April 2010

Puryear launches small church leader initiative

April 13 2010 by BR staff

Small church advocate Les Puryear, pastor of Lewisville Baptist Church, has launched the SBC Majority Initiative, an effort to increase the influence of small churches within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Puryear, a candidate for SBC president in 2008 who received 3.2 percent of the vote, has worked for years to elevate the status of small churches in a convention consisting overwhelmingly of small churches.

The SBC Majority Initiative is a movement to increase representation of those churches in decision making circles.

The most significant council currently at work in SBC life is the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, a 23-member group primarily from the southeast that is studying SBC operations to find efficiencies that might free more money for international missions. It has one member from what Puryear would describe as a small church.

Lewisville averages 195 in worship attendance, although it is a church of more than 500 members and does not qualify as “small” by North Carolina Baptist standards. In North Carolina 55 percent of churches average 100 or fewer in worship attendance.

In announcing the launch of the SBC Majority Initiative, Puryear said 83.4 percent of SBC churches are “small” but small church members comprise only 22 percent of the membership on boards of SBC agencies.

“It is clear that the majority of the churches in the SBC are not equitably represented,” he said. “We believe it is time for the era of our convention of small churches being dominated by the minority of big churches to cease.”

He called small churches to action within the larger SBC framework and said such action will include offering bylaw changes and a full slate of SBC Majority candidates for SBC major elected offices.

He also said a motion to effect a bylaw change will be made in Orlando and that candidates for major elected offices will be announced June 14, 2010.
4/13/2010 4:17:00 AM by BR staff | with 1 comments

Christ’s love shown in coal tragedy

April 13 2010 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — The West Virginia coal mine tragedy was an opportunity for Southern Baptists to show compassion to individuals who may not have had much experience with church, a North American Mission Board worker said.

“So many people were ministered to and loved on through genuine care from different pastors, and I think some people for the first time realized that it wasn’t just about gaining something for the church,” Charlie Minney, associational missionary for the Coalfields Association of Southern Baptists in Logan, W.Va., told Baptist Press April 12.

“The chaplains and the pastors were there because we cared, not because we wanted something or needed something,” he said. “So many people did such a tremendous job, just doing what God calls us to do as ministers, to share the love of Christ.”

Minney said between 17 and 20 Southern Baptist ministers were on site at some point during the ordeal, which began April 5 with the nation’s worst mine disaster in four decades. After days of trying to reach four possible survivors, rescue teams learned Saturday the men had perished, raising the death toll to 29.

When the news was announced, Minney said, the families dispersed to begin the grieving process after having waited all week in a building near the mine.

Photo by Jeff Gentner/AFP

Drilling efforts take place above Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Coal Mine April 7 in Montcoal, West Va. The 560-foot rotary drill, which is 6 inches in diameter, was the second hole drilled in an effort to release gas from the area where miners were believed to be trapped.

“At that point the families transitioned over into their local churches for counseling and those sorts of things,” Minney said.

Southern Baptist ministers in the state who had responded as counselors now are making plans to work with a church of another Baptist denomination in the area, Minney said. The church, he said, already has friendships established and can more easily connect with families.

Minney recounted the last few hours he spent with the families Friday night, when they knew the rescue crews had gone back into the mine in search of the four missing men.

“We knew at that point that we were coming to the end of whatever was going to happen. They had put the nitrogen in and we knew we were getting ready to get some answers,” he said, referring to the process of counteracting the dangerous gases within the mine.

“We knew that we were within hours of finding out if there were four alive or not. The people were strong. They continued to hold on to hope. They continued to trust that God was going to reveal something miraculous in their lives,” Minney said. “Even when they were being told that there was almost no chance that anybody got to a refuge chamber, they still held on to hope.”

Minney is a West Virginia native, and for 11 years he was on staff at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., before being commissioned in March to serve in his home state.

“It was a quick growing process for me,” he said of the timing of the coal mine tragedy.

“God revealed to me a lot of things about the people in West Virginia that I really didn’t know. I was born and raised in the northern part of West Virginia, but it’s different from the coalfields.

“God allowed me to see a lot of that. This was a fast-paced training for me to know that there’s a different view from what I’ve been told or what I’ve heard before,” he said.

What he’ll remember most from the experience is the hope that the people had in God’s power to bring good from the situation.

“The hope that I was seeing from those people was phenomenal,” he said. “They never relinquished it through the entire process. They never gave up the belief that God was going to do a miracle. The way they trusted in Him, relied on Him and clung to Him was so awesome.”

As he considers the tragedy from an eternal perspective, Minney looks forward to what God might do even through the loss of 29 lives.

“Sometimes when we’re in it, we don’t understand it. We may never understand, but I think there will be a time when we’ll be able to look back on these days, April 5 through April 9, and just realize that God had this in the palm of His hand even though we wouldn’t have done it this way or we’re not excited that it happened this way,” Minney said.

“Who knows what God is going to do? We just have to follow His will from this point forward and continue to let Him have His way in our lives.”

Funerals for some of the men began Friday, and by Monday crews were retrieving the remaining bodies from the mine. Not all had been identified, but among those who were, their ages ranged from 20 to 61, according to the Associated Press. Some had been miners for decades, others for only a few months.

Reports indicated that Robert Clark, 41, committed his life to Jesus at Beckley Church of God a few months before the explosion, and his pastor said it was a relief to his family to know “all is well with his soul.” The pastor remembered seeing Clark’s smile as he left church on Easter, the day before he died.

Crissie Scott, whose husband Deward was among those who died, said they enjoyed being outdoors together.

“He was a Christian man who loved to help people,” she told AP. “He’s one of those people that once you met him, you wouldn’t forget him.”

And friends remembered Benny Willingham, 61, as a generous and religious man who worked for 30 years as a coal miner. Some reports said he testified of his relationship with Christ at church on Easter.

At churches throughout the region April 11, people gathered to remember the lives lost and to honor the coal mining profession, AP said. A series of nearly two dozen funerals was expected in the weeks ahead.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and his wife were scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on Monday at the state capitol honoring the 29 miners who died and the two who were injured at the Upper Big Branch mine. The governor asked for people across the nation to observe a moment of silence to honor the men and their families.

“We want to show the miners’ families and all of the first responders that we are keeping them in our hearts and prayers,” Manchin said. “West Virginians are the most caring people and we come together in a time of need. These families are not alone and their loved ones will not be forgotten.”

Minney has established a fund for the families of those who died in the blast. Checks should be addressed to the Coalfields Association of Southern Baptists, 226 2nd Avenue, West Logan, WV 25601.

“Every bit of what they contribute will go to the miners’ families,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)
4/13/2010 4:12:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Barna: Some ‘unchurched’ hurt by churches

April 13 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

VENTURA, Calif. — Nearly four of every 10 “unchurched” Americans avoid worship because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people, according to new research by The Barna Group.

The research firm that tracks the role of faith in America and provides ministry resources said that while many churches place high value on attracting people who do not participate in the life of a church, the unchurched may be different than they expect.

Rather than being “lost,” or without faith, 61 percent of non-attending adults label themselves as “Christian.” That’s lower than the 83 percent of all Americans who self-identify as Christians, but it still outnumbers by a 3-2 margin the 39 percent of unchurched who do not embrace Christianity.

Instead of being foreigners to church culture, a majority of the unchurched (53 percent) have distanced themselves from being Protestant or Catholic but at one time were associated with one of those groups. Thirty-seven percent said they stopped going because of painful experiences in a church setting.

Nearly a fifth (18 percent) answered a standard set of questions used by Barna to categorize them as “born again.”

Two-thirds of the unchurched (68 percent) believe God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe and still rules that universe today. A third (35 percent) believe the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.

One in five (22 percent) agree that the ultimate purpose of life is to love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul, but just one in seven (15 percent) claim their religious faith is very important in their life.

Just 14 percent — about one in seven — claim to have a clear sense of the meaning and purpose of their life.

Barna’s data indicates that 28 percent of adults have not attended any church services or activities within the last six months. That translates to nearly 65 million adults. Adding children under 18 who may be living with them, the number swells to 100 million. If the unchurched population of the United States were a nation of its own, it would be the 12th most-populous nation on Earth.

Barna says the demographics of the group also defy common assumptions. There are more unchurched women than men. Boomers and their elders outnumber the young. Conservatives are more likely than liberals to be unchurched, and whites outnumber minorities nearly 3-1.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)  
4/13/2010 4:10:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. Christians minister in Poland

April 13 2010 by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In Poland, after one of the greatest losses of national leadership in modern history, two seminary leaders conveyed condolences from Southern Baptists during two Sunday services April 11.

As a 10-day trip to Poland was drawing to a close, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) President R. Philip Roberts and the seminary’s academic dean, Jerry A. Johnson, voiced comfort to congregations in Gdansk and Sopot and shared the gospel with those who were looking for answers to some of life’s toughest questions.

“This is an enormous loss for the people of Poland,” Roberts said. “Many of the leaders killed in the crash were instrumental in the Solidarity movement. They were the spear point for bringing liberty and democracy to the country.

“There are many in the country asking the question, ‘Why?’” Roberts continued. “For the Christians here, there is a great chance to step up and help the people work through their grief and suffering. Now is a time to help them in answering some of life’s toughest questions, including the ones about eternity that often surface when events such as this occur.”

Photo via Newscom

A makeshift memorial springs up in Poland after the death of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and several other Polish leaders in a plane crash April 10.

Roberts preached Sunday in Gdansk, the home city of the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, who was among 96 people killed in an April 10 airplane crash in western Russia. Johnson spoke to a congregation in Sopot, the hometown of the prime minister, Donald Tusk, who was not on board the plane that also was carrying numerous Polish leaders.

In speaking in Gdansk, Roberts used the verse from Matthew 10:39 (HCSB) where Jesus said, “Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.” The MBTS leader continued by adding that “there will be a point when life will end for our physical body on this planet. With this in mind, each of us needs to make sure we are living for the correct reasons and the correct person — Jesus Christ — because He offers the hope of eternal life beyond what we experience in this life on earth.”

The Midwestern leaders were in Poland for a conference at the Polish Baptist Seminary in Radosc speaking on the topic of biblical inerrancy and accuracy to an audience of pastors, Christian workers and theologians. Also during the trip, Roberts preached the Easter Sunday message at Warsaw Baptist Church.

Roberts recounted that as he was travelling from Warsaw to Gdansk, President Kaczynski’s plane was departing for Smolensk, Russia, where the crash later occurred. Roberts added that upon his return to Warsaw, the Polish president’s body was being returned for ceremonies commencing on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Russian airliner carrying the Polish president and his wife Maria and a number of top leaders of Poland’s military, political and business sectors, along with dozens of other dignitaries, crashed as they were traveling to a ceremony commemorating a World War II slaughter of Poles that has divided the two nations for seven decades. This event was all-too-familiar to Roberts’ wife Anja, a native of Poland who lost an uncle in the massacre.

On Saturday, Poles wept in front of their televisions, taped black ribbons in their windows and lowered flags to half-staff after hearing that Kaczynski and the upper echelons of the establishment lay dead in woods a short drive from the site of the Katyn forest massacre, where more than 20,000 Polish officers, lawmakers, doctors and other professionals were killed by Soviet secret police in one of Poland’s greatest national traumas.

In addition to the president, the military’s chief of staff and the heads of Poland’s land forces, navy and air force, other dignitaries on board the plane included the national bank president, three military chaplains, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

The president of the Polish Baptist Seminary, Andrzej Seweryn, said that many political commentators on television in Poland have been asking the question, “What is God telling us through this tragedy?” He said that the time of soul-searching and reflection on these events presents a great time to share the love of Jesus Christ with the Polish populace.

“This is the time for the churches and pastors in Poland to direct the people toward Jesus Christ,” Seweryn said. “With people asking so many hard questions about life and God, we have the opportunity to show them that life does have a purpose, and that purpose comes through a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

In addition to his wife, Roberts has ties to Eastern Europe, having served as dean of theology for the Institute of Biblical Studies in Oradea, Romania, where he currently serves as trustee. From 1992-94, Roberts also served as dean of theology at the International Academy of Modern Knowledge in Obninsk, Russia.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
4/13/2010 4:04:00 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Letters to God’ No. 10 on opening weekend

April 13 2010 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Letters to God,” the faith-based movie about an 8-year-old boy with cancer who mails letters to the Lord, finished in the Top 10 on its opening weekend.

The debut film from Possibility Pictures grossed $1.25 million, according to studio estimates posted at BoxOfficeMojo.com. Among the top 10 films, it also finished 10th in a per-theater average.

Because it debuted in only 897 theaters — a third or a fourth of the number of theaters a big Hollywood picture would open in — the per-theater average is closely watched. By that standard, Letters to God finished below the per-theater numbers of recent faith movies such as “Fireproof” (2008) and “Facing the Giants” (2006). Those two movies — made by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. — opened with a per-theater average of $8,148 and $3,046, respectively, with Fireproof’s numbers no doubt helped by the success of Sherwood’s earlier film. Letters to God’s per-theater average was $1,394. It did fare better than another faith-based movie, the 2008 film “Billy Graham: The Early Years,” which averaged $681 per theater its first weekend.

Letters to God has received positive reviews from many Christian reviewers, including Baptist Press film critic Phil Boatwright, who said it was a “triumph” and “one of the best films you and your family will see all year.”

The movie was inspired by a true story of a family from Grace Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
4/13/2010 4:02:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Association recognizes NC Baptist communicators

April 12 2010 by BR staff

North Carolina Baptist communicators won 18 awards during the annual Baptist Communicators Association (BCA) meeting in Chicago April 8, including two of the top seven grand prizes.

Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson, recognized with five writing awards, won the top news writing prize — the Frank Burkhalter Award — for his story on how deep bore wells open the door to new churches in India villages.

Jim Edminson, marketing director for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries, won six awards, including the top award for radio, television and video production — the M.E. Dodd Memorial Award — with “Roberta’s Story,” a video done with a Baptist Children’s Homes alumnus to support the 2009 Thanksgiving Offering. That video won first place in its category for promotional videos, and Edminson also won second place in the category for his video “Help for the Journey.”

The creative team from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina won first place in worship videos for its theme interpretation video for the 2009 BSC annual meeting. The team also won first place in newsletter design for NC Connect newsletter.

Other BSC winners include:
  • Melissa Lilley, with both second place and honorable mention for feature articles online with her stories on Mary Kassian and “Beyond the Bars.”
  • Carly Conley, second place in news and information design with her “Cooperative Program Prayer Guide.”
  • Leslie Crane in promotion and advertising design for “28 Ways to Share Your Faith.”
  • K Brown, second place for his video “The Power of One.”
Jameson earned first place awards for news story, editorial and personal column and second place for the ongoing series on BSC staff and the churches they serve called “Body Parts.”

Edminson also earned second place awards for his personal column “The Tie that Binds,” for design of the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry stationery and for the 2009 Baptist Children’s Homes annual report.

BCA is the national association for Baptist communicators in Southern Baptist agencies, institutions and churches.
4/12/2010 6:57:00 AM by BR staff | with 1 comments

Two years undercover at Falwell’s church

April 12 2010 by Margaret DeRitter, Religion News Service

Evangelical Christians were a mystery to Gina Welch.     

All she really knew about conservative evangelicals was that they were trying to change the country in ways she didn’t like.

When she found herself living among them when she moved to Virginia for graduate school in 2002, the more she learned about them, the less she understood.

So she decided to undertake an audacious experiment in the fall of 2005. She would go undercover and pretend to be one of them. And she would do it in — of all places — Jerry Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Va.

What she found was a world more complex than she anticipated, and deeper friendships than she imagined possible. And eventually her deception became so troubling to her that she vowed never to lie to anyone again.

Welch describes her nearly two-year experience at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in her new book, In the Land of Believers.

Welch, who was raised in a secular Jewish family in California, didn’t become a believer, didn’t change her politics and remains troubled by significant aspects of the conservative evangelical community.

Yet she discovered that she likes some of these people, treasures the sense of belonging that church provides, gets a powerful feeling of connectedness from communal singing, and experiences a strong desire to believe in God.

RNS photo courtesy Henry Holt and Company

Author Gina Welch spent nearly two years undercover at Jerry Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Va., for her book, In the Land of Believers.

“I think I am fundamentally lacking in whatever chamber of the brain allows for religious belief,” Welch said in a phone interview. “I had a number of experiences when attending church that I had a hard time explaining. I would recognize that it was something new and something emotional and something that was rattling my sense of self.

“I would try to interpret my feelings and try to see if it had anything to do with religion, with the Bible or with a God watching over everything. But I could never make those concepts align.”

Welch kept her beliefs secret during her time at Thomas Road (Falwell died, in 2007, when she attended). In fact, she even was baptized to cement this deception. While Welch concedes now that her lying was and is impossible to justify ethically, it nonetheless gave her a kind of access to that world that she most likely wouldn’t have had otherwise.     

One of the things she found troubling was what she calls “intellectual passivity.” The people she met were generally “uncritical of the institutions they subscribe to,” she said.

“They toe the party line. They accept the mythology about gay people, about the environment, about the outside world without testing its truthfulness.”

She was most troubled, though, by the church’s practice of trying to convert children into believers, she said.

“The way I saw evangelicals packaging the gospel message in a way children could understand was that there was a disturbing emphasis on hell. The default position is to frighten them into compliance. ... That really bothered me.”

Yet she chose to go on a mission trip to Alaska to save souls — a trip that left her with a disturbing memory of proselytizing a child so she wouldn’t blow her cover.

Welch also was bothered by what she saw as the church’s emphasis on spreading the gospel over serving human needs. “What about poverty? What about discrimination? What about human-rights abuses?” she writes.

“Where was the Christian outrage at so much heinousness in the world?”

Still, she tried to understand the motivation of the church members, and eventually did.

“When I thought about it,” she writes, “I wasn’t sure I would act any differently if I believed what they did, that non-Christians are going to suffer eternally in hell.”

When the time came for Welch to leave the church, she wasn’t thrilled about it. It meant no more music, no more “group therapy in the guise of a sermon,” no more community and faces that were happy to see her. “It meant leaving my church friends,” she writes, “probably forever.”

Leaving Thomas Road church also meant Welch had to confront “all of the ethically dubious stuff” she’d done.  

“I had proselytized to a little girl, helped lock her into something I didn’t believe in. I had been saved and baptized without believing. I had prayed and been prayed for. ... I had cultivated intimate friendships ... on a foundation of lies. That was what I felt worst about: Deceiving people I couldn’t help but consider true friends.”

She couldn’t eat. She had trouble sleeping. And when she did sleep, she had terrible nightmares. So why wasn’t she more concerned about the ethical issues when she started out on this project?     

“I think it was because I was naive about the real possibility of developing relationships with anybody,” she said. “I think I thought church relationships would be like workplace relationships. I didn’t think anybody would feel emotionally connected with me or that I would feel emotionally connected with them.”

But there was another reason, too — that the end would somehow justify the means. “I think my curiosity outran my scruples,” she said.

Given the chance to do it over again, she now says she would not use the same kind of deception.

“I can’t imagine lying to anybody ever again,” she said. “It feels like something that is so toxic that I can’t imagine doing it again. But it’s hard to say I would undo what I did. I feel like what came out of it is something of value. It holds the possibility of a more authentic understanding of evangelicals. It’s something that could potentially humanize a population that people who share my background have thought of as this mob of clones.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — DeRitter writes for The Kalamazoo Gazette in Kalamazoo, Mich.)
4/12/2010 6:43:00 AM by Margaret DeRitter, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Final plans for Inasmuch

April 10 2010 by David W. Crocker, Executive Director, OIAM

This is the last in a series of updates for churches participating in the Operation Inasmuch across North Carolina April 24 and May 1. 

The May 8 issue of the Biblical Recorder will feature stories and photos of the largest ministry event in North Carolina.
Where you should be in your preparations as of April 10:
  • List of projects and project leaders should already be in hands of members.
  • Your sign-up period in which members volunteer for their top three choices in hands-on projects should be underway. 
  • Planning team assigns volunteers according to needs for each project and posts sign-ups in prominent places in church. Make sure church secretary has an updated copy of the master list.
  • Gather T-shirt sizes and quantities from volunteers as they sign up (deadline for T-shirt orders April 12).
  • Keep congregation posted on progress of sign-ups and specific needs.
  • Conduct project leaders’ (PL) meeting next week:
    • provide PLs with all information they need;
    • provide PLs with updated list of volunteers;
    • recast the Inasmuch vision your church has;
    • finalize plans for pre-event gathering (Sat AM);
    • give last-minute instructions;
    • gather volunteers into project groups;
    • pastor/Leader to give talk reminding everyone the “WHY” of Operation Inasmuch.
  • Finalize plans for post-event celebration (Sunday AM or PM):
    • show PowerPoint of photos of Inasmuch event;
    • give volunteers opportunities to share what they did and what it meant; and
    • give God the glory!!
Register your church’s participation in the statewide Operation Inasmuch — Go to: www.ncoperationinasmuch.org and look for “Registration.”

Official NCOIAM T-shirts available — Go to www.operationinasmuch.com and click on “Resources;” download Order Form.
4/10/2010 5:31:00 AM by David W. Crocker, Executive Director, OIAM | with 0 comments

Johnny Hunt advises be ‘close and clean’

April 9 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

WAKE FOREST — Pastors should surround themselves with the best team possible, Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt told Southeastern Seminary students March 25.

“You will learn in leadership that it’s just not what you have been empowered and enabled and gifted to do, it’s having the capacity to bring better people around you that will really help you be the leader God called you to be,” said Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and a Southeastern graduate.

Hunt also shared the recent news that he is cancer free, after just learning surgery for prostate cancer in January was a success.

While the average pastor is sound theologically, Hunt said he has learned during his 34 years as a pastor that they are “in trouble relationally” and in their stewardship. That’s why he works with pastors.

Preaching out of James 1, Hunt emphasized that “not everyone that hears God’s word welcomes it. Our best people oftentimes don’t welcome it.”

Only converted after his brother’s death and resurrection, Hunt called James a practical preacher. God used James to tell the people “God will use these trials to make you a better believer,” Hunt said.

The trials one faces can prove faith, but “life at best is short so make it count,” Hunt said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Johnny Hunt stuck around after his chapel sermon at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to talk with a line of people.

A problem people have is not dealing with evil or sin. He urged students to “keep a short list and confess it and stay clean before God.”

Only a “steady diet of the Word of God” will save someone from reproach, Hunt said.

“God’s not looking for somebody as smart as Him, God’s looking for somebody that’s just so in love with Him and so overwhelmed with who He is that knows if anything’s ever to happen He’ll have to do it,” he said.

People are looking for someone who is different.

“They don’t want somebody to crawl down in the pit with them, they want somebody by the grace of God that has a solid foundation to reach down and lift them up for the glory of Jesus,” he said.

The very things James challenged the people on in the first century, “is still the greatest sin of the 21st century; it’s still moral impurity,” Hunt said.

He shared a phrase he uses to remind himself of his place: “God keep me close and clean. If I stay close to Jesus and clean before Almighty God, He’ll bless my marriage, he’ll bless my life.” 

Endowing chair
Southeastern is in the process of endowing the Johnny Hunt Chair of Expository Preaching. The goal of $1 million is within $115,000.

The night before his chapel sermon, Hunt arrived in Wake Forest. He pointed out the Johnny Hunt House and mentioned the Jan Hunt room in the president’s quarters.

“We’re trying to pay for this chair,” Hunt said. “This chair costs more than the house and that room and everything.”

Danny Akin, Southeastern’s president, said the process has taken about eight years, but that they’ve “made massive progress” recently.

The endowment will free up $50,000 annually for other expenses at the school. Greg Heisler, associate professor of preaching and speech at Southeastern, will receive the honor of occupying the chair when it is fully endowed.
4/9/2010 5:49:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 1 comments

New generation disciples future missionaries

April 9 2010 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Lorne James transitioned from living with 80 villagers in the Peruvian Amazon to living with thousands of campers at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters Camp in Andrews, N.C.

James went overseas as a recent college graduate to participate in the International Mission Board’s (IMB) two-year journeyman missions experience, then opted to spend a year after that in the States encouraging students to be involved in missions.

A graduate of North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C., James spent a year at the Christian wilderness camp for students because he had felt called to missions through the Snowbird’s staff’s discipleship, having worked there every summer during college as a camp counselor.

Working at Snowbird as an adult was especially rewarding because it brought his ministry experience full circle. 

“I got to take everything they (Snowbird) poured into me and go overseas, and then (bring back) all of the things I learned about missions ...,” James said.

Camp season, which combines outdoor recreation with Bible study and dramatic presentations, is generally during the summer months, so in the winter and spring James participated in church weekend retreats at Snowbird. James also spoke at several events at his alma mater, worked with pastors to explore missions opportunities and did one-on-one counseling with those interested in missions. A highlight for James was taking a team of students to where he served in Peru.

James now attends Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. The Florida native and his fiancé, who participated in the same J3 (three-year journeyman) program as James, are planning to return to the mission field after they get married and finish seminary.

J3s also use their overseas experiences to disciple the next generation of missionaries through leading Bible studies and prayer groups, coordinating missions events, assisting with cross-cultural orientations. They also share about the IMB and the people group with which they worked at conferences, church events and state conventions.

Alys Hill of Dickson, Tenn., spent her two-year journeyman missions experience in ice-laden Russia. She found the climate to be much milder in Powell, Tenn., where she spent the next year helping prepare students from First Baptist Church for mission trips.

Several students made commitments to short-term mission trips because of Hill’s testimony and through her mentoring. She also met with others interested in missions in the Tennessee area — acting as a “go-to” person for their questions and concerns. 

“I always give (students) the good, the bad and the ugly,” Hill said. “I want them to understand there are very wonderful things, but being a missionary is not this Hollywood lifestyle. There are some very, very difficult things about it.

“(I) just make sure they understand it’s not that ‘one-week high’ you get when you go on a short-term trip. It is an everyday, day-in, day-out thing.”

Part of the practical advice she offers students is the need for a firm, biblical foundation in their personal lives. She assures them that a biblical foundation will be crucial during some discouraging days they will most likely experience overseas.

But a firm foundation also enabled Hill to answer questions from her Russian friends about the Bible and her faith.

“Alys, if it’s not a secret, will you tell us about how you came to know God?” a Russian student asked. She shared the gospel with 10 students that evening.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Anderson is a writer with the International Mission Board. To learn more about the IMB’s J3 program for recent college graduates, visit imb.org)
4/9/2010 5:24:00 AM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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