Editor’s Note: You can listen to Dave Howeth discuss the Tennessee/Send Denver partnership during Episode 11 of Radio B&R, the official news podcast of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. That podcast can be found here.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Once again Howeth is working with Tennessee Baptist volunteers, but now it is in Denver where he serves as the Denver Send City missionary for the North American Mission Board.
Tennessee entered into the Send City partnership in Denver in 2015 and Howeth has enjoyed working with Tennessee volunteers once again. “Tennessee Baptists are great,” he observed. “We are so thankful for the partnership with Tennessee. The spirit of the people that are made up of those churches is incredible,” he added.
In the last two years there is “story after story we could tell” Howeth said of the partnership. Teams have come for vision tours and prayerwalking in order to determine where God might have them serve, he said. Five current church planters in the Denver area have strong Tennessee ties (Ben Mandrell of Jackson, Storyline Fellowship, Arvada; Joe Reid of Memphis, River View Church, Fort Collins; Bruce Hendrick of Elizabethton, Grandview Church, Mead; Parker Manual of Hendersonville, Pinewood Church, Boulder; and Chris Phillips of Cordova, Journey Point Fellowship, Denver.
In addition, many Tennessee volunteers have joined forces with church planters in the greater Denver area to “do hands and feet” ministry in the communities.
“That’s really huge for our planters because the people where we are planting churches either have a bad taste in their mouth about the church or they have no knowledge of the church,” he said.
“So, when people come from Tennessee to help work with a church planter in a community, either in a kids’ camp or doing something in the neighborhood, the people who live there and do not know Christ ask, ‘Why would you come and do this?’ ”
It’s beyond their imagination that somebody would take vacation time, spend their own money, fly to Denver and come to their neighborhood to serve, Howeth continued.
For the volunteers who come, it’s an opportunity for them to “give a testimony, not only through their service, but verbally through serving the Lord and by just loving people,” he added.
Howeth stressed that volunteer teams from Tennessee lend credibility to the church planters. The people in Denver see a visible display of God and His glory, he said. “You could preach to them on the street corners all day long but that act of kindness and touch of love just blows them away.
“In a culture that is both post-Christian and pre-Christian, it says to them, ‘Hey, we really care about our community and we really care about people and these are tangible ways that we are showing it.’ ”
Howeth stressed that Send Denver is more than Denver itself. It encompasses what is known as the front range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs with Denver in the hub, he said, adding that the area (about 120 miles) is comprised of about four-and-a-half million people (about 80 percent of the entire state’s population).
The NAMB leader observed that Denver is a “fascinating” area because 70 percent of the Denver metro area’s three million population are “domestic immigrants.” These are people from the other 49 states who have moved to Denver because it is a “destination city,” a place of escape, he added.
People move to Denver for the outdoors. “The creation is what drives the people who move there to go skiing, hiking, kayaking, and fishing,” he observed. But after people move to Denver they discover a couple of things, he continued. They discover that it costs more to live there than they could have ever imagined and they have to work more than they ever thought and still have less income to do what brought them there, Howeth said.
Though people love God’s creation, a vacuum exists in the greater Denver area, Howeth said. ‘There’s a spiritual darkness and emptiness with many people. Our culture is mainly post-Christian and, in some places, pre-Christian where they are proud of their atheist or agnostic beliefs.”
As a result, most people who live there “don’t want anything to do with organized religion, let alone the church, but they are very spiritually minded,” he said. That openness, he continued, allows planters to “learn how to engage lost people, not by inviting them to church but by inviting them to Jesus before they ever get invited to church.”
Howeth is hopeful the partnership with Tennessee will continue to grow and develop as more churches are needed, especially in the city of Denver. “It’s really important for each of our planters having partner churches to come along and adopt these guys, to pray for them, and to send teams to help them,” he noted.
Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, agreed.
“We are blessed to be a part of what God is doing in Denver. It is exciting to see how Tennessee churches are responding to the needs in Denver,” she observed.
“Several churches have not only sent church planters, but also families are moving to plant their lives along the front range to initially share the gospel,” Margrave added.