Lee Warren/contributing writer
Sioux Falls, S.D. – In its first meeting since paring down to one representative from each participating state convention, the Heartland Interstate Strategy (HIS) task force made two key decisions at a meeting on April 23 at Cross Pointe Baptist Church that will take the gospel message to the heartland.
Task force members in attendance included Jeffrey Chavez, HIS coordinator, Garvon Golden of the Dakota Baptist Convention, Steve Melvin of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Convention, Ben Hess of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), Wes Jones of the Baptist Convention of Iowa and Mark Elliott, HIS chair from the Kansas-Nebraska Convention. Rod Giesbrecht, the Manitoba representative, joined via Skype.
Also present were Rick Hedger of the MBC and Don Stevens from Bolivar, Missouri, who will assist Chavez. Golden, Melvin and Hess are new additions to the task force.
HIS decided to launch two vision tours later this year, knowing it will need help from Baptists across the country as it seeks to take the gospel into largely unreached areas of the heartland.
Hess sees a connection between the people of the heartland and Cornelius – a God-fearing Gentile who was also a Roman centurion, in Acts 10. He was close to the kingdom when he met Peter, but was as of yet, unconverted.
“I think there are some good moral people, who live good moral lives – they help each other out, maybe even help their local church out, but they are like Cornelius in that they need the revelation of God, they need the good news of Jesus Christ,” Hess said. “They need the gospel to come into their lives and into their family.
“Cornelius was all of those good things. He even prayed and God answered his prayer by giving him a vision of somebody who looked like his next door neighbor. Well, we want to be that next door neighbor who comes to them and says, ‘Listen, this is what is missing in your life – Jesus Christ.’”
Chavez sees a connection between the spiritual condition of the heartland and the rest of the country.
“It’s the heartbeat of America, and when the heart starts to pump less, the rest of the country is affected,” Chavez said. “Sometimes we don’t know that something is dying until we invest into it. So our goal is to get people to invest into the heart.”
HIS is looking for partnering churches from Missouri and across the nation to get involved in prayer for the work, to facilitate events and financially.
A motorcycle vision tour that will start in Joplin on July 30 and end in Winnipeg approximately five days later will provide one such opportunity to get involved. The group plans to stop in several hub cities for outreach events before reaching its final destination.
The tour, which HIS plans to host annually, has been strategically planned to overlap with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that attracts more than 400,000 bikers annually.
“We will be passing out biker Bibles and stopping along the road to talk to other motorcyclists to explain what we do,” Chavez said. “It’ll be really cool to send people into Sturgis with a new Bible.”
A Christian motorcycle group from Missouri plans to partner with other Christian motorcycle groups from other states for the tour. Chavez is inviting Missouri Baptists who are interested to get involved as well.
HIS also plans to do a vision tour via bus that will launch from Omaha, Neb., and will make stops in St. Joseph, Northeast Kansas, Sioux Falls and Sioux City.
That tour is scheduled for August 26-28 and it will bring together executives, DOMs, pastors of churches who want to partner with other churches, lay leaders and anybody else who is interested in sowing the gospel seed in the region. Some of those leaders will be on the tour bus while others will meet the bus at the various stops along I-29.
Elliott says the bus tour will hopefully help leaders identify which hub city along the I-29 corridor they want to lock into and once they do that, they can initiate advanced teams to go into those respective cities to lay foundations for long-term partnerships.
“It is pure vision-casting, buy-in and launching of HIS,” Elliott said. “It’s important work because of the lack of evangelical witness in this area of the country. There have been changes in the religious climate and culture. A lot of the churches with professionally trained, fully supported clergy that have predominated this area for 120 years are closing, so there is a bit of a vacuum that has been created in the upper Midwest.
“One of the realities for us in Baptist life is our history includes doing church on the cheap with an emphasis on lay leadership and bi-vocational pastors, so we have some opportunities to be able to do some things in the region that some other traditions and denominations would not do.”
That will provide exciting ministry opportunities for Missouri Baptists beyond the borders of the state in the coming years.
If you are interested in participating in the motorcycle tour, or if you want more information about the bus tour, you can email Chavez at firstname.lastname@example.org.