The story is told of a man hitting his golf ball out of bounds. When he got to the ball, it was in the center of a red-ant bed. Being an honest man, he decided to play the ball where it lay. On his first swing, half the ant bed was torn away with dead ants everywhere. On his second swing, the other half of the bed was gone with dead ants everywhere. Only two ants remained and were having a quick conversation before the terrible golfer took another swing. “What are we going to do?,” queried one ant. The other ant said, “I don’t know about you, but I am going to get on the ball!”
Yet, what are we to do to “get on the ball” in the mission of Christ. Well, simply put, we are to get on the ball by doing what Jesus commanded—“make disciples.” Making disciples will lead to the forming of new congregations with members possessing the DNA of Jesus and able to reproduce themselves. So, let’s all keep that clear—that is our mission.
On Friday, September 8th, Jimmy Davis and I traveled to Cookeville, TN to set up our Antioch Initiative booth at the Tennessee Tech Basketball Arena where the Annual Bible Bowl would be held the next day. About 2000 young people gathered at the Bible Bowl on Saturday, September 9th, and we had an enjoyable day meeting various church leaders and informing them of our efforts to make disciples in the U.S. leading to the planting of churches. During the course of the day, we met Jerry Cherry (the preacher of the Red Boiling Springs congregation) and a couple of his elders. I had been invited to preach a gospel meeting in Red Boiling Springs from Sunday, September 10th, through Wednesday, September 13th. As we follow-up on World Bible School referrals for baptisms in the U.S., Jerry Cherry (a pilot with American Airlines) said that since he and his wife can fly free that they would fly to any place in the U.S. to baptize those who no one else can easily reach.
On the afternoon of Saturday, September 9th, we were privileged to have lunch in Cookeville with the elders of Crossville, TN along with a beloved partner in this work, Don Napier. Don arranged this meeting. He is a professional newspaper man and publisher who has agreed to do all our printing free of charge as his contribution to the work.
Following the meeting with the Crossville elders, Jimmy and I journeyed to Red Boiling Springs, TN and checked into the Donoho Hotel built in the late 1800’s once visited by President Franklin Roosevelt. The home style breakfasts and dinners were delightful.
The gospel meeting was well attended and we were able to reconnect with Kenny Westmoreland of Celina, TN and Dennis Miller of Moss, TN who were both in attendance at the meeting on Tuesday evening and dedicated partners in our work. The Red Boiling elders met with Jimmy and I for dinner on the evening of Wednesday, September 13th, and listened to the exciting challenges of this work. On Wednesday morning, Jimmy and I drove back to Cookeville and met with Kevin Daughrity (one of the ministers of Sycamore congregation in Cookeville) along with three of his elders (Charles, Wayne, & Dale). On Tuesday night after service, Grant Carruth, Donnie Dowlen, and Bill Hedge (Trustees of the Smith Fund out of Nashville, TN) met with Jimmy and me to assess the progress of the work in Tunkhannock, PA with evangelist Jeff Wyeth. Those trustees provide a $48,000 per year salary and benefit package to Jeff and Teresa Wyeth. As was agreed from the outset, that sum will be reduced to $30,000 beginning March 1, 2018. Yet, those trustees assured us of their intention to continue with us in this work over the next three or four years depending on the progress of the same.
On the financial side, our priorities are:
Raising $18,000 to replace the sum being reduced by the Nashville Trustees needed by 3/1/18;
Raising operations funding for the Antioch Initiative;
And, looking for other evangelists interested in joining the team as multiple church planters.
As we pursue our new approach of following up on WBS referrals for baptisms in the U.S. and recruiting mentors who will disciple these referrals, we received our first request for baptism from Carl Alfieri of Brooklyn, NY. Carl has been assigned Jake Dutton as a mentor and is in attendance now at a congregation near his home. He plans to be baptized soon.
As you have read, we are prayerful that some of these discipleship relationships between mentors and students who are out of proximity of exiting congregations will result in the forming of new congregations of the Lord Jesus.