April 2013

Couple finds hope through Mother’s Day Offering

April 26 2013 by North Carolina Baptist Hospital

Brad and Sarah St. Clair of Taylorsville, N.C., know what it’s like to see many of the things that were comfortable and familiar be taken away in an instant.
The normal life they had known was suddenly torn apart by illness and near tragedy.
Sarah had surgery at N.C. Baptist Hospital (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center) to remove painful and dangerous tumors. A few months later a terrible car accident left her with broken bones and a head injury. She was unable to work for a year. With only Brad working, financial pressures quickly overwhelmed them as waves of medical expenses piled on top of other bills. A difficult road to recovery became nearly unbearable.
“It was so frightening with all those bills weighing down,” Sarah said. “I felt like we were losing hope.”

Like many couples who work hard to make a living, the St. Clairs fell between the cracks of assistance. They had too much to qualify for Medicaid or charity care programs, but not enough to pay the balance of her hospital bills.

NCBH photo
Brad and Sarah St. Clair are thankful for the help received through the Mother’s Day Offering.

In the midst of their fears, a miracle of God’s grace began to unfold. Brad reached out to Eddie Yount, their pastor at Mount Hebron Baptist Church in Taylorsville. Yount contacted Paul Mullen, director of Church and Community Relations at the hospital.
“After Rev. Yount called, I asked the Mother’s Day Offering committee to carefully and prayerfully review Brad and Sarah’s needs,” Mullen said. “I was privileged to call them with wonderful news and say, ‘Sarah’s hospital bill has been paid by compassionate and mission-minded North Carolina Baptists in the name of Jesus Christ and His love.’”
Tears streamed down Sarah’s face. 
“The Mother’s Day Offering was a gift from the hand of God,” she said. “After this past year it would have been easy for us to give up. Then this beautiful thing happened. They lifted a huge burden off our shoulders and we thank them with all our hearts!”
“This gift was God coming to us through North Carolina Baptists and saying, ‘I still love you and you’re going to make it,’” Brad added. “They saved us financially and gave us hope. What a way to tell others about Jesus and change their lives like they did ours.”
Pastor Yount confirmed, “This was an incredible blessing for Brad and Sarah, and for all of us. By teaming up with Baptists and the Mother’s Day Offering, we were able to see their needs met in a way that we couldn’t do by ourselves.”
Mullen added, “We are very grateful to North Carolina Baptists on behalf of the St. Clairs and hundreds of other hurting patients and families. “Our gifts really are the hands of God’s love, giving people hope and leading them closer to Jesus Christ in heartfelt gratitude. Please join me in praying for God’s love to be at work through the Mother’s Day Offering. Please give generously and allow His grace to reach out through you.”
The St. Clair’s story can be seen at www.mothersdayoffering.org. Mother’s Day Offering materials were mailed to Baptist churches across the state.
They can be obtained by calling (336) 716-3027 or email Mullen at pmmullen@wakehealth.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Mother’s Day Offering is May 5-12. The statewide goal is $650,000.)
4/26/2013 1:58:22 PM by North Carolina Baptist Hospital | with 0 comments

‘Premature’ to say military targeting SBC site

April 26 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman is urging Christians not to “rush to judgment” that the military has targeted and blocked the denomination’s website.
Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC’s Executive Committee, made the comments after FoxNews’ Todd Starnes reported that Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplains on military installations had unsuccessfully tried to access SBC.net, and had received a message: “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content.” The site was not blocked at the Pentagon, FoxNews said.
The FoxNews report went viral on social media, and the Associated Press wrote a story summarizing what had happened. 
“We continue to be in contact with the Department of Defense and are carefully monitoring the situation,” Oldham said. “Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature.”
A military official, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, told FoxNews that the site was not blocked deliberately.
“The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told FoxNews. “We are working diligently to investigate what might be causing access issues for some of our service members and to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”
One question is whether the word “hostile” was referencing the denomination’s positions on biblical and social issues or instead was alluding to potential computer problems – such as viruses or malware. Oldham said the military has said it is “taking steps to determine the causes.” The computers in the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Pentagon allowed “full and free access” to SBC.net, Oldham said, “though they had received reports from a variety of bases across the nation that our site had been blocked.”
“Our Information Technologies department,” Oldham said, “following its normal protocol, has initiated an internal systems analysis of our server array to determine if there may be hostile or malicious coding on our own site or on any site that may be linked to SBC.net that would cause the Department of Defense filter systems to block access to our Web pages. At this point, it is premature to speculate on the existence, cause, or location of any such potential problem.”

Oldham also said he appreciated “the many pastors, church members, and lawmakers who have risen to the defense of our religious liberties, guaranteed by the same United States Constitution every soldier has pledged to defend.”
Following is Oldham’s full statement:
“The Southern Baptist Convention became aware on Wednesday afternoon that some military bases have blocked the SBC.net web site for containing possible ‘hostile’ content. Living in the digital age with internet filters, spam blockers, and virus protection software, we alerted the Army of the problem and sought to obtain their assurance that the word “hostile” did not refer to any religious content on our site.
“Through conversations with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA, formerly known as the Defense Communications Agency) in Maryland and the Defense Press Operations office at the Pentagon in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon and evening, we determined both that the Army was aware of the problem and that it was taking steps to determine the causes. According to reports from both DISA and the Pentagon, the computers in their offices allowed full and free access to SBC.net, though they had received reports from a variety of bases across the nation that our site had been blocked.
“Since then, we have become aware that other branches of the military have also blocked access to the SBC.net Web site. Our Information Technologies department, following its normal protocol, has initiated an internal systems analysis of our server array to determine if there may be hostile or malicious coding on our own site or on any site that may be linked to SBC.net that would cause the Department of Defense filter systems to block access to our Web pages. At this point, it is premature to speculate on the existence, cause, or location of any such potential problem.
“We continue to be in contact with the Department of Defense and are carefully monitoring the situation. Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature.
“At the same time, we express appreciation for the many pastors, church members, and lawmakers who have risen to the defense of our religious liberties, guaranteed by the same United States Constitution every soldier has pledged to defend. We express our gratitude to the Lord for the many men and women in uniform who routinely place themselves in harm’s way in order that our great Republic, based on fundamental rights guaranteed by our Creator and our Redeemer, may continue to stand as a beacon to the world for religious liberty.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/26/2013 1:47:37 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist Communicators hit 60-year milestone

April 26 2013 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Their disciplines span the media world, but Christ was the common thread that brought more than 60 writers, photographers, video producers, graphic artists, Web designers and public relations specialists together in Little Rock.
Communications professionals from across the Southern Baptist Convention gathered April 17-20 for the 60th annual workshop of the Baptist Communicators Association. BCA is a professional development organization open to anyone serving in Baptist communications. Started in 1953, BCA encompasses roughly 300 members. Most are employed by Southern Baptist entities, Baptist newspapers, state conventions, seminaries and universities.
The theme of this year’s workshop was “Mission: Impact” for which BCA program chair Trennis Henderson noted a two-fold meaning: “It refers to both the mission impact we can have as Christian communicators but also having the mission of making an impact – seeking to do what we do with excellence and commitment.”
Henderson, vice president for communications at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., said professional development is a key BCA focus. At this year’s workshop, 14 breakout sessions covered such topics as advanced video production, career transitions, branding and social media, and members participated in roundtable discussions related to their particular communications affinity, from editorial and electronic media to marketing and management.
“There’s time to collaborate and talk about what works and what doesn’t,” said Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina’s state Baptist newspaper. “For a lot of the younger communicators, they can learn from older, more seasoned veterans. Ultimately that’s what it’s about – learning how to make what you do better.”
“We are communicators in a faith community; we are talking about issues that matter – spreading the Gospel, evangelism – issues that are deeply ingrained in who we are,” Hendricks said. “They are issues that we want to communicate with others, not only in our state or our city, but throughout the world.”
Social media was a hot topic at the workshop, and the focus of presentations by several speakers. Brent Gambill, vice president of social media for the Martin-Wilbourn Partners marketing and communications consultant firm in Little Rock, said businesses and organizations shouldn’t shy away from embracing issues of faith simply because they are not religiously affiliated.
Gambill, who founded and formerly directed social media for Sirius XM Sports (satellite radio), also showcased the power and potential of social media in faith-based contexts, citing a prime example of a missed opportunity to engage social media audiences in religious conversations: only 11 percent of Americans use social media while engaged in church activities.
“I’m always challenged in social media,” said Barbara Denman, the Florida Baptist Convention’s director of communications. “This is something on the cutting edge for not only our churches, but on the cutting edge of our agencies and institutions. How do we communicate as the world communicates?”

Awards competition

Denman was among seven grand prize winners in the Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition, a highlight of the workshop for many. (See the complete list of award winners and examples of their work on BCA's Facebook page.)
“What’s really exciting about receiving this award is that I get to cover the mission and ministries of Florida Baptists, and the exciting work that they are able to do in order to reach people for Jesus Christ. It’s always a moving experience,” said Denman, who won the Arthur S. Davenport Award for exceptional achievement in public relations and development for her team’s work on Florida Baptists’ Maguire State Mission Offering.
BCA members submitted more than 325 entries for this year’s contest, which is divided into seven divisions ranging from public relations to newswriting.
Jessica Vanderpool, assistant editor at the Arkansas Baptist News, won a second-place award in feature writing for a series about Arkansas Baptists’ work in Haiti.
“Arkansas Baptists have been going to Haiti ever since the earthquake ... and send teams once a week pretty much year-round. So I went with a mission team and wrote a series of articles covering various aspects of our ministry impact,” Vanderpool said, adding that the award came as a pleasant surprise.
“It’s encouraging to know that I’m capable of those types of stories and that caliber of writing,” Vanderpool said. She described the BCA workshop as “incredible. I've been able to meet people from so many different organizations, and then there are incredible breakout sessions where I’m learning a new skill or furthering a skill, or just being able to dialogue with people who do my job, learning how they address certain issues or things they struggle with, knowing I’m not alone.”
“I would really encourage people to come to a workshop, if nothing else, just to be able to fellowship and learn from their peers and superiors,” Vanderpool said, “and be encouraged that others are in this trying to glorify God through their work as well.”
But there’s more to BCA than professional development. Between breakout sessions, members trekked to the Arkansas Traveler’s baseball park, the Clinton Presidential Library and the headquarters of Heifer International.
“BCA is also about the networking, the fellowship, many long-term friendships and lots of new relationships,” Henderson said. “And I think that’s a time of encouragement and affirmation for those of us who do a variety of jobs in Baptist communications but have that camaraderie, those shared values and goals. This is an opportunity to share that and to strengthen it.”

Mission project

BCA members also took time to give back. For their annual mission project, members hosted a baby shower at the Promise House Maternity Home. The nonprofit ministry serves unwed teenage and pre-teen mothers and mothers-to-be, providing shelter, medical care, food and education. In addition to gifts of baby clothes, jewelry and makeup for the mothers, BCA members took up an offering for Promise House topping $300. Two BCA photographers also took maternity portraits of the girls.
“In Arkansas, teenage pregnancy is a big issue, and a lot of time they don’t have anywhere else to turn,” said Stella Prather, who planned BCA’s mission project and serves as director of communications for Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries. She also is BCA’s president-elect.
“The girls were a little timid when we first arrived, but they seemed to warm up to the women and men as well. I was so proud of them and of our BCA members because they just loved on them and fellowshipped with them – just made them feel good about themselves,” Prather said. “The girls were grinning from ear to ear. When they opened the gifts they would hold them up, ‘Look what I got! Look what I got!’ They were very excited.
“We are always telling to story of how Southern Baptists are on mission and ministering and sharing the Gospel with others, but this gives us a hands-on mission emphasis ourselves that we can be involved in.”
Next year’s BCA workshop will be April 9-12 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. To learn more about BCA, including how to become a member, visit baptistcommunicators.org. BCA also is on Facebook (search Baptist Communicators Association) and Twitter @BaptistComm.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Don Graham is a senior writer at the International Mission Board and a member of Baptist Communicators Association.) 
4/26/2013 1:38:21 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey: Many at church not helping others grow

April 26 2013 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Almost three out of every four churchgoers say they have significant relationships with people at church, but less than half are intentionally helping other believers grow in their faith, according to a study by LifeWay Research.
The survey of Protestant churchgoers identifies “Building Relationships” as one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of maturing Christians. The survey is part of a larger study identifying traits of transformational discipleship.
Results of the “building relationships” questions reveal a seeming disconnect between churchgoers actually pressing into new relationships or participating in discipling other Christians.
While 74 percent agree they have developed significant relationships with people at their church, response to the statement “I intentionally try to get to know new people I meet at church” garnered 53 percent agreement, including only 1 in 6 churchgoers who strongly agree. Additionally, only 42 percent say they intentionally spend time with other believers in order to help them grow in their faith. Twenty-eight percent say they do not help others grow.
Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, pointed out that, “Advertisers know it takes multiple introductions to get someone’s attention. Unfortunately, a visitor to church may have to meet six people before someone cares enough to get to know them.”
The research reveals the characteristic that best predicts better building of relationships at church is attendance of small classes or groups of adults.
According to the survey, 33 percent of churchgoers attend classes or groups for adults (such as Sunday school, Bible study, small groups or adult Bible fellowships) four or more times in a typical month. Fourteen percent attend two or three times a month.
The highest percentage – 41 percent – indicate they do not attend such groups at all in a typical month, while 12 percent attend once a month. Four out of 10 churchgoers say they do not attend church groups.
“The Bible frames relationships among believers as a proactive investment in other Christians,” McConnell said. “In fact, Hebrews 10:24 refers to the need to exhibit concern for other Christians in ways that encourage love and good works.”
Other actions that predict more spiritual maturity in building relationships include praying in a group with other Christians more often, praying for one’s church and church leaders, and having regular responsibilities at church.
“Most attendees have friends at church, but only a minority invest time to help other believers develop their faith,” McConnell said. “It is as if churchgoers arrive to sit together as spectators for a game rather than arriving as player-coaches who work together and develop each other’s game.”
The findings on “Building Relationships” are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind. To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at TDA.LifeWay.com.
The survey of 2,930 American adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more was conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing. Respondents could respond in English, Spanish or French. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the panel does not exceed ±1.8 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Russ Rankin is a writer for the communications office of LifeWay Christian Resources.)
4/26/2013 1:35:01 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BSC releases statement on proposed five-year strategy

April 25 2013 by BSC office of the Executive Director-Treasurer

(EDITOR’S NOTE: On April 11, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Executive Committee approved a five-year strategy proposal that would restructure the organization to better equip and assist churches in making disciples, in evangelism and church planting among people groups throughout the state and beyond. Click here to read related story.Since the announcement, the BSC has received a variety of responses – some positive and others voicing concern about the proposed changes that will go before the Board of Directors in May. To better clarify the vision and strategy, the BSC's office of the Executive Director-Treasurer plans to release a series of statements in the coming days and weeks. Here is the first of the those statements.)
Campus Ministry for the Future
April 24, 2013
As the student population on college and university campuses continues to diversify, so must the approaches used to reach these students with the gospel. An important aspect of the new Convention strategy is the contextualization of ministry efforts. Without question, ministry to students on college campuses is a vital part of the Convention’s new strategy to impact lostness and make disciples.

The new model for collegiate partnerships is best understood within the new Convention strategy, which the Convention’s Executive Committee approved April 11. The strategy is focused on reaching people all across North Carolina with the life-changing message of the gospel. Any attempt to separate the Convention’s collegiate partnership model from the overarching Convention strategy makes the collegiate partnership model difficult to understand. The Convention’s mission is to assist churches in the fulfillment of their divinely appointed mission. The Convention’s vision is to become, “… the strongest force in the history of this Convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We believe that a new collegiate partnership model will help us best fulfill our new strategy, as well as our Convention’s mission and vision. North Carolina Baptists must develop more effective ways to reach many students who have no knowledge of Christ and no connection with a church near their campus. The Convention’s new strategy calls for contextualized approaches throughout the Convention’s missions and ministry efforts, providing the opportunity to customize efforts on the numerous campuses across North Carolina in order to maintain a Baptist presence on these campuses. Utilizing partnerships, the Convention will continue seeking to serve, reach, train and mobilize college students in an effort to make disciples who in turn make disciples on their campus and throughout the world. For this reason, final details of the new model of campus ministry, known as collegiate partnerships, are not complete; however, the framework for the new model is in place and work continues.

One component of the Convention strategy is focused on reaching the lost in the high concentration areas of our state. College and university communities are home to large concentrations of people who do not know Jesus as their Savior; therefore, fulfillment of the Convention’s strategy will require increasing our efforts to assist churches in reaching college students.

Currently, the Convention has only 9 full time campus ministry positions located on 9 campuses. In addition, the Convention partners with churches and associations to provide ministry on 15 other campuses. Yet, there are more than 100 additional campuses in our state where young people are not being engaged by North Carolina Baptists in missions and ministry. In order to reach students on the campuses of the numerous colleges and universities across the state, a new strategy is being developed. It is the responsibility of churches to develop an Acts 1:8 missions strategy that includes efforts to reach the students on campuses near them. The Convention is positioned to assist in this mission as an extension of local Baptist churches, but the Convention does not replace the local churches.

Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM), as an organization, will continue in the new strategy.  The new strategy will support BCM efforts of evangelism, disciple-making, missions mobilization and leadership development. BCM will continue to provide leadership conferences, including work with international students, under the guidance of the Convention’s collegiate partnership staff.

Essential aspects of the current approach to campus ministry will continue in the new collegiate partnerships. Currently we are engaged in leadership development, and we have no intention to move away from this effort. Leadership conferences now enjoyed by students and other leadership training opportunities will continue in the new model. In addition, we are currently engaged in missionary opportunities and we have no intention to move away from this effort. The summer missionary experiences that are an essential part of the current ministry will be an essential part of the new strategy as well. The goal is to expand and increase the mobilization of college students across the state in missionary efforts.

For the present, campus ministry facilities owned by the Baptist State Convention will continue to be used for operation of the Convention’s campus ministry outreach. Their usefulness in collegiate partnerships will be evaluated in the future as the local strategy teams determine the most effective ways to reach, disciple, train and mobilize students and leaders for missions and ministry.

With more than 5.8 million lost people in our state, we must continue working together to see the gospel advanced throughout North Carolina. We believe that through this new strategy, and a new collegiate partnerships model, we will see more students than ever before reached with the gospel, discipled, and mobilized for ministry. 
4/25/2013 10:03:45 PM by BSC office of the Executive Director-Treasurer | with 2 comments

N.C. leaders learn strategies, principles to impact lostness

April 25 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

As an undergraduate student Jim Slack studied law and was headed to Harvard to study international research law.
After spending several months on a special assignment with the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) following college graduation, Slack never made it to Harvard, but did find his way to seminary.

Slack graduated from seminary, and he and his wife headed to the Philippines with the International Mission Board (IMB), where they served 25 years.

Slack, now serving as IMB global evangelism and church growth consultant, is also helping lead the Great Commission Initiative (GCI).

GCI is focused on helping encourage church planting movements throughout North America. North Carolina Baptist pastors, church leaders and directors of missions recently participated in GCI training (Phase 1) at Caraway Conference Center, where they learned strategies for church planting and reaching unreached people groups with the gospel.

What is GCI?

GCI is an outgrowth of a meeting held in February 2003 in London, England. The IMB and North American Mission Board invited church planting strategists from key urban areas in the United States to explore how the Christian faith was growing throughout the world, due in large part to church planting movements.
Church planting movements occur when churches are planting churches within a specific people group or population segment, and doing so rapidly.
Southern Baptist leaders learned during the London meeting that while other areas of the world were experiencing Christian growth through church planting movements, North America was not. GCI began as a way to understand why – and to do something about it.
“We can’t go where Jesus wants us to go the same way we’ve been going there. If we can’t get out of the church building, and witness and use lay people to plant churches, then we can’t get there,” Slack said.
Slack acknowledged that only through the work of God’s Holy Spirit is a church planting movement possible. However, churches must be equipped and willing to go wherever God sends them in order to reach people.
“The Great Commission is to make disciples inside each and every people group,” Slack said.
Slack explained that in the Great Commission, the word “nations” means people groups, not countries or nations. With that in mind, believers must be willing to make disciples of all people groups, whether they live across the world or across the street.
GCI training allows participants to develop a personalized strategy for reaching and discipling the people to whom God has called them to reach. The training conferences are held in three phases: missiology, church planting movement strategies and orality.
In Phase 1, participants learn about the Great Commission, practical skills for learning where unreached people groups live in their communities, and how to conduct research about different cultures in order to best understand and then disciple various people groups.
Phase 2 is devoted to understanding the church planting movements throughout the world, and Phase 3 is focused on applying oral communication strategies and storytelling. North Carolina Baptist leaders who participated in Phase 1 training learned how to see the world through the eyes of a missionary and how to develop tools to research the diversity of areas where they live.
Phil Frady, director of missions for South Roanoke Baptist Association, said the training would help churches in his association reach people who “have not only been far from God, but far from our churches.”

“The GCI training is giving us a fresh approach to assisting our churches to both honor and preserve our current ways of doing church, and bridge the gap to a fresh generation of disciple-making church groups that really help us move down into the layer of darkness that we are not currently reaching,” he said. “Our existing churches are working hard, but they are only touching the perimeter of where light ends and darkness starts.”
Jarrod Scott, pastor of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale, said GCI provided compelling evidence for the need to adopt church planting strategies. 

“It was refreshing to really examine our state with missionary eyes and to consider what it will take to impact lostness among us,” he said. “I left resolved to pray and work differently to see the nations know the name of the Lord.”

American trends

While believers are commanded in Scripture to reach the ends of the earth with the gospel, they are also called to reach their neighborhoods and communities; their Jerusalem.
“What we do in our Jerusalem will become our Lord’s starting point,” Slack said.
As America’s population continues to become more diverse, the need to reach people groups is more important than ever before. Since 1970, the United States has experienced the most concentrated and highest era of population growth in its history. From 1970 to 2005, more than 35,000,000 people moved into the country who were not from a Protestant background.
Many of America’s 100 largest cities are already composed of more than 50 percent minority and ethnic people groups. Within the next 10 years, Slack said this would be the case with almost every one of America’s 100 largest cities.
In order to make disciples of all people, Slack said leaders must be willing to help equip other leaders, especially lay leaders.
“We will never get soul winners by teaching them to be soul winners in the classroom. We teach them by doing,” he said.
Tim Ahlen, GCI executive director and pastor of Forest Meadow Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, led the training with Slack and challenged North Carolina Baptists to be willing to forsake the comfortable in order to reach the lost.

The good, comfortable things in life – and in church – often become idols that lead to a consumer mindset focused on reaching and pleasing people inside the church walls.
Referring to the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15, Ahlen said the priority of believers must be impacting lostness and advancing the gospel. Too often believers spend all their time with the 99, the saved, and little time with the lost. Just as Jesus went after the one lost sheep, so must believers.
“How do your strategies reflect that priority? Does your life reflect biblical priorities?” he asked. “When you work that out in your life, you’re going to have to ask yourself some questions about your priorities.”
To learn more about Great Commission Initiative training, visit www.mygci.org.
4/25/2013 2:22:30 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Family Research Institute Chairman: gay marriage hazardous

April 25 2013 by Religion News Service

COLUMBUS, OH — Dr. Paul Cameron, the first scientist to document the harms of secondhand smoke, went to Ohio’s capital to call upon U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to reconsider his recently announced support for gay marriage. ”Sen. Portman, gay marriage is hazardous to one’s health.  For the sake of the son you love, urge him to marry a woman.”
“Danish government statistics show that wedded gays and lesbians die 10 to 20 years earlier than the conventionally married,” said Cameron, citing a study of gay marriage by pro-LGBT researchers Morten Frisch and Jacob Simonsen that appeared in the March, 2013 issue of Oxford’s International Journal of Epidemiology.
Examining Denmark, which in 1989 became the first country with gay marriage, they found that the average age of death for homosexually married men and women was around 60; for the conventionally married, about 80 years.
Cameron, who holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Colorado, said, “Sen. Portman’s son Will, a college junior who has revealed his homosexuality, recently wrote in the Yale Daily News, ‘We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and … we should think twice before using terms like ‘bigoted’ to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage.”
Cameron said, “Will Portman is right. Many decent people, even at fine schools like Yale and Ohio State, are simply unaware that the science has long indicated the Senator’s son and others were not born gay.  Now, Denmark’s government statistics show Will Portman would likely die much earlier if he marries a man, while heterosexual marriage would probably add years to his lifespan.”
Cameron said, “I have consistently challenged those I call ‘junk science junkies,’ in the universities and politically-driven professional groups like the American Psychological Association, with unpopular empirical data on sexuality. The Danish study by pro-gay scientists, as well as my own research, offers answers to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan’s question to gay marriage opponents in recent oral arguments, ‘What harm [do] you see happening and when and how?’”
Cameron said, “For the same reason society is concerned about the health effects of secondhand smoke, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court should oppose the rush to nationalize same-sex marriage. Litigating for ‘marriage equality’ is like suing to suspend gravity; as a matter of science, gay marriage is very clearly unequal in terms of procreative and mortality prospects.”
In his own study of 2,428 obituaries from The San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe, Cameron said the median age of death for conventionally married men was 82, women 85, similar to Denmark. Of 1,400 obituaries in San Francisco’s gay press, the median age of death was 54 for gays who died without a listed partner, 51 with. For lesbians, the median age of death was 56 for those without a listed partner, but 54 with.  For transsexuals, the corresponding figures were 46 and 42.5. “Whether informal, as in San Francisco, or formal, as in Denmark, homosexual partnerships were associated with lessened lifespan,” said Cameron, “just the opposite of man-woman marriage.”
Cameron said, “Bad science is bipartisan. An April NBC News - Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of Americans imagine with Rob Portman, against the empirical evidence, that people are born gay. Ted Olson, the GOP lawyer who argued for gay marriage in the Supreme Court is sworn to tell the truth, falsely wrote in the Journal that homosexual orientation is ‘a characteristic with which they were born and which they cannot change.’”
Cameron said, “In fact, twin studies show that homosexual interests are not DNA-determined like race, gender and eye color, so gay analogies to the Civil Rights struggles of the last century are inapt,” Cameron said. ”How else does one explain how Ellen DeGeneres’ first ‘lifetime partner’ could abandon homosexuality for traditional marriage? Senator Portman’s son was no more ‘born with’ homosexual preferences than anyone is ‘born with’ a sexual taste for children — both are acquired and can be controlled.”
Portman, considered last year as a possible running mate for GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (who facilitated the USA’s first gay marriages as governor of Massachusetts pursuant to a state court ruling), has seen his popularity fall since coming out for gay marriage a month ago, according to a Quinnipiac poll reported Friday in The Washington Post.
Cameron said he came to Columbus to plead with Portman because he understands that the nation’s most powerful Republican, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH 8), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and pro-gay marriage Sen. Portman are seeking to install a former Ohio lobbyist for homosexual marriage, Matt Borges, as state party chairman this Friday – a move opposed by 84 Tea Party, Christian, pro-life, and GOP conservatives led by former State Rep. Seth Morgan of Dayton, in a recent public letter that made headlines statewide.
“No responsible leader of any party, and certainly no conservative with any integrity, would be supporting same-sex marriage if he actually understood the empirical science that associates homosexuality with early death and disproportionately high rates of pedophilia, pederasty, molestation and predatory recruitment,” Cameron said.
“As national leader of the Republican Party and a man of Roman Catholic roots, John Boehner should cut-off all US borrowing to finance gay marriage and LGBT and propaganda in the nation’s K-12 schools, colleges, and non-profits.  It’s a scandal of enormous scale that Boehner’s House Republicans are financing the gay and pro-abortion agenda by adding to the national debt at $50,000 per second,” Cameron said.  Meanwhile in Boehner’s district, others have been running TV spots for weeks that associate Boehner with gays in the Boy Scouts and with US debt-financed subsidies for abortionists.
Head of the Family Research Institute of Colorado Springs, Cameron said, “Many gays and lesbians can and do leave homosexuality behind for traditional marriage, and they are wise to do so.  Because married heterosexuals live longer and healthier, public policy should encourage young people to enter traditional marriage.  I imagine Sen. Portman recognizes that our aging society needs healthier people and more babies, not the higher morbidity and mortality associated with homosexuality.  The lifespan evidence suggests that his son Will, and all of us, are designed for heterosexual commitment.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: FRI Chairman Paul Cameron is the author of many articles and books, including The Gay Nineties and Exposing the AIDS Scandal. Cameron earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado and was a professor at the University of Louisville, the University of Nebraska, and Fuller Theological Seminary before becoming Chairman of FRI.)
4/25/2013 2:10:55 PM by Religion News Service | with 4 comments

Bruce Frank announced as Pastors’ nominee

April 24 2013 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Bruce Frank, lead pastor of the Asheville-area Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, N.C., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, according to an announcement by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd.
Floyd, a former Pastors’ Conference president, stated in an April 23 announcement to Baptist Press: “As I have had the privilege to get to know Dr. Frank, it is obvious that his life and work are dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has served in various leadership positions within Southern Baptist life and has spoken in diverse settings across the country. According to Outreach Magazine, under Dr. Frank’s leadership the Biltmore Church has been one of America’s ‘Fastest Growing Churches’ three of the last four years. They are a multi-campus church that has seen over 1,300 people baptized in the past three years. Additionally, they have a strong commitment to advancing the Gospel globally....
“Dr. Frank is the gifted Pastor-Leader of one of the great churches in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., also stated. “I wholeheartedly believe he and the Biltmore Church have the capacity to provide outstanding spiritual leadership to our 2014 Pastors’ Conference. Due to his life, family, leadership, and church, I pray the Lord will give him the privilege to serve our Pastors in this capacity.”
The Pastors’ Conference, which primarily focuses on messages from key leaders and inspirational music and worship, will be June 9-10 in Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center preceding the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 11-12 annual meeting there.
Baltimore will be the site of next year’s Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting.
Frank, 48, has led Biltmore Baptist Church, with campuses in Arden and Swannanoa just east of Asheville, since 2008, having previously served at the Houston-area First Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, from 1999-2008.
According to Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile database, Biltmore Baptist Church had a weekly attendance of 4,839 in 2011 (2012 statistics for the church have not yet been posted) and 4,070 in 2010. The church recorded 460 baptisms in 2011 and 445 in 2010. The overall membership of the church stood at 7,196 in 2011 and offerings/gifts to the church that year totaled $8,837,438.
Frank is on the 18-member Bible Studies for Life advisory council, which has helped redesign and enhance the LifeWay Christian Resources curriculum used in more than 30,000 churches. The revised curriculum will debut this fall.
Before serving in Humble, Texas, Frank had been executive pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston and pastor of churches in Electra and Bluegrove, Texas.
Frank was born in Atlanta but grew up in Oklahoma and Texas. He came to faith in Christ at age 17 through a basketball coach’s testimony. According to his www.brucefrank.org website, he earned an undergraduate finance degree from Texas Tech University in 1986 and felt called to the ministry during his involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ at the campus. He earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas in 1991 and a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in metro Atlanta in 1999.
Frank and his wife Lori have two children: Tyler, a junior at Liberty University, and Conner, a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Frank is on Twitter @BruceFrank1.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
4/24/2013 4:25:44 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Family ministry event focuses on gospel, reaching the culture

April 24 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Churches must reach out and equip a new generation of children and families, said Michelle Anthony, who explained that the foundation for ministry must always be the gospel.
“The gospel is at the center of everything,” said Anthony, who serves as family ministry architect for David C. Cook, a non-profit organization that produces leadership resources for family ministry leaders with a strong desire to make disciples.
“Sometimes I missed that, at the center of why I went into ministry, is the gospel story.”
Anthony spoke in February during a family ministry conference that was hosted by David C. Cook in Charlotte. Anthony said she has experienced times throughout ministry when her focus became programs and not advancing the Kingdom and sharing the gospel.

BSC photo
Michelle Anthony explains that the core of any ministry should be the gospel. “Our commission is to be living testaments of what Christ has done in our lives,” she said.

“Our commission is to be living testaments of what Christ has done in our lives,” Anthony said. “We get distracted; we get too busy doing things for God, and we get deceived. There is a deceiver, and he has been deceiving God’s people for all of history.”
Anthony shared with conference participants, which included several Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staff, that family ministry begins when leaders understand that they should be living in the “upper” story and not the “lower” story.
The “upper” story is God’s story and God’s perspective, which is holistic, divine and Kingdom-focused. The “lower” story is about the here and now, life’s challenges, and the never-ending struggle to find delight and joy in the temporal things of this world.
“We have a fixation with the lower story, and this is where we often find our families,” Anthony said.
When families focus on the “lower” story they are hindered from seeing the larger narrative of God’s redemption. They doubt God’s goodness and they define God from their own viewpoint and experiences, she said.
Yet, when leaders help families focus on the “upper” story, they begin to understand that everything exists for God’s glory – not their own – and they are able to live in abundant freedom. They recognize God is sovereign and will one day restore all things for His glory.
“Make the gospel personal, not a rehearsed speech,” Anthony said. “We are ambassadors of reconciliation. We have to be ambassadors of what is real and transformative. Are we actually giving our families Jesus? If not, we’re just giving them what the world gives them.”
Cheryl Markland, childhood ministry consultant for the BSC, said the conference helped her refocus on the truth and power of the gospel.
“Dr. Anthony challenged each of us as parents and leaders to make sure our families understand their role in God’s big story,” she said. “As we focus ourselves and our families on God’s desire for us to have a relationship with Him, we can trust Him more fully and look for His hand in the shaping of our lives. We are called to teach our children that they can live joyfully and with confidence that whatever comes our way God already knows and has a plan for our lives.”

Understanding culture

Ministry leaders must understand the culture influencing families. Anthony shared that this generation is often more focused on fun and pursuing individual happiness than pursuing a relationship with Jesus.

When family ministries try to make programs fun, to the neglect of teaching biblical truth, “we play into the very habits that are drawing their hearts away from God in the first place,” Anthony said. 
This generation, defined as those born after 1997, is known as the “Plurals” and is the first generation predicted to become pluralistic, meaning no single ethnicity will be the majority. The Plurals are also characterized by an openness and accepting nature to different ideas, including ideas of faith and religion.

Plurals are savvy with technology and social media, and consume nearly seven hours of media a day.
With a generation so connected to the world’s ideals, parents and church leaders must be more intentional than ever before in pointing them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Church and Family Connect

The BSC seeks to help family ministry leaders through its Church and Family Connect ministry, which is designed to help church leaders and parents answer questions about how to make fruitful disciples of the next generation.
“Church and Family Connect offers practical resources to help churches partner with parents to build intentional discipleship,” said Eddie Thompson, who also attended the conference. Thompson is a family ministry consultant with the BSC. 
In recent decades too much responsibility has been placed on the church to disciple children, and BSC staff like Thompson and Markland seek to help equip parents and church leaders to work together.
For more information about Church and Family Connect, visit www.churchandfamilync.org.
4/24/2013 1:51:02 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Panelists: White House failing on rights in China

April 24 2013 by Tonika Reed, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The White House has failed to respond properly to human rights abuses in China, said experts at a recent Capitol Hill hearing.
Chen Guangcheng and Geng He gave testimonies illustrating the brutality of the Chinese regime before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee April 9. Although the hearing focused on their treatment, it also highlighted what the current administration should do to demand human rights protection in China.
“We requested that President Obama personally meet with Geng He and Chen Guangcheng during their visit to Washington,” said Jared Genser, founder of Freedom Now, which seeks the release of prisoners of conscience. “In my view, such a meeting would send a clear, unequivocal message that the continued targeting of rights lawyers and their families by Chinese authorities would no longer be tolerated by the international community.”
The meeting never took place, which disappointed Genser. As a “superpower” country, America must fight for the human rights of all people, especially in countries like China that claim to be law-abiding and are not, he said.
“We cannot continue to tolerate the Chinese Communist authorities continuing to go back on their words and deceiving the international community at will,” Chen said. “When the Chinese Communist Central Party Committee can act like this in breaking its promises to me, to the United States and to the whole world, and when it can willfully break agreements in a case that has attracted the world’s attention, how can we expect it to improve the human rights situation in other areas and to take up its international responsibilities and obligations?”
The United States must “increase the pressure” on the Chinese government, Genser told members of the House subcommittee that addresses global human rights.
“At the end of the day, it is quite clear and very apparent and very sad to say that without executive leadership from the president of the United States, I fear that people like Chen Guangcheng, Geng He and their families will not obtain the relief that they so desperately need,” Genser said.
Guangcheng is a self-taught lawyer who advocated for victims of forced sterilization and abortion, as well as for other women, the poor and the disabled in China. He is best known for his organization of a class-action lawsuit in the province of Shandong against violent enforcement of the “one-child,” coercive population control policy. In 2006, he was placed under house arrest and not allowed a lawyer. He was sentenced to four years and three months of prison. After his release in 2010, Chen was placed under house arrest again. He left China for New York City with his wife and two children in May 2012 following negotiations between the U.S. and China.
Geng fled China with her two children. Her husband is still detained and being tortured by Chinese authorities. On Feb. 14, she testified on behalf of her husband to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. She described how the police in China monitored her children, explaining the emotional and mental distress her daughter went through from being escorted to school by police.
The Chinese government has not taken lightly the fact that Chen and Geng are now in the United States. The Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded the U.S. apologize for “harboring” Chen. It also wanted to launch an investigation about how Chen got to the embassy.
“What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told the Associated Press.
Some of the Chinese government acts – such as forced abortions and arrests of human rights lawyers – are looked down upon by the international community, and the U.S. has stepped in to attempt to make sure there are no human rights violations. Critics, however, say the American government could do more.
“Unless and until a clear, unequivocal and consistent message on human rights is delivered to the Chinese government – complete with benchmarks, timelines and consequences for inaction – we should not expect its behavior to change,” Genser said.
T. Kumar, international advocacy director for Amnesty International, said the Chinese authorities should “allow human rights defenders and their families to carry out their peaceful work without fear of hindrance, intimidation, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, in line with the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Tonika Reed is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)
4/24/2013 1:47:51 PM by Tonika Reed, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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