April 2012

Q&A: Gospel Project’s Trevin Wax on the interest in new curriculum

April 18 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The latest small group curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources won’t launch until September, but interest in it is already high – so much so that nearly 6,000 churches have downloaded sample lessons, five months before its launch.

It even “trended” on Twitter one day.
 
Called “The Gospel Project,” it is LifeWay’s first age-wide ongoing curriculum in more than a decade, and its goal is to provide in-depth, gospel-centered lessons within a three-year cycle.

Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, said he’s been encouraged by the number of churches wanting to use it.

“It just shows the level of interest that there is in a very Christ-focused approach to the scriptures,” Wax told Baptist Press.

The day in March that LifeWay held a webcast with Wax and others involved in the curriculum’s development, the phrase “#TheGospelProject” was the second-most popular item on Twitter worldwide that day – beating out other top news of the day, such as discussion of NFL quarterback Peyton Manning’s future.
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The Gospel Project curriculum will be available for three age groups: kids, students and adults. It will be written within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message, Wax said.

Baptist Press (BP) talked to Wax, asking him more details about the curriculum’s development, direction and themes. Following is a transcript:

BAPTIST PRESS: Tell us why you are excited about this project.
 
TREVIN WAX: When I was on staff at a church, I was always looking for curriculum that would point people back to Jesus and make sure that the Bible is presented as the story that has Him as the center – and draws application from what He has done for us. I’m excited to see how a theologically structured curriculum is going to connect to the gospel as the heartbeat of the Bible, and then see that captivate people’s affections and emotions to the point that it results in missions. To see missional application flowing from the gospel as it’s presented in the biblical storyline – that really excites me.

BP: Is the curriculum chronological or is it systematic?

WAX: The kids’ version is chronological. It’s three years through the Bible. The adult and student versions are more systematic, but even the systematic is through the lens of the grand storyline of scripture. So, for example, the first quarter is the “God who speaks.” We’re going over the doctrine of revelation. But it’s structured and presented within 13 weeks within that sort of rhythm of the big storyline – of creation, fall, redemption, restoration.

BP: Has it been tough making that type of curriculum and making it compelling to the listener, placing discussion questions in it? How have you tackled that problem?

WAX: Any curriculum development is tough. My respect level has gone up so much for anyone anywhere working on curriculum, because now I know how hard it is. As far as making it compelling, we’ve chosen writers and people to be involved who really excel at this. For example, our second and third quarters are Bible overview – Old Testament survey, New Testament survey and tracing through the biblical storyline. In the early development stages, we brought in George Guthrie, [author of] “Read the Bible for Life.” This is his thing, he does this very well. We asked him what passages people really need to see as central to the Bible storyline. Part of what has made it a little bit easier is bringing in writers and people like George Guthrie who have advised us and helped us.

BP: How will the curriculum hold the attention of children? Will there be videos or music?

WAX: There are short videos that tell the Bible story for the week as well as music that helps children learn memory verses by heart. The team is also working on terrific reinforcement activities and crafts that continuously drill in the details and overarching truth of each lesson. I’ve got a preschooler and an 8-year-old, and when I showed them some of the videos and music, they were captivated by what they saw.

BP: Are there videos each week?

WAX: For the kids, yes.

BP: Some people have tagged this as being a more in-depth curriculum. Would you agree with that assessment?

WAX: Yes, but I would want to define what “depth” means. Some people see depth as more information. Other people see depth as immediate application. Whereas I want to take both of those definitions of what deep means and tie them to the gospel. Information? Yes, but it’s because it’s connected to the Bible’s big storyline. Immediate application? Yes, but it’s because it’s application flowing from what God has done for us. It’s what we are called to do as Christians, but it’s grounded in what Christ has done for us.

BP: And that depth is seen in the children’s curriculum, where even the Old Testament stories will point to Christ?

WAX: That’s right. In fact, we’re approaching each of the Old Testament stories, asking, “What does this tell us about God, who God is, what He’s like?” Then, from there, we move into, “How does this story point us forward to Jesus?”

BP: Are any other publishers doing this, publishing something similar to The Gospel Project?

WAX: At this scope, no. I have seen other publishers that are trying to hit some of the same content. I’m glad to see this approach – no matter where it comes from. But I haven’t seen anyone at this level be able to connect in a three-year cycle.

BP: “This” level meaning what?

WAX: Just the amount of resources we have available as Southern Baptists at LifeWay.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. For information about The Gospel Project, visit GospelProject.com, where sample lessons are available.)
4/18/2012 2:29:20 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Calif. voters may yet vote on gay history

April 18 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A landmark California law that legalized the teaching of gay history in California’s public school might still be reversed at the ballot, months after an earlier signature drive aimed at overturning it fell short.

Opponents of the law are trying once again to collect enough signatures to place the issue before California voters, and they believe they have a much greater chance for success this time, mainly because they have more time to gather the necessary 500,000 valid signatures.
 
Last year, they had about two months to collect the signatures and they gathered a total of 497,000, although, based on past signature drives, several thousand likely would have been tossed out as invalid.

This year, they have four months to gather the signatures, which they’ve been doing since March. The deadline is mid-July. They hope to gather 700,000, giving them a comfortable cushion.

“Based upon [the extra time] we’re very confident that we will be able to be successful,” Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told Baptist Press. PJI opposes the law.

The proposed initiative is known as the Class Act and would reverse the law, known as S.B. 48. It is the only state in the nation with such a law.

The new law requires social science classes to include the “role and contributions” of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.” The latter term includes people who cross dress and physically change their sex. Even more significant, it mandates that “instructional materials” – including textbooks – include the history of homosexuals. The law also prohibits instructional materials from “reflecting adversely” upon homosexuals – language some conservative leaders say would impact what is taught about marriage.

In addition to reversing S.B. 48, the proposed Class Act would clarify what is and is not allowed under law regarding the teaching of history. If passed, the Class Act initiative would “bring back a sense of moderation and reason into the study of social science,” Snider said. A person would not “be excluded because he or she belongs to a protected class – including gays or lesbians – but nor will that person be included because he or she belongs to a protected class.”

As it reads now, Snider says, the gay history law prevents criticism of gays.

“We think that all people have aspects of their life, both good and bad, and we do children a terrible disservice if we sugarcoat history,” Snider said. “History needs to be told accurately.”

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, could have a national impact, particularly in textbooks.

“There are about two or three states which drive the textbook industry based on their textbook population,” Snider said. “California is the main one. Other states generally do not get textbooks custom-made for them. And so, as a practical matter, this is going to be something that states will have to face as far as what’s going to be offered in instructional materials.”

More information is available at classact2012.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/18/2012 2:18:57 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hispanic leaders mobilize for Send N. America

April 18 2012 by Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) hosted its annual national Hispanic evangelism and mobilization conference March 15-17 in Atlanta.

The meeting, which attracted more than 250 Hispanic church leaders in its sixth year, is now named the Send North America National Hispanic Evangelism and Mobilization Conference in conjunction with NAMB’s unfolding church-planting initiative.
 
Conference organizer Joshua Del Risco, national coordinator for NAMB’s church mobilization team, said pastors and other convention leaders were enthusiastic participants.
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Photo by John Swain

The North American Mission Board hosted its Send North America National Hispanic Evangelism and Mobilization Conference March 15-17 in Atlanta. More than 250 Hispanic leaders, including pastors and church planters, participated.


“Numerically the conference was a success,” Del Risco said. “We surpassed our goal for participation; we surpassed our goal for Send North America registration; but more than that, we saw connections and networking among pastors and convention staff from across the continent.”

Conference presentations, sessions and discussions focused on reaching the 50.5 million-plus Hispanics in the United States and the 400,000 Hispanics in Canada – in particular, reaching the second and third generations.

In addition to NAMB, the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources also participated in the conference.

The opening session began with a special viewing of the Spanish-language edition of the “Courageous” film. Following the film, attendees participated in a time of commitment and prayer.

Several pastors and convention leaders were among the conference speakers, including Rudy Gonzalez, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies, and Gus Reyes, director of the Hispanic education initiative/affinity ministries for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“During the meeting we identified 34 Hispanic church planting centers across the convention and initiated a Hispanic church planting center network,” Del Risco said. “It is evident that Hispanic leaders are eager to continue to impact lostness in North America.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of the North American Mission Board.)
4/18/2012 2:05:33 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘We are beyond excited,’ report N.C. pastors about Easter services

April 17 2012 by BR Staff

More than a week later, North Carolina Baptist pastors are still sharing testimonies of what God did – and continues to do – in their congregation on Easter Sunday and in the days to follow.
 
All across the state churches baptized new believers on Easter, and many reported record attendance. While some reports are circulating about churches baptizing 80 to 100 people during their Easter services, some smaller congregations have reported baptisms for the first time in more than a year. 
 
High attendance and baptisms on Easter are not uncommon, but some pastors are crediting their church’s success to the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) and their intentional Easter evangelism emphasis.
 
For the past three Easters, in conjunction with the Convention’s Find It Here: Expanding the Kingdom focus, pastors and church leaders have been encouraged to lead their congregations to do the following:
 
- Pray for non-believers (family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues at work) by name.
 
- Invite non-believers to attend an Easter Sunday morning worship service.
 
- Preach an evangelistic sermon and extend an invitation for those attending to make a profession of faith.
 
- Baptize new believers on Easter Sunday or the following Sunday.
 
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The Convention also has offered resources – such as the EvangeCube and a variety of other materials – to help churches draw a larger response from their communities. Based on testimonies shared by pastors around the state, the push seemed to work. Click here to read some of those testimonies from this year and last year.
 
“We could not ignore the stream of resources and encouragement [the BSC] kept sending us to make an evangelistic push this Easter,” reported Jason Bland, pastor of Southport Baptist Church in Southport.
 
“We began two months out planning Easter as a specifically evangelistic opportunity … banners, invitation cards, posters, video promo, web graphics.”
 
On Easter, Southport saw 16 adults come forward during the morning service to put their trust in Jesus.
 
The congregation’s commitment, Bland contended, also played a large role in the services’ success. Many members of the congregation invited friends, and the church’s RA group (Royal Ambassadors) hit the neighborhoods to hand out invitations.
 
“We are beyond excited to see how God has blessed the work of His people,” Bland shared.
 
But the key part of preparation, many pastors contended, was prayer.
 
“At Fairview Baptist Church in Statesville we have seen a revival of prayer like never before,” reported Scott Eanes, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church.
 
“On Easter Sunday we baptized 16 people ranging from age 5 to 75,” he wrote. “Our youth pastor even got to baptize his son on Easter morning.”  
 
Five others were unable to attend Fairview’s Easter service but asked to be baptized on an upcoming Sunday. 
 
“God has blessed and to Him goes all the glory,” Eanes added. “Our prayer is that we will continue to see lives changed and that God would use us as His mouthpiece.” 
 
One pastor reported that the EvageCubes – which share the gospel through a colorful display of pictures – created excitement among some members of the congregation.
 
The EvangCubes were provided free of charge for congregations of less than 120 people, and at a discounted rate for larger churches, through a partnership with the Convention and the North American Mission Board.
 
Steve Burnett, a church planter in High Cross Baptist Cowboy Church in Louisburg, handed out several cubes a week before Easter to his congregation.
 
“I encouraged the people to use them and not worry about keeping them,” he shared. “I would give them new ones until we had no more.”
 
During their Friday Easter service, four people asked for another cube. Since the church began handing them out, five people have come forward to be baptized.
 
“The moment that got me was when a little girl came up to me and told me she had remembered ‘the whole story’ and she said she wanted to tell it to others.”

For more information about Find it Here, go to finditherenc.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5571.
4/17/2012 3:02:21 PM by BR Staff | with 0 comments



Land issues letter of apology for Trayvon Martin comments

April 17 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Richard Land has written an open letter of apology for comments he voiced about the infusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin killing.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, made the apology in a letter to SBC President Bryant Wright, an Atlanta-area pastor, on April 16.
 
In response, a prominent African American pastor, Fred Luter Jr. of New Orleans, issued a statement to Baptist Press (BP) accepting Land’s apology. Luter is the SBC’s first vice president who will be nominated for SBC president during the convention’s June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans.

“I am writing to express my deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding my comments about the Trayvon Martin case have generated,” Land wrote in his letter to Wright. “It grieves me to hear that any comments of mine have to any degree set back the cause of racial reconciliation in Southern Baptist or American life.”
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Photo by Tom Strode

Richard Land, seen here during an April 10 discussion at Q 2012, apologized for comments made about the Trayvon Martin case.


Land, who voiced the comments during his call-in radio broadcast March 31, wrote that he has been committed “to the cause of racial reconciliation my entire ministry. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister has been a personal hero of mine since I surrendered to the ministry in 1962.”

Land’s apology is printed in full at the end of this article.

Luter, in his statement to Baptist Press, said, “I commend Dr. Richard Land for his letter of apology pertaining to his comments about the Trayvon Martin case. His comments certainly were a concern for many of us across the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Our convention has made a lot of progress in the area of racial reconciliation and we want to continue this effort,” Luter continued. “Dr. Land’s letter of apology will hopefully keep us on track. I accept his apology and will look forward to working with him and others within this convention to tear down the walls of racism in our great country.”

Wright also issued a statement to Baptist Press.

“Racial reconciliation is very important to Southern Baptist Christians,” Wright said. “Richard Land has often led the way in this effort and yet his recent remarks have offended many. It has grieved him that this has occurred and he has apologized.

“Fred Luter is one of our leading pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention who is serving as our 1st Vice President and happens to be African American. His spirit of forgiveness is what we would hope of everyone in situations like this when one person says something hurtful and offensive to others and acknowledges it and asks forgiveness.

“I pray that Dr. Land’s apology to all who have been hurt or offended by his recent remarks will be another important step towards our full reconciliation with one another,” Wright said. “This is a noble goal to which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ calls us to have with our fellow man.”

Land, on his “Richard Land Live!” radio show March 31, said, in part, that black leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should not have been so quick to jump into the Trayvon Martin case in which the 17-year-old African American was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, a Hispanic, in Florida in February.

“The rule of law is being assaulted by racial demagogues,” Land said, “and it’s disgusting, and it should stop.”

Land’s comments were reported nationally by Religion News Service, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times and other media. An Associated Press article in mid-April repeated Land’s comments.

Land’s apology followed conversations between Wright and Land in which they discussed how offended many African Americans and many fellow Christians were over his comments. “In talking with Richard, I found a receptivity to apologize for the comments he had made,” Wright said.

Land then sent the open letter of apology to Wright, asking that it be shared with Luter and then with the broader Southern Baptist family.

Land, who has led the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988, played a key role in the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1995 racial reconciliation resolution in which Southern Baptists denounced racism, apologized to African Americans for “individual and systemic racism in our lifetime” and repented of racism “of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

The full text of Land’s April 16 apology for his Trayvon Martin comments follows:

Dr. Bryant Wright
President, Southern Baptist Convention
955 Johnson Ferry Road
Marietta, GA 30068

Dear Bryant,

I am writing to express my deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding my comments about the Trayvon Martin case have generated. It grieves me to hear that any comments of mine have to any degree set back the cause of racial reconciliation in Southern Baptist or American life. I have been committed to the cause of racial reconciliation my entire ministry. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister has been a personal hero of mine since I surrendered to the ministry in 1962.

When I was elected president of the then Christian Life Commission in 1988, I made it clear to the search committee and board of trustees that I was going to make racial reconciliation a top priority. I assumed office in October of 1988 and the first conference held under my administration was a racial reconciliation conference in January of 1989. As you know I was one of the progenitors of the racial reconciliation resolution our convention passed at our sesquicentennial in 1995.

I have rejoiced in the tremendous progress that has been made in racial reconciliation both in our convention and in American life. I rejoice in the prospect that one of our most admired leaders and pastors, Dr. Fred Luter, will in all likelihood be elected president of our convention in June.

I look forward to the day when our convention membership reflects the ethnic and demographic diversity of the general population, with no difference between Southern Baptists and the nation.

Clearly, I overestimated the progress that has been made in slaying the ugly racist ghosts of the past in our history. I also clearly underestimated the extent to which we must go out of our way not to be misunderstood when we speak to issues where race is a factor.

Please know that I apologize to any and all who were hurt or offended by my comments. I will certainly recommit myself to seeking to address controversial issues with even more sensitivity in the future.

Yours in his service,
Richard Land

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)

Related story
Land’s comments meet with ERLC’s regret, investigation
4/17/2012 2:55:21 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist group will remain on Vanderbilt campus

April 17 2012 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Although some religious organizations have said they will not register as campus organizations at Vanderbilt University, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) has applied to remain a registered campus organization.
 
In January officials of Vanderbilt met with students to explain that the university will enforce its non-discrimination policy and a new “all-comers” policy. The all-comers policy means that any student at Vanderbilt is entitled to become a member and to seek a leadership position in any registered student organization on campus.

Several faith-based organizations on campus have voiced opposition to the policy, saying that the school is violating their religious freedom.

Thom Thornton, BCM director at Vanderbilt, is confident they can operate within the Vanderbilt guidelines.

“We have been assured by the university that we can select leaders committed to the organization’s mission.”
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Bill Choate, collegiate ministries coordinator for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, is hopeful the BCM can remain a campus organization without compromising its beliefs.

“We have been on campus at Vanderbilt since the early 1920s. The university is aware of our mission on campus – that we intend to share Jesus Christ and grow His disciples,” Choate said. “We intend to do what we have always done on campus until the university denies us that privilege.”

The BCM’s mission statement is clear: “The focus of the Vanderbilt BCM is evangelism, discipleship and connection to the local church. The purpose of this organization shall be to know Christ through Bible study, prayer and discipleship and to make Christ known through outreach, community service and missions.”

Choate noted that the strategy of BCM “on every campus in Tennessee includes being citizens of the university, while never compromising our mission of being a clear witness for Jesus Christ.

“If we are denied ‘recognized student organization’ status on any campus, then we will continue to do our very best to reach that university population from the margins of campus.”

Even if the university denies recognized status, the BCM will continue to have a presence on campus, Choate said.

“The [Tennessee Baptist Convention] owns a BCM facility in the middle of the Vanderbilt campus from which we base our ministry,” Choate said. “Baptist Collegiate Ministry is not going away. However, our hope is to be truly present on campus, even at Vanderbilt, as we have been for all these years,” he said.

Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis agreed with the BCM leaders.

“We will continue to minister at every college and university campus where we can with the mission of evangelism, discipleship and church connection,” Davis said. “We will do so without compromising our convictions or watering down the gospel message.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector www.tnbaptist.org
newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
4/17/2012 2:47:03 PM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector | with 0 comments



Year after April 16 tornadoes, N.C. Baptists reflect on lives impacted

April 16 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor

Memories of the April 16 tornadoes that swept through North Carolina – claiming 24 lives – one year ago still remain clear for those impacted, including the thousands of volunteers who pitched in to help.
 
Testimonies from that disaster were shared during the 37th annual N.C. Baptist Missions Conference, with the theme “Glory to God,” April 13-14 at Hickory Grove Church in Charlotte.  The conference spotlights the many missions efforts carried out around the state and across the globe – by both men and women – through the Convention’s N.C. Baptist Men’s ministry. (EDITOR’S NOTE – To read more about the conference and to see related images check out our upcoming April 28th issue of the Recorder.)
 
“It’s been a very busy year … for disaster relief,” Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptist Men, told a crowd of about 1,200 people that gathered during the two-day event.
 
In 2011, N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry responded to 19 different disasters – two of the biggest for that year included Hurricane Irene and the April 16 tornadoes.
 
Brunson reported that during just those two disasters, N.C. Baptist volunteers provided more than 278,000 meals and completed more than 3,300 related recovery and rebuild projects.
 
Volunteers have helped people pick up the pieces of their lives – both physically and spiritually.
 
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BR file photo

In 2011, N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry responded to 19 different disasters – two of the biggest for that year included Hurricane Irene and the April 16 tornadoes.


“Many people have come to know Christ because of [these relief efforts],” Brunson said. “I can’t think of a one of them where God didn’t do as Ephesians 3:20 says ‘more than we could hope for, more than we could imagine.’
 
“[Disaster relief is] just one of many things that God’s doing,” he added. “It’s not what we are doing, it’s what God is doing.”
 
Shortly after the storms that hit the state last April, disaster relief volunteers sprang into action – mobilizing churches, providing meals, clearing debris and putting blue tarps on damaged roofs. According to reports, more than 6,000 homes in the state were damaged the storm.
 
This past December, four newly constructed homes in Bertie and Hertford Counties were dedicated and presented to families whose houses were destroyed. In Bertie County, alone, 12 people lost their lives.
 
During the conference, Mark Gaskins, pastor of Jonesboro Heights Baptist Church in Sanford, shared how lives were also impacted in Lee County – where two people were killed and about 400 structures were either damaged or destroyed.
 
“The face of Sanford in Lee County was changed forever,” Gaskins told the crowd.  “It was devastating.”
 
Gaskins shared how the following day, Palm Sunday, two individuals from N.C. Baptists Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry approached him.
 
“I can’t describe what I felt when I saw that they were dressed in yellow,” Gaskins said.
 
“Jesus had shown up all week long in yellow shirts and work clothes as the men and women of disaster relief … coordinated a host of volunteers from all over our state and some from others states.”
 
“People just showing up early in the morning [asking], ‘What can we do to help?” he added.
 
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BSC photo by Mike Cresswell

Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptist Men, speaks April 13 during the 37th annual N.C. Baptist Missions Conference at Hickory Grove Church in Charlotte.


“In the aftermath of this tragedy in our city and our county, North Carolina Baptists … truly embodied the presence of Christ … in a most remarkable way, and God was glorified.”
 
During the conference, Brunson and others explained how all of this is possible through gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering. For more information contact them at (919) 467-5100 ext. 5599.
 
Training still available
For those interested in disaster relief training, there are still slots available for a variety of skill levels. These trainings will be held April 20-21, May 18-19 and June 1-2. Costs vary depending on training.
 
To find out more information about locations and times, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599. To find out more specifics about the training visit baptistsonmission.org. Click “training,” then “training opportunities” and choose “Disaster relief.” Email mmountz@ncbaptist.org.
4/16/2012 3:46:35 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor | with 1 comments



Wife of late N.C. pastor establishes fund to help deaf students

April 16 2012 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications

Stephanie Johnson knows the challenges facing a potential seminary student who is deaf. She watched as her husband, Daniel, tried to follow God’s call to seminary only to encounter closed doors. 
 
Ultimately Daniel overcame the challenges, attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and earned a master of divinity degree. Daniel went on to serve as a minister to the deaf and a North American Mission Board church planting strategist until his death in Jan. 16, 2011, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
 
He was the deaf pastor at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Wilson. Now Stephanie has given the initial $40,000 gift to establish a new fund at NOBTS – the Accessible Theological Education for the Deaf Fund – aimed at helping deaf students receive training for missions and ministry. 
 
“My dream is that the deaf of the world will be evangelized,” Johnson said about her decision to start the fund. “That will come through the education and theological training.”
 
Johnson is quick to point out that the fund will not be named after Daniel. She said that her husband would not want that kind of attention. Her hope is that the deaf Southern Baptists will embrace this new fund and join her in supporting it. Providing adequate services for deaf students at NOBTS will require additional fund gifts.
 
The goal of the fund is to help break down one of the major barriers for deaf students – the added cost of hiring an interpreter. That was the obstacle that nearly ended Daniel’s quest for ministry training.
 
Daniel was born on the mission field to SBC missionaries serving in Chile. Daniel became deaf at age eight, and his parents left the mission field due to his deafness. But Daniel never lost his mission zeal and always had a passion to see the deaf at home and around the world come to Christ.  He knew God was calling him to ministry and calling him to seek theological training.
 
When Daniel first applied to a Southern Baptist seminary, the school affirmed his call and agreed to accept him but did not have funding to help with an interpreter. The school suggested that Stephanie accompany her husband to class to take notes and interpret. But she also needed to work to pay for tuition and living costs. The Johnsons felt as if God had closed a door.
 
Daniel decided to try another school before giving up. This time he applied to NOBTS. The response was identical. The school affirmed Daniel’s call and welcomed him as a student, but he would have to provide his own interpreter. This time, thanks to the funding from the Louisiana Baptist Convention and several students who knew sign language, Daniel’s story didn’t end with another closed door. He enrolled in 1982 and completed the master of divinity in 1985.
 
Johnson said the lack of funding for interpretive services for deaf students, especially those following God’s call to international missions, burdened Daniel until his death. The International Mission Board (IMB) requires 20 hours of seminary training for its career missionaries. The requirement is the same of deaf men and women who feel called to serve overseas and the increased financial burden of interpreters can be a hindrance for some deaf students. Johnson is hopeful that her gift and similar gifts from others will help alleviate the extra costs to deaf students.
 
The International Mission Board affinity groups dedicated to reaching deaf peoples estimates that there are as many as 28.9 million deaf people living outside the United States. The IMB currently has about 50 missionaries serving among the deaf. Johnson hopes the new fund will lead to greater missions outreach to the deaf people of the world.
4/16/2012 3:37:48 PM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Komen still giving to Planned Parenthood

April 16 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) – Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s coffers remain as open as ever for Planned Parenthood, even as they appear to be taking a hit.
 
The world’s leading breast cancer charity will fund about the same number of Planned Parenthood affiliates this year as it did last, according to an April 12 report by The Washington Post. That news follows various accounts that giving to Komen and participation in its popular fund-raising races have declined since early February.
 
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The latest report follows by 10 weeks Komen’s tumultuous place in the spotlight of public attention over whether it would stick with its plan to defund the country’s leading abortion provider. Only three days after its defunding decision went public, Komen backtracked Feb. 3 in the face of an onslaught of Planned Parenthood-fueled outrage.
 
Komen will fund at least 17 affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America this year, The Post reported. Last year, Komen gave money to 18 Planned Parenthood affiliates, according to an analysis by the pro-life American Life League. The total given to Planned Parenthood this year has yet to be determined, according to The Post. Last year, Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates totaled $680,000, the Associated Press reported.
 
Since the report of Komen’s on-off defunding of Planned Parenthood, there have been reports of declines in support of the breast-cancer foundation. For instance:
 
– Six of Komen’s Race for the Cure fundraisers had been held since the controversy, when National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a report March 26, and the charity acknowledged it had struggled to meet its goals in about half of the events.
 
– Registration for the Komen Race for the Cure March 25 in Tucson, Ariz., fell short of 7,300 in contrast to about 10,000 participants in 2011, according to NPR. Donations totaled $585,000 toward a goal of $700,000, The Post reported.
 
– The Los Angeles (Calif.) County race March 24 raised about $950,000, far short of the $1.3 million goal, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
 
– Komen fell from No. 2 to No. 56 in the yearly Harris Poll that ranks the “brand health” of nonprofit organizations, The Chronicle reported. The online survey was conducted in February.
 
While news reports have at least implied the decline is based on the reaction of pro-choice women who are disillusioned with and untrusting of Komen, pro-life blogger Jill Stanek questioned the conventional wisdom. She pointed to a report that donations to the charity increased by 100 percent in the two days after its defunding of Planned Parenthood became news.
 
“It would have gone the other way had liberal types withdrawn enough support to make a dent,” Stanek wrote March 29. “In fact, pro-lifers who had withheld from Komen  started to give. And then stopped, of course. An objective would have more likely concluded Komen’s new fundraising woes were due to its continued connection” to Planned Parenthood.
 
Komen has problems with both abortion advocates and opponents, Stanek said.
 
“In reality, Komen has alienated both ends of the ideological spectrum now,” she wrote. “But it would have fared better sticking with pro-lifers.”
 
Some pro-life advocates had refused before the uproar of early February to give to Komen or participate in its five-kilometer runs/walks that typically draw more than 1.6 million participants each year. Komen had defended its grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates by saying they were not for abortions but for breast screenings and breast health education. Planned Parenthood affiliates, however, do not offer mammograms, though Komen said grants to the organization may pay for mammograms at other sites.
 
The widespread news coverage of Komen’s original decision to halt funding, the Planned Parenthood-orchestrated reaction and Komen’s subsequent policy change served a couple of educational purposes for the public:
 
1) More Americans, including pro-life advocates, learned the breast cancer foundation gives to Planned Parenthood, increasing the likelihood pro-life support of Komen would decline further.
 
2) More Americans found out Planned Parenthood centers do not offer mammograms but refer women to other clinics for the screenings.
 
Planned Parenthood is a cultural lightning rod primarily because of its massive abortion business. Its clinics reported 329,445 abortions in 2010, which made up more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures performed in the United States for the year. Planned Parenthood compiled those kinds of statistics while it, as well as its affiliates, received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Planned Parenthood’s notoriety has mounted also because of its proclivity for scandal.
 
An updated February report by the Alliance Defense Fund to Congress suggested 20 percent of the abortion provider’s affiliates could be guilty of waste and fraud involving government funds. The report showed that audits of seven of 79 affiliates over a 14-year period found nearly $8 million of fraud, waste and abuse.
 
Secret investigations in recent years by pro-life organizations have uncovered Planned Parenthood workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly are in their early teens, seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
 
The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating Planned Parenthood. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., who is leading the investigation, asked Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in September to provide audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/16/2012 3:11:36 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



As Titanic sank, he pleaded, ‘believe in the Lord Jesus!’

April 16 2012 by Douglas W. Mize, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sunday (April 15) was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.)
 
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP) – It has been 100 years since Titanic, the greatest ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, killing more than 1,500 passengers. The “unsinkable ship” had done just that, and on the tragedy’s centennial we stand captivated by the story. Many movies, documentaries and books have familiarized us with some of the passengers, such as entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV or the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. Yet one of the supreme stories of the Titanic involves a heroic pastor and his passion to save lives and souls.
 
When pastor and preacher John Harper and six year old daughter boarded the Titanic it was for the privilege of preaching at one of the greatest churches in America, Moody Church in Chicago, named for its famous founder Dwight L. Moody. The church was anxiously awaiting his arrival not only because of the pending services, but to meet their next pastor, as Harper planned to accept their invitation. Harper was known as an engaging preacher and had pastored two churches in Glasgow and London. His preaching style was suited for an evangelist as testified by the words of another local pastor. “He was a great open-air preacher and could always command large and appreciative audiences. ... He could deal with all kinds of interrupters, his great and intelligent grasp of Bible truths enabling him to successfully combat all assailants.”
 
04-16-12titanic.jpg

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper successfully led his daughter to a lifeboat. Being a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead forsook his own rescue, choosing to provide the masses with one more chance to know Christ. Harper ran person to person, passionately telling others about Christ. As the water began to submerge the “unsinkable” ship, Harper was heard shouting, “women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats.” Rebuffed by a certain man at the offer of salvation Harper gave him his own life vest, saying, “you need this more than I do.” Up until the last moment on the ship Harper pleaded with people to give their lives to Jesus.
 
The ship disappeared beneath the deep frigid waters leaving hundreds floundering in its wake with no realistic chance for rescue. Harper struggled through hyperthermia to swim to as many people as he could, still sharing the gospel. Harper evidentially would lose his battle with hypothermia but not before giving many people one last glorious gospel witness.
 
Four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivor’s meeting in Ontario, Canada, one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic. He testified he was clinging to ship debris when Harper swam up to him, twice challenging him with a biblical invitation to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” He rejected the offer once. Yet given the second chance and with miles of water beneath his feet, the man gave his life to Christ. Then as Harper succumbed to his watery grave, this new believer was rescued by a returning lifeboat. As he concluded his remarks at the Ontario meeting of survivors he simply stated, “I am the last convert of John Harper.”
 
When the Titanic set sail there were delineations of three classes of passengers. Yet immediately after the tragedy, the White Star Line in Liverpool, England placed a board outside its office with only two classes of passengers reading, KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. The owners of the Titanic had simply reaffirmed what John Harper already knew. There are people who know Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven and many others who will not.
 
For us, 100 years after the Titanic, may we be as zealous as Harper was with every opportunity to share Christ with the perishing.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Douglas W. Mize is minister of evangelism and discipleship at Taylors (S.C.) First Baptist Church.)
4/16/2012 3:01:05 PM by Douglas W. Mize, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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