Montana Baptist E-News

The Montana Baptist E-News | May 2017











Memorial Day (Offices Closed)

SBC Annual Meeting

Independence Day (Office Closed)

State Literacy Training

Montana Missions Offering Emphasis

Labor Day (Office Closed)

State Literacy Training

MTSBC Executive Board Meeting









Refresh Montana

Get Real West

Thanksgiving Day (Office Closed)

International Missions Emphasis

Winter Staff Retreat

Office Closed


(406) 252-7537

Montana Southern Baptist Convention

1130 Cerise Rd

Billings, MT 59101

It’s a simple truth: Those who go after lost people will see some of them come to faith in Jesus. Now, I know some people will take offense with that statement. They will want to downplay the human component and emphasize the divine role because only God can save a soul. Fair enough. I’ll reword it: Those who go after lost people will be the instruments of God’s Spirit as he saves them. I don’t mind saying it that way. It’s a more complete statement, but no one should miss that the operative part of either statement is the going part.

The apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Spirit, declared: “How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15). In this, Paul was merely repeating Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Our intentional going and sharing the gospel is an indispensable part of seeing lost people come to faith in Jesus. More...

I’m concerned that too many Southern Baptists simply no longer think this is what they’re supposed to be about personally. It isn’t that they don’t believe the Great Commission still applies. I think most Southern Baptists still believe we are under this obligation. After all, most still support missions efforts in their own communities and through our missions agencies. And, I’m grateful for that. At least, Southern Baptists are sending somebody to share the gospel, even if most of them are not doing it themselves.

But, I do wonder why so many Southern Baptists have ceased to share the gospel with those around them. No doubt, there are many reasons. Some reasons are matters of the heart. These are hard to get at. Other reasons have to do with fear or lack of preparation. These are easily addressed with practice and training. Other reasons are matters of the mind. These are the reasons I want to speak about right now.

First, I’m concerned that some of our fellow Southern Baptists may believe the people around them are either too hardened or too different to receive a gospel witness from them. They may think they’ll simply be throwing their pearls before swine and risk rejection, or worse, for their supposed useless effort. If this is true, they have failed to believe in the power of God to save the lost. Sure, many today are hardened to the gospel and many others have embraced troubling lifestyles, but Paul reminds us that the gospel is the “power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). The word translated “power” in this passage is the Greek word dunamis. We derive the English word “dynamite” from it. In other words, Paul is telling us that the gospel is God’s spiritual dynamite. By its very nature, it blows up obstacles so the Spirit can penetrate to the heart with the truth of God’s love in Jesus. We all know of someone who came to faith in Jesus out of a great spiritual hardness or a much different lifestyle. These people are proof that hardness of heart or different lifestyles are not insurmountable.

Second, I’m concerned that some Southern Baptists do not believe that Jesus is the only way to peace with God. We have been exposed to many religions today and to many people living moral lives practicing those religions who appear fulfilled spiritually. This may be leading some Southern Baptists to question the belief that Jesus is the only way to peace with God. Too many Southern Baptists seem content to live and let live, and let God sort it out in the end. Such a laissez fare attitude condemns every person who has not trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin to an eternity in hell at that great sorting out. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). And, in case anyone thinks that any religion can bring people to God because Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, we must remember that Jesus told faithful Jews, “for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). If faithful Jews were required to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, we should understand that everyone must believe in Jesus, not merely practice a religion that teaches them to be good people, in order to find peace with God.

Third, I’m concerned that some Southern Baptists may believe that God does not want to save many of the people around them. They may have adopted the view that Jesus died only for those God chose at the beginning of creation, leaving everyone else eternally in their sin. According to this view, if a person isn’t among the elect, no amount of preaching or witnessing will ever do any good because God will never do the work of drawing and convicting in their hearts that only he can do. This belief creates for many people a powerful disincentive to faithful, persistent witnessing. Now, I’m not denying the doctrine of election. The doctrine is taught plainly in the Scriptures. However, when that doctrine is married with the belief that God does not want to save everyone, it is a terrible twisting of Scripture and a tragic consequence for the lost. Paul speaks very plainly when he declares, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:3-6). God wants all people to be saved, and Jesus died for them all. The fact that most people around us are not saved is not because God is unwilling. They are unwilling to believe; and we are unwilling to tell them. The shared gospel is the answer to the former. The willing witness is the answer to the latter.

I know the above understanding of the necessity of our witness places a great burden on us. We are responsible to tell every lost person we can that Jesus died for them and that he is the only way to forgiveness of sin and peace with God. But, this is a burden the Lord Jesus placed on us himself when he gave us our primary task of making disciples. People cannot become disciples until they are saved, and they will not be saved if they aren’t exposed to the gospel. That is just the truth of it.

There’s a reason those who go after the lost see more people come to faith in Jesus than those who don’t. God chose to be in partnership with his people in declaring the message of salvation. So, where do we start? That is for each of us to discern before God, but we must do our part.

We are surrounded by lost people for whom Jesus died. Surely there is someone we can each begin a conversation with. Maybe it’s the person who cuts our hair, or checks our groceries, or works next to us, or plays a sport with us. We just need to start talking to them about God. I guarantee it will eventually come around to a conversation about Jesus with some of them. We might have to take it slowly. We might be one among many who plant and water the seed of faith in someone’s life, but we must all renew our commitment to be Christ’s ambassadors, bringing his message of salvation to the people around us. We tell people, and God saves them. Do not be deceived, faith in Jesus is the only way anyone can be saved, and everyone can be saved.

This July, the Church Starting Team will host the second annual Vision Tour. The Vision Tour is a two-day experience designed for pastors, church leaders, denominational leaders, and potential church planters who are making decisions regarding personal or church involvement in church planting or missions in Montana. While on the tour, a MTSBC Church Starting Missionary will help those attending:

  • Explore ministry fields in-person to gain a better understanding of what it means to plant healthy churches in Montana
  • Meet church planters and pastors and hear the experiences and the challenges they face in their ministry fields
  • Explore potential partnerships with planters who are already on the field
  • See priority communities that are in need of churches
  • More...

    Vision tours are a great way to see God connect people to church planters, pastors, and Montana communities. They are informative, fun, and often sobering times for pastors and leaders who come from afar to get a sense for the lostness and need for the gospel here. Tours are great times for our planters and pastors to share their stories and meet new friends who can make an eternal impact through prayer, service, and support.

    Vision Tours are also available for Montana pastors and church leaders. We would love for some from our MTSBC churches to “catch the vision” to be on mission in another community right here in the great state of Montana.

    The dates for the Vision Tours will be July 11-12. We will host a tour in each of the three regions if we have participants registered. Go to the Vision Tours page to register and for more information.


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    The Art of Marriage

    This April, Montana Southern Baptist Women (MSBW) held their annual MPower event at Big Sky Baptist Church in Great Falls. Fifty-two women were in attendance, representing 21 different churches. They came to learn, fellowship, share, laugh, and cry together. What a weekend!

    The keynote speaker was Sacha Hasenyager from Outdoorsman Church in Missoula, who coached the women through a series dealing with not being afraid to look at their weaknesses and strengths. The women listened as she shared real stories from her own life testimony. Everyone was challenged to not be afraid to dream God sized dreams for Montana. More...

    The Art of Marriage

    The Art of Marriage

    Breakout sessions were available on discipleship, missions, prayer, and worship. A special time was set aside for the wives of pastors and ministry leaders to share about the challenges, stresses, and solutions of being in that role. An amazing time of worship was led by Tania Miller from Set Free Ministries. We spent Thursday evening enjoying the musical talents of ladies from different churches, followed by a laughter filled time of games, working on a mission project, and fellowship. MTSBC Executive Director Barrett Duke stopped by to introduce himself to the women and offer thanks and encouragement for not only their support of missions, but also the work they do in their churches. We also had the opportunity throughout the event to hear from ladies as they shared about their experiences on recent mission trips.

    At the end of the event, many ladies commented that this was the best they had been to. They were so grateful for the breakout sessions that met their needs of trying to minister in their own areas of Montana. The common complaint was that the event wasn’t nearly long enough!

    The MSBW business meeting was held on Friday. Past President Tami Park officially handed off the gavel to Sharon Ellington, who was previously elected president for 2017. At this meeting, Sharon was also elected to serve as president for 2018. Tami was honored for her service here in Montana, as well as on the national and international level. Debbie Hutcheson, who rotated off the leadership team, was also honored for the work she has done and continues to do in Montana. Diana Bricker and Bethany Bennett were introduced as new members of the MSBW leadership team.

    The ladies from Big Sky were great hostesses, providing us with snacks throughout the event and a huge lunch on Friday! Childcare was provided by First Baptist Church Cascade. The women have a desire to gather more often around the state where they can have ongoing training and encouragement. We are working on that and have women who are available to come and train in several areas. Just let us know! We, the MSBW leadership team, want to thank everyone for taking the time to come!

    To learn more about MSBW and current activities, visit them at:

    Facebook -

    Instagram - @montanasbw (

    Website -


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    Compassion for All the Lost

    Ray Willis, MTSBC Literacy Missions

    The instructions of Jesus in Mathew 28:19-20 have been memorized by untold numbers of believers. Yet, many believers have never taken ownership of these verses in their personal lives.

    One of the great, mostly unexplored, mission fields that God has set before the church today is the field of Literacy Missions. The news is full of stories of refugees and students and their families coming to the United States. They become our neighbors and fellow employees in our towns. We often overlook the large numbers of adults and children who cannot read and write well. More...

    Literacy Missions provides the opportunity to help those who come here from foreign countries to learn to read, speak, and write proficiently in English. Adults who have an English background, but, for whatever the reason, are functionally illiterate can become proficient through Adult Reading and Writing instruction. Children who are struggling in school can benefit from tutoring during the school year.

    Literacy Missions is an opportunity to make disciples as one meets weekly with someone Christ died to redeem. Literacy Missions can reach whole families with the Gospel as one invests in the life of a person who is struggling to succeed. Meeting one on one with someone is a non-threatening way to make a disciple and to teach him or her to observe what you have been taught.

    Training to touch lives with Literacy Missions is available through Montana Southern Baptist Literacy Missions. For more information, please contact Ray Willis at 406-855-4265.


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    The Pritchards

    Mark Pritchard and his wife, Vanessa, met while they were planting churches in a small province in China. Mark graduated from Moody Bible institute in Chicago, IL, and Vanessa grew up in California. God brought them together on the foreign mission field and started stepping their paths toward Montana. Pritchard pastored a church in Northern California for a couple of years after getting home from China. When God called them to a different ministry, they answered the call to Church at the Gates in Missoula, MT!

    Pritchard has three children, ages five, four and two. Simply keeping them wrangled can be a full-time job for Vanessa! They are excited about raising their children in Missoula, as Pritchard states “Missoula is the only city in Montana we could fit into with both of us being from cities.” They have fallen in love with Missoula, the people in the town, and the people in their church. It has been a good first six months for the church. Pritchard has been preaching through the book of Judges, challenging the people to dig deeper into Bible stories and Bible truths they may never have studied before. More...

    Church at The Gates

    Pritchard has been building relationships with the people in the congregation and getting to know the people in the community. His heart is to reach into Missoula. For Easter, Pritchard challenged each member of his congregation to not invite anyone that already had a church home, but to invite a friend that had never been to church. They had between 125-150 brand new, never-been-in-church, people sitting in the pews on Easter Sunday. To teach the congregation that there is a field in Missoula and it is waiting to be harvested is very near and dear to Pritchard. His biggest prayer for the ministry is that the congregation will continue to have hope and joy so they can continue to share that with those around them.

    Over 70% of the people in Missoula County say they have no religious affiliation; that is a higher percentage than San Francisco. The church is looking to reach out to that percentage and reach out to Missoula as “their ground.” The next step that Pritchard is looking to take with the church is to hold a major “Serve Missoula” day in October, where the church gives 1,000 hours of community service. This summer they will begin preparing and looking for ways and avenues to serve the community on that day.

    Pritchard states that though the ministry has been going well, the road to get acclimated to Montana has not been easy. The transition into Montana has been “the hardest six months of our lives” for him and Vanessa. They have experienced two miscarriages during that time and their kids were sick constantly until March. Though they have not been discouraged, their prayer is that they will continue to press into the Lord and seek Him with all they have. Pritchard and the 370-400 individuals that make up the church are looking forward to what God is going to do in Missoula in the next year.


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    A Day on The Horn with Lat45°

    Doni Scofield, Lat45° Executive Director

    Lat 45

    On Saturday, May 6, Lat45 Adventure Ministries held a fundraiser called A Day on the Horn.

    Guided boats were offered for those who wanted to fish. Private boats were also welcome, with a fee to register for the prizes. There were prizes given for the biggest tangle, most flies lost, best picture, and funniest picture. There were seven boats on the river that day with 15 people fishing and six volunteer rowers. One of the volunteers was Doug Hutcheson, MTSBC Church Strategies Team Leader, who brought in the most tips for Lat45 and won the prize for best rower! The day was beautiful with sunshine and highs in the upper 80s. More...

    Lat 45

    Lat 45

    Lat 45

    There was also a banquet that night hosted at Bighorn Baptist Church under an event tent. There were almost 50 people at the banquet, which had great food, live music, prizes, live and silent auction items, and raffles. Live music was provided by Scott Brownson (with a little help from Lydia Nelson, daughter of Robert and Meghan Nelson). Thank you to Tom McKnight, our live auctioneer and to Blue's BBQ for providing the wonderful food.

    The fundraiser was a great success. Lat45 was able to raise funding to take youth on trips this summer at no cost to them or their families.

    Lat45°’s philosophy is that getting kids out of their normal environment and away from all the modern conveniences of life will allow them to be more open to receive the good news God has given everyone. Participants will be challenged physically, mentally, as well as, spiritually and develop an appreciation for wilderness and conservation. Also, Lat45°’s adventure trips will give young people the opportunity to learn essential outdoor skills, along with developing them as leaders and team members.

    For more information, please go to or contact Doni Scofield at 406-850-4800.


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    Should We Care About Safety on Short-Term Mission Trips?

    Andy Johnson, International Mission Board

    The woman on the phone was gripped by that kind of fear that sounds like anger. I, a pastor at a local church, was considering sending her adult son overseas for the summer. The place he hoped to go wasn’t a war-zone, exactly. But it was uncomfortably close to a war zone. And mama was not happy. I told her we were trying to be careful, wise, were seeking counsel, and how the risks seemed reasonable given the gospel opportunities. None of that helped.

    Finally, in frustration she said, “Okay, if you can personally guarantee he’ll be absolutely safe, I’ll be okay with him going.” I replied something like, “Ma’am, nobody can do that. I can’t even guarantee he wasn’t run over by a bus five minutes ago right here in Washington, DC.”

    This was not the high mark for my pastoral sensitivity. There was a long silence as she incorporated this new terror into her already considerable collection of anxieties. She abruptly thanked me and ended the call, no doubt to franticly phone her son to discover if he was lying mangled beneath a bus somewhere. Bad pastor! More...

    While my manner was poor, I stand by my point. Perfect safety is an illusion, everywhere. Instead, gospel-informed wisdom should be our objective and God’s goodness our refuge. This is especially important as we think about short-term missionary efforts in unstable places. Here are six reflections to consider if we intend to join the work in the difficult, unreached places.

    There is something much better than life.

    We can’t think about risks in a Christian manner unless we are convinced the gospel is worth dying for. We must join the Psalmist and say, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3, ESV). Our people need to understand that in pursuit of gospel ends, death is always possible but never pointless.

    I hope we all intend to be wise and careful, but Jesus was clear that faithfulness to his gospel commission would mean suffering (John 15:20) and for some, death (Luke 21:16). If we can’t conceive of this happening in a way that would bring glory to God, then we probably shouldn’t be sending our short-term teams anywhere.

    We are not promised safety, anywhere.

    One effect of the hellish “prosperity gospel” is that even in churches too biblical to believe Jesus died to give us health and wealth, there is still contamination. Too many Christians now believe that if we are in the “center of God’s will” nothing bad will happen to us. Such a promise is found nowhere in the Bible.

    As Hebrews tells us, many believers faithfully committed to God’s will have “faced jeers and flogging.” Others “were chained and put in prison” and “they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:36-37, ESV). Could God be any clearer? He promises to use our life for his glory and bring us safely to heaven for our joy and his honor. God does not promise us safety anywhere in this fallen world.

    Taking unnecessary risks is still stupid.

    There is nothing especially godly about dying because of a dumb decision. And there’s nothing glorious about bringing on suffering through stupidity. Boldness should be tempered with wisdom. This means taking advice from trusted missions organizations to avoid being foolish. So if we are thinking of sending a group to a location, we should probably trust the wisdom of friends in the country. We may not ask, “Is it safe?” but we should certainly ask, “Is this trip necessary, useful, and wise?” An honest “no” to any of those metrics is a fine reason to cancel or delay the trip.

    Risks for a short-term visitor, who likely knows neither the culture nor the local language, can be very different from those for a well-established long-term worker. If we do go, we should be willing to rigorously follow the advice and directions from long-term partners too. Sometimes the greatest danger is not to us, but to the people who continue to live there after we’re gone.

    It’s okay to consider your parents or spouse.

    Taking into consideration the fears of your family members is not wrong either. More than once I’ve counseled a young person to delay a trip out of kindness to a fearful parent. While we can’t be ruled by others’ fears or lack of faith, we still need to keep long-term relationships in mind. This is why counsel from godly friends and church leaders is important.

    Bible-informed risk/benefit analysis is not ungodly.

    I remember calling my wife during a short-term project in Central Asia. A friend in an unstable country nearby had discovered a historical site, knew of my interest in history, and asked me to take a trip with him to look at it. There was no gospel project in view, just a fun trip with a good friend, in a country full of land mines.

    Unsurprisingly, the response I got from my wife wasn’t positive. In short, she said, “I’m happy to raise three kids as a single mom if you die over there doing gospel work.” My wife is an amazing woman! “But,” she continued, “I WILL NOT be happy if it’s because you were taking a trip in a war zone for no good reason, just to hang out with one of your buddies.” Needless to say, I didn’t go. Of course she was right. Not all risks are worth taking.

    Likewise, we should be asking if our short-term trips are useful to gospel work. Given how much trouble short-term trips can be, we should be asking this about our trips everywhere, regardless of obvious risks. Most often we’ll know a trip is useful when our partners actually ask us to do something or at least affirm that what we’re planning to do is useful. But it isn’t wrong to ask whether the risk is worth the potential benefit, and it isn’t wrong for them to tell us it’s not.

    Unreached places are unreached for a reason.

    Finally, realize that places unreached by the gospel tend to be that way for a reason. Many are unstable, hard to reach, and unfriendly to the gospel. Taking the gospel to places like this will entail risk and potentially result in suffering. But we should finish at the same place we started—“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” May we have boldness, wisdom and gospel courage to say that to our faithful God. Someone will have to take risks and potentially suffer loss if the gospel is to reach the remaining corners of our world. Why should we expect others to take those risks instead of taking them ourselves?

    Andy is an Associate Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Andy also gives special attention to the discipling and international missions efforts of CHBC. Andy loves reading, gardening and, most of all, spending time with his wonderful wife, Rebecca, and their children, Andrew, Evelyn, and Samuel.


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    Fines for Worship, Prison for Bible Study in China

    Julia A. Seymour/WORLD News Service, Baptist Press

    CHINA (BP) -- Amid increasing attempts to suppress religious activities, Chinese authorities have detained, fined, and imprisoned Christians for public worship, buying and selling devotionals and group Bible study.

    In late April, a court in Xinjiang convicted five Protestants who attended a Bible study in 2016, charging them with "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," Asia News reported. The verdict came with five-year prison sentences for two pastors, and four- and three-year sentences for three others. They plan to appeal.

    Earlier in April, authorities raided a Christian concert and arrested those attending. Taiwanese Pastor Xu Rongzhang was singing "Jesus Loves You" when the raid took place, China Aid reported. Before releasing them, officials forced the Christians to say they would not organize large gatherings again and told Xu not to hold any meetings of more than 10 people. More...

    A Chinese court also recently convicted prominent Christian human rights lawyer Li Heping on charges of subverting state power. Judges sentenced Li to three years in prison but suspended the sentence for four years. If he does not reoffend during that time, Li will stay out of prison.

    Since 1997, Li has defended dissidents, victims of forced evictions, and members of the banned Falun Gong religious group. Officials detained him and nearly 250 others in 2015, in what Amnesty International condemned as a nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists.

    Amnesty said the Communist Party's official newspaper described it as an attempt to destroy a "major criminal gang."

    Several of those lawyers and activists remain in detention, even though Western governments urged Beijing to release them.

    Earlier this year, officials in Xinjiang targeted a network of Christian house churches and arrested more than 80 people. They fined and later released them, according to China Aid.

    All these incidents appear to illustrate the worsening persecution of Christians under President Xi Jinping's crackdown on religious activity and human rights. Critics say he wants to eradicate any potential opposition to the ruling Communist Party.

    Because religious freedom in China continued to erode in 2016, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. State Department to keep China listed as a country of particular concern in its recently released 2017 report.

    USCIRF reported China's government revised regulations to more tightly control religious groups, increased penalties against "illegal" Christian churches and activities, and formally prohibited any religion from harming "national security" concerns.

    A campaign to remove crosses from churches has continued, and officials targeted and imprisoned Christians who spoke out against it, including Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife Xing Wenxiang. Not even members of state-sponsored churches were safe from persecution.

    China also continues to suppress other religious groups, including Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong, while continuing to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees, according to USCIRF.

    "It is crucial that the U.S. government not only integrate human rights messaging -- including on freedom of religion or belief -- across its interactions with China, but also consistently make clear that it opposes Beijing's overt violations of international human rights standards," USCIRF said in its report.

    Julia A. Seymour writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine ( based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.


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