Christmas dancers in India help outreach

Christmas Outreach in India

by Jessey Vemula, missionary in India

Christmas Outreach in India

Caroling is a common outreach during Christmas in IndiaChristmas is an important time to many Christians around the world. To Indian Christians it is a big celebration. Churches in India have many activities and preparations to do in the months of October and November. The church is painted and decorated with lights, balloons, garlands, paper stars and a Christmas tree. Other than decorating, members can also be involved in caroling.

Caroling is a common form of outreach during the whole month of December. Calvary General Baptist ministries has done caroling since the ministry began. During the Christmas season there are less persecutions from unbelievers, which makes this the perfect time to preach the Gospel. The old way of caroling was going from street to street singing the gospel songs, playing musical instruments, dancing with Santa Claus and giving candy, and preaching the gospel for ten minutes. Unbelievers would come outside to see Santa, why we were singing, or to hear the preaching. However, we decided to do something different in 2016.

A New Plan for Outreach

CHristmas Outreach in IndiaThis year our caroling method involved more planning and work. A couple of new things were going to village elders and asking them to come and celebrate Christmas with their village people, also the Jesus film. Total we went and asked permission from 22 villages around the Siddipet district. Only eight of the 22 gave permission. This may seem like a low number but we were blessed to do outreach in this many villages. Caroling in the villages involved a whole new method of outreach. The event lasted three hours or more and included preaching, a visit from Santa, traditional dancers (told Jesus story in a cultural way), showing Jesus film, and a cake cutting to share with everyone.

Outreach this year allowed us to share the gospel to 450-500 new people. In the coming years we hope to do this more and get more response. Our best response came from Boggulabanda, where many raised their hands to receive Christ. We were very thankful to have six new families attend our Christmas day service. They were given free bibles. We will continue to help them grow spiritually in the Lord.

Thanks to God and Supporters

The outreach was a community eventMany seeds have been sown this Christmas season. We thank the many supporters who prayed for this outreach. An outreach like this does have risks and persecutions as well. One of the eight villages called Appanapalli had given permission but after the gospel team arrived in the village the elders changed their mind. Only after a Christian family (our church members) went to the police, we got the permission to do the outreach two days later. We are thankful that everyone involved did not get hurt.

Please start praying for 2017 and upcoming events. Prayer has helped CGBM India to be able to do great things this year, but greater things will come in 2017. We ask you to continue to pray for us and the ministry in India and, consider sponsoring shares to help this ministry make a difference in the lives of people in this needy place. May God bless you all and continue to use you for His kingdom in 2017.

Visit: Calvary Grace General Baptist Churches of India on Facebook for more photos and videos from Christmas

Jessey and Brittany Vemula serve as missionaries to India.

GBBC Update

GBBC Update – Growing Bolder and Braver Conquerors

By Joyce Porcadilla, President of General Baptist Bible College, The Philippines

Happy new year! We do hope all of you had a blessed Christmas celebration and that you are excited to embrace whatever the Lord has in store for all of us this 2017!

Here at GBBC, Christmas has always been a grand celebration. We started off with our annual Christmas missions outreach in a very remote elementary school where the students and staff of GBBC held a Christmas program, served a meal, and gave out gifts. This was held on December 6th. It is always encouraging to see our students voluntarily put their resources together and share their blessings to the pupils and their families, as well as teachers of the said elementary school. But more importantly, it was a great blessing to see the joy in them because of the love they felt that no matter how simple the celebration was, we were able to make known to them the real meaning of Christmas and the reason of the season we are celebrating—Jesus.

Furthermore, on December 12th, the college students went around the neighboring communities to share the Christmas story through giving out candy canes. The students had the opportunity to share the Gospel and pray for and with various families and even those they met along the streets.

Before we finally ended year 2016 and before everybody went on a brief Christmas break, the entire GBBC family came together on December 14th for its annual Christmas program dubbed as “Christmasensation 2016,” with the theme, “Christmas is Within Us.” It was truly a celebration with friends and family, but above all a grand celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. The program was highlighted with various musical presentations that revealed the true meaning of Christmas, giving emphasis on God’s amazing love towards us that caused Him to give us the greatest gift we could ever receive. As we have received and experienced that love, GBBCians made sure that we also share and demonstrate that love to others. Continue reading

Jumpstart Your Ministry: Start With The Basics – A 2020 Resource

Turnaround 2020Successful Turnaround efforts in a local church will add new people to the fellowship. Some will be transfers from other churches. Many times those already committed to Christ and His church relocate to new communities while others may leave a church environment they view as uncomfortable or even toxic. Growth by transfer is important to conserve the overall impact of The Church. Nevertheless, when the church receives transfer members the local church grows but The Church does not.

Real Turnaround then must focus on conversion growth rather than transfer growth. Conversion growth means that those who come to personal faith in Christ will also come into the fellowship of the church that won them.

In the not too distant past, churches relied on the visibility of their buildings or on a simple advertising campaign to attract new participants. Bill Easum describes an early effort to attract people to church by borrowing a piece of earth moving equipment and pushing piles of dirt across the church lawn. The visibility of apparent construction activity helped gain a crowd. (See Go Big!). This was in a day, however, when people routinely went to church so the main goal was to gain recognition of location. An early mentor of mine pointed out three criteria for church growth: location, location, location! Many suburban housing developments in the 60s and 70s routinely allowed for a few lots to be sold to churches. The church growth strategy in those days was that people from the immediate locale of the building would simply show up because everybody went to church.

In the 21st century buildings do not win people, nor do programs guarantee church growth. For example, in recent generations young families would be attracted to church about the time the children entered public school. In those days an effective children’s program guaranteed the growth of a church since religious education was the driving motive in a family’s return to church.

In the 21st century neither programs nor buildings guarantee church growth.

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Christmas Eve suggestions

Christmas Eve Planning Tips

With Christmas on Sunday this year more churches than usual will offer a Christmas Eve Service as an alternative worship setting. Despite this periodic increase, Christmas Eve services have become one of the most popular means of reaching unchurched and dechurched families in our communities. Here are a few general suggestions for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Worship Services.

1. Will the church offer both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Services?

If a Christmas service is designed to reach the unchurched or dechurched it probably will do so best on a pre-Christmas date. Many churches will also feature a Christmas Eve-Eve service on December 23 to avoid conflict with family Christmas traditions. With Christmas on Sunday and Christmas Eve on Saturday it may be realistic for many churches to offer similar services on both days with the hope that members will attend at least one of the services.

2. Will the church print a special bulletin or program?

A brightly colored bulletin or program cover lends a festive air to the service. Some will prefer a more utilitarian approach of a simple handout that guides the worshipper. Others will opt for verbal instructions or the use of a projection system to guide the worshippers.

3. How will Invite Cards be distributed?

The special rules that guide the production of any Invite Cards apply here: proof—proof—proof, include contact information, include service times. Invite Cards should be distributed to the congregation on Sunday, December 18. If these cards can coordinate with the bulletin cover and other themes the worshipper is more likely to enter into the spirit of the worship theme.

4. How will information from guests be gathered?

A Communication Card that is completed by all in attendance is one of the most non-threatening means of gathering guest information. Once again standard rules of operation apply: keep the card simple but be sure there is adequate space to fill in the blanks, do not leave the date line blank, explain the card with some version of “complete as much information as you are comfortable sharing.”

5. Will an offering be received?

If the strategy of two similar services is used then the offering instructions for Christmas Eve will probably be very similar to the offering instructions for Christmas Day. If, however, Christmas Eve is treated as a special or an “extra” service then consider the offering to be designated for some benevolent or charitable purpose. If large numbers of guests are expected please remember that these Christmas guests may be very generous if they know the specific needs being addressed by the special Christmas offering. After all giving is a required part of a secular Christmas celebration too!

6. Will Communion or the Lord’s Supper be served?

Many Christmas Eve services feature a Candlelight Communion as the climax of the service. If Communion is served be sure to be clear with instructions since guests may come from a variety of church and non-churched backgrounds. In General Baptist churches the Lord’s Supper is always prefaced with a general invitation for all believers to take part. If servers are limited, then invite the worshippers to come forward where a more ‘self service’ approach can be taken if needed.

7. Will candle lighting be part of the service?

The lighting of candles at the conclusion of a Christmas Eve service is a moving experience especially as one person lights another person’s candle with the declaration “Jesus Christ is the Light of my life!” Then to sing Silent Night as the benediction becomes a powerful statement of faith and worship. Candle lighting supplies are readily available from Christian bookstores and suppliers but be sure to order yours in advance so they will be on hand for your special event.

8. Will creative elements be used?

Creative elements may be provided by members of the congregation or by friends from the community. Creative elements are available for purchase on-line or from many bookstores.

  • offers several Christmas themed video productions.
  • will acquaint the shopper with the possibility of purchasing music scores for an entire service including special background music for Scripture readers.
  • remains an ever popular site for video elements. Just type in “Christmas Worship Songs” and view 735,000 possibilities!
Suggestions for a Special Christmas Eve Service

A Special Christmas Eve Service

The following outline of a Christmas Eve Service uses Scripture readings interspersed with carols, praise choruses and/or special music to tell the Christmas story. Musical selections can be adapted to selected stanzas and any available music can be easily inserted in the flow as worshippers alternately read and sing the Christmas story. This particular guide uses traditional carols but other music may be easily substituted to meet the preferences of the worship leader. People who read the selected passages can be recruited in advance. A microphone set up on floor level might aid them in their presentation. Be sure to give advance notice, a copy of the part to be read, and instructions about arriving early for a short sound check prior to the arrival of worshippers. Consider selecting older children, teens and senior adults who are often overlooked for these kinds of readings. Of course you may rely on the few people who are always willing but why not save them for last minute substitutes if someone can’t make it?

Candles and Carols: A Christmas Celebration

Opening Carol — “O Come All Ye Faithful”


The Lord’s Prayer (Traditional)

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

A Reading from the Prophets:

Isaiah 9:2, 7; Micah 5:2
Song: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

Christmas Eve Offering

Readings from the Gospel:

Luke 1:26-35
Song: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Matt. 1:18-25
Song: “Away in a Manger”

Luke 2:1-7
Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Luke 2:8-14
Song: “Angels We Have Heard on High”

Luke 2:15-20
Song: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

A Reading from the Epistles:

Galatians 4:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Song: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Message: Three Types of Candles

Song: “Joy To The World”

The Lord’s Supper

An Affirmation of our Faith:

The Apostle’s Creed (Modern English Version)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord who was
• Conceived by the Holy Spirit
• Born of the Virgin Mary,
• Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
• Was crucified, died and was buried;
• He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in
• the Holy Spirit,
• the holy Christian church,
• the communion of the saints,
• the forgiveness of sins,
• the resurrection of the body,
• and the life everlasting. Amen

A Prayer of Consecration

We Remember Together

Candlelighting Scripture Reading: John 1:1-14
As you light the candle of the person next to you do so by declaring “Jesus Christ is the Light of my life.”


Choral Benediction: “Silent Night, Holy Night”

An Unclosed Church

A Church Unclosed!

An Interview with Pastor Jerry Crowley of the Harmony Church in Ellsinore, MO.

Every year an estimated 1% of the churches in the United States close their doors. This means that about 4,000 churches annually cease to exist. Many times a new church will restart in the same site but only rarely does a congregation that closed its doors unclose those doors. In spite of National trends, the Harmony General Baptist Church in rural Carter County, Missouri is now unclosed!

We asked Pastor Jerry Crowley to tell part of the Harmony Church story as we celebrate with this UnClosed church.

Harmony GB Church - Unclosed!1 . Harmony Church is an older church. can you tell us about its early history?

The church actually started on Cane Creek about two miles away from its current location in July, 1927. This is actually the third church building that has been there. To find the church from Elsinore take Highway A to County Road 354 follow it about 2 miles, go through a wet weather creek and if the creek’s not too high (occasionally we have to postpone services due to high water), you’ll drive right up to the church.

2. Harmony Church closed its doors. About how long was the church closed?

The church closed for a few months. It wasn’t closed very long. Some folks moved away and others just quit coming.

3. What motivated you and others to reopen the church?

Well this was my old home church. I just couldn’t stand to see it closed. It’s been an old-time General Baptist church for a long time. I just couldn’t see it closed. Some people went there the Sunday before we started and Josh Francis actually got started and 4 or 5 others of us came along to help.

4. The church is located in a very rural area, in a sparsely populated county. Where did you find people to reopen the church?

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Christmas on Sunday

Christmas Is On Sunday This Year

By Franklin Dumond – Director of Congregational Ministries

It happens only infrequently in the life of the church and the professional career of the pastor but Christmas does come on Sunday once in awhile. When this happens special plans should be made to keep the spiritual impact of the season and to support the witness of the church as expressed in its worship schedule.

This infrequent event occurs once again Sunday, December 25, 2016.

Many Christian churches have established traditions for Christmas Eve services, yet only a few offer Christmas Day services. In our culture Christmas Day is a secular celebration of surprise gifts and family celebrations very distant from most religious traditions.

Across the years, as a local church pastor, I tried many approaches to Christmas on Sunday and then I found one approach that worked best.

Early in my tenure as pastor, I took the approach that Sunday was a sacred day of worship no matter if Christmas or other holidays happened to arrive on that day of the week.

My approach in those days was one of denial, something like: “If I don’t admit it is a holiday we can have ‘church’ as usual.” With a generous amount of guilt along with some promotion of the schedule I found I could gather a little less than ½ of my congregation on Christmas Day if we kept our ‘usual’ schedule.

I have since come to believe that the attitude I held then was one of “They know where the church is so there’s no excuse for not coming.” I have also come to realize that this attitude is not conducive to church growth!

A second approach I took to Christmas on Sunday was one of adjusting the morning schedule. By working with/ through the Church Council we arranged a morning fellowship 30 minutes before the morning worship service. This adjusted schedule resulted in a little more than ½ of the regular attendance on this special day.

Then the next time Christmas came on Sunday I found an approach that worked best. We arranged and promoted two options for Christmas Worship. The first option was a Christmas Eve Service. The second was a Christmas Day Service. By offering these two options I found about ½ of the congregation came on Saturday evening and about ½ came on Sunday morning so that our combined attendance was the ‘usual’ number. With two options family and church celebrations were balanced and everyone felt good about the holiday being both a religious and a family celebration.

To fully reap the benefits of this approach the Christmas Eve Service must become more than the Candlelight Communion so often offered then. When elements of morning worship like special music, the Advent Wreath, tithes and offerings, Christmas sermon, etc. are combined with Christmas Eve communion a meaningful service of worship is offered for the church family and for the community.

Christmas worship on Sunday morning may need a bit different schedule. Perhaps the church that offers multiple services will offer “One Grand Celebration” or perhaps Christmas worship will be scheduled at the Sunday School hour to accommodate family gatherings at midday.

By finding a schedule that will work and by effectively communicating it to the church family and to the community, Christmas worship can be a celebration with a large crowd rather than the depressed assembling of a few faithful saints.

SantaNow about the guy in the red suit coming to church on Christmas…

  1. If he does come, let him come to the fellowship hall or to a location outside the building and make sure he comes after, not during, worship celebrations. Remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

  2. If he comes on Christmas weekend have him come after the Christmas Eve Service in the fellowship hall or on the church lawn. Let him go back to the North Pole for Christmas Day!