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By Tobin Perry
VALDOSTA, Ga. – Redland Baptist Church’s plans to minister to Mexico’s poor could have fizzled when its 2008 trip ended before it started because of dangerous conditions.
Instead the Valdosta church may have started a movement.
Six years after Redland turned that “failed” mission trip into the first-ever Community Day in Valdosta, close to 100 South Georgia Baptist churches launched an effort to help seven church planters throughout North America through similar events.
“Community Day is everything a family needs,” says Jay Watkins, Redland Baptist Church’s pastor. “We give [food, medical care, etc.] to families with the love of Christ. It opens doors for us to tell them what Christ has done in us and through us, with people we wouldn’t normally come into contact with.”
Watkins said 25,000 people attended the last Community Day held in Valdosta in April of 2013. More than 60 Valdosta-area churches participated in the event sponsored by the Valdosta Baptist Association. More than 70,000 local residents have been served through the event, and 1,000 people have come to Christ since the first Community Day in 2008.
In January Watkins and Valdosta Baptists hosted a banquet attended by approximately 100 South Georgia churches—and the seven church planters with whom they’ll be partnering. Church members were challenged to help take Community Day to church plants in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Memphis, Tenn.
Watkins began spearheading the campaign shortly after attending his first meeting as a North American Mission Board trustee. It was there he first learned the full extent of North America’s lostness.
“I came back and called all my pastor buddies,” Watkins said. “I asked them, ‘How many lost people do you think are in the U.S.?’ A couple of them made some good guesses. I told them, ‘There are 239 million lost people in the United States. Add Canada in and there’s 259 million lost people in North America. We have to do something.’”
And they did. Leaning on their experience with Community Days in Valdosta and elsewhere, the South Georgia pastors decided to launch partnerships with church planters from each of NAMB’s five regions. A different South Georgia sending church—along with multiple support-ing churches—will take responsibility for each of the seven Community Day events. The first of the seven scheduled Community Day events will be March 22 in Memphis. To help with these events, the Georgia Baptist Convention has a tractor-trailer to make supply transportation easier and more cost-effective.
The Community Day events will play a key part in helping church planters connect with their communities and share the gospel in underserved areas of North America.
“Community is valued in Canada,” said Toronto church planter Daniel Yang. “Canada is a very inclusive country—Toronto especially. When you, as a church, say we want to do this ‘for you,’ without any anything or any expectations in return, it will be very well received. Canada is very inclusive of all kinds of people and if we can make Community Day along those lines, it’s going to be very successful.”
The events won’t be uniform in all seven locations. Los Angeles-area planter Zach Drake says his Santa Monica community is affluent and very concerned about physical health. The initial plans have the South Georgian teams focusing on putting together a community “Olympics,” with a specific focus on youth. Drake also hopes the team might bring in health food rather than typical grocery food.
“Partnering with Valdosta Baptists has been a tremendous encouragement to us,” said Drake, the lead pastor of Santa Monica Church. “We’re a very small church in Santa Monica. We’re in a city without a lot of Christian support. Gaining support from Christians outside of the city—and even across the country from us—has been super, super encouraging to us.”
Valdosta Baptists hope this movement will motivate other SBC associations to try similar efforts throughout North America. Watkins has shared the story of Community Day in a variety of SBC gatherings throughout the United States.
“We hope other SBC associations and churches will seek to do it in their contexts well,” said Drew Boswell, pastor of children and families at First Baptist Church of Valdosta. “They can take the model we’re developing and say, ‘We can have a banquet, bring our churches together, we can identify our six cities ourselves so that it becomes a multiplication effect. It’ll begin this big ripple effect. Our prayer is that revival will spark.”
For more information about Community
Day, visit http://communityday.us/. For more information about getting your
church or your association connected with North American Mission Board church
planters, visit http://www.namb.net/mobilize-me.
Tobin Perry writes for the North
American Mission Board.
Date Created: 3/10/2014 1:16:44 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC