Ohio Baptist Messenger

The Ohio Baptist Messenger is the monthly news publication of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Visit www.scbo.org to learn more...

VOLUME 72 ISSUE 7 JULY 2024

New IMB Missionaries Celebrated During SBC Annual Meeting Full story on page 8

Featured This Month Sending Missionaries, Celebrating Baptisms , and Unifying Polity By Jeremy Westbrook 3 God is Good and He Cares for His People and His Church 4 President’s Pen By Adam Pursel 6 SCBO Partners with “Practice to Platform” to Offer Free Training for Worship Teams 7 New IMB Missionaries Celebrated During SBC Annual Meeting 8 Rural Portage County Residents Find Rebirth at Renaissance Family Center 10 Autism Ministry is Personal Journey for Ohio Pastor, Family 12 Pastors’ Conference Sermons Are Now Online 14 REVIVE Summit 2024 Encourages Leaders From Multiple States 15 Lead Well Leadership Conference Challenges and Encourages Northeast Region Leaders 15 Northwest Region Women Encouraged to Persevere, Hold on to Hope at Retreat 16 2 | July 2024

The Ohio Baptist Messenger Staff

Dr. Jeremy Westbrook, editor-in-chief Stephanie Heading, managing editor

Seth Wicker, digital communication assistant AJ Frasure, digital communication assistant

Dan Stupakewicz, director of information technology

-- Tell us your story -- The Ohio Baptist Messenger is a monthly publication highlighting what the Lord is doing in SCBO churches or min- istries, and we need your help! Tell us your story and we could feature it in an upcoming issue of The Messenger . Please submit your stories to messenger@scbo.org. For more information, please contact Stephanie Heading at messenger@scbo.org.

Published monthly by The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio for members of Southern Baptist churches in Ohio. | 9000 Antares AveColumbus, Ohio 43240

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Sending Missionaries, Celebrating Baptisms , and Unifying Polity The Southern Baptist Convention in Indy is in the books. Seeing so many Ohio Baptists at the SBC was such a joy!

many who voted “against” it. Dr. Andrew Hebert, a pas- tor in Texas, wrote after the vote, “While the vote on the ‘Law Amendment’ reflects a difference in opinion on how best to approach the question of polity, Southern Bap- tists remain unified on the question of our theology.” The outcome of the vote did not change our theology-- we believe the office of pastor is limited to men as qual - ified by scripture. Read Hebert’s Baptist Press article at https://www.baptistpress.com/.../first-person-doctri - nal.../. Finally, the Sexual Abuse Task Force launched a new resource, “Essentials,” available on its new website, https://sbcabuseprevention.com. Please be sure to uti- lize this new ministry toolbox to better equip your local church or association. Let us remember to be charitable to one another as we agree to disagree as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us also stay focused on the mission--making and mul- tiplying disciples across Ohio and around the world for Christ!

As great as it is to hear wonderful preaching, see friends from all over the country, and visit the exhibit halls, the annual highlight for me personally is always the com- missioning of our new missionaries at the IMB Sending Celebration. We commissioned another 83 obedient followers of Christ to take the Gospel to the nations! This is why we give and go…to take the Gospel across the street and around the world. We also heard that baptisms in the SBC were up 26% in 2023. Thank you, SCBO family, for your faithful giving to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offer - ing, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that help make this possible. This past year I had the joy of serving on the GCR Task Force. Thankfully, all of our recommendations passed, including one that will help send more of our Coopera- tive Program dollars to the International Mission Board. Read more about the GCR Task Force Recommenda- tions here https://www.baptistpress.com/.../gcr-evalua- tion-task.../. We also deemed another church with female pastors “no longer in friendly cooperation.” In addition, messengers voted on the Law Amendment. I know many who voted “for” the Law Amendment and

Dr. Jeremy Westbrook Executive Director-Treasurer, SCBO

4 | July 2024

After 42 years of ministry, Pastor John Hays, founding pastor of Jersey Church, New Albany, officially passes the mantle of leadership to Pastor Matt Read.

By Pastor Matt Read, senior pastor, Jersey Church God is Good and He Cares for His People and His Church

In January of 2023, after more than four decades of faith- ful service to Jersey Church, New Albany, Pastor John Hays informed the church of his intent to retire from his role as Senior Pastor. “This has been forty-two years of the most joy-filled pastoring anyone could ever dream of,” he shared. Jersey Baptist Church began in 1981 in the middle of the Jersey Township cornfields with thirteen dedicated believers. God called John and Jan Hays to lead this small group of believers, and the communities around the church would never again be the same. What God did through Pastor John, Jan and that little group of faithful believers is amazing. The church expe- rienced tremendous growth requiring multiple construc- tion projects over the next 20+ plus years. Pastor John led the church to become a pacesetter for missions giving, locally and around the world. Since 1981, the church has given over 11-million dollars to missions and sent both short-term and long-term volun- teers and career missionaries all over the world. Today, we have a staff of over 40, over 500 volunteers serving in ministry areas, 600 in small groups, and 1500 in weekly worship. Jersey has baptized over 4,000 peo- ple in the last 43 years. Upon his announcement, our Church Council immedi- ately began the search process for our next Senior Pas- tor. Pastor John continued to lead the church until the new Senior Pastor was called.

In the years leading up to his announcement, Pastor John worked behind the scenes in the hopes of setting the church up for a healthy transition. The church lead- ership and Pastor John knew that a well-planned and implemented search process would be important. In anticipation of Pastor John’s announcement, church leadership planned to take the church through an inten- tional journey to discover God’s will. As the search pro- cess began, they wanted to make sure everyone was looking at where God was at work and joining Him there. The church participated in the Experiencing God study through a preaching series and in small groups. This was a pivotal part of our overall process. It set the direction and the spiritual tone for the entire nine-month search by uniting the congregation to seek God’s will together. The search process included intentional times of prayer on Wednesday nights and during Sunday morning wor- ship. The Search Team met frequently with lay leader- ship along with times of question and answer with the broader church. The Search Team and church staff did a wonderful job of communicating important and relevant information along the way. The entire process was centered on God’s will and His leading and it has given me the confidence to fully em - brace the role that I believe God has entrusted me to steward and shepherd.

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It was with great excitement that I preached at Jersey Church on August 13, 2023, in view of a call. The follow- ing Sunday, the church voted to call me as their next Se- nior Pastor with over 93% approval. Along with my won- derful wife, Mary, and my three amazing boys, Caleb, Sammy, and Lucas, I accepted the call. Having served as the Next Gen Minister at Jersey since 2015, the pro - cess was long for me, but I am thankful for the care and attention it was given. On August 27, Pastor John preached his last message as our Senior Pastor and our church took the opportuni- ty to honor both Pastor John and Jan for 42, Spirit-led, integrity-filled years of ministry at Jersey. On Sunday, September 3, Pastor John officially passed the mantle of leadership as he and Jan prayed over Mary and me. I was honored and humbled to be anointed by Pastor John for service to Christ in the new season of leadership at Jersey Church. The reception I received and continue to receive from the faithful and godly mem- bers of Jersey Church is overwhelming. They have loved me as their own. The reminder I have had through the entire transition is that God is good and he cares for His people and His church. I am humbled by the support and encourage- ment of the members of this faithful church. Every week I have received multiple words of encouragement from the members of Jersey Church. I feel blessed by God and grateful for the opportunity to shepherd this won- derful church. Since September, we have been blown away by God’s faithfulness. Attendance continues to grow, as does our financial giving. Prior to the announcement of Pas - tor John’s retirement God was moving as we saw at- tendance increase by almost 300 people from 2022 to 2023. God’s gracious hand continues to bless us as we have grown over 170 people in 2024.

Upon the transition, I asked Pastor John to stay on the team as Pastor Emeritus. He agreed and has become my biggest supporter, mentor, and advisor. I can’t tell you what that has done for me and the example it has set for our church. He is currently focused on helping me in this first year of senior pastor transition and he is also focused on helping us move leadership development forward in our church. Further, Jersey has always had a wonderful staff team dedicated to the ministry within Jersey and in the sur- rounding areas. I am so thankful for this next statement. We have not lost a single staff member and our team is as strong as ever. I am truly blessed to have the amazing staff that God has placed around me as we lead and minister together. Earlier this year we had a wonderful all-staff team retreat. We prayed together, we learned together, and together we mapped out the focus of our upcoming church year. We will focus on leading our church through the book of Acts learning what it means to be the church with a specific focus on sharing our faith. We will also lead our staff through a focus on what it means to develop lead - ers. Ministry is a heavy lift most weeks. We realize that to keep moving forward, we need to develop the leaders around us as we minister to our church and the commu- nity. The last nine months have filled my heart with peace and joy because it is clear to Jersey Church and me that God has spoken and moved through this transition. We rest in that confidence. In all this, our motto has been from Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first His Kingdom and His righ - teousness.” As God leads us into the next season of ministry for Jer- sey Church, we are going to keep Him, His Kingdom, and His righteousness our number one priority. As Pas- tor John would say, we believe the best is yet to come.

SCBO is now halfway thought the 2023-2024 budget year (Novem- ber 23-May 24). We are excited to announce that our SCBO family continues to support local, na- tional, and international missions faithfully and sacrificially through the Cooperative Program: YTD Budgeted: $2,400,000, YTD Re- ceived: $2,459,000. Thank you so much for your generosity. Please see the special insert “Coopera- tive Program Giving Report” for additional details.

6 | July 2024

God’s people were trapped between an army and an ocean. Understandably, they looked out…and then they freaked out! LORD! What can we do?!? A force beyond their power was approaching with violent intentions. They could not flee because of the power and barrier of the sea. They were stuck…or so it seemed. But God. The people cried out to God and to Moses. They knew this was it. They knew that either death or slavery was their future. But God. Through Moses, God commanded them: 1. Fear not 2. Stand firm 3. See the salvation of the LORD 4. Know that the LORD will fight for you - you have only to be silent. Some of us feel like we’re in a spot similar to the Israelites. Some of us are currently in a great place. Either way, I want to remind you that God fights for His people. No matter how bleak things may seem, God will never leave you or forsake you. In every season, let us cling to God’s saving power. We don’t have to be afraid. We do have to stand firm…and we have the joy of seeing the salvation of the LORD!!! He fights for His people! One of the great things about being an Ohio Baptist is the support. Help is just an email or phone call away. There are amazing resources in our state to help church leaders who are struggling. We can help you proclaim the Word of Christ in your community so that lost people can hear and respond to the Gospel! You can always reach me at president@scbo.org. President’s Pen The Lord Fights for His People – Just Be Silent 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Ex 14:13–14). (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Grace and Peace, Adam Pursel SCBO President

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SCBO Partners with “Practice to Platform” to Offer Free Training for Worship Teams By Zac James, SCBO worship consultant

How do churches develop worship team members from scratch? SCBO is launching its next major worship resource to address this issue with Practice to Platform (PTP)— eight online worship courses that are designed to take new musicians from scratch to their first worship audition and prepare them to be ideal worship team members. I’m convinced there are people who don’t think they can learn worship roles but are capable with the right resource. That’s why I created this program. Practice to Platform offers courses for acoustic, electric, bass guitars, piano, drums, and vocals, as well as music theory to teach Nashville numbers by ear. It also features an introduction to leading teams in a way they will love and the theology undergirding effective leadership, incorporating the fruit of the Spirit. PTP has video lessons, summaries below the videos, quizzes, and critical thinking questions. However, there are no song tutorials, it is all skill-based, so it can apply to a variety of contexts-- even ethnic/ international churches using Google Translate. This resource has been vetted, winning an award from Next Level Worship in 2019, as well as testimonials you can read on practicetoplatform.com. These courses are normally available for $79/apiece or a subscription fee, but SCBO has partnered with PTP to make these available for free to our churches for as long as I am on staff at SCBO. There is only one requirement to get access to PTP, and Dr. Jeremy Westbrook, SCBO executive director, and I are in total agreement on this. PTP access will only be available to members of SCBO churches that have given to the Cooperative Program in the past year. If that’s your church, head to the landing page at scbo. org/PTP with a list of names and emails. There you’ll find a contact form so we can set up your students. You can either type in the names and emails via the contact form or put them in an Excel spreadsheet and attach it to the contact form. You will not receive marketing emails. If you want to learn more, visit our partnership landing page at scbo.org/PTP or reach out to Zac directly at zjames@scbo.org.

Ways you can use PTP:

Make an announcement in your church offering this resource using the slide provided. You might be surprised who is willing to learn instruments if they know there are resources to help them. Give access to your youth worship teams. This has already proven to be beneficial at large churches like Spring Hills Baptist, Granville. Give access to your Sunday worship team and have them skip the content they already know. There are eight modules per course, and the last three are perfect for team members already serving. I use this as a take-home resource for new musicians that I’m teaching weekly lessons. I have a keys player at my church who is about 16 years old and learned piano from scratch in ten months. One of my bass players used it to learn bass in about three months, and he’s serving in his late 60s. This works for all ages. If someone auditioned, and they aren’t quite ready for the team yet. This is a great tool to give them next steps instead of just saying “no.”

Messengers and guests at the Southern Baptist Convention applaud IMB missionaries who will serve in countries where it is either illegal to share the gospel or Christians are strongly persecuted. Eighty-three newly appointed missionaries, plus two previously appointed missionaries participating with spouses, were part of a Sending Celebration in the first session of the annual meeting on June 11 in Indianapolis. IMB Photo 8 | July 2024

By Sue Sprenkle, writer, International Mission Board New IMB Missionaries Celebrated During SBC Annual Meeting

Newly appointed missionaries looked around the Indiana Convention Center’s hall at the urging of Paul Chitwood, International Mission Board president. He gestured from the stage to more than 13,000 messengers and guests sent by local churches to the Southern Baptist Conven- tion annual meeting in Indianapolis, June 11-12. “Beside you and behind you are row upon row, thou- sands of Southern Baptists, here to celebrate with you as you prepare to go to the nations,” he said. “As you go out to literally every corner of the earth in pursuit of the lost, may the Lord remind you that always — always — there are Southern Baptists praying fervently for you, and for the gospel to advance.” Chitwood reminded the crowd that millions of Southern Baptists have prayed faithfully for God to call out and send laborers to His harvest fields during the conven - tion’s 179 years of existence. These 83 missionaries, plus two previously appointed who participated with spous- es, were recognized at the IMB’s Sending Celebration to end the June 11 morning session of the meeting. The IMB president smiled and pointed out this was one of the largest groups to be sent out during an SBC annual meeting. The new missionaries will serve in every affinity of the world where the IMB works today. They represent a col- lective commitment to the biblical model of getting the

gospel to those who have yet to hear through the pres- ence of a missionary. As part of this unified effort, Chit - wood explained to the new missionaries, Southern Bap- tists have made and kept three pledges throughout two centuries of missionary presence: “We pledge to hold the ropes for you in our praying.” These prayers have been preparing newly appointed missionaries Todd and Michele Linn, Henderson, Ken - tucky, for their ministry in Zambia where they will serve as a seminary lecturer and provide leadership in rural Bi- ble schools. Strengthening churches and discipling local believers is something they treasure. Michele said there was a time when she didn’t know much about church, but a praying, loving body of be- lievers made all the difference in their lives and growth in faith throughout the years. She recalled a man at church saying he’d see her Wednesday, even though she had never been. “So, I went just to see what I was missing,” she said. “It wasn’t long before Todd joined me, and we became reg- ularly involved with the life of the church.” The church body eventually financially supported and prayed them through theological education and into pas- torates in Kentucky and Indiana. For years, the couple Story continues on the next page...

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prayed for the persecuted church in Asia and the Middle East and for missionaries. They have seen the power of prayer in the life of the churches they served and on the mission field as they partnered with missionary teams. Now, as they heed God’s call to minister to the nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, they hold tight to Southern Bap- tists’ pledge of prayer because they know its impor- tance. They are being sent from Oakhill Baptist Church in Evansville, Indiana. “Join us in the Great Pursuit by praying for us as we learn a new language at an older age,” Michele added. “We pledge to hold the ropes for you in our giving.” Abigail Freemyer, Oakland, Florida, has been the recip- ient of the generous giving of Southern Baptists and couldn’t be more thankful. A collegiate ministry, partially funded through the Cooperative Program, South Caroli- na Baptist Convention, and local churches, was where she first realized that if Jesus was the most important part of her life, then she would talk about Jesus with everyone. She spent two summers as a student missionary in Prague, Czechia, where she learned to love the nations and share the gospel with them. After college gradu- ation, she went back as a two-year IMB Journeyman. Southern Baptist gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Of- fering® support ministries like Freemyer’s with 100% going to the mission field. She now returns to her minis - try in Prague as a newly appointed long-term missionary apprentice, sent from First Baptist Church Orlando. “Sharing the hope and joy I have in Jesus with others is such a sweet gift,” Freemyer said. “Thank you to every- one who has and will join me in the work through prayer, support and/or going.” “We pledge to hold the ropes for you not only as we send you but in sending others to serve alongside you and after you.” When Oklahoma Baptists committed to increasing their missions sending in 2020, Michael and Liz Davis envi-

sioned being part of this effort. The couple from Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, will serve among European Peoples in Germany and are sent from Trinity Baptist Church, Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma.

Standing behind a screen to protect their identity, newly appointed missionaries share their testimony using American Sign Language. The couple will work among the Deaf. IMB Photo

These newly appointed missionaries join a force now numbering 25,000 missionaries throughout the two cen - turies of history in the Southern Baptist Convention. “My conviction to go to the nations began as a child and my desire to reach the unreached increased as I grew in my faith,” Michael said. Liz pointed out they would not be ready or equipped to follow God’s calling to church planting without support- ing and praying churches, like those represented in the audience. Chitwood looked at the new missionaries and pointed out the tenure of a long-term Southern Baptist IMB mis- sionary is three times longer, on average, than those sent through other sending agencies. The reason, he said, turning back to the crowd, is because of the support that comes from the people sitting in the convention center and across the churches of the Southern Baptist Con- vention. “May we not waiver in our pledge to support them through our prayers and giving, nor in sending reinforce- ments to serve alongside them,” the IMB president said, noting that spiritual lostness is growing every day and more workers are needed. “We’ve made a promise we must keep, together, that we’ll hold the ropes for those we are sending, and for the thousands they are joining around the world. “They are our missionaries. Your missionaries.” The morning event closed with a time of prayer in five languages. The next IMB Sending Celebration will be Sept. 25, hosted by First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union. Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on IMB.org.

Paul Chitwood, IMB president, reminds Southern Baptists of three pledges that have withstood the 179 years of the convention’s history — praying, giving, and sending. IMB Photo

10 | July 2024

Rural Portage County Residents Find Rebirth at Renaissance Family Center By Stephanie Heading, managing editor

The Salvation Army - “The Salvation Army does the clothing—they give free clothing away,” Betty said. “They do a monthly food drive called the Red Shield drive where they pass out about 20,000 pounds of food each month that serves between 170-210 families.” As a tenant of RFC, The Salvation Army pays rent for its office space, but they also partner with RFC. “We coop - erate with them to be able to pass out all of the different kinds of food,” Betty said. Second Blessings Thrift Store - “We take in estates from people all over,” Pastor David Gray said. “The cloth- ing goes to The Salvation Army and the other goods that are serviceable go to us and we clean them up and put them in our thrift store. People can go to the thrift story, like any thrift and buy things for pennies on the dollar.” Many of those who donate to the center are people who are purging items from their homes as they downsize. The Renaissance Center uses the proceeds from Sec- ond Blessings Thrift Store to help fund services and costs of running the center. “It’s a faith ministry,” said Pastor David. “It’s really something trying to keep this 9,800 square foot building running well.” The center also relies on donations and rent from RFC tenants to make ends meet. The AMETEK Food Forest - “One of my favorite things is what we call the AMETEK Food Forest,” Pastor David said. “It is a garden and this garden is inside of our build- ing, basically surrounded on all sides. In fact, the only way you can get into the garden is through our building.” The garden includes fruit bearing trees, all types of herbs, garlic, and Bok choi. “We’ve already harvested probably 20-30 pounds of strawberries in the past week and a half,” Betty said. “We’d like to teach people sustainable living, so we teach people how to grow all kinds of things. We often give away plants to people so they can start things for themselves. It’s also a great green space for people to come and relax and just enjoy it.” The center also offers jobs programs, exercise rooms and conference space. RFC is also a gathering place for senior citizens who come in weekly to play cards and hang out. The Windham Historical Society is also head- quartered in RFC. This summer RFC is hosting a summer lunch program for children and youth as well as recreational activities in the gym. A three-on-three basketball tournament and Vacation Bible School are also on the RFC schedule.

Residents of Windham, in northeast Portage County, know exactly where to find Renaissance Family Center (RFC). Housed in a former elementary school on Wilverne Dr., RFC serves both the physical and spiritual needs of res- idents. True to its name, RFC is a place of “rebirth” in a commu- nity that has fallen on hard times. Businesses and churches have left the village in recent years with the only bank and pharmacy closing earlier this year. Even the Catholic church in town closed its doors. The area is also a food desert—a place with no store that sells fresh food. “It’s really challenging for folks. It’s the poorest part of our county,” said Betty Gray, executive director, Renais- sance Family Center, and wife of Pastor David Gray. “You might not know it by looking at it either. But there’s some real challenges, and the same challenges you would find in a larger city are here.” In 2010, an area pastor and his church purchased the empty elementary school and remodeled it to serve as an outreach center. Today, RFC is a hub of community resources and ser- vices including: The Windham branch of the Portage County Library - “The library would have been financially strapped to stay in Windham altogether, but we were able to give them a reasonable price, so they are one of our tenants,” said Betty. Volunteers teach community members how to cultivate plants and live sustainably in The AMETEK Food Forest at Renaissance Family Center.

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Betty has seen the Lord moving in the ministry of RFC. “O my goodness, the people who come through here just making use of the facility and the volunteers that we have, being able to build relationships with them. We get into some really deep spiritual conversations and that has been a blessing, and it’s just all motivated by God,” Betty said. Recently, RFC experienced God’s blessing once again with an unexpected grant of $15,000 from a company in the area. Betty continues to trust the Lord to give RFC what it needs. “God always has a way of bringing the funding that we need when we need it. This wasn’t something that we applied for. We didn’t even know about it. And God just said, ‘Here.’ God has truly blessed us in such unique and wonderful ways.” For more information on Renaissance Family Center, visit the website at www.windhamrfc.com.

The Windham branch of the Portage County Public Library is housed in Renaissance Family Center.

Following a tornado in Windham earlier this year, RFC housed five Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams who traveled to the area to help—four Ohio DR teams and a team from Pennsylvania DR. As the Executive Director, Betty keeps everything run- ning smoothly. “We just try to help in a lot different ways. Our core organization obviously is the Renaissance Family Center. We are really trying to have an impact on the community evangelistically,” Betty said. She also directs the workforce of RFC. “All of our work- ers work for free so all of these programs are done for free,” she said. ”Volunteers man the front desk, take in donations, sort, and price donated items, and do custo- dial work,” she said. During the growing season volun- teers also work in the Food Forest.

Volunteers plant, tend, and harvest a wide variety of produce in The AMETEK Food Forest in the Renaissance Family Center. The goal is providing fresh food as well as teaching sustainability techniques.

12 | July 2024

Autism Ministry is Personal Journey for Ohio Pastor, Family

When Wayne Yeager talks about autism ministry, it’s per- sonal. Yeager, lead pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Liberty Township, Ohio, has served the Cincinnati-area congre- gation since 2019. A few years earlier, his 9-year-old son, Anakin, was officially diagnosed at age 2 as being on the autism spectrum. As Yeager and his wife, Sara, struggled with what the di- agnosis would mean for Anakin and their family, “it took us six months before we told anyone in our family that he was diagnosed with autism,” he acknowledged. “We didn’t know how the rest of our family was going to deal with that.” On the ministry front, “it took us another six months — so a full year after the diagnosis — before we revealed it to our church,” Yeager added, “because let’s be hon- est, most churches are looking for that husband and wife and the two nice kids that are going to be at everything and here we are telling them, ‘You know, there’s gonna be some differences here.’” Yeager said he was grateful that their church at the time was accepting and supportive amid the issues their family was facing. The greater challenge came when he sensed God’s leadership to serve elsewhere. “As we moved and God called us to another church, we had to begin talking about the process of looking for a church and being very upfront and honest with church- es: ‘Hey, we’re not a typical family. We have a son with autism,’” Yeager shared. “And I’ve gotta tell you, there were some interviews that when I answered that question or brought that up, that was kind of the end. … They wanted more of a typical pastor.” Bethany Baptist ‘didn’t blink’ When Bethany Baptist explored calling Yeager as pastor, the congregation “didn’t blink about that,” he affirmed. “They brought us on. “One thing that my associate pastor often says is that Bethany Baptist agreed to do autism ministry the day that they brought me on as their pastor because they knew what they were getting,” he added. “They see Anakin as part of our church.” Yeager said he often shares with other pastors and churches that an average of one of 36 kids in the United States is on the autism spectrum. “The average church size in America is now 55 people, and seven out of 10 churches are less than 100 people,” he elaborated. “That means if you take those stats and By Trennis Henderson, writer, The Baptist Paper

put them together, every church ought to have one, two or three people in their church who are on the autism spectrum. The fact that you don’t see them is because 93% of autistic families are unchurched. It’s because they don’t feel welcome at their churches. “That’s one reason I’m always a big advocate for our church and other churches that we’ve got to have more opportunities to reach families that have a child on the autism spectrum,” he emphasized. “Eighty-five percent of families with special needs end up in divorce. That’s a sad stat. “The church can do something about that,” Yeager said. “But we’ve got to be open and honest and have an hon- est discussion that we’re not really set up or equipped to handle special needs kids, and we ought to be. I’m very thankful that our church has chosen to be able to do that.” Autistic people need Jesus Mark Snowden, director of missional leadership for Cin- cinnati Area Baptist Association, affirmed the Yeagers and Bethany Church’s efforts to serve Anakin and others with special needs. He acknowledged, however, that such ministries often are the exception among churches and associations. Noting that a primary ministry goal at both the associa- tional and local church levels is to “make disciples of all people,” Snowden said, “Well, autistic people are people that need Jesus just as much as anybody else.” With many churches “not attracting or involving people that have autism,” Snowden encouraged churches to be willing to learn and experiment with launching special Story continues on the next page... Wayne Yeager, lead pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Liberty Township, has led the congregation to provide specialized ministry to his son, Anakin, who is on the autism spectrum. The church recently welcomed a second family whose son also has autism. (Photo by Pam Henderson/ The Baptist Paper)

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needs ministries. He said such efforts could help congre - gations discover that “more families with special needs kids would want to be involved in those churches.” While serving at Bethany since 2019, Yeager has led the congregation to provide a buddy ministry for Anakin, re- cruiting adult volunteers to spend time with him one-on- one as needed. The church also has equipped a small sensory room with a mini trampoline, tent, Legos and other activities for Anakin and others who may benefit from those resources. Thanks to such initiatives and openness to families deal- ing with special needs issues, the church recently wel- comed a second family with a son who also has autism. The Yeagers currently are in the process of having Anakin reevaluated since he was initially diagnosed at such a young age. While Anakin has limited verbal skills, Yeager said, “He can request what he wants and he finds ways to communicate.” Noting that “there’s no universal set of symptoms,” Yea- ger added, “If you’ve seen one kid with autism, you’ve seen one kid with autism. “But I do say for our world, autism is unforgiving,” he pointed out. “Routines are huge for him. Getting out of routine can be difficult. Doing something that is outside the norm is difficult.” Yeager said Anakin’s older sister, Elizabeth, “had to grow up pretty fast” as she learned to “be a little more respon- sible and help us take care of Anakin more.”

As a family, “it’s having a lot of extra margin in what we do, having contingency plans,” he explained. “One of the things we’ve really learned is just to be flexible.” Blessings amid challenges Citing the blessings he sees amid the challenges, Yeager said, “I see so much empathy in him. Sometimes I think he has more empathy than a typical person because he just wants to reach out and give hugs and love on peo- ple.” Along with such resources as a buddy system and a sensory room, Yeager said flexibility is a key ingredient for churches interested in pursuing ministry to families dealing with autism and other special needs. Noting that parents of kids on the autism spectrum seldom get any breaks, he encouraged churches to consider providing respite or babysitting opportunities. On a personal level, Yeager reflected, “The most import - ant thing that Anakin needs to know is not how to read and write and spell. The most important thing Anakin needs to know is how to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Emphasizing that “he’s not stupid, he’s not intellectually handicapped in any way,” Anakin’s dad and pastor con- cluded, “He is very smart. I believe he can understand that he’s a sinner and needing the grace of Jesus. And so, my goal, and I hope our church’s goal, is to find a way for him to understand the truth of Jesus and accept Him as his Lord and Savior.” Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in The Baptist Paper.

14 | July 2024

Last week, thousands of Southern Baptists gathered in Indianapolis for a time of edification and inspiration through the preaching of God’s Word. If you missed it we’ve got you covered. All the sermons from the 2024 SBC Pastors’ Conference are now available online. You can see the entire playlist here or watch individual sermons by: Pastors’ Conference Sermons Are Now Online Bartholomew Orr Greg Mann Hershael York

Adam Dooley Robert Smith Jr. Jimmy Scroggins

Benny Wong James Noble Shane Pruitt

Jack Graham Steve Gaines

While you are there, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the Baptist Press YouTube channel youtube.com/@BaptistPressVideo

July 2024 | 15

REVIVE Summit 2024 Encourages Leaders From Multiple States

Pastors and church leaders from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio traveled to Pickerington, Ohio, in May for the Revive Summit with the Replant Team of the North American Mission Board. During the two-day event attendees were challenged to view worship biblically, shepherd intentionally, and lead strategically. Attendees eagerly shared the impact the event, according to Mark Jones, SCBO revitalization consultant. One pastor stated it encouraged him to stay in his ministry; another shared that it was exactly what he needed to hear. The chairman of a search team stated that he boldly proclaimed the gospel to a coworker the very next day. “God is always at work around us if we take the time to look,” Jones said.

“Revive Summit was made possible due to the Cooperative Program giving of Ohio Baptists and support for revitalization through the Ray Roberts State Missions Offering,” he said. “A special thanks to the crew at Violet Baptist Church and Regional Catalyst Rick Williams for hosting this event.”

Lead Well Leadership Conference Challenges and Encourages Northeast Region Leaders

Pastors and church leaders from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio traveled to Pickerington, Ohio, in May for the Revive Summit with the Replant Team of the North American Mission Board.

During the two-day event attendees were challenged to view worship biblically, shepherd intentionally, and lead strategically. Attendees eagerly shared the impact the event, according to Mark Jones, SCBO revitalization consultant. One pastor stated it encouraged him to stay in his ministry; another shared that it was exactly what he needed to hear. The chairman of a search team stated that he boldly proclaimed the gospel to a coworker the very next day. “God is always at work around us if we take the time to look,” Jones said. “Revive Summit was made possible due to the Cooperative Program giving of Ohio Baptists and support for revitalization through the Ray Roberts State Missions Offering,” he said. “A special thanks to the crew at Violet Baptist Church and Regional Catalyst Rick Williams for hosting this event.”

16 | July 2024

Northwest Region Women Encouraged to Persevere, Hold on to Hope at Retreat

By Matt Pardi, Northwest Region catalyst

Women of the Northwest Region found hope and enjoyed fellowship at this year’s Women’s Retreat: “Strength for the Journey” Women from the three associations gathered at Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Amherst, for a time of teaching and worship. The theme of the event was taken from Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The over 90 women in attendance enjoyed fellowship, great food, workshops, discussions, and worship. The ladies heard impactful teaching from Jennifer Westbrook, wife of SCBO Executive Director, Dr. Jeremy Westbrook. Drawing from her experience as a pastor’s wife and mother, Jennifer shared about finding strength in the Lord in times of trouble. She encouraged the women to persevere and hold on to hope in the midst of joys, struggles, and unexpected blessings. Attendees also participated in a mission emphasis. They brought donations and financial assistance

to benefit the Genesis House Domestic Violence Center of Loraine County and The Daughter Project in Toledo. Jean DiFillipo of Good Shepherd BC did an amazing job rallying a leadership team to plan the event which blessed the women in attendance. It was a joy to be there to introduce the time and pray for the event. We’ve heard nothing but great things about the retreat. Women’s ministry is important for our churches and we are excited to offer a women’s retreat again in April 2025. We hope to continue to bring excellent events like this one closer to home. As we spend time together and collaborate, the Lord blesses our labor. We need to encourage each other to persevere and hope in the Lord through in all seasons of life. I am grateful to Jean, Jennifer, and all the wonderful godly women who serve our Northwest Region so well. I am looking forward to what God will do next year in our midst.

July 2024 | 17

17 | June 2024

Job Postings

PASTOR Woodsfield First Baptist Church, Woodsfield

PASTOR Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Amherst Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Amherst, is prayerfully seeking a pastor who will be in the instrumental role of teaching and expository preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word and shepherding the church family at GSBC. He will lead the development and implementation of a strategic vision, along with the congregation, for the future of the church. He is to be engaged in pastoral care, providing supervisory and administrative leadership in all areas of congregational care including paid and volunteer staff. For a full job description or to apply, please contact Chris Jordan at cmjordanranch@frontier.com. GUEST AND INTERIM WORSHIP LEADERS NEEDED Do you know of anyone who could serve another church as a guest or interim worship leader? If you know of someone with potential in this area, email SCBO Worship Consultant Zac James at zjames@scbo.org. Developing and sending worship leaders is a critical part of our missional cooperation as Southern Baptists who fulfill the Great Commission. There is a significant need for worship leaders who are willing to be sent, and we want to help connect them with churches in need. New Covenant Community Church is in search of a full time pastor-teacher to lead our congregation in reaching the community with the saving message of Jesus Christ in Johnstown. The Johnstown area is growing, and our desire is for God to send us the man with a loving, caring and warm personality, combined with a deep knowledge of the inerrant Word of God, and a passion to share the message of Jesus Christ to join us in our mission. To learn more about the church please visit www.new-covenant.org. The Pastor-Teacher shall be responsible for general oversight of the spiritual welfare of the church, arrange for and conduct all public and regular services of the church, provide leadership among church staff, and provide recommendations for eldership. He shall be an ex-officio member of all councils and committees. He shall be responsible to the Council of Elders. To learn more about the position and to apply, go to www.new-covenant.org/pastor-teacher-application Woodsfield First Baptist Church is seeking a pastor. We are a conservative Southern Baptist Church with a blended style of worship, located in the small southeastern Ohio community of Woodsfield. Our church has the desire to grow and we seek a pastor who has the same desire, as well as the ability to work with compassion and love with all types of people. The church is seeking a man called to be a Southern Baptist pastor who agrees with the Baptist Faith and Message. He should also meet the biblical requirements listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and 1 Peter 5:1-4. Pastoral experience and pastoral education are preferred. Send resume to: Pastor Church Committee Chairperson, Woodsfield First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 604, Woodsfield, OH 43793, or Email to: fbcwoodsfield@gmail.com. The church Facebook page is 1bcwoodsfield. FULL TIME PASTOR-TEACHER New Covenant Community Church, Johnstown

Let the Ohio Baptist Messenger help your church find a new pastor or staff member! The Messenger is offering classified ads free of charge for Ohio churches searching for new pastors and staff members. The Messenger is read by churches and individuals in Ohio and across the country. To submit a classified ad, please send brief information about the position along with a return phone number or email: classifieds@scbo.org

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