August 2013

Carolina Panthers' coach focuses on touching lives

August 30 2013 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Steve Wilks is heading into his second year as the Carolina Panthers’ secondary coach and pass defense coordinator. Before dealing with an injury-plagued 2012 season, he was promoted from a secondary coach to his current position in 2011 and helped the Panthers’ pass defense improve from 24th to 13th that season. This led to an overall defense ranking of 10th in the NFL that year. A Charlotte native, Wilks returned home to Carolina from the San Diego Chargers. Wilks coached 11 seasons on the college level, which included Appalachian State University (ASU), Washington University and Notre Dame. A product of West Charlotte High School, Wilks was a standout defensive back at ASU from 1987-91.
Wilks also works with high school football players during the summer at his Steve Wilks Elite Defensive Back Academy. Wilks shared about his coaching career, strong Christian values and his love for mentoring young athletes.
Q: What can I expect to get as a football team when I hire Steve Wilks?
A: Number one, you’re going to get a great teacher. Everyone talks about coaching, but number one, we’re teachers first. I tell guys that I teach during the week, and that I coach on Sundays. You want a guy who understands people. Sometimes coaches get so caught up in X’s and O’s. … Relating to the players is what’s most important, having a true genuine care for your players as individuals beyond the game of football. Football is important but there’s life after football. … I’m into building a foundation with these young men, from a standpoint of giving these men something beyond the game. I have a lot of passion and love for the game, but I’m all about truly developing the person, and leading by example.
Q: What is your philosophy in coaching and working with incoming NFL rookies today?
A: I believe that it starts with consistency; I believe everything is about establishing a foundation that starts with trust, commitment and accountability. I want my players to build trust in me, and I want to build trust in them. … I tell my guys this all the time; it’s not always about what you want to hear. … I believe it is telling players what they need to hear. Sometimes we cater to young men because of their accolades coming out of high school and college. Most of the guys want to be coached … and they want to get better. … I teach and coach them hard, and I … demand a lot from them. That’s my philosophy. … When they’re doing great, I’m going to love them up, but when they step out of line on or off the field … they definitely will know about it.

Contributed photo
Most days Steve Wilks is teaching, not coaching, football. Wilks, the Carolina Panthers’ secondary coach and pass defense coordinator, has helped the team to improve its defense.

Q: Do you find that NFL coaches are constantly challenged by who players are hanging around with off the field?
A: You’re exactly right. You’re defined as a person and whom you associate yourself with. … I tell my guys all the time, “Don’t sacrifice what you want for the moment … but what you really want for a lifetime.” You talk about a great career and playing a game of football. … Sometimes you can get caught up in the moment that can lead to associating with the wrong crowd. I tell my players … “As you grow in life sometimes you got to leave some of your old friends behind. … And that’s all right because they’re not going to help you grow. They’re going to hinder your growth. It’s so important to always surround yourself with people who are going to make you better.” I also want to surround myself and my family with those who can help us grow spiritually, and that’s how I live my life. Every day I’m trying to get better as a husband, as a father and as a coach. Sadly, in life sometimes rehabilitation doesn’t occur until the consequences get severe enough.
Q: You have a great commitment to teaching. Do you believe that teachers and coaches have a higher calling?
A: My biggest thing is sometimes we’re so caught up in the accolades and winning championships, and the pressure of winning at every level is so high now, but the true measurement of a champion does not live within a trophy case. … It lives in the heart that he or she touched. As coaches and teachers with influence on these young people, we have to understand … we’re here to put a great product on the field, but if we’re not trying to make a difference in the lives of these young men and young women we interact with in coaching, we’re missing the whole point.
Q: You are committed to the development of young players on and off the field through your Steve Wilks Elite Defensive Back Football Academy.  In your estimation where are we with this generation of athletes?
A: There’s so much exposure and attention that the student athletes are getting at a young age. Sometimes there’s a sense of entitlement there. What I think has been left out is the value of earning certain things – the value of hard work in putting the time and effort in getting what you deserve. To me you can’t neglect the value of putting in the hard work. And overall, people forget what our society is all about and what made America great … work ethic.
Q: What would you tell parents about the value of extra curricular activities and the right approach to being involved in sports?
A: The key is that you don’t want to burn kids out when it comes to sports activities. Don’t try to pressure them into being what you want to be but allowing them to develop, grow and experience the game from a team-building standpoint. Getting those true values and skills will help them to develop in life.  I know that’s what sports teaches you. I agree with the exposure and giving them an opportunity to expose their talents, but not pressure your youngsters to be that elite player. … I tell parents all the time who have athletes that can go to college and play is to focus on the quality of education where they have the opportunity to compete and get a scholarship. Focus on being the best you can be no matter what level you are on (in sports). I tell parents to give your children every opportunity to explore and experience sports.
For more about Wilks’ football academy, go to, or on Facebook at Steve Wilks Elite Defensive Back Academy LLC.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel is an evangelist and motivational speaker. His Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at It’s all about faith, family and sports. Visit his website:; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: or call 910-431-6483. For more stories from Gabriel, visit here.)
8/30/2013 9:40:11 AM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments

Migrant ministry takes year-round effort

August 30 2013 by Amanda Phifer, Baptist Press

FRESNO, Calif. (BP) – Each summer, thousands of migrant families take up temporary residence in one of California’s 24 migrant centers. The California Southern Baptist Convention reaches out to those families through its Feeding Those Who Feed Us ministry.
For most of its supporting churches and volunteers, Feeding Those Who Feed Us lasts 10-12 weeks in late summer, when food, clothing and school supplies are distributed. But for a handful of folks, the work is year-round.
All those backpacks filled with school supplies that churches distribute to 1,500 grade school children? All the food staples (beans, rice, flour, sugar) in bulk-sized bags? All the children's pants, shirts and shoes? Those items are ordered, purchased, sorted and stored throughout the year to be available when churches need them in the summer.
“When you’re dressing 1,500 kids, you can’t just go to the store and outfit them,” said Tom Stringfellow, director of missions for Sierra Butte Baptist Association and one of the year-round volunteers. “From November through May I’m doing purchasing for the coming year.”
This is possible through two provisions: the program’s budget, supported by the California Mission Offering, and Stringfellow’s self-described “super shopper” skills, so well-honed after 10 years of heading up Feeding Those Who Feed Us that he has personal/professional relationships with suppliers at Kohl’s, Kmart and other retailers.
“Recently in Roseville I spent $890 on girls’ blouses, and 100 percent of it was Kohl’s cash” – the store’s “cash reward” kickback program – “so I paid zero,” Stringfellow said. “I do a walk-through of several stores each month, and when the items we need get to serious discounts, I buy them. Summer clothes are seriously discounted in the fall, as are backpacks and school supplies. This way we have what we need when we need it, at a fraction of the retail cost.”
That savvy-shopper syndrome pays off each year but was especially necessary this year after the ministry’s storage unit in Fresno was robbed of nearly $75,000 worth of items in January. At least, that was the “street value.”
“I had to work extra hard to replace those items,” Stringfellow recounted. “But it’s come together just in time, and it sure was a good thing we’d not paid full price for those things to begin with.”
One fringe benefit of the bulk shopping experience happens at checkout when other customers inevitably remark on Stringfellow’s carts.
“They say things like, ‘Wow, you must have a lot of grandchildren!’ And that gives me a chance to explain what I’m doing and why, which turns into a witnessing opportunity,” Stringfellow said.
“And time after time, after they check out, people turn around and hand me their Kohl’s cash receipt and say, ‘Here, you take this and use it to buy more.’ I’ve collected several hundred dollars of Kohl’s cash this year that people offered to me, unsolicited, there at the store.”
Purchasing is only one of several year-round tasks. It’s preceded by a thorough inventory at the end of the migrant season to determine what’s needed for the following year. Oscar Sanchez, the CSBC’s migrant ministries field specialist, leads the inventory process.
One of the other year-round tasks is cultivating relationships with the state of California and local housing authorities, which can change from year to year. Feeding Those Who Feed Us has a letter from the state granting permission to offer medical and dental clinics at the migrant centers, but the arrangement must be renewed yearly. And local housing authorities at the centers must give permission each year for churches to distribute food, clothing and supplies and offer Vacation Bible School.
Another ongoing cultivation happens in California Southern Baptist churches.
“We are always recruiting churches and raising funds for this program,” said Sanchez, who has been the state’s migrant specialist for eight years.
“Oscar and I spend a lot of time encouraging more churches to participate each year,” Stringfellow said. “So many of our smaller churches just can’t do this every year, so we have to keep filling in those spaces. And we try to partner new churches with veteran churches, because we can’t personally train every church.”
Occasionally there is opportunity to volunteer outside the migrant season. For example, two youth groups from Fresno area churches spent several days in late June stuffing backpacks with school supplies.
“This has to be done before we take it to the field, and 1,200 backpacks takes a good bit of time!” Stringfellow said.
Last, and perhaps most crucial, Sanchez leads the effort to connect migrants with local churches, especially those who make professions of faith or other decisions. Some of the migrants in California’s centers live a wholly migrant life, following the harvest from one region to another. Others return to their home countries (most often Mexico). Still others return to their permanent American residence, which could be in California, Arizona or Oregon.
“It’s one of the hardest things we do,” Stringfellow said, “but very important – connecting migrants with a church home, a Hispanic one if at all possible, wherever they go next.”
The adults in the migrant families work daily on thousands of acres, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting berries, olives, lettuce, nuts and many other types of produce. Most but not all migrant centers provide child care.
Through Feeding Those Who Feed Us, churches distribute food staples, new clothing and backpacks loaded with school supplies; conduct a Vacation Bible School with an evangelistic emphasis; and, in some places, offer free medical and/or dental clinics.
While the ministry runs from mid-July to the end of August and the background work runs year-round, the impact often is eternal.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Amanda Phifer is a writer for the California Southern Baptist.)
8/30/2013 9:29:27 AM by Amanda Phifer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church revitalization 'has to be intentional'

August 30 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Randal Lyle knew almost nothing about church revitalization when he joined the staff of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. His education would be by immersion when a nearby church – Meadowridge Community Baptist – came seeking help.

“Church revitalization was not even on my radar,” Lyle said. “I was unaware of any large-scale revitalization efforts with any churches. Meadowridge had dwindled to 20 folks. They were six to eight months, or one or two families exiting the church, from having to close down.”

Lyle was serving Wedgwood as associate pastor for collegiate ministry. The two churches are five miles apart, but were worlds away on prognosis. What happened next began with Lyle’s innocent acceptance of an invitation.

“They asked for a meeting with our senior pastor, Al Meredith,” Lyle said. “He asked me to join him. Meredith told them, ‘If this is not of the Lord, we are not interested in pursuing it. But if you are willing to commit to His leadership and call Randal as your pastor, then I think we can help you.’ That was the first time I had heard the idea.”

Randal Lyle, pastor of Meadowridge Community Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, – along with about 90 members from a nearby healthy congregation – helped turn around a church that was close to closing its doors.

Lyle went home to pray and talk to his wife Samantha. Meadowridge already had a pastor search committee working.

“The first sermon I preached at Meadowridge was Easter 2004,” Lyle said. “When they voted on me they also had to vote on the deal – including a group joining from Wedgwood and full commitment to a new direction. It would remain an autonomous church, but things would change. Ninety people from Wedgwood joined Meadowridge.”

Confirmation of God’s activity in the move came through multiple avenues, but an enhancement in the call to church revitalization came to Lyle at the 2012 Send North America Conference. The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting and mobilization event was hosted at First Baptist Church (FBC) in Woodstock, Ga.

FBC Woodstock’s pastor Johnny Hunt shared at the conference about how his congregation had recently helped a church that was in danger of shutting down.

“When I saw the video of First Baptist Church Woodstock at the conference, I said, ‘That looks really familiar to me,’” Lyle said. “So many churches are close to closing their doors. We are five miles from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We are a church revitalization happening in a multicultural community.

“I thought, ‘What would the Lord want our role to be as a church? Could we be a training center for others? Could we help design a revitalization training that would help others? Surely,’” Lyle said.

This year’s Send Conference, which was July 29-30 near Plano, Texas, highlighted revitalization stories like this one.

“Existing local churches are vital to the process of seeing lostness penetrated in North America,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s mobilization vice president.

Lyle said the decision to become more ethnically diverse has been a key to Meadowridge’s revitalization. But the process took some time.

“We started a basketball league to reach out to the community,” Lyle said. “The kids would come to play, but not come to church. The church membership did not reflect the community around us.

“We started a choir and connected in the community in other ways. Our church slogan is ‘All races united in Christ.’ We made a conscientious effort to make that a reality. I believe the revitalization would not have continued if we had not taken a multicultural approach. We are now about 25 percent African American and have Hispanic and Indian members.”

Lyle said the church has worked hard to make discipleship part of its process now.

“We have to go where they are. We are being intentional to reach people. Our evangelism was working, but we were not having the opportunity to disciple anyone. That has changed.

“Revitalization has to be intentional. It is a viable option for churches taking a multiethnic approach. Send a team to a church that reflects the community around it. Engage the community and watch what God will do,” Lyle said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. For more on NAMB’s church revitalization ministry, visit
8/30/2013 9:09:18 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

'1Cross' app spreads gospel via multiple-language testimonies

August 29 2013 by Jerry Pierce, Southern Baptist TEXAN, Baptist Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas – God brought it all together that day in the pickup. Nathan Lorick was driving back to Malakoff, Texas, wondering how in the world he could do the job if the Lord called him to it, yet he was flat-out stoked by the bigger-than-Texas-sized challenge of it all.

Twenty-six million people, 300-plus languages, urban, suburban, rural and all shades of ethnicities. And mostly lost.

Two years earlier on a mission trip to Thailand, Lorick had witnessed to a Hindu Sikh in that man’s language using a video testimony and had used it several times to share the gospel when communication broke down. Now, as Lorick was driving, that experience began to mesh with the challenge of venturing into evangelism strategies for an increasingly melting pot culture.

Turns out, the Lord did call. Last year, the 31-year-old Lorick left the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Malakoff to lead the evangelism initiatives of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) – a task that calls for a statewide strategy to marshal the efforts of 2,400 congregations to share the gospel message statewide, from Pecos to Paris, and beyond.

The "1Cross" mobile app, developed by an evangelism strategist at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, includes professionally videotaped gospel testimonies from native speakers of Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, several dialects of Chinese and many other languages.

What God laid on Lorick’s heart debuted earlier this year as the “1Cross” app – a free download for mobile devices that allows users to access three-minute gospel testimonies in video form using native speakers of more than 40 languages so far, with a goal of every known language spoken in the United States being available. By year’s end, Lorick said he hopes to have 100 language testimonies uploaded.

“God has given us a gift in that He is bringing the world to us. It’s a huge missionary opportunity,” Lorick said.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Institute, 2011 Census data shows 35 percent of Texas residents age 5 and up speak a language other than English, with about 90 percent of immigrants speaking what missiologists call a “heart language” other than English.

Some estimates say more than 300 distinct languages and dialects are spoken among the 26.5 million Texans, with large metro areas such as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth having nearly all of those represented. And the people keep coming.

Lorick said he is praying the tool will be used to share the gospel not only in Texas but worldwide as word of the tool spreads.

Inside the app, if a user chooses a language from a video menu, he will see a professionally videotaped testimony in black and white, three to four minutes long, from native speakers of Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, several dialects of Chinese, Farsi, French, Vietnamese, Burmese, Russian, Hindi and various others. Each speaker, after sharing a personal testimony, offers a simple prayer of faith and repentance if a user is led to pray along. The converted are encouraged to register their faith stories so that the SBTC may help them connect with the nearest church of their language.

The day after Lorick announced the app, a pastor called the SBTC office to tell how a church member who downloaded the 1Cross app already had led a woman at his workplace to Christ after he shared with her in Spanish. As the woman watched the video testimony in her heart language, tears began to form in her eyes. She had been pondering a relationship with God, the pastor told Lorick. The video was an answer to her yearning.

“Many Christians out there are uncomfortable sharing their faith, but I really believe people generally desire to share their faith. This is a tool whereby anyone can share the gospel with anyone else regardless of background, language or nationality,” Lorick said. “This app gives them the opportunity to have the power of the gospel at their fingertips so that we can see people of many nations come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

Several users have left positive reviews at the iTunes store. One person wrote: “Love this app. I use my iPhone to connect and communicate with people all day long in many different ways. This app enables me to use it to communicate the gospel to people in many different languages and connect them with Christ.”

Another said: “I love this app in so many ways. I have a close friend from the Philippines and I now can tell her more about our God. She doesn’t speak English very well. Thank You!!!”

“When you survey the different languages,” Lorick said, alluding to the app’s name, “there is only one cross that can transcend all language barriers with the saving message of Jesus.”

“Our prayer is that pastors would engage with this technology and mobilize their members with the ability to share the gospel regardless of language and cultural barriers,” Lorick said. “There are people out there all around us who need the hope we have. What’s stopping us from sharing it?”

The app is available for iPhone devices and for Android. To download, visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
8/29/2013 2:49:05 PM by Jerry Pierce, Southern Baptist TEXAN, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Uzbek authorities trying to seize Baptist land

August 29 2013 by Baptist Press staff

OSLO, Norway – Authorities in Uzbekistan – a country criticized for persecuting religious communities – are attempting to seize land the state-registered Baptist Union is using for summer camps for children and families.
The Norway-based religious freedom organization Forum 18 reported that the state claims the Baptist Union “illegally” purchased the land in 2000 from a restaurant chain that had originally bought the land in 1993 from the government’s Department of Privatization and Deregulation of Property (DPD).
The DPD claims that in 2004, local residents complained that the Baptists were running their camp on land that used to be a cemetery, Forum 18 reported. On June 18, the DPD brought the case to the Tashkent Economic Court, arguing the Baptist Union must return the land to the state, basing the claim on the Deregulation and Privatization of Property Law of 2006.

Baptists who wish to remain unnamed for fear of government reprisals set forth a number of arguments to Forum 18 in their defense, including:
  • There is no evidence that a cemetery exists on the site, and even if there were, its existence should have been asserted much earlier.
  • The restaurant chain was given permission to build on the site (the Baptists now use those same buildings), and no complaints regarding a cemetery were ever brought against the restaurant chain when it owned the land.
  • It is illegal to base claims on a law passed six years after the alleged offense.
  • Under Uzbekistan’s statute of limitations, actions like the DPD’s must be brought within three years of the land purchase (i.e. by 2003).
  • The DPD never explained why it waited until nine years after the allegations to bring a case against the Baptist Union.
DPD lawyer Bobyr Mukaddamov, contacted by Forum 18 and asked how he justified breaching the country’s constitution and laws, replied: “Let's wait until the end of the case. Let the court conclude whether or not our claim is unfounded.”
Forum 18 noted that other officials in the Tashkent Region also refused to comment.
The Baptists wrote to Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General in July, Forum 18 reported, complaining about the DPD’s actions and violations of laws, but the Prosecutor General has not responded. The Baptists told Forum 18 that “the future of Uzbekistan cannot be built on the plundering of religious organizations.”
Forum 18’s latest religious freedom survey pegs Uzbekistan as a major religious rights violator attempting to gain state control over all religious communities.
“In Uzbekistan all exercise of freedom of religion or belief with others without state permission is illegal ... including sharing any beliefs with anyone and meeting with others for worship or the study of sacred texts in private homes,” the Forum 18 survey said.
The survey reported that people of faith who meet together without state permission frequently are under surveillance, raided by authorities who confiscate Bibles, Qurans and other religious literature. Believers often are detained, threatened, assaulted, tortured and fined.
One such raid occurred on July 23 at a children’s camp organized by local Protestants in the village of Mironkul, Forum 18 reported. More than 80 officials and police arrived from different government agencies. A Protestant who wished to remain anonymous for fear of government reprisals told Forum 18 that police “began brandishing their rubber batons” and collected statements from everyone – even from small children.
Following six hours of questioning, police took everyone at the camp – nine adults and 22 children – to a police station for more questioning before releasing them, according to Forum 18. Authorities took the passports of two Ukrainian citizens without informing their embassy and also confiscated electronics, New Testaments, personal notebooks and posters.
Forum 18 reported that after the camp’s participants were released, police raided the homes of the camp’s organizers, confiscating Christian literature, personal notebooks, electronics, CDs and DVDs.
“State officials frequently violate freedom of thought, conscience and belief and interlinked rights such as the freedoms of expression and association – even though the state has made solemn binding commitments to uphold and protect the exercise of human rights,” the survey said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston.)
8/29/2013 2:38:37 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Multilingual church leads families to Christ

August 29 2013 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention/Baptist Press

KENDALL, Fla. – After seeing church signs posted along southwest Miami roads near his home, Sergio Barrero, 23, and his family began visiting Turning Point Church in Kendall, Fla., more than a year ago.

Since then, his life has done a spiritual “180-degree turnaround,” as he puts it.

Calling the difference “night and day,” Barrero added, “I stopped doing the wrong things and started growing in the Lord.”

Turning Point is a multigenerational, multinational and multilingual congregation that is bringing entire families to a “turning point” by offering the transforming power of Christ to Kendall’s Hispanic community.

Kendall is a fast-growing suburb of Miami, one of 30 “Send” cities, a North American Mission Board strategy for moving churches and individuals into major metropolitan areas of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.

Florida Baptist Convention photo by Ken Touchton
Celebrating children and family is foundational within the Hispanic culture as Noel Lozano, pastor of the multigenerational Turning Point Church in Miami, offers a prayer during a dedication. 

Noel Lozano and Jorge Rodriguez, co-pastors of Turning Point, planted the church in 2009, merging two congregations to create a “new vision,” said lead pastor Lozano.

“We are a church of different cultures where Christ is the point of unity,” Lozano said.

Lozano, who arrived in the United States at age 19, is a fourth-generation Baptist pastor from Cuba and leads a Spanish worship service at Turning Point. His grandparents were among Florida Baptists’ early Cuban pioneers.

Rodriguez immigrated to the States at age 9 and leads the English-language worship. Both are seminary-trained and work together like hand in glove.

Each Sunday, the separate Spanish and English worship services intersect as the two congregations join for a time of combined worship with a rhythmic salsa beat and Latino flavor.

The jubilant, spicy worship music is led by Joel Hernandez and “Blest,” a contemporary Christian group that has been nominated for Dove Awards and a Latin Grammy. The group performed the title song in Spanish for the movie “Courageous” for distribution in Latin America.

With such high energy and enthusiastic worship, attendance hovers around 300 and has reached a high of 375 people. In the past year the church baptized 50 new believers.

In this upper middle class neighborhood where an estimated 84 percent of the population is Hispanic, Turning Point uses both Spanish and English to reach first, second and third generations, many who live under the same roof.

Within the Hispanic immigrant culture, Al Fernandez, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention’s church planting group, noted, several generations commonly live in one home. Families are important in the Hispanic culture where children are celebrated and senior adults are revered.

Grandparents speak Spanish exclusively, Fernandez explained, while parents, primarily Spanish speakers, communicate in broken English because of jobs and children.

Children, primarily English speakers, “relate to grandparents and parents in broken Spanish.” Thus a form of “Spanglish” has evolved within the culture, considered by some as Miami’s primary language.

And while everything at Turning Point is translated and printed in two languages, a feeling of unity permeates.

Worship services are held currently at Braddock High School, but the church has purchased property adjacent to the school facing SW 144th Ave. The land includes a renovated building that once was used as a church and now provides offices and a weekday ministry.

Turning Point has on its drawing board plans to construct a complex on the 4.5 acres of land that will reflect the church’s commitment to multiple languages. Separate multipurpose auditoriums on either side will simultaneously offer worship in both languages. A proposed chapel in between the auditoriums will serve for weddings and celebrations.

And adjoining all the buildings is expected to be a plaza where Miami’s year-round sultry temperatures can be enjoyed with a fountain designed to accommodate baptisms.

The baptismal fountain will be “the point of unity for the two congregations because we want them to understand that we are one church unified around the hope of a life transformed,” Lozano said.

The proposed multipurpose usage of the buildings will provide activities for elders, children and teens. For the past two years, the church offered a children’s summer camp program as an affordable option for working parents.

Seventy percent of the congregation meets in 27 “family groups” once a week to share the Word of God. The groups are “the backbone of the church,” Lozano said, where mission and evangelistic projects are conceived and carried out.

Church members have distributed 10,000 tracts to the community and regularly hand out water in parks, soccer fields and other outdoor sites where Miami families gather.

God opened doors for ministry to the 14,000 students at Braddock High School where the church meets each week. This ministry will continue even after they build their new building, said Rodriguez, who serves on the school advisory committee.

The church donated dictionaries when the language department was in need, held a celebration dinner after the basketball team made the playoffs and prepared food boxes for needy families during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We believe it is no accident that God has placed us here,” Rodriguez said. “Just the fact we have this land and a vision to reach out to the community is by divine appointment.”

Emanuel Roque, strategist of Florida Baptists’ leadership development team, and Julio Piñera, a church planting missionary, have worked closely with the church as they developed their strategy to merge the congregations and impact their community.

Roque credited the pastors as being “servant leaders who model what they teach. They love and continuously grow in understanding and relating to their mission field while passionately and continuously reminding the church why God placed them in it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
8/29/2013 2:25:32 PM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Update: Court reflects culture's 'seismic shift'

August 28 2013 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptists Press

ALBUQUERQUE – An attack on religious liberty is evident in the New Mexico Supreme Court’s ruling that two Christian photographers violated the state’s Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony,” according to several Southern Baptist commentators.
“Anyone who still doubts that the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage will represent a seismic shift in the culture at large needs only to look to New Mexico to see that nothing less than religious liberty is now under threat – and in a big way,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in an online column Aug. 26.
Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Aug. 22 ruling “demonstrates, once again, that where we are headed is the state-established religion of sexual liberation, with the law used to steamroll every conscience in the way.”

Photo provided by Alliance Defending Freedom/Baptist Press
Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography, were asked in 2006 by Vanessa Willock to photograph her same-sex “commitment ceremony” in the town of Taos. The Huguenins, citing their Christian belief that marriage should be only between a man and woman, declined the request along with a subsequent request by Willock’s partner.
Mohler described the Huguenins as Christians “who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman. They further believe that they are responsible and faithful only if they avoid any explicit or implied endorsement of same-sex marriage.”
Willock found another photographer at a lower price but filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, accusing Elane Photography of discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The Huguenins were found guilty and ordered to pay hefty fines.
According to state Supreme Court Justice Richard Boson, the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice and follow religious teachings, but he noted that belief and practice are not the same things. Religious liberty, Boson wrote, must be subordinated to the state’s anti-discrimination laws, and that the photographers – and by extension others – are “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
“The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims,” Bosson wrote. “The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
Compromising religious beliefs is “a price ... we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” Boson wrote.
Mohler described Bosson’s legal opinion as a blatant error in the traditional understanding of religious liberty, upheld in other cases before other state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, the ruling “points to the comprehensive scope of the moral and legal realignment required by same-sex marriage – and eagerly demanded by its proponents. The addition of sexual orientation as a denominator of a protected class was sufficient to drag the Huguenins before a court in a state that itself does not legally recognize same-sex marriage,” Mohler noted.
“The New Mexico Supreme Court has now made clear that the price to be paid by many is the forfeiture of their religious liberty,” Mohler wrote.
Kelly Boggs, director of public affairs for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and editor of the Baptist Message, wrote in his weekly column on Baptist Press Aug. 23 that the ruling is evidence that the push “to have homosexuality accepted as natural, normal and healthy in the United States knows no compromise. The movement to have homosexuality celebrated in America will not stop, nor will it be satisfied, until all voices that would even whisper it is sinful are squelched.”
Homosexual activists “have long used their free speech right to publicly advocate for their aberrant lifestyle. Many of these same activists now use almost any means possible to restrict the freedom of speech of those who believe their lifestyle is wrong.” Boggs wrote.
The “moment of truth is rapidly approaching” for Christians who believe homosexuality is “an immoral, aberrant behavior,” he wrote.
“The choice will be whether to capitulate to a culture that asserts, without evidence, homosexuality is natural, normal and healthy, or to insist it is sinful and suffer consequences."
Moore said the church’s appropriate response should not be venting outrage at the decision but rekindling "in our own churches why religious liberty and freedom of conscience are essential for a free church and a free state. We've been here before, and we’ll be here again.”
That sentiment was echoed by Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the ERLC and former policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation. The New Mexico court, he said, has decided that “religious liberty is to be subordinated, or made inferior, to the sexual orientation.”
“Christians are entering a new era in America. The moral revolution is more past tense than present tense,” Walker wrote. “But our knees shouldn’t be buckling or our fists clenched.”
“Christians should advocate for their rights on the basis of their earthly citizenship, but they shouldn’t be surprised when culture rejects them,” Walker wrote.
The New Mexico Supreme Court decision also shocked secular policy organizations. In a statement on National Review Online, Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Fellow for Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, said “the decision highlights the increasing concern many have that anti-discrimination laws and the pressure for same-sex marriage will run roughshod over the rights of conscience and religious liberty.”
Other groups, such as the Cato Institute, The Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom wrote amicus briefs on behalf of Elane Photography, saying that the First Amendment protected the photographers’ free speech rights, while the State of New Mexico’s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected the photographers’ free exercise of religion. The court rejected both arguments.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas.) 
8/28/2013 2:17:08 PM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptists Press | with 2 comments

Kazakh Baptists fined for worship meetings

August 28 2013 by BP staff

OSLO, Norway – Authorities in Kazakhstan have fined 18 Baptists for participating in religious activity not authorized by the state, continuing the government’s drive to bring religion under its control.
Between June 6 and Aug. 22, three of the Baptists were fined two months’ average salary for leading the meetings, according to the Norway-based religious freedom organization Forum 18, while 15 were fined one month’s average salary for attending the worship.
Forum 18 reported that fines typically are imposed under Kazakhstan’s Administrative Code, which bans participating in, leading or financing a religious community not registered by the state. Members of the country’s Council of Baptists do not seek state registration nor do they pay the administrative fines levied against them, maintaining that Kazakhstan’s constitution and international human rights commitments forbid requiring government approval for worship.
An example of a typical police raid on Baptists occurred June 16 when police raided a Sunday worship meeting in the village of Zaporozhye. According to Forum 18, officers filmed the cars outside the meeting and entered the home of Vyacheslav Flotch where the meeting was held and took notes about the worshippers. On July 30, Flotch was fined 86,550 Tenge (Kazakh currency) by a judge in the Zhaksy District Court.
When Forum 18 asked a local police officer what was wrong with Baptists worshipping in a private home, he told them: “We are small people; we do what we are told to do. We realized they are not criminals when we saw them.”
Forum 18 spoke with Svetlana (who would not give her last name), head of the chancellery, who declined to comment on the case. She said Flotch had appealed the fine and that a regional court was due to hear the case.
Forum 18 also asked Mariya Zhekebatyrova, chief of the internal policy department of Zhaksy Administration, for a comment on the fine against Flotch. She said the Baptists “violated the Religion Law, which demands all religious [sic] to be officially registered and bans unregistered activity.”
A Christian child’s gift to two teachers at his school also led to a fine of one month’s average salary for his mother stemming from her 9-year-old son's “illegal religious activity,” according to Forum 18.
The mother, Tatyana Degterenko, told Forum 18 that her son David asked to give his two teachers audio CDs with Christian messages of God’s love. When Tatyana Lovyagina, the school’s head teacher, saw the label “God loves you too” on the CDs, she called police. An investigator from Astrakhanka District Police came and questioned the boy.
Forum 18 asked Lovyagina why she called police, and she told them the local administration has issued instructions to report religious activity in their schools. When asked by Forum 18 why children could not share their faith, she said that “no religion can be propagated in the school.” Forum 18 then asked if that seemed like a return to the Soviet era.
“Yes!” she exclaimed.
Degterenko appealed the fine, but a higher court upheld it on July 30.
Forum 18 reported that after the series of raids and fines on Baptists, the Council of Baptist Churches wrote to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev asking that he review provisions of the Religion Law and Administrative Code that outlaw the exercise of freedom of religion or belief without government permission. The Baptists pointed out that such laws conflict with the country’s constitution and human rights commitments.
“Kazakhstan carries out intimidation of its citizens for their religious beliefs,” the Baptists wrote, also noting “unjust” court decisions and laws. The president has not replied.
Other raids and fines against Baptists since June 6, as reported by Forum 18, include:
  • Ivan Yantsen of Temirtau in Karaganda Region was fined 173,100 Tenge on June 10. A regional court appeal hearing upheld the fine.
  • Sergei Kulikov and Maksim Kandyba were each fined 86,550 Tenge on June 6 after authorities raided Sunday worship services in East Kazakhstan Region on April 28 and May 12. Nail Agatanov, Sergei Pelipenko and Marina Kulikova also were fined 86,550 Tenge on June 10.
  • All eight members of a Baptist church in Taskala were fined on June 14 and 17 after being filmed during Sunday worship on May 12. Aleksandr Yalfimov was fined 173,100 Tenge, while Natalya Yalfimova, Malika Sultangaliyeva, Gaukhar Sultangaliyeva, Tatyana Sultangaliyeva, Tatyana Osipova, Yelena Zagaychuk and Gulmira Ismagulova were each fined 86,550 Tenge.
  • Sofya Bunyak in Ekibastuz in Pavlodar Region was fined 86,550 Tenge on June 27.
  • Aleksandr Gorbunov in Akmola Region was fined 173,100 Tenge on July 16.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston.)
8/28/2013 2:12:11 PM by BP staff | with 0 comments

ACP data indicates relationships, helps leaders

August 28 2013 by Baptist Pess

NASHVILLE – People involved in compiling denominational data have a desire “to serve our churches and be good stewards,” Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, told Baptist state statistical representatives.

Since 1918, Southern Baptists have gathered statistical information on trends in attendance, giving, baptisms and Bible study participation in Southern Baptist churches, said Stetzer, who leads in LifeWay Research’s role of networking with state representatives to gather quantifiable data for the Annual Church Profile (ACP), which is reported to the Southern Baptist Convention.

“This was not an easy task to undertake at the time and it is still not an easy task,” Stetzer said. By 1945 a method was being used which streamlined the process through uniformity of materials and cooperation, he noted.

BP photo
Steve Foss of the California Southern Baptist Convention takes input as part of a group exercise by Baptist state statistical representatives during a two-day meeting in Nashville.  

The Annual Church Profile (ACP) “is still about cooperation, not duplication,” Stetzer said. “Information is needed to maintain relationships and indicate relationships. Our focus in gathering data is so we can accurately answer ‘Who are we?’

“Facts are our friends,” Stetzer continued. “For many pastor types, faith is our friend – and it should be. But telling facts – the truth – should be our friend to show accurately who we are as Southern Baptists.”

ACP data is not owned by LifeWay Christian Resources or any other entity, Stetzer pointed out.

“We steward the ACP process,” he said. “Simply by sharing information together we do it more efficiently. Joint ministry is not possible without cooperation. We believe the ACP matters.

“Churches share information about their leaders, enabling encouragement, resourcing and serving together,” Stetzer explained. “When churches do not share these contacts, it limits the invitations, the interaction and real relationships with others in the convention.”

In recent years, the ACP has been stretched because of fewer resources, various local emphases and data needs of related processes, Stetzer acknowledged. However, “I’m a believer that scarcity brings clarity,” he said. “We can do more focused work with less.”

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, spoke on the importance of using proven principles for the ACP and led the state representatives in discussions of the value of church participation in the ACP during during a two-day meeting in Nashville earlier this year.

“While a lot of situations have changed in our convention [since the ACP began], there are some common principles that remain,” McConnell said.

First, the best statistical process must be efficient for churches, he said.

“It can’t be too lengthy or difficult, and the church should only have to submit information once for all users,” McConnell said. “The ACP process has facilitated this process well.”

Second, the best process entails good stewardship, McConnell said. In having one census annually, he noted that it combines the needs of the churches, associations, states and national entities and utilizes automation where possible.

Third, the best survey asks for appropriate items. “When our history is written, we want the things counted to be our relationships,” McConnell said. Through the ACP, congregations indicate whether they have a relationship with an association, state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“People think the ACP is just about numbers, but most items are really indicators of relationships,” McConnell said. “Churches report how many people have a relationship with their church [members], how many new relationships were established this year [baptisms and other additions], and how many are participating in worship, Bible study, giving, and going. ... Church response to the ACP can be best encouraged by those who have the closest relationship with the church. That’s why relationships at the associational level and state level are so important.”

McConnell also said the “cooperation we’re talking about is about a give-and-take. It’s a testimony to this very group that there has never been a year that states haven’t shared data. It’s a testimony to cooperation.

“The ACP process is not the focus of what we do, but its relationships touch everything we do,” McConnell said. “This group plays an important role, because you enable this ministry. It’s an important role in Southern Baptist ministry.”
8/28/2013 1:58:03 PM by Baptist Pess | with 0 comments

NAMB encourages churches to honor pastors

August 28 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – With Pastor Appreciation Month on the horizon, the North American Mission Board is providing laypeople with resources to encourage and support their churches’ shepherds.
“NAMB's mission is to penetrate lostness in North America,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Local pastors are the ones who lead churches to focus on that mission. We strongly encourage every local congregation to celebrate and affirm their pastors because we believe their role is critical in the expansion of the Kingdom.”
Looking toward Pastor Appreciation Month, NAMB is encouraging churches to pick one Sunday in October – or a Sunday in a different month if the schedule doesn’t permit – to lift up their pastors during a worship service.
At, NAMB is providing a variety of resources to help churches do this. Posters and bulletin inserts at the website share 50 practical specific ways lay leaders can lift up and “bless” their pastors and their families. The ideas range from encouraging a pastor’s marriage and celebrating his children to supporting his ministry. Some of the ideas are activities for the entire church to do together while others are ministry ideas that a lay member or a family might do on their own.


NAMB is mailing churches information, addressed to its lay leaders, about how they can access resources for Pastor Appreciation Month.

Lay leaders additionally can find information at pastors about planning a retreat for their pastor and his wife at Christian bed-and-breakfasts for a significant discount. Churches that choose to do this will have the opportunity to print out a gift certificate in a manner suitable for a formal presentation during a worship service.
NAMB is mailing churches information, addressed to its lay leaders, about how they can access the resources.
“Too many pastors are secretly struggling in their marriages,” said Michael Lewis, NAMB’s pastor for pastors. “We wanted to give churches an opportunity to do something that’ll support their pastors and their families. A weekend getaway is a great opportunity for that.”
NAMB also is providing Reboot Marriage and Reboot Spiritual Life apps that provide pastors with opportunities for self-guided date nights with their wives and self-guided spiritual retreats.
Lewis pointed to statistics from H.B. London’s book Pastors at Greater Risk showing that a large number of pastors in a variety of denominations struggle to deal with job stress, family pressures and emotional issues. This must change, he said, in order for Southern Baptists to make a larger impact on North America.
Lewis referenced the support Aaron and Hurr provided Moses in Exodus 17 as exemplifying the significance of encouraging and supporting spiritual leaders.
“As the Israelites fought against the Amalekites, whenever Moses would lift his staff, the Israelites would prevail,” Lewis said. “When he got tired, Aaron and Hurr put a stone under him so he could rest and lifted his arms when he needed help. Spiritual leaders today need people like that in their lives, people who love them, care for them and support them as they lead God’s people to impact the world for Jesus.”
The Pastor Appreciation Month resources are a part of NAMB’s larger effort to connect with and encourage Southern Baptist pastors. Lewis became the Southern Baptist entity’s first “pastor for pastors” in February. Since then his efforts have focused on helping pastors in their relationships with God, their families and their peers.
On, church leaders can also find information about Pastors-in-Covenant groups, Galatians 6:6 retreats for ministers and their wives, Church Renewal Journey, church revitalization, the ministers’ wives community and more.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
8/28/2013 1:36:34 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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