Inner-city evangelism proves fruitful in St. Louis, KC
MBC, CBGC to partner, expand effort to Denver
By Allen Palmeri
August 9, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention/Global Encounter Ministries partnership to evangelize inner cities continued to build momentum this summer even as organizers prepared to expand into a fourth city in 2006.
A total of 811 missionaries from 69 churches, including 50 Missouri Baptist groups, hit the field in three locations – Houston, Texas; St. Louis and Kansas City. The fruit of their work included 259 decisions for Jesus Christ. An additional 908 missionaries from Houston’s First Baptist Church saw 160 people receive Christ.
Global Encounter was founded in 1992 by Bob Caldwell, who now serves as MBC state evangelism director. The MBC/Global Encounter partnership consists of short-term student missionaries conducting Vacation Bible Schools in inner-city settings. Next year the partnership will expand to Denver, where as many as 500 Missouri missionaries will partner with workers from the Colorado Baptist General Convention.
Caldwell said that he is pleased with the level of stability that has developed in St. Louis, which is in its fourth year as a partnership city, and Kansas City, which is in its second year.
“Once again, God just blessed our hearts way beyond what we could ever comprehend or imagine.,” he said. “We saw God’s hand all over Houston, St. Louis and Kansas City. Protection was everywhere again. By God’s grace, year after year, we watch these ministries completed without any kind of bad incident, harm or injury. We just appreciate the Lord so much for that, and we believe that will continue, because God’s good.”
For the second consecutive year, the students who participated July 8-16 in Houston and July 15-23 in St. Louis and Kansas City were surveyed to determine whether they were being called into ministry. Caldwell said the MBC evangelism department is building a database so that they can better serve future missionaries, whether they are called to be a missionary either to a place like Uganda or to a place like Corporate America. Both types of missionaries need to be sent, and both are worthy of support, he said.
“We want to begin to track future leaders in our churches from age 14, 15 and 16,” Caldwell said. “We want to be able to use that data to bring those students in for specific training times while they’re still teen-agers.”
The partnership has three purposes, Caldwell said. One is to reach lost people with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Another purpose is to encourage and help churches that are in decline, or churches that have recently been planted. But he noted that perhaps the most important aspect of the initiative is to train the next generation of leaders for church work.
“We might see hundreds come to Christ over a summer missions event, but we’ll see tens of thousands come to Christ through multiplication from these young leaders, young hearts that God’s penetrating right now and reaching,” Caldwell said.
Missouri Baptists and Colorado Baptists are in the midst of laying the foundation for church-to-church partnership work, and Caldwell’s Global Encounter initiative fits nicely within the overall plan. Mark Edlund, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC), took three of his staff members with him to St. Louis to observe two days of the evangelistic project in the inner city and came away excited about what could happen in Denver in 2006.
After making one vision trip to the Mile High City to identify potential ministry and lodging sites, Caldwell is convinced that the first Denver project will be successful.
“We’re going to try to place a team there as early on in the summer as we possibly can of college-age interns that will be there and iron out some of the wrinkles that maybe we wouldn’t be able to see two states away,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to have to make a few trips out there just to be able to make sure that everything’s in place.
“Whenever those students come back with a fresh vision and a new idea of what missions is all about, that it starts in their hometown, it’s going to impact Missouri way more than it ever will the eight or nine days we spend out in Denver. So I said to those guys (Edlund and the other CBGC staffers), ‘I want to see that same kind of blessing in the Colorado Baptist General Convention,’ and the greatest way for that to happen is for them to send a bunch of kids to Kansas City or St. Louis and let this thing be reciprocating.”
First Baptist Church, Ferguson, has distinguished itself as an outstanding host church for all four years of the St. Louis Project, Caldwell said.
“I don’t know too many churches that would allow 300 people to move into their facility for an eight-day time frame,” Caldwell said. “There wasn’t one time that I didn’t see anything less than a smile on the face of that pastor, the staff, and the maintenance people. It was just phenomenal.
“I hope that the members of First Ferguson really understand that one day there will be missionaries planted all over the world who will look back to their first mission experience and will remember First Ferguson. That church has become a mission-sending organization. They allow groups to come in and stay with them, and they’re benefiting nothing. Words can’t express the blessing they are for allowing us to be able to train the next generation.”