Montana Baptist E-News

The Montana Baptist E-News | July 2015

MTSBC Calendar












































ELEVATE Training (Bozeman/Missoula)

ELEVATE Training (Miles City/Great Falls)

International Missions Emphasis


Church Planter/Wives Retreat (Fairmont)

Church Starting Team Retreat

Winter Blast

Elevate Training (Belgrade/Missoula)

Elevate Training (Great Falls/Miles City)

North American Missions Emphasis

Executive Board Meeting

MPact Montana 2016 (Billings)

VBS State-Wide Training

Legacy Youth Worker Training

Cooperative Program Sunday

Get Real East (Billings)

Elevate Training (Manhattan/Missoula)

Elevate Training (Miles City/Great Falls)

Celebration for Women

Summer Missionary Orientation (Bozeman)

SBC Annual Meeting (St. Louis, MO)

Peru Mission Trip

Peru Mission Trip

Elevate Training (Manhattan/Missoula)

Elevate Training (Great Falls/Miles City)

Montana Missions Offering Emphasis

MTSBC Exec. Board Meeting

Pastors' Conference (Great Falls)

Pastors' Wives Luncheon (Great Falls)

MTSBC Annual Meeting (Great Falls)

Get Real West (Missoula)

Elevate Training (Manhattan/Missoula)

Elevate Training (Great Falls/Miles City

International Missions Emphasis

Montana Southern Baptist Convention

Between Prairie and Peaks: A Series on Montana Native American Missions

Jeannie Ferriss

Native American 1

It was a moment frozen in time, no one moved or interrupted. The Yellowstone Christian College library staff stood transfixed by the gentle sing-song harmony of his voice as he shared the words of Jesus recorded in the book of Mark. Decades ago, in a land called Israel, Christ had come to save the world. Now Leland Walking Bear was reading the Good News aloud in the language of his own Crow people from a Bible translated into their own language. His reading had started out as a simple request to discover how spoken Crow sounded for recording purposes. As Leland read however, the power of God’s Word brought to life the amazing results which happen when people care about others enough to share the Gospel. This series will explore the history of Native American missions in Montana, individual pastors and churches around the different areas of the state, and how the Native American mission field is changing. [MORE]

Native American 2

Native American 3

Native American 4

Native American 5

It is a difficult history to trace because in the timeline of world history the founding of the United States (1776) is so young, Montana only achieved statehood in 1889, and the majority of Southern Baptist work with Montana Native American churches were founded in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The positive aspect of this young history is that many of the original participants are still in the state to share their first-hand knowledge of the actual events as they happened.

The story of Native American Missions is filled with young men and women who were dedicated to bringing the gospel to a young country. Men like John Eliot, a Cambridge graduate who moved to the Boston area in 1631 and preached a sermon to the local Indian population in their native language 15 years later. Then there were Isaac and Christiana McCoy who dedicated their lives to the cause of bringing the gospel to the Native American populations from 1818 to 1846. It was through their work that the Southern Baptists recognized the importance of continuing to fund and staff Indian missions at their founding convention of 1845. As he lay dying, Isaac McCoy summed up his life’s mission in his last words, “Tell the brethren to never let the Indian mission decline”.

Annie Armstrong was so moved in 1880 after hearing a speaker talk about the plight of the children on the newly formed reservations, that she organized the Baltimore churches into sending clothing for 240 Native American students. She later made five trips to the Indian Territory.

With the discovery of gold in Montana in 1862, the Native Americans were about to enter a devastating period in their history. Faced with the destruction of their nomadic way of life, an invasion of miners, settlers and military; the Plains peoples were almost all confined to reservations by 1881. While other groups such as the American Baptists, Catholics, etc., were established in the state in the early and middle 1800’s, Southern Baptists as a group would not enter the area until the l950’s. The treasure this time would be oil, not gold, and it would bring a new group of believers into Montana who had strong ties to their churches back home. The first Southern Baptist church in the state was organized on December 7, 1952 in Billings. First Southern Baptist Church (now Emmanuel) started with 32 charter members. Other churches would also begin with assistance from missionary Benny Delmar, who covered the states of Wyoming, Montana, and often North Dakota. Montana belonged to several multi-state conventions until 1988 when it became large enough to meet the requirements of an independent state convention.

With all of the changes which come with an independent state convention, it is not surprising that the Southern Baptists of Montana looked forward to expanding the outreach to the Native American population. According to the 2014 State-Tribal Report (p.7), Montana contains seven Indian reservations and one state recognized tribal area. The reservations include the Blackfeet Reservation headquartered in Browning, Montana, for the Blackfeet Nation; the Crow Reservation headquartered at Crow Agency, Montana, for the Crow Nation; the Flathead Reservation headquartered in Pablo, Montana which includes the Confederated Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes; Fort Belknap Reservation headquartered at Fort Belknap, Montana, which includes the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes; Fort Peck Reservation, headquartered in Poplar, Montana for the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes; the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, headquartered at Lame Deer, Montana for the Northern Cheyenne tribe; and Rocky Boy's Reservation headquartered at Rocky Boy Agency, Montana for the Chippewa and Cree tribes. The state of Montana also recognizes the Little Shell Chippewa tribe, headquartered in Great Falls, Montana.

With so many diverse tribal communities spread across the entire state, outreach to the Native American community would take planning, coordination, and commitment. In 1999 Jack Coward, former president of Yellowstone Baptist College, was brought to the convention as other Language Director for the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship, as the convention was called at that time. His job would include Native American Missions as well as the other language groups in the state. The next few years would see the start of many of the Montana Indian churches and the growth of different outreach areas.

In the next section of this series, “A Look at the Mission Field: An Update of the Indian Churches in Montana”. The variety of different tribal cultures, the challenges of reaching Native Americans and the families currently serving in each area.

For those interested in Native American Mission history, the following books are recommended:

  • History of Baptist Indian Missions by Isaac McCoy
  • History of Christian Missions by Charles Henry Robinson
  • Isaac McCoy: Apostle of the Western Trail by George M. Ella
  • Stories of Montana Southern Baptists 1952-1993 by Dorothy Hughes
  • The Story of Religion in America by William Warren Sweet

    Shepherding The Shepherd

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Neil Franks

    A Message from Neil Franks

    Kendra and I are extremely excited about coming to Montana in August. She loves traveling, especially in the mountains! After my first visit to the state back in March of 2014, I have come to love the people of your great state, especially pastors and your families. This time around I will get to share my family with yours. Both of my sons (Nathan who is 16, and Travis, 12) will travel with Kendra and me as we explore the beautiful state right before joining you.

    Talk about risky - I am traveling with family in tight quarters, exploring places we have never been with each of us desiring to see different things, complete with four very strong personalities. You will understand why it’s so risky when you learn the topic from which I will be sharing.

    You see, as we made our travel plans earlier this year we elected to travel on United Airlines. I got to thinking about that name. I just love it . . . united. It is more than a name; it is a way of living. If we, as believers, are ever going to have the impact God calls us to have, then you and I must be united in our denomination, in our churches, our families and most especially our marriages.

    I’m looking forward to sharing with and learning from you as we really are united in the work of advancing His kingdom. I’ll see you in August!


    A Message from Joey Staples

    We, Joey and Jeanie Staples, are looking forward to our first visit to Montana and the opportunity to get to know you. As the Family Life Pastor at First Baptist Church Branson and as a Licensed Professional Counselor, I know well the pressures and responsibilities of ministry. Sometimes the weight can be so heavy.

    I look forward to being a resource for you during the conference. I will be available for personal counseling with every conference attender to help provide insight, support, encouragement and prayer. I am excited to see what God is going to do.

    See you in August!

    Register for Shepherding the Shepherd


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    Elevate Training

    Elevate Leadership Training

    If you haven’t registered yet for the August session of Elevate - Taking Leaders to the Next Level, please take a moment to do so. We have locations in Manhattan, Miles City, Great Falls and Missoula to make it accessible for you and leaders in your church to take advantage of this ongoing opportunity. The focus of this session will be Multiplying. You can register here for the August session. Please let us know if you are planning to attend, as it is very helpful for us to have an estimate of how many we will have.

    Sessions at all locations are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If you have questions specific to a location, you can contact the following facilitator:

    Central Region – Steve Fowler, 406-672-2483

    Missoula - Michael Liner, 406-830-0884

    Miles City – Eddie Smith, 406-853-9890

    Great Falls – Darren Hales, 406-461-9120


    Church of The Rockies Meet in the Red Lodge "Old Round Barn"

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Round Barn 1 Archive photo of the Round Barn in Red Lodge

    Where do new churches meet? That is often one of the questions that every church planter has to ask and there are a variety of answers that are all right. Some meet in schools, homes, senior centers, garages, etc. But recently, Church of the Rockies began meeting in a barn … that’s right … a barn.

    Known to Red Lodge residents as The Old Round Barn, it is now the residents of a new church plant. The Old Round Barn is actually on the Historic Registry. Originally the building was a dairy barn that serviced all of Red Lodge and the surrounding areas. Through the years it has become other venues as well – a dinner theater, a bar and casino, and most recently a Ford Dealership. Of course with each new owner and each new purpose, the building has gone through many renovations. [MORE]

    Structure built for the previous owner, a Ford dealership.

    Round Barn 3 The Round Barn today.

    When Church of the Rockies bought the “barn” it needed a lot of work. Currently, the downstairs of the barn includes a coffee bar and soda fountain area that Pastor/Planter Lee Merck calls the Lifetree Cafe. It will be used for fellowship, Bible studies, the First Impression Ministry, and eventually the Lifetree Cafe ministry. The worship area is located in the upstairs portion of the building.

    After numerous mission teams worked over a period of several weeks, Church of the Rockies held their first service in the Old Round Barn on Sunday, June 14th. With over 70 Red Lodge residents present and several others from mission teams and encouraging visitors, the church had 136 present for worship.

    The barn is located on the Beartooth Highway, one of the most popular routes into Yellowstone National Park. This makes Church of the Rockies very visible. It's likely that over 1 million people will drive right by the church every year. Pastor Merck is praying for many of them to stop and hear the gospel.

    “We believe the round barn will provide unique opportunities to minister in a variety of ways. We praise God for the ‘new,’ old building because we no longer have to meet and set up in a temporary place. Even with such a unique building, we realize it is only brick and mortar. We are excited and looking forward to what God has in store for this unique building,” states Pastor Lee Merck.


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    Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Hales Joins MTSBC Strategy Team

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    Darren Hales Darren Hales, staff photo

    In 2006, God called our family to Helena, Montana as church planters and it has been an amazing journey of faith. From the beginning, we sought to discover the makeup of our community. Who are these people and how do we reach them with the Gospel? Through personal interactions and lots of prayer, we began to understand the people who live here. Then, with Scripture as our foundation, we began to use specific strategies to build relationships and share Jesus. [MORE]

    My biggest mentor was Dave Howeth. He taught me how to “exegete” my community and the value of having a good coach. Over the last 9 years, many pastors and planters in Montana have helped develop me. They have listened carefully, understood my challenges, and encouraged me to take specific steps of faith to follow God’s call on my life. This network of pastors have made me a better pastor and more effective in ministry.

    Now, as a member of the NEW Strategy Team of the MTSBC, I have the opportunity to share those lessons with others. Sometimes that is being a coach, sometimes a mentor, and in other cases just being a friend.

    I have learned over time the difference and importance of each role. I am excited to serve alongside local churches who are looking for a little support, training, or resources, but I understand this is a ministry of permission. Often, churches only call the state office when there is a problem. With the development of the NEW Strategy team, I hope you will allow us to have a closer relationship with you.

    We are stronger, healthier, and have a greater impact on the Kingdom when we work together and encourage each other. How can I serve you?

    Ray Willis

    Fostering and Adopting in Faith

    Steve and Mary Bryan, Child Bridge Montana

    Child Bridge Logo

    Child Bridge is a faith based, non-profit that finds and supports foster and adoptive families for Montana children in need. Recently, MTSBC had the chance to catch up with Mary Bryan, Co-Founder with her husband, Steve of Child Bridge, and learn more about this organization that is making an impact across the state.

    Can you give me some background on Child Bridge? When and how did the organization come about?

    Mary Bryan: Certainly. In late 2008 a magazine arrived at our home that we hadn’t subscribed to, and has never come since. Flipping through it, an ad caught my attention and I read it out loud to my husband, Steve. “143 million orphans. 2 billion Christians. If just 7% of today’s Christians cared for a single orphan, there would be no more orphans.” Immediately, Steve responded with, “We could do something about that.” And so, we did. We began to do a little research, and we had an international focus. Not too far into researching and thinking about how we could help, we had to put the project on hold to care for elderly parents. Then, in 2010, we heard the call again, and God had used that two year lapse to redirect us to focus on Montana children in need. We launched the non-profit in late 2010 and began building awareness of the need of Montana kids and began recruiting families to foster/adopt in 2011. [MORE]

    Child Bridge 3

    Why is there a need for recruiting families?

    Mary Bryan: Currently there are approximately 2,500 children in the Montana foster care system, and a couple hundred of these children are available for adoption. Children who have been abused or neglected need a safe haven, whether it is temporary or permanent. With too few families to care for these children, they may be removed from familiar surroundings, like community, school and friends and often bounce from place to place. And far too many adoptable children are languishing in the Montana foster care system without permanent families to care for them.

    What do you do exactly?

    Mary Bryan: Child Bridge bridges the gap between churches, communities and government by sharing the need and helping foster and/or adoptive families navigate a complex system. We spend most Sunday’s in churches sharing from the pulpit about the need for foster/adoptive families to care for Montana kids in need. We provide information about the training and licensing process and through our collaboration with the State of Montana we’re able to provide some high level information about specific children in need of adoption. We also work with pastors and churches helping them utilize the natural infrastructure of the church to support families who care for these children from “hard places.” Additionally, Child Bridge hosts monthly training/support group for families which builds great camaraderie to remind families they are not alone. Currently, we offer these groups in the Flathead Valley, Billings, Polson and Libby. We are experiencing additional statewide expansion.

    What have your results been to date?

    Mary Bryan: God has been incredibly faithful to the Child Bridge mission. Since 2011 approximately 112 children have been placed in Child Bridge recruited or supported families and nineteen children have been adopted.

    What is your organization’s vision for the future?

    Mary Bryan: While the child welfare problem is large and complex, the solution doesn’t have to be. The responsibility to make a change in a child’s life can be local and simple … local churches responding to the ne needs of children and families in local communities, one at a time. The best child welfare delivery model is the Body of Christ. Churches understand the command and the calling to care for these children in need.

    We strongly believe that not everyone can, or should foster or adopt, but everyone can do something to support families who are doing this heavy lifting of caring for the children.

    Recently, we’ve started working with churches to help leadership embrace and empower a foster/adoptive centric culture of prayer, care and support for families and children in need.

    Over time, we believe this will make a lasting impact on the number of children languishing in the system. We have a solvable problem … if only 1 in every 351 Montana families adopted, every child in the Montana foster system would have the love of a forever family. That is less than half a percent of Montana Christian families! Not only can we dramatically impact the Montana population of children who need permanency, we can recruit and support an army of families to be available to provide a safe haven for the children who enter Montana’s foster care system annually, in need of short term, long term and permanent foster/adoptive care. Healing from abuse and neglect begins when children experience the love and consistency of stable, well-trained and committed families. The Child Bridge recruiting and support model provides that.


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    Most of us first experience grief as a child with the death of a pet who shared our childhood. Many a dog, cat or bird have been tenderly buried beneath carefully turned soil moistened with childhood tears.

    Grief eventually comes more forcefully with the death of a parent, a brother, sister or friend. If we live long enough, it will come to each of us when we part with those we love most.

    David, who wrote the Psalms, was famous for his grief over the death of his son Absalom. Even though Absalom led a rebellion against him seeking to unseat him from the throne of Israel, when David heard that Absalom was dead, he was inconsolable. He wept and cried, ““O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). On another occasion, when David grieved over the death of an infant son, he said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23). [READ MORE]

    Confidence in Heaven and the resurrection does not eliminate grief, but it takes away the sting. That is why the Apostle Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

    A few years ago I visited a cemetery in old Boston where the tombstones date back to some of the earliest residents of The Colonies. I discovered an interesting pattern. Those grave makers erected before 1730 bore skulls and cross bones. They were the picture of death and despair. The markers erected after 1740 bore the images of angels and cherubim and were often inscribed with verses about heaven. The only event that could have made such a difference in the Boston markers is the Great Awakening that swept the Colonies in the 1730s and 40s. Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Awakening that there was a “wonderful...change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. … so that one could not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."

    Grief as a believer in Jesus Christ is deep and real, but it is not a grief without hope. Even Jesus grieved when he stood outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Although he knew he would call Lazarus from the grave and raise him from the dead, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” When Jesus wept, he demonstrated to us that God not only knows our grief, he feels it. We do not grieve alone or in isolation nor do we grieve without hope.

    Knowing His followers would experience grief, Jesus spoke these words to them only hours before His own death, “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”


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    The Tinsley Center

    Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    SBC Reports More Churches Serving Fewer People

    Carol Pipes, Lifeway Christian Resources

    NASHVILLE -- Southern Baptists are adding more churches but serving fewer members who are giving fewer dollars, 2014 data compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources shows.

    The number of cooperating churches within the Southern Baptist Convention rose for the 15th consecutive year, but the churches lost more than 200,000 members, the biggest one-year decline since 1881, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay in cooperation with Baptist state conventions. Average attendance, baptisms and giving also declined.

    The ACP is an annual statistical report churches voluntarily provide to their local Baptist associational organizations or their state conventions, which relay the data to LifeWay. [READ MORE]

    The number of churches in the convention grew by 374 to 46,499, up 0.81 percent from the previous year. SBC churches also reported 4,595 church-type missions last year, down 194 from 2013. However, some state conventions no longer use the designation of church-type mission, which impacted that total.

    One of the biggest declines last year was Southern Baptist church membership, which fell 1.5 percent to 15.5 million—still the largest Protestant denomination by far, but at the lowest level since 1993. Weekly worship attendance declined 2.75 percent to 5.67 million Sunday worshippers.

    Baptisms declined for the third year in a row, although the rate held steady with one baptism for every 51 members. Churches recorded 5,067 fewer baptisms, a decrease of 1.63 percent to 305,301. Reported baptisms have fallen eight of the last 10 years, with last year’s the lowest total since 1947.

    The declining picture painted by the ACP data comes at a pivotal time in Southern Baptist life as the convention prepares for its June 16-17 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

    “It breaks my heart that the trend of our denomination is mostly one of decline,” said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay. “This new data confirms SBC President Ronnie Floyd’s call for next week’s convention to focus on prayer for a great awakening. Programs and meetings are not going to revive our people—only prayer and repentance will lead our people to revival.”

    Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said he is saddened to hear the recent statistics, though not surprised.

    “This is the lowest baptisms that we have seen since we crossed the 300,000 mark in the late 1940s,” Page said. “While we might complain about the many churches who are not reporting their baptisms, and we can, the reality is that we are simply not sharing our faith like once we did.

    “In this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, I will be making a call for Southern Baptists to be involved in evangelism and stewardship like never before,” Page said. “The truth is, we have less people in our churches who are giving less money because we are winning less people to Christ, and we are not training them in the spiritual disciplines of our Lord.

    “May God help us to be as serious about sharing our faith and discipleship as were the first-century Christians,” Page said. “God forgive us, please, and draw us back to a place of passion for winning souls to You!”

    Giving & missions expenditures

    Total and undesignated church receipts according to the ACP data also declined last year, 0.49 percent and 0.24 percent respectively.

    Total missions expenditures decreased 4.98 percent to $1.2 billion, but the report shows three Baptist state conventions did not report this data—California, Georgia, and Oklahoma. While Great Commission Giving, which reports total denominational giving, increased in 2013, it was down 18 percent in 2014 to $637 million, with four state conventions—Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma—not asking churches for that data.

    Giving through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program (CP) mission initiative is not included in the ACP annual report. Instead, totals are reported by the SBC Executive Committee, which facilitates the mission gifts to the SBC’s national and international missions and ministries.

    CP gifts forwarded from state conventions to SBC causes in fiscal year 2014 were 0.76 percent below the previous year. However, year-to-date contributions for 2015 are 2.09 percent ahead of the same period the year before and 2.57 percent above the year-to-date budget projections.

    Statistics for the national ACP are reported by individual churches to their local association and/or state convention, and national totals are compiled and released when all cooperating state conventions have reported.

    Carol Pipes is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.


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