Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002
January 5 2002 by James Dotson , North American Mission Board

Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002 | Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002
  • Block parties - Whether in an inner-city park or a suburban churchyard, the concept of offering free food, fun and fellowship is an effective means for both new and existing churches to reach their communities. Volunteers are asked to work with games and food tables while church members are left free to share Christ and build relationships with the guests.
  • Vacation Bible School - Teams of workers are needed.
  • Prayerwalking - Volunteers to walk through neighborhoods and pray for the people in the homes.
  • Door-to-door canvassing - Community surveys, evangelistic visits and the simple delivery of packets of materials are necessary to provide a Christian witness and to spread the word about new churches.
  • Lay church planters and strengtheners - Volunteers to spend an extended period of time to provide leadership to new congregations.
  • World Changers - Young people to rehabilitate substandard homes and participate in community ministry efforts.
  • Cooperative ministry - Joint volunteer efforts between Southern Baptists and other evangelical ministries provide a broad range of opportunities for sharing Christ through personal witness and service.
  • Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002

    Philadelphia, Seattle targeted for 2002

    By James Dotson North American Mission Board ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Southern Baptists in Philadelphia and Seattle are planning for a common goal in 2002: impacting their communities with the Christian gospel and seeing lives transformed. They'll do it with the help of volunteers from across the country through the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Strategic Focus Cities (SFC) outreach efforts. "We hope that we can work together with both Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups within these cities to make an impact for the kingdom," said Gary Frost, NAMB's vice president for strategic partnerships.

    The 2002 programs in these two cities follow SFC efforts in Chicago and Phoenix in 2000 and Boston and Las Vegas in 2001 - although evangelism and church-planting efforts occur before and after the primary implementation year.

    John Eckle, city coordinator for the Embracing Seattle effort, described Seattle as largely unchurched, with little Christian influence.

    "It's an area that is so steeped in recreation and entrepreneurialism that people just don't seem to have time," Eckle said. "Their lives are so full that when they do have time they just want to get away ... from anything that might require commitment."

    There are 120 churches in the Puget Sound Baptist Association, "most of them quite small," said Eckle, who came to Embracing Seattle as a retired chief engineer for the Seattle-based Boeing Company.

    Ninety percent of the region's four million people do not attend church at all, and only 4 percent attend an evangelical congregation of any kind.

    The population also is ethnically diverse, with a particularly strong contingent of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The largest Southern Baptist church, First Baptist Church of Tacoma, is a Korean congregation. And one of the association's new churches, he said, is a mission to Native Americans sponsored by another Korean congregation.

    One of the most ambitious strategies for Embracing Seattle lies in church planting. Organizers set a goal of starting 30 new Southern Baptist Convention churches in 2001 and 26 churches had been started by mid-December.

    Plans call for 60 new churches in 2002 and another 90 in 2003. Such numbers require not only the resources made available through Embracing Seattle, he said, but also partnerships with individual churches committed to providing funding and volunteers. Prayer goals for Embracing Seattle also are ambitious, with 5,000 prayer partners being enlisted across the country. Each volunteer is assigned to pray for a different family in the Puget Sound region each day over the next year, resulting in focused prayer for each of the area's 1.5 million families.

    In Philadelphia, the existing Southern Baptist presence and primary ministry areas are predominantly African-American and urban. Anglos make up about 15 percent of the Southern Baptist churches, whereas predominantly African-American churches make up 65 percent and other languages approximately 20 percent, according to Kathy Sheldon, associate city coordinator for the Philadelphia Spirit Strategic Focus effort.

    "At the present time, we have only one Anglo congregation in Philadelphia, so there's a great need for church planting," she said.

    Plans call for starting up to 70 new churches over the next two years, including one flagship church established last year in partnership with First Baptist Church of Orlando. Keystone Community Church in the suburb of Bucks already has 300 members.

    Philadelphia is significantly less affluent than Seattle as a whole, and the ministry strategies reflect those needs. Multi-housing ministry, volunteer opportunities with a food bank and other local ministries, homeless shelters, clothing and feeding ministries, and children's ministries all will figure prominently into volunteer needs.

    As with Seattle, much of the effort also will be placed into strengthening both new and existing churches through localized events and strategies, rather than large citywide efforts.

    "We want to see people come to know the Lord, and we want it to be a lasting effect," Sheldon said.

    Sheldon also said that as Southern Baptists begin to be identified with caring for people on a large scale, Southern Baptist churches could feel the effects for years.

    "I don't really think people in Philadelphia have a clue about what Southern Baptists are," she said. "So if we can come across offering a positive influence, that will help us create a strong positive image."

    Several core ministries requiring volunteer support are foundational to Strategic Focus Cities efforts.

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    1/5/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Dotson , North American Mission Board | with 0 comments
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