other’s homes.
“One of those times, my youngest had croup, and [Lancaster] held him in the shower so he could breathe. She was often ready to love and encourage others with a smile and encouraging hug. Her home was open to so many people,” White remembered.
Lancaster was known for her hospitality, and the family was known for their Friday pizza nights, when they would invite friends over for food, games and stories.
Friends of Lancaster said she was musically gifted; she was a musician and a singer and could harmonize with anyone. The Lancasters led worship and used music to minister in the community. Friends say she tirelessly ministered to her family. Lancaster served as a substitute teacher in biology and anatomy classes at her children’s international school.
She devoted time to editing materials written by her husband Dan and her father, the late Roy Fish, former professor emeritus of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Lancaster and her husband met at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She graduated from Baylor with a bachelor of science degree in biology and later graduated from Texas Christian University with a master of science degree in biology.
Holli is survived by Dan; children, Jeff (Linnea), Zach, Karis, Zane; mother, Jean Holley Fish; and siblings, Steve Fish, Jeff Fish and Jennifer Pastoor.
Visitation is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, April 1, at Northbrook Church in West Humboldt, Tenn. The funeral service will immediately follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the Holli Lancaster Memorial GO Trip Scholarship be sent to Union University, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305, or given online at www.uu.edu/giving/lancaster. Click “I’d like to designate my gift.” Donations can also be made in memory of Holli Lancaster on an online ministry site for a memorial ministerial scholarship at Union University or to help cover hospital and burial expenses. Select which designation preferred on the donate page.
*Names changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson writes for the International Mission Board.)

4/1/2016 11:42:23 AM by Caroline Anderson, IMB | with 0 comments

Replant brings children back to dying church

April 1 2016 by Meredith Yackel, NAMB

Nancy Elliott found herself crying alone in the nursery. She had attended Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., since she was 14. Now, for the first time, they had no children at church on a Sunday morning.
“Not one child,” Elliot said. “I went into the nursery and started crying and praying to God to bring children.”


Photo courtesy Calvary Church
Members of Calvary Church, a church replant in La Junta, Colo., gather for corporate prayer following a worship service. The church is a replant of Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., itself a church replant. The Englewood church has helped replant six churches in the metro Denver area. The North American Mission Board will host a national church replant gathering prior to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis in June.

Little did she know her prayers were about to be answered in ways she didn’t expect.
After serving in youth ministry for several years in the Denver area, Mark Hallock felt God leading him toward inter-generational ministry.
“A lot of youth ministries are completely separated from the larger church,” Hallock said. “As I began to see kids graduate from youth group they eventually graduated from church because they were never connected with the rest of the body. I started to think about what it would be like to truly have an inter-generational ministry.”
Hallock and his wife Jenna began to pray and felt God calling them to a dying church they had heard of in Englewood, Colo., in metro Denver.
“I had been seeing church plants pop up, and I started to think about who was going to the declining churches, because God is glorified when dying churches come back to life.”
Calvary Church was established in 1952, in what was once suburbia. As the demographics of Englewood changed, like many churches, Calvary did not change along with the community. Over time attendance dwindled.
“I don’t think churches realize how quickly you can go from 150 to 30 people,” said Jeff DeClue, a longtime member and now associate pastor and elder at Calvary. “There was nothing different about Calvary from any other Southern Baptist church. It wasn’t that we weren’t passionate about the community – the community around us had changed and we didn’t know how to reach them.
“Sadly, I was tired,” he noted. “There was a big church down the road and I wanted to take my family and go where no one knew me. But Dave Elliot [Nancy Elliott’s husband] was really influential and said to me, ‘God is not done with this church. He put it here in 1952 for a reason.’”


Photo courtesy Calvary Church
Nancy Elliott leads a craft project during Sunday School at Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., a church replant. Elliott was heartbroken when the former declining church saw children stop coming to their services. Through the replant process, the church has revitalized and is growing, including the addition of new families with children.

DeClue decided that day to trust God for a greater plan. It was the same day that Hallock was meeting with the search committee of Calvary, and feeling God’s call to come and help revitalize the dying church. Although they could only pay Hallock a fraction of what he had been making as a youth minister, Hallock’s previous church committed to cover what Calvary could not afford for one year. The remaining 30 members at Calvary noticed change almost immediately after Hallock became lead pastor.
“Within the first month we seemed to go from 30 to 60, and then to 90, and we were over 100 in just a few months,” DeClue said.
“I am truly grateful that I have stayed and endured the hard times because now we have so many children we barely have room for them,” he said. “To see children run up and down the sidewalk on Sunday is just amazing.”
Hallock has now been at Calvary for seven years and they have continued to see growth. So much so, that they have planted six other churches in the Denver area.
“What is cool is that church planting was in the DNA of Calvary from the start,” Hallock said. “They actually planted three churches back in their heyday, and we were really just tapping into our history. We get to continue the story of that narrative.
“I love church planting, but my personal goal has always been to see churches replanted also,” Hallock said. “I want to see God bring dead things back to life.”
This year, Calvary has had their first experience in replanting a church not far from their Englewood campus.


Photo courtesy Calvary Church
Englewood, Colo., Calvary Church associate pastor Jeff DeClue (center) preaches during a worship service at a church replant in La Junta, Colo. The church, also named Calvary Church, is one of six church replants the Englewood church has helped in re-establishing themselves as relevant in their communities. The North American Mission Board will host a national church replant gathering prior to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis in June.

“This church was just like we were,” Hallock said. “They knew they needed radical change. We met with them and reassured them that God wasn’t done with their church. We see them starting to grow now, which is really exciting.
“It is exciting to see what the Lord is doing through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to replant,” he noted. “What a statement it is to a community when they see a dead, irrelevant church come back to life. God loves the underdog and when we surrender everything over to Him, He steps into our weakness. That is when He does some of the most amazing things.”
NAMB will host the National Replant Conference June 11-12 in St. Louis before this year’s Southern Baptist Convention.
“This gathering will connect those who are replanting with other replanters as we learn from each other how God is replanting dying churches across North America,” said Mark Clifton, NAMB’s senior director of Replant. “It is also to help declining churches explore next steps to finding new life and new hope.”
The event will feature practitioners who are successfully replanting dying churches, and offer resources and tools that have proven effective in reclaiming dying churches.
Learn more about the conference here and register for free.
Want to learn more about church replanting? Visit the Church Replanters Blog at churchreplanters.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Meredith Yackel writes for the North American Mission Board.)

4/1/2016 11:33:24 AM by Meredith Yackel, NAMB | with 0 comments

Montana Baptists seek new executive director

April 1 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention is seeking a new executive director to lead the group of about 135 churches in a state where more than a third of the people reportedly don’t attend church worship services regularly – or at all.
The new executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) will need to be a successful pastor, an exceptional leader committed to evangelism and must love pastors and local churches, said search team chairman Bruce Speer, who pastors Crosspoint Community Church in Missoula.
“Montana is a unique state. It is made up of a lot of rural churches in small communities and yet it also has some larger cities where pastors are trying to reach white collar workers,” Speer said. “It is a unique mission field because there are very few churches that are more than 40 years old and it is still a state where the average person ... would tell you they have never been to church.”
Less than one percent of the state’s adults are Southern Baptists, and 38 percent of adults never or seldom attend church, according to the Pew Research 2015 Religious Landscape Study.
Fred Hewett, retiring in October as the current executive director, describes geography as a major challenge in the state where the nearest Southern Baptist pastor might be as many as 200 miles away. The state is the nation’s fourth largest in size, but only 48th in population, about 1 million people.
“From the southeast corner of Montana, it’s closer to Texas than it is to the northwestern corner of Montana,” Hewett said. “In this state convention, the executive director will have to have the ability to relate well to the rancher and farmer, as well as the white collar professional because we run a very diverse population.”
Hewett is only the third person to hold the post of executive director since the convention was formed in 2002 from the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship. Southern Baptist work only began in Montana in 1952, he said.
“We are still very much a new work state, a frontier state convention,” Hewett said. “Our churches are first generation Christians” who require much pastoral care.
Southern Baptist church planting is a major MTSBC focus, with 23 churches planted in the past four years, according to MTSBC statistics.
MTSBC President Darren Hales, pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, said an effective executive director would need “a strong sense of calling to come and serve in Montana, first and foremost,” and would need to be able to connect with pastors and people in several different demographic categories. American Indians comprise four percent of the state’s population and live on seven reservations. The state is home to Glacier National Park and a small part of Yellowstone.
“We have a vision to reach our state for the gospel, and we have a heart for the people who live here,” Hales said. “Our executive director would need to be somebody who has a heart and a call for pastors, [and a calling] to serve in a variety of settings, from the small church that only has 10 to 12 people – because they’re a little outpost in the middle of Montana in a ranching community – to churches of 1,000 in some of our bigger cities.”
The MTSBC will conduct a thorough search with the confidence that God has prepared a person for the job, Hales said.
“I believe there is a qualified candidate who maybe has had a tugging or a longing to move out west and be a part of something new that God’s doing out in the West,” he said. “We want it to be a spiritual decision based on a clear calling from God.”
Montana Southern Baptist leaders describe the MTSBC as in excellent condition financially and spiritually, with a strong foundation and vision.
“The candidate we’re looking for will come and embrace all of the positive things that Montana is doing, while giving us, inspiring us to look ahead to the next steps,” Hales said. “We’re looking for someone who’s going to look ahead for the next 10 years. We feel very good where we are as a denomination, the growth and desire to grow, to touch people and sacrifice for the gospel, but a new leader is going to have to look to the next 10 years.”
Chad Scarborough came to Montana in 2013 to lead First Baptist Church in Shelby, the second oldest church in the state. The fulltime pastor is the only staff member of the church that averages 45 in Sunday attendance.
“Probably only 10 churches in our state, maybe a little bit more, ... average over 100 people on Sunday. For the most part, all of our churches are small congregations,” Scarborough said. “An executive director ... is going to have to have an understanding of how small congregations function and operate, and also the accessibility to training and resources. Many of our small churches don’t have the opportunity to have resources for their pastors to have continued training.”
Shelby is a transient community of 3,000 residents, not counting the 500 who live in the Crossroads Correctional Center, and is located just 26 miles from the Canadian border. Many residents have never heard the gospel, Scarborough said. Thirty miles away is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where First Baptist of Shelby planted Glacier View Baptist mission before Scarborough’s pastorate. He characterized American Indians that the church encounters as quick to accept the gospel but prone to dualism, placing Jesus among many other spiritual beliefs.
“Montana is still the mission field,” he said. “There’s really no way else to say it. This is a really unchurched area.... As far as Evangelical Christians go, the work is still very new here in Montana.”
Among top responsibilities, the executive director will serve as the chief operating officer, the treasurer and chief financial officer, the official director of MTSBC work and ministries, the director and supervisor of MTSBC staff and North American Mission Board missionaries in the state, and the editor of the Montana Baptist electronic newsletter. A full job description and list of qualifications is available from Speer at searchteam@mtsbc.org, where the search team will receive applications through May.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


Related Story:

Montana executive Fred Hewett announces retirement

4/1/2016 11:19:30 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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