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January 18, 2013

Press Photo

BCF Missions Major Brittany Blowers assists with one of the blow up houses during the New Day Family Fun Day!

"Miles and Milestones," that's how The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) Missions Professor Rich Elligson described this year's January Church Planting Practicum. Every year, BCF in partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention, sends a group of students to assist a church planter in their work somewhere in the state. This year's project took the class to Santa Rosa Beach where new church planter William Whaley is beginning a work called New Day Church.

"The term 'miles' refers to the ground we covered," Elligson explained. Each day the group of 11 students walked more than seven miles, distributing nearly 3,000 promotional packets, and inviting area residents to attend the new church. "It wasn't exactly glamorous work," remarked senior Ministry Studies major Adam Siskey, "But it was necessary work. There are miles and miles of dirt roads and hundreds of homes tucked back in the woods all along the main highway. Homes that go unnoticed mean families who may be unchurched." And the unchurched is what drew the attention of Florida Baptists to the area, as well as church planter William Whaley. "The majority of Walton County's population resides south of Highway 20," Whaley explained. "Yet there are few churches in this part of the state, and very few Baptist churches." The burden to see the southern part of the county come to Christ is what led to the inception of New Day Church, whose vision is "to see lives transformed by the Gospel."

While "miles" refers to ground covered, "milestones" refers to the progress that was made. After spending the week knocking on doors, handing out materials, and inviting families to New Day Church, Saturday was dedicated to building relationships at the New Day "Family Fun Day" event at a local park. There, BCF students were joined by the church's core group members as well as volunteers from First Baptist Church DeFuniak Springs. The results were spectacular, as more than 400 people arrived to enjoy the free bounce houses, balloons, games, food, and a petting zoo, all provided in an effort to meet people, share the love of Jesus, and encourage the unchurched to visit the new work.

And visit they did. Sunday morning's preview service filled 90 seats at the elementary school where New Day meets, with more than 40 first time visitors, most of whom had been encountered during the week's festivities of visiting, inviting, and events.
By the end of the week, numerous milestones had been passed. New Day Church shared their first Lord's Supper together, saw their first soul come to Christ, baptized their first new member, and filled the chairs at their first promoted preview service.

"Seeing the results is what makes it all worthwhile," mused senior Missions major Brittany Blowers. "We walked for miles, were chased by dogs, got sunburned along the way, and my feet hurt. But look at the results! All in all, it was a great week."