August 2012

N.C. church hosts ‘iPledge’ simulcast on voting

August 27 2012 by Baptist Press

Leading pro-family organizations will attempt to motivate and equip Christians to fulfill their citizenship responsibilities – praying for the election and voting – through a live simulcast in September to local churches.
 
The Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association are co-sponsoring “iPledge Sunday: A Call to Faith, Family and Freedom” Sunday, Sept. 9.
 
The event will originate at 7 p.m. (EDT) from First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., but churches throughout the United States will be able to host a simulcast of the 90-minute service.
 
Christians also may host the event in their homes.
 
Among the speakers will be FRC President Tony Perkins, former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Maryland pastor Harry Jackson and actor Kirk Cameron. They will address such issues as religious freedom, abortion and other life concerns, and marriage.
 
The event’s goal, according to FRC, is to lead Christians to pledge to: (1) Pray for the Nov. 6 election; (2) register – and register others – to vote, and (3) vote according to biblical values.
 
“America is in trouble,” FRC’s Kenyn Cureton told Baptist Press in explaining the purpose of the event.
 
08-27-12ipledge.jpg

“Government is out of control, and not just in terms of outrageous spending. Human life is becoming more and more devalued. Marriage is being radically redefined. Our religious liberty and heritage is being removed.
 
“So we hope that the ‘iPledge Sunday’ event will not only serve as a wake-up call for Christians to get off the sidelines and onto these battle lines, but also will offer practical action steps as to how we can make a positive difference,” said Cureton, FRC’s vice president for church ministries.
 
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), endorsed the event, saying, “I would encourage Southern Baptists and other people of faith to enthusiastically embrace ‘iPledge Sunday’ and to follow the exhortation to pray, prepare and participate in the upcoming election by voting their biblical values.”
 
Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the ERLC and North American Mission Board will again co-sponsor the 40/40 Prayer Vigil this fall. The biannual emphasis gives Southern Baptists and other Christians the opportunity to pray for spiritual revival and national renewal according to two plans:
 
• Pray once each day for the 40 days from Sept. 26 to Nov. 4;
 
• Or pray each hour during the 40 hours from 4 p.m. Nov. 2 to 8 a.m. Nov. 4.
 
Churches and families may learn about “iPledge Sunday” online and sign up to host a simulcast at http://www.ipledgesunday.org/.
 
Information on the 40/40 vigil – plus a free, downloadable prayer guide – is available at 4040prayer.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.)
8/27/2012 1:49:34 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Committee named to seek Land’s successor

August 27 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A search committee has been selected to find a successor to Richard Land as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
On behalf of the ERLC Executive Committee, Richard Piles, acting chairman of the board of trustees, named Barry Creamer, vice president of academic affairs at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, as chairman of the presidential search committee.

The other ERLC trustees named to the committee are Ken Barbic of the District of Columbia; Kenda Bartlett, an at-large member of the board from D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, from the Kansas-Nebraska convention; Ray Newman, an at-large member from Georgia, and Bernard Snowden of Virginia. Piles, who is from Arkansas, will serve as an ex officio member.

The committee will be seeking a candidate to bring to the ERLC board to succeed Land, who announced his retirement July 31. Land’s retirement will be effective Oct. 23, 2013, when he will complete 25 years as the ERLC’s president.

“We are grateful and thankful for 25 years of Dr. Land’s life and ministry,” Piles said in a statement to Baptist Press. “Our search committee will be asking the Lord to direct us to the individual who can serve the commission and Southern Baptists for another 25 years in the arena of biblical ethics and public policy. I am confident that person is within our convention and will emerge eventually.”

The committee will establish its own guidelines for the presidential search, Piles told BP. There is not yet a timeline for bringing a recommendation to the board, he said.

Land, 65, chose to announce his retirement nearly 15 months before its effective date to provide “plenty of time for an orderly transition for both the Commission and myself to the next phase of our respective future ministries,” he said in a July 31 letter to Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.

Creamer, also professor of humanities at Criswell College, is a member of Lake Highlands Baptist Church in Dallas.

Barbic, senior director of federal government affairs for the Western Growers Association, is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

Bartlett is executive director of Concerned Women for America and also a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington.

Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan., is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in that city.

Newman is executive director of the Georgia Citizen Action Project and pastor of Macedonia Community Baptist Church in Braselton, Ga.

Snowden is associate pastor, family life, at Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.

Beginning in 1988, Land led the transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity during the denomination’s conservative resurgence. He has acted as an outspoken advocate for biblical positions on such issues as the sanctity of human life, religious freedom, marriage and race relations.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
 
Related story
ERLC’s Land announces retirement effective Oct. 2013
8/27/2012 1:43:56 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey: Economy continues to impact churches

August 24 2012 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pastors say the economy continues to have a negative impact on their churches despite stabilized giving, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents, “How is the economy impacting your church?” Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) responded negatively, with 56 percent indicating somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. One-fourth of the pastors surveyed chose, “The economy has had no impact on my church,” while 9 percent indicated a positive impact on their churches.

“Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “We weren’t surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative.”

However, there is some good news. LifeWay Research found that while the sluggish economic recovery has translated into flat or reduced giving for many churches, the trend continues of fewer churches reporting declines in giving:

– 23 percent of churches had lower giving in 2010 than 2009.
– 19 percent of churches had lower giving in 2011 than in 2010
– Through May 2012 giving for 15 percent of churches has been below 2011

Similarly, fewer churches are failing to meet budget expectations. Through May 2011, giving for 27 percent of churches was below budget. At the same time in 2012, only 22 percent of churches reported giving below budget – a 5 percent decrease from the year before.

The trend seems to indicate a stabilization of giving rather than widespread increases in giving. Through May 2011, 36 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2010. And through May 2012, 40 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2011.

“Many people refer to the ‘new normal’ of tighter consumer spending, but it appears there has been no adjustment in economic expectations,” McConnell said. “Pastors and Americans in general are still disappointed when they experience a lack of consistent or increasing growth.”

According to the survey, a larger percentage of pastors serving in large cities and the suburbs (72 percent in both areas) cited a negative impact on their church from the economy in 2012 than those serving in small cities (63 percent) and rural areas (61 percent).

Also, a higher percentage of pastors in the West (71 percent) said the current state of the economy was having a negative impact on their churches compared to churches in the Northeast, South and Midwest (all at 63 percent).

Methodology: The telephone survey, conducted in May 2012, sampled 1,000 randomly selected Protestant pastors. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus/minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Comparisons are also made to the following telephone surveys using the same methodology: 1,000 pastors conducted March 1-9, 2010; 1,002 pastors conducted January 17-27, 2011; 1,000 pastors conducted May 18-25, 2011.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is editorial manager for LifeWay Christian Resources’ communications team.)

08-24-12economy1-(1).jpg

08-24-12economy2.jpg


8/24/2012 2:56:45 PM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GuideStone asks to change ministry assignment

August 24 2012 by Timothy E. Head, Baptist Press

SAN DIEGO – GuideStone Financial Resources trustees have approved a recommendation to change the Southern Baptist entity’s ministry assignment to make its mutual funds available to Southern Baptist and other evangelical church members.

GuideStone representatives will make a report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee in mid-September with the intention of presenting the recommendation to messengers at the SBC annual meeting next June in Houston.

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins, during the July 30-31 meeting in San Diego when the recommendation was approved, updated trustees on GuideStone’s long-range plan, GuideStone 100.

In GuideStone’s vision statement – “GuideStone Financial Resources exists to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with its participants in enhancing their financial security” – Hawkins said the SBC entity finds its motivation, message and mandate.

“GuideStone 100 was born out of our motivation, our message and our mandate,” Hawkins noted. “Our motivation is to honor the Lord. Our message to each of our more than 200,000 participants is that we want to be your lifelong partner. Our mandate is to enhance their financial security. Each day, we set to live out and apply that vision.”

The initiative to offer GuideStone Funds to church members, part of the earliest version of GuideStone 100, gained momentum from a motion made at the 2006 SBC annual meeting by Gary A. Smith, pastor of the Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. The motion asked that “GuideStone study the feasibility of allowing members of Southern Baptist churches to participate in the financial and insurance products of GuideStone.”

Citing recent accolades received by GuideStone within the mutual funds industry, which continue to shine a positive spotlight on the nation’s largest Christian-based, socially screened registered mutual fund family, Hawkins said the best time to pursue this effort is now.

“We have been studying this for the better part of the last decade,” Hawkins said. “What we have found is that the research indicates there are thousands of individual investors who belong to Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches who would welcome the opportunity to invest in the investment program made available through GuideStone Funds.”

In regard to GuideStone medical plans, Hawkins told trustees that, during the current economic downturn, GuideStone has continued to provide high levels of coverage at competitive costs to its participants.

“Although GuideStone’s medical plan participants, like the participants of all other providers, have seen rates increase in the past few years, by continuing to control costs through optimal PPO discounts, aggressive pharmacy benefit pricing negotiations and ongoing attention to administrative costs, GuideStone has been able to mitigate the increases for our participants,” Hawkins said. “In addition, unlike many of our competitors, GuideStone participants can transfer coverage to richer or less expensive plans each year without providing evidence of good health, allowing them to choose the coverage that best fits their needs and budget.”

Hawkins emphasized that healthcare reform continues to be an issue that GuideStone is navigating, as are other historic church plans. For a full explanation on GuideStone’s response to the healthcare reform law, visit www.GuideStone.org/healthreform.

In his remarks, Hawkins also noted GuideStones growth through expanded market ministries.

“Each year, we see evidenced the wisdom to pursue like-minded evangelical organizations,” Hawkins said. “Currently, expanded market ministries comprise 21.4 percent of our total group medical plan participants and provide 9.9 percent of total retirement contributions.

“Additionally, many of the participants in our expanded ministries insurance base are younger, which enables us to keep our premiums lower for our participants, as well as the ability to attain additional economies of scale across all of our product lines.”

John R. Jones, GuideStone’s chief operating officer, reported on GuideStone’s operations and updated trustees on various recognitions that GuideStone has received for outstanding investment returns.

“Over the last several years our mutual funds have continued to receive favorable recognition from industry firms such as Lipper and fi360,” Jones said.

“In a remarkable achievement, GuideStone Funds has been ranked in the top five mutual fund families for five consecutive quarters by fi360 Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings. Most recently, GuideStone Funds was ranked No. 3 out of 221 funds for the quarter ending June 30, 2012. This is a particularly meaningful recognition because of the broad scope of criteria used by fi360 in their rankings. Their evaluation includes such factors as regulatory oversight, track record, assets under management, stability of the organization, expense ratio/fees relative to peers, risk-adjusted performance relative to peers, and overall investment performance relative to peers. Recognition by fi360 of GuideStone Funds as the number two fund in the United States is a remarkable achievement.

“We are thrilled to know that GuideStone Funds continues to rank higher than most well-known household names in the mutual fund industry,” Jones said.

Trustees also heard a positive report on GuideStone’s property and casualty program, which transitioned to a partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hawkins updated trustees on GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity program, which raises financial support for needy Southern Baptist pastors, denominational workers, missionaries and their surviving spouses. Despite the current economic climate, Mission:Dignity saw a record-breaking 1,577 churches share in Mission:Dignity Sunday on June 24, more than double the number participating in 2011. The number of total donors is up 10.4 percent and the number of gifts is up 4.0 percent. As of June 30, 2012, Mission:Dignity served 1,909 individuals and couples. For more about Mission:Dignity, visit www.MissionDignitySBC.org or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

Also in his remarks to trustees, Hawkins encouraged all GuideStone participants to take the time to re-evaluate their investment portfolio and to take advantage of available tax incentives in an effort to maximize the participant’s income available upon their retirement.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources.)
8/24/2012 2:52:15 PM by Timothy E. Head, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tenn. Baptists plan ‘right sizing’ cuts to staff

August 23 2012 by Lonnie Wilkey & Connie Davis Bushey, Baptist Press

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) Executive Board will eliminate up to 16 full- and part-time staff positions over the next several months.

TBC Executive Director/Treasurer Randy C. Davis announced the changes during a mid-August staff meeting at the Baptist Center in Brentwood.

The changes “are not driven by the economy,” Davis emphasized, though “we are certainly sensitive to the impact of a down economy.” Rather, the changes are “driven by strategy to move us forward in accomplishing a clear objective: To assist the local church in winning the lost of Tennessee to Christ.”
 
The staff reductions will free up nearly $1 million once the process is finished, Davis told the TBC’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal, noting that the changes “will allow more of our resources to be pushed to the harvest fields.”

In explaining the rationale behind the decision, Davis stated that “having the privilege and accepting the responsibility of leading the gifted and committed Tennessee Baptist team of servant missionaries is one of the clearest calls the Lord has ever placed on my life.” He continued, “Working with the good and great churches of Tennessee to reach the millions of lost people in our state is by far one of the greatest burdens the Lord has ever placed in my life.”

Reversing a half-century-long decline in the number of people reached and baptized in Tennessee must become a reality in the state, Davis said.

“Seeing more people reached with the gospel, baptized and becoming fully devoted followers of Christ through healthy and empowered churches is the target. That is our clear direction,” he emphasized.

Davis described the staff reduction not as “downsizing” but instead “right sizing our ministry.”

The TBC leader said that realigning the convention’s financial, personnel and structural resources will facilitate:

– Intentionally assisting churches with a harvest field focused initiative.

– Taking another step toward seeing the 50/50 distribution of CP funding becoming a reality for TBC and national/international Baptist outreach.

– Enhancing more effective and excellent communications.

– Eliminating unneeded and unwise duplication of ministries.

– Accelerating a much-needed emphasis on serving ethnic and African American ministries.

– Giving greater help in serving and reaching impoverished and underserved children and families from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River.

– Prioritizing TBC work around sending churches, starting churches and strengthening and supporting churches.

Wearing the “hat of the executive director” made him look at the staff positions strategically, Davis said, but “having the heart of the pastor” helps him see beyond the position. He emphasized that “each one of our team members will be treated with the utmost respect and fairness.”

He told the staff, “I see the person. I see you and I know this hurts all of us on a personal level.”

Davis ended the Aug. 15 staff meeting by noting that “we must lean together” on Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

One key strategy was outlined to a group of pastors by TBC staff Aug. 2 in which Tennessee Baptist churches would develop small groups that meet outside the church to reach people for Christ and grow their church.

Bobby Welch, TBC associate executive director, led the presentation of the “Harvest Plants” initiative to about 40 ministers from about 35 churches. Before the pastors left the presentation, 28 committed to starting one or more small groups or harvest plants in the next year aimed at five people making professions of faith and being baptized.

The strategy also calls for the harvest plant to reproduce itself by the end of that year, through a “1-5-1” strategy – “1” new plant in one year, winning and baptizing “5” persons and reproducing “1” additional plant.

The small groups can either be a “branch plant” which is an outgrowth of a Sunday School or small group ministry; a “group plant” which comes from the church as a whole rather than an existing ministry; or a “church plant.” Branch plants and group plants do not develop into congregations but remain connected to the church. Certainly all church plants would develop into congregations, explained Steve Holt, the TBC’s leader growth coordinator.

The small groups or harvest plants can be started by a church at no additional cost or practically no cost to the church and by churches in all situations, Welch noted.

“There is no church too small or too large not to do plants in an extremely successful way,” he said.

Churches must do something different, Welch noted. “We’re talking about going outside the church. We’re not getting lost people in the church. They’re not coming. ... People are lost and headed to hell,” he declared.

Don Pierson, the TBC’s Kingdom growth coordinator, told of First Baptist Church in Cookeville, which surveyed 800 homes and learned that hundreds of residents would be willing to attend a Bible study in a home. The church has started several small groups meeting in homes.

Phil Young, missions/ministry specialist with the convention, told how Baptist ministry sites like Baptist centers across the state often see a lot of folks make professions of faith who are “not always easily assimilated into established churches.”

He and Welch, after touring several Baptist ministry sites, are encouraging many of the ministry site directors to start harvest plants to evangelize and disciple people “that are falling through the gaps,” Young added.

Holt told of a church in a county seat town which was declining but became committed to starting small group plants. A total of 18 groups have been started by this one church, drawing about 180 people. One good result is that about 30 percent of the folks attending small groups have started attending the church which went from 40 in attendance to 120, Holt reported.

Welch said he isn’t against a church developing satellites as well as harvest plants as it sees fit because of the autonomy of the local church, he added.

Welch said he recommends that lay leaders start and lead the harvest plants. The leaders just need a commitment to evangelism and discipleship. He noted that the small groups must avoid becoming hobby groups that don’t focus on evangelism and discipleship. The focus, he said, must be upon lost persons, not relocating Christians to their meetings.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention; Connie Davis Bushey is the newspaper’s news editor.)
8/23/2012 2:00:59 PM by Lonnie Wilkey & Connie Davis Bushey, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NAMB promotes wives as ministry partners

August 23 2012 by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – The more than 2,000 church planters, pastors and ministry leaders attending the Send North America Conference at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., brought with them what is often considered one of their greatest assets in ministry: their wives.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) conference featured workshops tailored for the wives and other women in attendance.

Kathy Litton, consultant for ministry to pastors’ wives at NAMB and director of Flourish.me, an online community for ministry wives, designed the event to spiritually refresh women and encourage them in their unique ministerial roles.

“We recognize that being married to a man in ministry can be daunting at times, but we also recognize the position of influence God has called these women to as ministry wives,” Litton said.

Featuring leaders like Litton, Christian apologist and author Mary Jo Sharp, speaker and author Jaye Martin, blogger and church planting wife Tricia Lovejoy, breakout sessions promoted unity and purpose. Speakers encouraged women to recognize the power of influence they have in the lives of their husbands and the ministries to which God has called their families.

“The influence we have over our husbands is a gift, a true responsibility,” Litton told workshop attendees at the July event. “Our criticism and negativity can set him back in purpose, but our prayers and support can spur him on to all that God has for him.”
08-23-12nambwives.jpg

Best practices for wives of church planters was the subject of Tricia Lovejoy’s presentation at Send North America. The wife of Mountain Lake Church’s founding pastor Shawn Lovejoy also writes for Flourish.me.


Lovejoy echoed this sentiment while encouraging women to persevere, even when ministry begins to take its toll.

“We have such a level of influence as pastors’ wives,” Lovejoy said. “This is why we can’t let our disappointments drive us to defeat. If we do, we might miss out on God’s calling on our lives and for our ministries.”

Lovejoy emphasized the importance of these women finding their own unique role in the ministry of their church plant, using herself as an example.

“Over the years, God has really revealed to me just what role He has designed for me to play at our church and in our community,” Lovejoy said. This role includes starting Bible studies for other ministry wives, sending weekly emails and cards to encourage women in the church and hosting regular Girls’ Night Out events. “What I love about this stuff is that it’s stuff that God has specifically designed me to be able to do in our church and He’s using me to support our congregation in a different way than my husband.”

Words like these proved to be powerful in the lives of ministry wives in attendance.

Jana McGuire came to the conference from Ohio, where she and her husband Josh are planting Serve Church. The event gave her a renewed sense of purpose in her role as both Josh’s wife and a leader at Serve Church.

“My role as a church planting wife has more of an impact than I imagined,” McGuire shared. “I left feeling renewed, refreshed and challenged by truth.”

This is exactly what Litton and her team hoped to provide to all the women working tirelessly alongside their husbands.

“Pray for wisdom,” Litton encouraged the women. “Speak the truth in love. And carry on faithfully and joyfully by God’s power in the call He has given to your husband and your family.”

Access audio and video files from Send North America ministry wives sessions at namb.net/send_north_america_conference/.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton is a North American Mission Board writer. For more resources or to connect with other ministry wives, visit www.Flourish.me.)

Related story
Send: N.C. Bapt. among 2,200 challenged to plant churches
8/23/2012 1:46:20 PM by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christian Pakistani girl, 11, remains jailed

August 23 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Controversy continues to swirl around Pakistan’s blasphemy law after the arrest of a young Christian girl for defiling words from the Quran.
 
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the country’s Interior Ministry for a report about the Aug. 16 arrest of Rimshah Masih, described as an 11-year-old with Down syndrome in various media reports.

Even so, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, suggested an ominous fate for the girl, in a National Review Online blog Aug. 21.

Any person accused of blasphemy – disproportionately Christians and other religious minorities – faces murder by vigilantes, even if he or she is merely accused or even acquitted, Shea noted.

“In July in Punjab province, a mob whipped into a frenzy by radical leaders hunted down a man thought to have blasphemed against Islam, beat him to death, and burned his body outside a police station,” Shea wrote. “In other cases, defendants awaiting trial, or even those who have been released or acquitted, along with the acquitting judge, have been murdered or threatened with murder.”

The high rate of vigilantism surrounding the law makes it an easy way to persecute religious minorities with false accusation or settle personal scores, various media noted.

Two high-ranking Pakistani officials who criticized the blasphemy law, minister of minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab governor Salman Taseer, were gunned down by Islamic radicals. While the U.S. State Department speaks of “misuse” of the blasphemy law, the law itself must be opposed, Shea wrote.

“No reform or legal tweaking can perfect this law,” she noted. “It is an irredeemably unjust statute that is routinely used to persecute minorities, crush reformers, and in the process subvert the rule of law and individual freedoms.”

The current case started when the nephew of the girl’s landlord said he saw Masih holding a burned copy of an Islamic religious text that included quotations from the Quran, according to The New York Times. According to some reports, the girl had inadvertently burned the papers while cleaning.

The nephew then informed a local cleric, who helped stir up initially apathetic residents. Hundreds of neighbors gathered outside her home and demanded the police take action, threatening to burn down Christian homes and burn the girl alive themselves.

“On Friday I got reports that in a village on the outskirts of Islamabad, some 1,000 men had gathered after the Friday prayers sermons where the local cleric had asked for the massacre of Christians in the neighborhood over blasphemy by a Christian girl,” Paul Bhatti (brother of Shahbaz Bhatti), adviser to the prime minister for National Harmony, told the Christian Science Monitor. “But due to timely action by the police, we were able to calm the crowd.”

Police arrested the girl and charged her with blasphemy, and her parents were placed in protective custody. Bhatti said the police actions were done to protect her and other Christians from vigilantes.

“If the girl was free and not in jail, it would have been impossible to protect her,” he told the Monitor.

Media reports differ about the girl’s mental health, with some reporting that she has Down syndrome while senior police officers told The Times she is “100 percent mentally fit.”

Pakistani police and government officials say the accusations against the girl are baseless and the case will probably be dropped, according to media reports, but Christians have begun fleeing her neighborhood in fear of attacks by angry Muslims.

The Washington Post reported that hundreds of Christians have fled to other neighborhoods in Islamabad, while those who remain face threats from shopkeepers.

“They said they will burn our house down if we don’t leave,” a 17-year-old told the Post. “They are also saying that since a woman burned the Quran, they will come after our women now.”

Given the climate of vigilantism surrounding blasphemy cases, the girl and her family will likely never be able to return home.

“Even if the law changes, who will change the mindset of the people?” Bhatti asked the Monitor. “It is very important that we first create interfaith harmony in Pakistan, without which such discrimination against non-Muslims will continue.”

“Christians, Ahmadiyyas, Shiites and Hindus have been disproportionately targeted under Pakistan’s blasphemy law,” Shea noted, adding that “moderate and reformist Muslims from the country’s Sunni majority have also been victimized....”

“The United States government needs to understand the dynamic of the blasphemy law and get its response right,” Shea wrote. “This threat is spreading: Blasphemy charges are surfacing in Egypt and Tunisia along with the rise of Islamist rule, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation persistently presses for such laws within the United Nations.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston, and Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)

Related story
Pakistani Christian girl’s arrest leads to probe
8/23/2012 1:32:57 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists reach souls at motorcycle rally

August 23 2012 by Fred MacDonald, Baptist Press

STURGIS, S.D. – As hordes of bikers attend the world’s largest motorcycle rally in the small town of Sturgis, S.D., churches of the Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) partner with Southern Baptists from across the United States to spread the gospel.

The annual August event draws hundreds of thousands of bikers from around the world to this town of just over 6,600 people in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Among them, 315 people accepted Christ this year after hearing three-minute testimonies from workers at the Dakota booth. The “bait” for this gospel fishing expedition was a brand new Harley Davidson “Switchback” motorcycle. It drew to the tent more than 3,500 people Aug. 4-11.

Dakota Baptists have been giving away Harleys for seven of the 72 years the rally has convened, said Garvon Golden, DBC executive director.

“We won’t compromise the gospel,” Golden said, “but we’ll do whatever it takes – I should say anything that’s legal and moral and ethical – to get someone’s attention.”

Bob Hower, pastor of Foothills Church in Piedmont, S.D., has volunteered in all seven years of the ministry.

“This year I talked with a man who shared his own testimony,” Hower said. “He acknowledged, however, what he was doing wasn’t pleasing to God. I asked what was preventing him from recommitting his life to the Lord. He said, ‘nothing,’ so he did and he repented. I encouraged him to go back to Kansas City and share with his pastor that he had recommitted his life to Christ in Sturgis.”

The effort has a worldwide impact; this year a biker from Japan gave his life to Christ.

About 150 volunteers from various states served during the rally. Several area churches provided housing for workers. Other churches provided breakfast or shuttled workers to and from the tent. State and regional conventions and the North American Mission Board provided funds.

Many have seen God’s power and love at work at the outreaches, including volunteers Chris and Starla Martin of Miami, Okla., who’ve attended four rallies. He runs a motorcycle museum and she is credit supervisor for a home furnishings company.

Chris Martin said God impressed him to testify more this year and do less “catching,” the practice of engaging passersby and bringing them into the tent, where other workers share their testimonies.
08-23-12sturgis-(1).jpg

Bob Clarty, center, poses with a couple he ministered to during the motorcycle rally, Jeramey Hall, at left, and Jackie Wright.


“I was comfortable,” he said. “Catching is my style but God said don’t worry about that, just share.” He led nearly 15 to Christ.

His wife Starla added, “This has challenged me to become closer to and more outspoken for Christ.”

Bob Clarty, a pastoral care and outreach pastor at Whitefield Baptist Church in Belton, S.C., attended his first rally this year and met a young California couple.

“Jackie [Wright] was working at her father’s barbecue stand. After hearing my story she asked me to pray for her boyfriend, Jeramey [Hall],” Clarty said. “She said he was mad at God and the church. He was very bitter.”

The next day Hall came to the tent to register for the drawing. Clarty shared his story with him and listened as Hall talked about his life. Soon the two were praying as the young man gave his life to Christ.

“I saw a change in his demeanor from the time he came into the booth and when he left,” Clarty said. On the final day of the rally the two found Clarty to say goodbye and thank him for taking time to share with them.

Clarty also had a memorable encounter with a rally vendor.

The cashier asked what they were doing in Sturgis. When Hill explained the bike giveaway and the ministry, the cashier said, “I’d like to hear one of those stories.”

Clarty asked for permission to tell the cashier his experience with Christ. When he finished, the cashier accepted Jesus. “Over a cash register,” said Clarty, “she got saved!”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fred MacDonald is evangelism strategist for the Dakota Baptist Convention.)
8/23/2012 1:26:02 PM by Fred MacDonald, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ridgecrest garners conference planners’ praise

August 22 2012 by Marty King, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina has been awarded the first-ever 2012 “Praise Award” by Religious Conference Manager magazine.

The nation’s largest Christian conference facility, Ridgecrest is owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and has ministered to millions of guests during its more than a century of service.

Members of the Religious Conference Manager Association across the country were asked to nominate hotels and conference centers in the U.S. that exemplify top-quality service to convention and meeting planners as well as guests. Ridgecrest was the only Christian conference center named among the 15 top properties, which also included three Hyatt Hotels, two Marriott properties and several resorts and spas.

“We are honored to be included in such an elite group,” said Bill Bowman, Ridgecrest’s director. “It’s certainly gratifying to be named as one of the best conference centers in the country by religious meeting planners.

“It’s also additional affirmation of the significant investments we’ve made in Ridgecrest to improve the meeting experience. Recognition like this along with strong demands for the facility show that we’re on the right track,” Bowman said.

Ridgecrest’s 1,300-acre complex, in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, offers options for individual sabbaticals, small group meetings and large conferences with outdoor recreation facilities, diverse lodging accommodations and meeting rooms and large group spaces, including Spillman Auditorium which seats more than 2,000 people.

For more information about Ridgecrest reservations or events, call 1-800-588-7222 or go to ridgecrestconferenecenter.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
8/22/2012 2:17:12 PM by Marty King, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



In African Horn, witchdoctor and Muslim sheik follow Jesus

August 22 2012 by Ava Thomas

HORN OF AFRICA – It used to be a brothel, the sandy house where Mike and Abbey Nettles* are raising their children in the Horn of Africa.

When they arrived, their first act was to make the place a home.

The second was to learn enough local language to tell people how to get there.

“I can’t tell someone how to make bread, but I can tell them how to get to my house, and when they get here, I can tell them about Jesus,” Abbey said. “We didn’t come to be masters of this language. We came to learn as fast as we could how to tell people about Jesus.”

And tell people they have.
 
Over the past two years, the gospel has swept through the formerly unreached and unengaged people group they live among.

“We don’t have time to waste. The need is urgent,” Mike said. “So we share as much as we can, and we spend our time investing in believers who want to learn how to make more disciples.”

Berhanu* is among such believers. Though initially disowned by his family, he was later able to baptize one of his sisters – along with 25 more new believers.

“Since I have believed in Jesus, I know my role is to share my faith with other people,” Berhanu said. “Not everyone wants to hear, but it doesn’t matter. I just need to share.”
08-22-12afmain.jpg

Photo by Daniel Phillips

Believers who live among the people of the Horn of Africa say the physical need is great and the spiritual need is even more urgent.


So he does, and when he finds people to believe, they start meeting in groups to study together. He finds that his people are seeking truth – people like Sarah*, whose grandmother was a witchdoctor and father was a Muslim sheik.

“In my house, there were always animal sacrifices,” Sarah said. “My grandmother would kill the chickens to see what the guts said. Because of the Satanic worship, it was a bad environment to grow up in.”

But one day someone shared Jesus with Sarah, and she started to read what her holy book said about Him side by side with what the New Testament said.

“What the Bible said is true. I know this now,” she said. “In the past, I was afraid and had trouble sleeping. Now I have peace in my heart.”

But for a while, the decision didn’t bring peace in her home. Her father beat her, knocking out some of her teeth and breaking her leg.

She fled.

But after years of hearing the gospel, her father – the Muslim sheik – also came to faith in Jesus.

“Most Muslims think the story of Jesus is a lie, but more and more are coming to believe,” Sarah said. “When I tell people the story of Adam and the story of Jesus – that He healed people, died for our sin and was raised again – some say this is bad, that it is a lie.”

Those people, she said, have hard hearts. “But the ones with soft hearts, they listen.”

She has a goal to share Jesus with four people a week. She knows she is to be about sharing Him no matter the cost.

“I feel I must tell others,” she said.

Mike and Abbey say they are amazed but not surprised.

“We know God called us here because He was already working in the hearts of these people, so we came expecting that He was going to do something,” Abbey said.

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe. To learn more about how to pray for the people of the Horn and how to reach out to those same people groups living in your area, visit prayforthehorn.com.)

Related stories
These Orthodox appear to be Christian, but...
8/22/2012 1:58:19 PM by Ava Thomas | with 0 comments



Displaying results 21-30 (of 50)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5  >  >|