August 2011

Miss Black USA promotes mentoring, tutoring

August 22 2011 by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Ocielia Gibson impressed judges at the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant 2011 when asked how the nation could improve the high school graduation and college entry rates of African Americans.

“A lot of our kids need mentorship and tutoring from other successful African Americans that they can look up to,” Gibson said. “So a key way to improve the graduation rate and college entry rate is for people just like us to come back and give back to them to show them the way, to guide them and to help them.”

Gibson, a women’s ministry student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, subsequently was crowned Miss Black USA on Aug. 9.

Her answer during the pageant flowed from a passion for women’s ministry that God placed on her heart as a teenager.

Photo by Rob Roberts.

“As a 16-year-old who had recently given my life to Christ,” Gibson says on her website, “I sat in my mother’s living room one night watching music videos on TV. Gradually, with each video I watched – and each girl I saw degraded – I began to grieve tremendously in my heart.”

Her grief soon turned into tears as she wept and prayed for the young women she saw in the music videos. At that moment, Gibson says, God gave her a “burden for my generation of young sisters.” Three years later, as a college student, she “stepped out on this burden and established the More Than a Pretty Face After-School Mentoring Program.”

The faith-based ministry seeks to encourage young women to live in purity, to help them discover their true self-identity and to “redefine modern beauty,” according to its website.

The ministry has reached more than 1,000 young women throughout Gibson’s native state of Texas and in Arkansas, edifying them through three initiatives: The Ultimate Beauty Dish, a series of workshops designed to teach young women about true self-identity, sexual purity and successful womanhood; The Ultimate Beauty Girls’ Summits, an annual summit featuring “award-winning female specialists and speakers”; and the RENEW HER Project, giving a “pink pocket Bible” to young women who come to Christ through the ministry but who do not have a Bible of their own.

Gibson confessed that she came through many struggles and had to redefine beauty for herself before winning the Miss Black USA crown and before redefining beauty for other young women. Although raised by a caring single mother, the abandonment of her father scarred her, leaving her in pain and confusion as a young girl. She also questioned her own beauty because of unexplained hives that would appear on her skin. Her self-esteem plummeted as other children called her “leopard, spotted-bodied girl, alligator skin and ugly.”

In an interview with The Seattle Medium, Gibson said she had to overcome these issues and learn to believe in herself.

“I had to truly believe that even though I had those physical flaws, regardless of that, I was a beautiful woman,” she told the African American newspaper. “I had to make the decision to [either] keep wallowing in that self-pity or to just hold my head high and be the best that I can be even with those physical flaws.”

Having rediscovered her own beauty, Gibson entered the Miss Black Texas 2009 pageant at the age of 19. After finishing as second runner-up for two years in a row, she made the difficult decision to persevere and enter the competition a third time. This time she won.

After winning the pageant, she decided to enter the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant 2011, which drew her attention because it “celebrates black women and displays who you are inside.”

Now that she wears the Miss Black USA crown, Gibson hopes she will be able to spread the message of More Than a Pretty Face Inc. to more young women across the nation.

Proud of Gibson’s accomplishments, Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, likewise hopes Gibson will be able to use this opportunity as a platform for ministry.

“Ocielia Gibson is a woman of strength who has overcome much, which has enabled her to fully understand that beauty is more than outward appearance,” Stovall said. “She is a strong role model to teen girls, especially girls of color, at a time when positive role models can be hard to find.

“Oceilia’s ministry of helping girls find their true identity, remain sexually abstinent and engage in servant leadership provide foundational building blocks to tomorrow’s virtuous women. Her challenge to mentor teen girls today should spur all women to model this Titus 2 lifestyle,” Stovall said.

“We are proud to count Ocielia as a Southwesterner and pray with her that God will use this year as Miss Black USA to impact even more girls for the Kingdom of God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southwestern student Ocielia Gibson crowned Miss Black USA.)
8/22/2011 8:20:00 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Empty nest, a world away

August 22 2011 by Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Rebecca Millsapp* balked at returning to the mission field in 2006.

She already had sacrificed a lot to answer God’s call on her life. A decade earlier, she and her husband Joshua* gave up their dream home and lucrative jobs in medicine and technology in Alabama for a call to missions in southern Asia. They didn’t regret the decision.

But now Rebecca was hesitating about leaving her daughter Aubrey* in the States to attend college while the rest of the family returned home half a world away.

BP Photo

Rebecca Millsapp (name changed) speaks with another colleague in Richmond, Va., where she and her husband work in strategic screening deployment and training for south Asian peoples. In 2012, the Millsapps will return to the mission field with an empty nest, leaving their three children in the United States.

“I took comfort in knowing there were people around who would take care of her if she needed it,” the missionary mom said. “I had seen God take care of our family in so many other situations, and I knew He was big enough to continue to do this.”

But her “mom’s heart” still was full of grief as she returned overseas “kicking and screaming.”

Grappling to adapt is nothing new for the Millsapps. It took a while for the family to adjust to their new surroundings in southern Asia. Rebecca remembers her first impressions upon arrival. Her children were ages 8, 5 and 2.

“I walked into this small, concrete apartment and began to look around for the refrigerator. There wasn’t one. There was no stove, either. I soon discovered that the temperature was so cold in [this country] I could place food on my concrete counters and it would keep,” Rebecca recalled.

Over time, the family grew accustomed to the people, their culture and their land – even the frigid temperatures. The most important thing was they were together.

But now the family ties were being tested.

While Rebecca battled the desire to stay close to Aubrey in the U.S., her youngest child, Percy*, was relieved to be returning “home” to Asia.

“How do you balance those two worlds?” the missionary mom asked.

Nearly three years later, Rebecca experienced that anguish again when it was time for her son Brody* to attend college. Like so many parents, she struggled with separation anxiety, all the more so because she wasn’t just sending her child a few hours away or even a few states away; she was faced with leaving yet another child halfway around the world.

And she was beginning to feel the pangs of empty-nest syndrome.

Even so, Rebecca said God taught her that “it’s not as much about me as I think it is.”

It worked out for the Millsapps to spend about a year in the U.S., enabling them to be closer to Aubrey and Brody for part of their time in college. The flip side, however, was Percy’s struggle to adapt to teenage American culture after growing up overseas.

As soon as he began to feel settled in the U.S., it was time for the family to return to Asia.

Only he didn’t want to go.

He told his parents that after the challenge of finally adjusting to American high school, he didn’t think he could make the transition back overseas.

“He was just so full of emotion and said to us, ‘I don’t want what seems to be my selfishness in wanting to stay here to interfere with your and dad’s call to missions,’” Rebecca said. “And we quickly said to him, ‘That’s not your burden to bear.’”

After seeking counsel from other IMB personnel, Rebecca and Joshua extended their time stateside until Percy, who recently graduated from high school, gets settled in college.

“If I could encourage my colleagues and friends who are in the same season of life, I would say be open and honest,” Rebecca said. “You’ll be amazed at how many people come alongside you and encourage you, and say, ‘You know, I never really thought of it that way’ because (some people think) we have this ‘halo’ that’s 10 feet wide.

“I mean, why would anyone with a halo that big struggle with any of this stuff? Just remind people that we’re real, and we struggle with the same things other people struggle with.”

The Millsapps’ call to missions hasn’t been put on hold. While stateside, Joshua and Rebecca are helping deploy and train others to serve among the peoples of southern Asia. In 2012, the couple will return to Asia while all three children remain in the U.S., each living in a different state.

“If I was just completely honest and vulnerable and transparent, if the decision was just mine and there were no other factors besides a mother’s heart – wanting to be where my children are – I would stay (in the U.S.),” Rebecca said.

“But knowing that God has called me to do this and that I still feel that call to missions, I am expecting God to show up in a great way, with hefty doses of grace and mercy.”

Going overseas without their children will affect Joshua and Rebecca’s ministry as well. For nearly 17 years, they have had children with them as they work. Often, Rebecca said, it was

their children who opened the door for ministry opportunities to other families with children.

Now, she said, they can live in areas without a good school or pediatrician and can travel more frequently.

But that freedom is emotionally expensive.

“It’d be easy to just let these waves of grief that you feel -- of ending the season of life of having kids at home – to be the primary thing throughout your day, and God just doesn’t allow me to do that,” Rebecca said. “He reminds me to focus on the things that are most important; He reminds me that it was a very important season of life, and I did it to the best of my ability and (with) His help.

“There’s always going to be another place that I can plug in with my gifts and skills and talents. … He’s always there with another door I can walk through if I’m open to that.”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Reported by the communications staff of the International Mission Board.)

8/22/2011 7:53:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: Bible reading changes views

August 19 2011 by Baptist Press

WACO, Texas — One activity can bring Christians, whether conservative or liberal, together: reading their Bible, a Baylor University research assistant, has reported.

Frequently reading the Bible changed the attitudes of all Christians no matter their political background, Aaron Franzen reported in a news release from Baylor’s Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA).

“Thus, even as opposition to same-sex marriage and legalized abortion tends to increase with more time spent with the Bible, so does the number of people who say it is important to actively seek social and economic justice,” the ARDA release said.

Franzen said he believes little research has been done in this area of Christian life because so many people think they know what the Bible says and find reading it “a habitual and ultimately meaningless activity.”

But the study, released in early July analyzing the Baylor Religion Survey’s 2007 data, arrives at a different conclusion. Franzen’s findings revealed that habitual Bible reading led to a consolidation of viewpoints on several political and social issues:
  • Almost half of the survey respondents who read their Bible less than once a year supported gay “marriage,” while only 6 percent of those who dug into the Word several times a week or more believed gay couples should be able to obtain a marriage license.
  • As Christians read the Bible more frequently, they were 27 percent more likely to believe it is important to consume less to be a good person and 22 percent less likely to think science and religion are incompatible.
  • Bible readers also were more likely to be against abortion, expanding the government’s authority to fight terrorism, harsher punishment of criminals and the death penalty.
However, the agreement on these issues from people in all political camps is not widespread because daily or weekly Bible reading is not as common as many would think, Franzen said.

The study showed that the majority of people do not read their Bibles frequently. Less than a quarter of those surveyed said they read scripture weekly or more often.
8/19/2011 7:47:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Worship Week: More than performance

August 19 2011 by Polly House, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST — Although the titles were many — minister of music, minister of worship, worship pastor, music director, song leader and even pastor — they came to be better equipped to usher people into the presence of God.

Worship Week, sponsored by the LifeWay Worship area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, offered worship times and conferences to meet the spiritual and practical needs of nearly 700 church worship leaders.

For some, it was a chance to learn about new technology that can help a small church offer a quality music experience, even if they have no trained musicians. For others, it was a step toward rejuvenating a children’s music program after years of having none. Still others came to learn how to help their congregations gain more of God’s truths through worship.

Worship Week pastor Mike Glenn, meanwhile, noted that the term “worship” encompasses more than musical performance and excellence. It’s the total experience of drawing closer to God.

Cliff Duren (seated at piano) leads the praise ensemble from First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., during a Worship Week session at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. Duren is a popular author and composer of music published by LifeWay Worship.

The answer to every problem is worship, added Glenn, pastor of Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church.

“You just have to stay with your prayer long enough to come out on the other side,” he said.

“You have to pray long enough to reach your praise.”

Speaking about the culture’s disinterest, if not disdain, of Christianity, Glenn said Christians have to be strong and rebellious, noting, “It’s a point of ultimate rebellion when we stand in a church and declare to the world that there is one God and His name is God and there is no other God.”

Glenn also served as a breakout leader during the week, speaking to a group about Kairos, Brentwood Baptist’s ministry to young adults that draws hundreds of college students and 20-somethings every week.

“Kairos is drawing all these young adults who know nothing about the Bible,” Glenn marveled. “Nothing!”

When Kairos leaders learned that many attendees didn’t have a Bible, the church began putting out Bibles on tables for attendees to take for free.

“We told them the Bibles were free, and they were welcome to take one. It still seemed like some of them wanted to steal them,” Glenn recounted, laughing. “So we just said if it felt better to stick one under your jacket as you left and pretend to sneak out with it, that was fine. Just take one!”

Glenn spoke of one young man who said he’d gone to the local LifeWay Christian Store to buy his first Bible.

“But, do you know how many Bibles there are in that store?” the young man said in astonishment. “There were just way too many. I didn’t know what to get.”

Knowing that others might be in the same boat, Glenn arranged for the LifeWay store to come to Kairos with a large selection of Bibles. He also brought in a friend, Mike Duduit from Anderson University, to explain the differences in the various Bible translations.

The young adults’ venture into Scripture became amusing when, for example, Glenn began teaching about the story of Joseph in prison in Egypt.

The dialogue went something like this:

Young adult: “When does Joseph meet Mary? When he gets out of jail?”

Glenn: “Ah, he doesn’t. Different Joseph.”

Young adult: “Oh, dude! You mean there are two of them?”

Glenn: “Yeah, there are two of them.”

Travis Cottrell
Among the Worship Week’s music leaders: Travis Cottrell, worship minister at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and praise and worship leader for Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live and other conferences.

“I was called to ministry right here in Spillman Auditorium, Dec. 31, 1985,” Cottrell said. “Great memories at Ridgecrest. I just love to come in here and sniff the piano.”

Born and raised in nearby Boone, Cottrell voiced a love for North Carolina’s mountains, saying they are “where God gets His mail.”

Growing up in a gospel culture can cause a person to lose sight of the gospel, Cottrell cautioned, and lose sight of the person of Jesus. Anyone who surrounds himself with only other Christians, Cottrell said, is in danger of losing the passion of the need for Jesus.

“Those of us in the culture can fake it,” he said. “We know the words, the way to speak ‘church.’ We know words others don’t know — like vestibule!”

Twenty-eight conference leaders led more than 80 sessions during the June 25-July 1 gathering. Attendees also had the opportunity to view a pre-release showing of “Courageous,” the newest movie from Sherwood Pictures set for nationwide release Sept. 30.

Next year’s Worship Week will be July 16-20 at Ridgecrest. For more information about LifeWay Worship, including events and resources, go to

(EDITOR’S NOTE — House is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
8/19/2011 7:42:00 AM by Polly House, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ruby Fulbright to retire from WMU-NC

August 19 2011 by WMU-NC staff

Ruby Fulbright, executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) since May 1, 2002, will retire at the end of this year.

Fulbright, who led WMU-NC to make a dramatic change in relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and to re-establish itself as a completely autonomous body, announced her retirement to her executive board August 18 at a special called meeting.

“My journey as executive director/treasurer has been an incredible experience,” Fulbright reflected.  “It has had all the elements of being fun, very busy, mind and body stretching, humbling, sometimes frightening and difficult, but mostly meaningful. 

“Along with the WMU-NC officers, executive board and staff,” Fulbright continued, “we have met some incredible challenges; we’ve dreamed new dreams and seen many of them come true; we’ve been true to our purpose and we’ve been true to ourselves. Most importantly, we’ve watched God work when the element of faith was absolutely essential.”

For nine years, Fulbright has led the state-wide missions organization and helped advance missions education and missions opportunities throughout her tenure. During this period, WMU-NC continued to be one of the strongest state organizations and experienced consistent growth.  Successful efforts under her leadership include the establishment of a Missionary Parent Fellowship of North Carolina in 2006; hosting the MK Re-Entry Retreat at Camp Mundo Vista in 2008; the creation of SHINE (Serving God, Helping others, Inspiring believers, Networking community, Experiencing Christ) for young women; WMU-NC sponsored mission trips that ministered to the needs of women and children; and reinstating the Heck-Jones Offering for organizational support. 

In 2008, Fulbright was presented the Anne Thomas Neil Award by Baptist Women in Ministry of N.C. The award is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the cause of women in ministry.

“There is no doubt in my mind that God still has work — incredible work — for WMU-NC, and He has gifted and called excellent leadership for this time,” Fulbright said. “North Carolina is blessed beyond measure to have Tana Hartsell as president, the current executive board and staff of WMU-NC to lead into the next 125 years.”

The sentiment is mutual. Hartsell said, “What a blessing for me to walk this WMU-NC journey with Ruby.  We have shared experiences that lifted us to the very heights of heaven but also those which humbly put us on our knees at the Father’s feet.”

Hartsell added that while it is difficult to imagine WMU-NC without Ruby’s presence and guidance, the executive board continues the visioning process begun in January. 

“Following the celebration of our 125-year history, Ruby has led us in the plans and preparations to move forward with that same courage, strength, and faith of our foremothers ... not reliving or staying in the past, but boldly setting the course to move toward being the premier organization for providing quality missions education and missions involvement to all who share our common cause and purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission in our world.”

A native of Kinston, Fulbright received her education from Mars Hill College in Mars Hill and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Fulbright and her husband, Ellis, served as Southern Baptist missionaries to Zambia from 1974-1986. They have three children and four grandchildren. She has been active in all levels of WMU — church, associational, state and national. Her lifetime involvement — from church WMU director to state executive director — with WMU-NC stands as a prime example of the grassroots philosophy of the organization.

Prior to leading WMU-NC, Fulbright was director of discipleship and missions at Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, and served in administration for both the South Roanoke Baptist Association in Greenville and the Alexander Baptist Association in Taylorsville. 

“I may be retiring from working full time, but I am not retiring from my love and prayers for WMU-NC,” Fulbright said. “I am not retiring from God’s call on my life to be Christ’s presence in the world. I anticipate that He has something more for me to do.”

Fulbright’s last day as executive director/treasurer of WMU-NC will be December 31, 2011.

According to the WMU-NC bylaws, the personnel committee will serve as the search committee for her replacement. In the interim, the executive committee will designate someone to assume Fulbright’s responsibilities until a new executive director/treasurer is named.
8/19/2011 2:57:00 AM by WMU-NC staff | with 0 comments

‘One Day Live’ simulcast to be held August 28

August 18 2011 by BSC Communications

Churches in North Carolina are invited to join with churches from across the country for a special Internet simulcast to train Sunday School and small group leaders on Sunday, August 28. The One Day Live simulcast, organized through the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), is a unique approach to training Sunday School and small group leaders.

The simulcast can be viewed individually from homes, or leaders can meet at churches and associational offices to listen as a group and then discuss the message.

One Day Live is a Sunday School and small group online training resource similar to Leaderesource (, which provides training modules for churches to use in equipping their leaders.

During the simulcast Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will share a message about the preeminence of Sunday School as a disciple making/growing ministry strategy.

“Sunday school is not just for kids,” said Bob Mayfield, Sunday School and discipleship specialist with the BGCO.

“It is a powerful, time-honored tool for people of all ages. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars and sending leaders to training events that are miles away, the strategy behind One Day Live encourages the local church to own the equipping of its small group leaders.”

Phil Stone, North Carolina State Sunday School director, encourages all churches and associations to participate in the simulcast. “Johnny Hunt is a Sunday School pastor. He leads Woodstock to make and grow disciples through this enduring ministry,” he said. “The One Day Live simulcast is a unique and cutting-edge way to encourage and train your leaders to understand and use the Sunday School ministry as a disciple making/growing strategy for your church.”

Registering for the simulcast also includes a pre-recorded DVD of Hunt’s message to use at any time. To register for One Day Live visit:
8/18/2011 8:56:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Elliff: Vanished tribe highlights gospel urgency

August 18 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — A remote indigenous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon apparently has been destroyed following a possible assault by drug traffickers — a development that emphasizes the urgency of taking the gospel to those who have never heard, according to Southern Baptist missions leaders.

First revealed to the world in February through stunning aerial images, the tribe — whose name is unknown — was protected by a government guard post. Survival International, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting the rights of tribal peoples, reported Aug. 8, however, that the post had been “overrun by heavily armed men” suspected to be drug traffickers.

Concern about the tribe’s well-being grew when a search by the Brazilian government’s Indian affairs department (FUNAI) revealed no trace of the tribe but discovered a broken arrow in a rucksack allegedly belonging to one of the traffickers. A FUNAI official said such arrows are “the identity card of uncontacted Indians” and described the incident as a catastrophe.

The news emphasizes the urgency of the Great Commission and should spur Southern Baptists’ missions efforts, said Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB).

Separated by generations but united in spirit, this grandfather and granddaughter are members of an indigenous tribe in the greater Amazon area. Identified as one of the world’s 3,800 UUPGs (unengaged unreached people groups), they have little knowledge of the gospel.

“This event is another very chilling reminder of the urgent nature of our mission endeavors,” Elliff said. “We must reach out with the gospel now, especially to the world’s unengaged, unreached people groups. Our Lord’s sobering reminder that ‘night comes, when no man can work’ is a call for faithfulness at a time when ‘the fields are white unto harvest.’”

Though the IMB had no work among this tribe (Brazilian law prohibits it), Southern Baptist missionaries are legally sharing the gospel with indigenous peoples in some South American countries.

What’s more, the mission board’s “Embrace” initiative is bringing even more attention to indigenous groups in the Americas, challenging Southern Baptist churches to commit to evangelizing one of the world’s 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs). Roughly 300 UUPGs are found in the Americas, the majority of whom are indigenous. Some of these people groups are as small as five to seven individuals; others number in the tens of thousands.

Groups like the vanished tribe represent an even further degree of separation from the gospel — UUUPGs, people groups that are uncontacted, unengaged and unreached. Missions researchers identify between 50 and 70 such tribes in the greater Amazon area.

“The irony about it is that even though we live in a part of the world that probably has the highest evangelical rate on the planet, the negative extreme is that you have these people groups that have never been contacted,” said Terry Lassiter, who heads IMB strategy for evangelizing American peoples. “That’s really sad when you think that 2,000 years after the Great Commission we have people groups that don’t have the gospel and haven’t even been contacted by the outside world. This is a whole new level of darkness.

“It breaks my heart and should break the hearts of any Christians to know that there are peoples like this that may have been exterminated — and they don’t have the hope of salvation,” Lassiter said.

Getting the gospel to indigenous tribes is a daunting challenge, said Ryan Goodman*, an IMB missionary who works with indigenous peoples.

Many tribes live in remote locations far from roads, electricity, clean water and health care, often hidden in dense jungle, Goodman said. Reaching extremely isolated villages may take up to six days of travel from the U.S. Some tribes are nomadic and roam within large, government-protected reservations that tightly restrict access.

Language is another obstacle, Goodman added. At least 25 distinct languages can be identified in the area where he works. Barriers to accessing an indigenous tribe also may come from the people themselves; many fear and distrust outsiders after decades of exploitation and disease.

“If (civilization makes) contact with them in the wrong way, they could literally be dead in weeks because of diseases,” Goodman said. “That’s a huge conflict — we can go in and provide them with eternal salvation, but we could destroy them at the same time.” Above all the physical challenges, however, the spiritual barriers may be the hardest to overcome, Lassiter said.

“These are peoples that have been in the darkness of the evil one for their entire existence,” Lassiter said. “From a human standpoint, the physical barriers seem very tough, but we know God has given us a Great Commission to go to all nations. It is the spiritual battle that has to be won first, and that begins through prayer and seeking the Lord in how to reach these people.”

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
8/18/2011 8:41:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey: Women drop in church attendance

August 18 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Women, long considered the dominant pew dwellers in the nation’s churches, have shown a dramatic drop in attendance in the last two decades, a new survey shows.

Since 1991, the percentage of women attending church during a typical week has decreased by 11 percentage points to 44 percent, the Barna Group reported Aug. 1.

Sunday School and volunteering among women also has diminished. Two decades ago, half of all women read the Bible in a typical week — other than at religious events. Now 40 percent do.

The survey also found a marked stepping away from congregations: a 17 percentage increase in the number of women who have become “unchurched.”

“For years, many church leaders have understood that ‘as go women, so goes the American church,’” wrote Barna Group founder George Barna, on his website. “Looking at the trends over the past 20 years, and especially those related to the beliefs and behavior of women, you might conclude that things are not going well for conventional Christian churches.”

The Ventura, Calif.-based researchers compared surveys of more than 1,000 people in 1991 and 2011.

They found that the percentage of women who strongly believe the Bible is accurate in all it teaches declined by 7 percentage points to 42 percent. And those who view God as “the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today” dropped from 80 percent to 70 percent.

“Women used to put men to shame in terms of their orthodoxy of belief and the breadth and consistency of their religious behavior,” wrote Barna. “No more; the religious gender gap has substantially closed.”
8/18/2011 8:34:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

La. Baptists send hay to drought-weary Texas

August 18 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

LORANGER, La. — Donated bales of hay are making their way from southeastern Louisiana to drought-stricken Texas.

It’s a mission project started by a member of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Hammond, who asked that his name be withheld. He’s retired from the Louisiana Department of Transportation, but not from the small spread he farms near Loranger, where about 20 head of beef cattle graze.

“I was at home, watching the news, and you could see how bad it (the drought) was out there (in Texas),” the mission project catalyst said. “I love missions and wanted to help. Then I left my house and as I was driving I saw leftover hay from last year in a barn. That’s when it hit me: Why don’t I find out how many barns have leftover hay they’d donate?”

Most everybody did, he found out. “From there it just took off. I started calling Baptist churches in Texas to see who had need, and that’s how it started.” The donor has been a member of Woodland Park Hammond for about four years, associate pastor Randy Ray said.

“He went on a medical mission trip with me a year ago to El Salvador and that really stepped him up as far as his focus on missions,” Ray said. “He went to Kentucky earlier this year on a construction project and he went to northern Mississippi with tornado relief a couple of months ago. When he came back, he organized a chainsaw unit for our association, and now we have a really nicely equipped chainsaw trailer.”

The haylift ministry focuses on farmers with not too much acreage nor too many cattle.

BP photo/Randy Ray

Donated round bales of hay make their way from southeastern Louisiana to drought-stricken Texas.

“We’re just helping the little guys, those with, say, 20 to 50 head (of cattle),” the mission project catalyst said on Aug. 10. “We’ve been hauling for three weeks and will continue another three weeks for farmers who have run out of hay and grass. “We can take only 17 round bales on a gooseneck, and 38 to 40 on an 18-wheeler,” the donor continued. “We’ve taken it to Jacksonville, Texas, and from there it’s gone as far as west as Abilene. We’ve got hay in Austin, Huntsville and Blessing, Texas. We’re dealing mostly with Baptist churches so it’s delivered fairly and is not being sold.”

Because of the unprecedented drought — Texas is in its driest 10 months in more than 100 years — grain feed isn’t growing. It costs $90 to $120 these days for a round bale of hay in Texas, up from perhaps $40 in non-drought conditions, when not much would be needed anyway, the Louisiana farmer explained. People are being forced to sell their cattle because of the drought.

“A lady called yesterday,” the mission project catalyst said. “They have about 40 head that she was fixing to have to sell when she heard about this. ‘Get to Vinton, La., (at Interstate 10 on the Texas state line) and you can have all 39 rolls we’ve got there. Y’all can have the hay, no cost.’ When I said that, she started breaking down, crying. I started crying myself and we had to hang up; we couldn’t talk. That’s what this is all about — helping people in the name of Jesus.”

As of Aug. 10, Woodland Park and Ebenezer Baptist churches, both in Hammond, were involved in the Texas haylift, and all the hay has come from farms in the Loranger area. Northshore Baptist Association and the Louisana Baptist Convention disaster relief each have contributed $1,000 toward what the convention’s disaster relief director, Gibbie McMillan, calls a “disaster because of drought.”

Transportation and fuel for the hay bales are donated.

“Anybody anywhere could do the same thing we’re doing,” the mission project catalyst said. “Seems like once you start something, everybody wants to help.... It’s a small operation, I would call it. We’re not trying to hay (all of) Texas. We’re just trying to help people; we kinda push that, this is a ministry.

“What I’m having a problem is getting the hay from the edge of Texas further west, like San Antonio,” he continued. “I’m having a real problem with that.”

More than 90 percent of Texas is in the two most extreme stages of drought. An updated government weather map shows the drought holding firm — if not intensifying — through at least October.

Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for Northshore Baptist Association, said he is amazed to think hay from Louisiana is helping in Texas.

“Southeast Louisiana is known for a lot of things — great festivals, food, fishing, hunting, football, swamp people, swamp loggers and others, even truck farming, but not ranching,” Wascom said. “Texas has ranches bigger than some of our parishes and we are sending hay to them? Sending shrimp, crawfish, strawberries and any number of other truck farm crops would make sense, but for us to be sending hay, are you kidding me? I find it to be simply wonderful!”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Individuals interested in helping with the haylift may contact Woodland Park Baptist Church at 985-345-4013.)
8/18/2011 8:27:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Link between education and views of heaven

August 18 2011 by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today

The old wisdom: The more educated you are, the less likely you will be religious. But a new study says education doesn’t drive people away from God — it gives them a more liberal attitude about who’s going to heaven.

Each year of education ups the odds by 15 percent that people will say there’s “truth in more than one religion,” says University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel in an article for the Review of Religious Research. Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology, looked at 1,800 U.S. adults’ reported religious beliefs and practices and their education.

People change their perspective because, as people move through high school and college, they acquire an ever-wider range of friendships, including people with different beliefs than their own, Schwadel says. “People don’t want to say their friends are going to hell,” he says.

For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:
  • 15 percent more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.
  • 14 percent more likely to say they believe in a “higher power” than in a personal God. “More than 90 percent believe in some sort of divinity,” Schwadel says.
  • 13 percent more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is “less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life” than their childhood religion.
  • 13 percent less likely to say the Bible is the “actual word of God.” The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the “inspired word” of God, Schwadel says.
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist blogger at, is skeptical, saying this “raises an eyebrow at everything I’ve always heard that the more educated you are, the less religious you are. But it must depend on how you define religion.”

Schwadel’s findings dovetail with findings by Barry Kosmin of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., a co-author of the American Religious Identification Survey statistics on religious beliefs and the behavior of people with master’s degrees, doctorates and professional degrees.

It turns out that on Sunday mornings, “the educated elite look a lot like the rest of America,” Kosmin says — just as likely to believe in a personal God or higher power.
8/18/2011 8:25:00 AM by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today | with 0 comments

Displaying results 21-30 (of 65)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7  >  >|