Larry and Sarah Bills (members of University congregation in Montgomery, AL and former choral director at Faulkner University) are the newest members of the Antioch Initiative.
Brother Bills is the former President of Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, AR and has known numbers of the Presidents of Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg, WV over the past numbers of years. Both of those brotherhood colleges have Bible departments training men as preachers of the gospel. Brother Bills will exploit his contacts at those places seeking to raise awareness of the Antioch Initiative’s church planting work in Pennsylvania. He commented, “I have noticed over the years that there are concentrations of congregations in the regions where Christian colleges exist.” Further, he commented, "The Bible students of Ohio Valley University are culturally acclimated to the Northeast and would, logically, be most useful in Northeastern church-planting."
Brother Bills worked at Northeastern Christian Junior College in Villanova, PA for fifteen (15) years and is very familiar with the regions where we are working in PA. He and his wife, Sarah, have been consistent financial supporters of this work and have been long-time friends and former college-mates of Bill Garrett (a strong member of the Antioch Initiative’s Core Leadership) of Lewistown, PA.
God is on mission. Let us join Him!
Seeking the blessings of God, The Antioch Initiative Team under the oversight of the Elmore congregation’s elders (Elmore, AL) plan to launch a new church-plant in Tunkhannock, PA (the county seat of Wyoming County, PA) the first week of June 2016 with or without a permanent evangelist secured. This plan involves the following elements:
• SECURING OF CHURCH MEETING PLACE. The first week of May 2016, core leaders of the Antioch Initiative Team will travel to Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania to follow up on initial inquiries of Arthur Barry (Evangelist of Valley Cities congregation in Sayre, PA) regarding a suitable meeting place for the new Tunkhannock congregation that, ideally, will have living quarters upstairs or on the premises to be used by visiting evangelists, Bible teachers, and soul-winners. As an alternate to this plan, there are strong indications from one Christian family near Tunkhannock that they will become the charter members of the new congregation opening their home as a church meeting place.
• JUNE CAMPAIGN. A soul-winning campaign will take place in Tunkhannock, PA the first week of June 2016 with suggested campaign directors—Jimmy Davis, Arthur Barry, and Larry Krause (Evangelist of Kittanning congregation, Kittanning, PA).
o Dr. Dave Laton (deacon associated with Mission at Prattville congregation in Prattville, AL) and his wife, Lynne, will minister to the new congregation for the entire month of June 2016. (Note: for a more extensive plan of action and permanent role of Dr. Laton, please see the attached approved proposal of his continuing function in the Antioch Initiative.) Dr. Laton will support himself as a welcomed member of the Antioch Initiative Core Leadership at the close of 2016, but will need eight months of financial support between May 1st and December 31st 2016 at $2000 per month. Between now and May 1st, Dr. Laton will be seeking opportunities to visit with interested brethren to raised the needed temporary funding.
o Tim Mann, (B.A. Bible Studies, Faulkner University and Ministry Intern at Elmore congregation) will preach and follow up on contacts with the new congregation for the entire month of July 2016.
o The Laytons will return to Tunkhannock to minister to the new congregation and evangelize for the entire month of August 2016.
o In the event that a permanent evangelist has not been located by September of 2016, the Antioch Initiative Core Leadership would have recruited a slate of New York and Pennsylvania evangelists, Bible teachers and leaders to travel into Tunkhannock on a systematic weekly schedule to evangelize on Saturdays and to teach/preacher on Sundays. (This recruitment has already begun with promising results.)
o Use of SKYPE and/or Face Time may be blended into the preaching and teaching program at the new church plant.
o Dr. Laton has already developed a curriculum of study for the Bible class program that will insure continuity of discipleship among Tunkhannock members while offering visiting Bible teachers the freedom of expansion based on their own study and knowledge.
o January 27 – 30th, Don Myers and Jimmy Davis (elder of Elmore congregation) will travel to Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, TX to speak in the Thursday, January 28th, chapel service and to meet students who may be interested in Northeastern church planting at a luncheon. During this trip, Don & Jimmy will seek other appointments with church leaders in the greater Lubbock area to spread the word of the church-planting vision of the Antioch Initiative.
o Broadening our circle of acquaintances with men who might catch the vision of Northeastern U.S. church-planting will be an ongoing function of the Antioch Initiative as core leaders seek to visit various brotherhood schools.
According to the commandment of God, the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the swollen Jordan River on the eve of the launching of the Western Conquest. It was not until the priests’ feet touch the water that God met them there and caused the water to back up to the north and dry up to the south. We, too, have a commandment to go into all the world and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19, 20). What gives us the notion that as we seek to faithfully discharge that Divine mandate that God will meet us at the point of obedient faith? Jesus promised prior to that commission, “All authority has been given unto Me both in heaven and on earth” (Mt.28:18). The universal sovereignty of the reigning King Jesus moves us on. Join us in praying that He will, indeed, meet us at the bank of the river.
Taking the Nation Back by Taking Jesus to the Nation aicoc.org
On Sunday, December 6th, at 4:00 p.m., Stan Taylor (an elder of Elmore congregation) and Don Myers (preacher of Elmore church) met with the Mission Committee of Dalraida congregation in Montgomery, AL. The Dalraida church has been partnering with the Antioch Initiative (overseen by the Elmore elders) at $200 per month, which was part of the original funding making it possible for the church to launch in Sayre, PA on October 19, 2014.
Don was contacted by Mark Davidson (Chairman of Dalraida's Mission Committee--see attached photo) and asked to meet with them on December 6th saying, "Dalraida would like to explore how we might become more involved with the Antioch Initiative." At the meeting, the committee indicated they had already viewed the latest version of the video on aicoc.org (bottom of the start-up webpage) that gives a thumb-nail sketch of the entire Antioch Initiative vision. Hence, after some preliminary updates, Mark asked, "We were wondering if the Antioch Initiative leaders could assist us if we decide to plant a congregation in Alabama." Stan and Don were quick to point out that we are all still in a great learning curve, but have been blessed to partner with a growing number of knowledgeable and passionate brethren who have vast knowledge and experience in church planting--both foreign and domestic. Hence, the full cooperation of the Antioch Initiative Core leadership is ready to partner with Dalraida in any effort in which they invite us to preach the gospel of grace and to plant germinal congregations of the Lord's church. Mark indicated if they elect to plant a church in Alabama that they would recruit the evangelist and fund him. Mark went on to say, "If we decide not to plant a church in Alabama, would there be opportunities to be involved with the Antioch Initiative in Pennsylvania and to involve our youth in those mission efforts?" Don indicated there is no question that such would be welcomed and would need to be coordinated with Arthur Barry (Evangelist of Valley Cities church in Sayre, PA and the Kittanning elders).
Don went on to point out, "We are as interested in weak and dying congregation as we are in planting new churches, but have discovered when passionate brethren from weaker congregations become involved in church planting in Pennsylvania and other places that it causes new enthusiasm to be breathed into the weak congregation when the campaigners return home. Further, this is not a short-term ministry. Through email communications, every participant has ownership in the regional and national aims of the Antioch Initiative."
The meeting closed with prayer with the committee's assurance that they were still deliberating on their decision. Dr. Terry Edwards commented that partnering with the Antioch Initiative represented a major mission paradigm-shift from the way mission work has been done, generally, in the past. By this, he was underscoring his agreement with the Antioch Initiative's insistence that money needs to be raised for the evangelists who go into these fields, but that no money is to be expended for church properties and/or church buildings. Those are matters that each individual, autonomous church-plant will to decide. We do not intending to become bogged down with mortgages that will smother the germinal advance of planting new congregations and the rise of indigenous leadership in the new church plants. Those rising leaders will need to learn to depend on God in prayer, arrive at decisions, and make sacrifices. Further, the Antioch Initiative mission philosophy based on the Pauline methodology would strongly urge church plants to not so overburden themselves with debt that they forfeit their spiritual reproductive strength.
A Closing Note: The dream is for every church plant to have all the essential spiritual DNA to reproduce themselves and for every church they plant to reproduce themselves. This cannot be accomplished in the framework of dependency and paternalism. The church of the Lord flourished for the first 200 to 300 years without church buildings. Churches met in homes and the gospel spread through relationships from house to house and person to person. Every Christian was a missionary and that work was not delegated to professionals. In order to restore the evangelistic flames of First and Second Century evangelism, we must preach the First Century gospel of grace using the First Century Pauline method of church planting.
More later as God blesses....
July 17, 2013 Church Planting Plan in PA
On July 17th, two of my elders (Jimmy Davis & Terry Carlisle), one deacon (Roger Rives) and one elder's wife (Winnie Carlisle) will travel to Pittsburg, PA to meet Larry Krause (preacher of Kittanning church of Christ, Kittanning, PA). We will attend services with the Kittanning congregation on Wednesday, July 17th, and, then, travel early the next morning (the 18th) with our group, Larry Krause & wife, two or three of his elders with their wives and brother Clarence McDowell & wife (preacher at Uniontown, PA) to Athens, PA. The trip is about 250 miles into the northeastern part of PA on the NY border. We will explore the prospect of planting a congregation in Athens, PA as we prayerfully consider the positive encouragements of brother Clarence McDowell to do so. (For more information about Athens, PA see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens,_Pennsylvania). We will have a time of prayer and planning in or near Athens on the evening of July 18th and continue our investigation on the 19th returning to Alabama on Saturday, July 20th.
After seeking the advice of Dr. Richard Trull (Missions Department of Faulkner University), we will be researching the whereabouts of congregations south to southeast and south to southwest of Athens, PA and north in all directions into New York. That research has yielded the following to date via David Smith of Harrisburg, PA (deacon of the Camp Hill church of Christ with a membership of 200). The following is my report of a telephone conversation with David Smith on the evening of July 1st.
Athens, PA is a rural, farming community in Northeastern Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania and New York border. Since there are strong family ties in such a community which has been static for a hundred years, congregations of that kind tend to be dominated by one family. Yet, since Athens has a population of 4000 residents within its city limits, it seems a logical target for a church plant.
Congregations near Athens, PA are found in Pittstown, PA (200 miles away with 80 members); Scranton, PA (100 miles away with 40 members); Stroudsburg, PA (123 miles away with 90 members); Canton, PA (40 miles away with 35 members); End Well, NY (38 miles away with 75 members); and Owego, NY (25 miles away with 6 members). It should be noted that some of the data on membership size might be over 10 to 15 years old and we trust that the survey trip to Athens will bring this data into clearer focus. (Be reminded according to the 2010 WHERE THE SAINTS MEET publication, there were no adherents of the churches of Christ in the following Pennsylvania counties (Bradford with 62622 residents; Susquehanna with 43356 residents; Sullivan with 6428 residents; and Wyoming with 28276 residents).
One of the central meeting places for churches of Christ in Southeastern, PA is Camp Manatawnq in Douglassville, PA, which is a three-hour drive from Athens, PA. Camp Manatawnq serves anywhere from 30 to 50 congregations of the churches of Christ. Camp Shiloh in Hewitt, New Jersey is a two-hour drive from Athens, PA and is a church of Christ Christian Camp which has been in operation for over forty years. This is to note that should a congregation be planted in Athens, PA, the missionaries and church family there would have a network of fellowship with surrounding congregations and camps.
Doug Edwards is the manager of Camp Manatawng in Douglassville, PA. David Smith underscored the fact that brother Edwards is, possibly, in the greatest position to know of the state of the churches of Christ in southeastern, PA, since his work as manager of the camp puts him in contact with a large number of the congregations located there. (I put in a call and left a message for brother Edwards to call me when possible. Hence, more later on brother Edwards' guidance about planting a congregation in Athens, PA).
David Smith and the Camp Hill congregation are non-instrumental in their view points. I took it from my conversation with him that those congregations served by Camp Manatawnq are, essentially, the same. (Regarding the congregations nearest to Athens, PA, it seemed from a website that one is instrumental).
If the Lord wills, I will be departing for High Gate, Jamaica with our Elmore congregation this Friday, July 5th, and am scheduled to return on July 15th. With one day's rest, we will depart for Pennsylvania on the 17th as reported above.
Keep all these efforts in prayer. We, especially, look forward to our fellowship and time of prayer with the elders of Kittanning, PA, with Larry Krause (the preacher of Kittanning, PA) and with brother Clarence McDowell (preacher of Uniontown, PA and PA church-planter for the last 35+ years). Anyone receiving this report who can cast any more light on these endeavors, your input would be most appreciated. Anyone who is aware of a missionary who might like to locate in Athens, PA to serve in this church-planting endeavor, please give us that lead. The man or men who go to Athens, PA must be evangelists in the greatest ways. No one other than such a person need apply, in my view. Further, we are praying that God will impress on the hearts of some retired, self-funded couples the desire to locate in Athens, PA and become a part of the leadership/teaching base. Is this email reaching someone who has been so impressed? Please get in touch with us!
May God be praised. If we act in faith in compliance and obedience with Jesus' Great Commission, God will meet us according to His will with His blessings.
We received a phone call from brother Marchel Morningstar of Greeley, CO this morning. He is the owner of Consolidated Resource that has extensions in various states includimg Sayre, PA. He and his wife are graduates of Harding University and once lived in Athens, PA near where the church was planted October of 2014. He and his wife have been following the developments of the church planting efforts in the Northeast through the periodic email reports. They have made the decision to support the Antioch Initiative at $600 per month from January 2016 through June 2016 giving consideration during that time to continued support. Further, the Morningstars will fly to the Northeast with the aim of visiting Valley Cities congregation and to meet Arthur and Sandy Barry.
We rejoice in God’s mighty workings and for touching the hearts of mission minded brothers and sisters over the U.S.
More as God blesses…
TO: Partners in PA Church Planting
RE: Process of Evangelist Search
For those following the progress of the church-planting efforts in Northeastern Pennsylvania, please note the following items.
More later as God blesses…
Don Myers met with Dr. Robert McCready (an elder of West Side congregation in Searcy and Professor of French at Harding University) during his Thanksgiving visit to Searcy, AR while visiting his son, Jeremy Myers and family. Dr. Keith Schramm (West Side elder and professor of Chemistry at Harding) met with Don the following day. Robert asked Don to meet with the thirteen elders of the West Side church to discuss church planting in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Jeremy (Don's son) is the Educational and Involvement Minister of the West Side congregation. It is possible Don will be invited to speak on the Summer Series at West Side.
Jimmy Davis (Elmore elder) and Don Myers will travel to Lubbock, TX on January 19 - 23rd to attend the Written In Stone Mission Workshop. Sunset has arranged a special luncheon to bring Davis and Myers into contact with SIBI students who may have an interest in moving to the Northeastern U.S. to church plant after graduation. Other Christians schools will be visited systematically and periodically.
The Mission Committee of Dalraida congregation in Montgomery, AL supports the Antioch Initiative at $250 per month. Their committee chairman contacted Don and asked to meet with him on Sunday afternoon, December 6th, at 4 p.m. indicating, "Dalraida wants to explore how we might become involved in the Antioch Initiative in a greater way."
Dr. Dave Layton (Deacon associated with Mission at Prattville congregation) has been involved in meetings with Antioch Initiative core leaders expressing his desire to become more directly involved in the work of church planting in the Northeast. He and a Prattville elder, Jerry Cantrell, will meet with the Elmore elders this coming Thursday, December 3rd, at 6 p.m. to discuss their expanding vision of involvement.
Jimmy Davis and Stan Taylor (two elders of the Elmore church) will make a presentation at the Cold Springs congregation in Elmore, AL on Sunday, December 6th.
As a reminder, Kyle Cantrell (Prattville congregation), Jimmy Davis (an elder of Elmore), and Don Myers met with leaders of the Sycamore congregation in Cookeville, TN and the Moss congregation (one hour drive from Cookeville) recently. Both leaderships are pondering their role in the Antioch Initiative.
The elders of Elmore congregation (who oversee the Antioch Initiative) along with all the leaders associated with the Antioch Initiative send season's greetings to all the supporters of this vision, to Arthur and Sandy Barry who are serving faithfully in the first church plant in Sayre, PA, and to John Murphy and John Gentry who serve faithfully in development of the aicoc.org website and DVD presentations showcasing various elements of this work. This is God's work and we remain active and ready to be used by Him in being faithful to the Great Commission mandate of our King--Jesus.
If your leadership would like core leaders of the Antioch Initiative to visit your congregation, please call (334)235-0147 for an appointment.
I was able to attend the annual Men’s Retreat at Camp Hunt which ran from Thursday evening to midday on Saturday. The theme was “Rise Up O Men of God”. The lessons were excellent and the singing was some of the most stirring outpouring of praise that I have experienced. I was able to spend time with brothers whom I would not see if it were not for this event. On top of all that the weather was magnificent.
Back in Sayre, on the LORD’s Day, we had 21 people in attendance but a few were missing because of this cold / flu type bug that is going around. Ron Moulton, one of those who has been recently baptized, now has a car so that has reduced the burden on my little Ford Focus as I provide transportation to church. Ron is keen to be involved in the work of the church and to become a student of God’s Word. He suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, however, and is in need of prayers as he has visited the ER several times recently. He has a wonderful attitude through
all of this. I still have work to do following up on the outreach efforts for the VBS and one of the contacts is Juan Rodriguez. Juan and I will be traveling to Kittanning on October 10 to help with an outreach effort there. Please pray that we can help Juan to see the beauty and power of the scriptures as, at this point, he has a very casual approach to religion in general whilst being sincere about trying to be as good a person as he can be.
In talking with others from around this region at the Men’s retreat I have begun to think about ways in which we can penetrate into the community by offering help dealing with some of our social plagues. “Celebrate Recovery” and “Smart Stepfamilies” are two approaches that I am thinking about. If anyone has any experience / advice with these or other avenues of ministry, I would love to hear from you.
Fall is in the air here and the Northeast is about to show forth some of God’s most glorious handiwork.
Come see us!
God is good!
Arthur and Sandy Barry
I was not anticipating any more baptisms in the river this year as we have already had snow. But the Lord graciously gave us unseasonably warm weather the last few days. I have known John Mazzarese since the first days of knocking doors here in Sayre. Troy Van Dyke just came to church last week, having been invited by Felicity our newest sister in Christ. Troy and John actually knew each other and I had the joy and honor of baptizing them both today.
I have to say the water temp was pretty seasonal...:)
God is so good!
In Acts 20:35 (KJV) we can read the following: "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Recently, twenty-eight (28) members of the Kittanning Church of Christ were able to experience the joy of giving firsthand when we traveled to Valley Cities to conduct a Vacation Bible School. During the picnic on Sunday following worship, one of our members observed that it seemed like a "magical weekend" and a visitor from the community remarked to Larry Krause that “had never seen such love in one place." After reflecting on the events of that weekend, I commented to Larry that I wondered who actually received the most benefit, Kittanning or Valley Cities? The words of Jesus ring true in the laboratory of life. Many times, those who give receive the greater blessing.
Since the VBS, there have been 2 baptisms at Valley Cities and numerous contacts made that appear to be promising. However, it should be noted that the benefits both congregations have received only came after significant effort had been put forth. Many Bible readers can quote the last part of Acts 20:35 where it says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive." Far fewer could quote the context earlier in the verse that talks about "laboring to support the weak." Before we savor the produce from our gardens in the summer and fall, there is the tilling, planting, and weeding of Spring and early Summer.
I remember the work involved in planning the first church-plant of the Antioch Initiative at Valley Cities. There were trips to the area, meetings, plans that sometimes had to be changed, and a commitment to support the work that was challenging to the budgets of the congregations involved. The work of the VBS included much encouragement to the Kittanning members to participate, the gathering and loading of supplies, the travel, and the preparation of the building for the event. Arthur Barry, evangelist of the Valley Cities Church, and his wife, Sandy, worked tirelessly to prepare for the VBS. Larry Krause (the Kittanning evangelist) and at least 7-8 other members of Kittanning and Camp Hill knocked on the doors of almost everyone in the area. A successful VBS does not occur by accident, but reflects the efforts of many.
During the VBS itself, there were times that I witnessed events that brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart. Some of the members who traveled with us had not always been as motivated or active as they were that weekend. I watched as one man who was working on the inflatable obstacle course paused to wipe the sweat off his brow. It caused me to reflect on the first time that my wife, Jill, and I traveled to Honduras. We were climbing up this steep hill on a hot and humid day carrying bags of food. The trail was muddy and the mosquitoes were more than annoying. We stopped several times to wipe the sweat off our brow. When we got to the top, however, the labor was quickly forgotten as a woman had tears in her eyes as she now knew how she would feed her family for the next few weeks. They would be nourished physically, but we were nourished so much more spiritually. I think that happened for some of our members during the VBS at Valley Cities. I know that Kittanning was blessed by God for the events of that weekend.
But the time of basking in the success of the VBS is now over and we must return to the work. There are yet 4-5 counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania that do not have a congregation of the Lord's people. May it never be that anyone in those areas could echo the sentiments of the Psalmist in Psalms 142:4 who wrote, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” The work of planting churches is not always easy, the roads are not always paved, and the hills that we have to climb are sometimes steep. The reward at the top, however, is so precious.
What about you? Are you ready to climb?