August 2014

Family man seeks more than American dream

August 27 2014 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay/Baptist Press

Joey Lankford’s life was almost too perfect.

He and his wife Courtney had a successful business near Nashville, Tenn., a big house, cars, money, two vacation homes, everything you could imagine.

“Life was good. I was making a great salary running the family business; we bought a farm on the south side of town and built a 5,000-square-foot dream house; we were living the epitome of the American dream.”

Every few months, Lankford bought “a new toy” – 4-wheelers, horses, hunting gear, motorcycles, boats. If he saw something he wanted, he bought it. “I was accumulating stuff,” he said.

“At the time, I was content with our lifestyle,” Lankford said. But if you asked him where God ranked in his life, he’d say somewhere at the bottom of the list.

“I’d compartmentalized my life into work, family, friends, church and faith,” Lankford said. “The cogs weren’t even touching each other.”

In 2008, Lankford turned 30. He took a good long look at his life – and his bank account. Materially, nothing was lacking. But deep down he knew something was missing.


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The Lankford family overlook their new hometown in South Africa.

“I remember asking myself, why do I feel like there’s supposed to be more to life than this?”

That same year Lankford’s brother invited him to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua with his church. He said yes.

“That trip was a squirt of fuel on a fire that was already burning inside of me,” Lankford said. “I knew something was extremely wrong with the way I was living my life. I had problems with my wife, problems with my kids, and I felt like faith had zero teeth in what I did daily.”

But Lankford suppressed his feelings and went back to his normal life. He made it through the holidays that year, but in January 2009, those feelings came bubbling back up. “I had everything culture said was important, and I was absolutely miserable.”

It was then that Joey had what he calls his “barn moment.” One Friday after work, he told Courtney he was heading down to their barn. It wasn’t unusual for him to spend a day down there working. But this time was different. He took his Bible and his journal with him. He settled in on the hay and began to pray and pour out his heart to God. He stayed in the barn for two more days.

“By Saturday afternoon, it was cold and I was broken,” Lankford said. “I was pleading with God to come to me in that place if He was real.”

God showed up, Lankford recalled. “God began to reveal to me that He could be the ‘more’ of my life if I would get down off the throne of my life and put Him there,” he said.

“I went back to the house, grabbed Courtney, looked her in the eyes and told her things were going to be different, that I had surrendered my life to the Lord.”

Together they began to pray and seek God for what was next in their lives.

“We wanted to live our lives in such a way that people asked what was different,” Lankford said. “We started to live a surrendered life. Not that we’ve arrived by any means. Every day is a struggle to live surrendered to God.”

But in that surrender, Joey and Courtney began to see God’s provision. He placed a desire in them to serve on the international mission field. With no college degree, much less a seminary degree, this camo-wearing, Tennessee boy couldn’t imagine how God would use him on the mission field.

Through his church, Brentwood Baptist, in Brentwood, Tenn., Lankford learned of Living Hope, a ministry in South Africa. The 14-year-old non-profit had begun a job creation and empowerment arm of the organization. That got Joey’s attention.

“God said to me, ‘I’m going to use you in the way I’ve wired you – to do business and to love people. I’m going to allow you to develop relationships and connect with as many people as you can get in front of. I’m going to give you something you’re more passionate about....’”

God confirmed to the Lankfords that He was calling them to South Africa. They sold everything and moved the family to a town 30 minutes outside Cape Town. Joey is using his God-given gifts to equip people with job skills and lead them out of poverty through agricultural business.

Scores of people from rural areas have left their farmlands to come to the city seeking work and a better life, Lankford explained. Many never find the dream they’re chasing. With the right vision and training, a number of these people can not only meet their family’s daily needs through their farms, but they can develop them into successful businesses.

Lankford is teaching his students to grow quality produce equivalent to what people buy at an American Whole Foods. He’s also teaching them to market and sell their product. The program has captured the attention of local restaurant owners as well as South Africa’s elite.

Lankford has watched several of his graduates go on to start their own businesses and others find employment at other cooperative farms.

“I haven’t done anything for the South African people that God couldn’t have done with someone else,” Lankford said. “God moved me to South Africa, because He wanted me to know Him more fully and deeply. He wanted the power of that to flow through me and spill out on other people. Because it is God’s love that changes lives.”

Lankford spends his days working alongside the students, digging in the dirt and discipling them. And he loves it.

Joey and Courtney say they love the life they’ve carved out with their five children near the southern-most tip of the continent. To tell others of their journey, Lankford wrote the Fulfilled: The Refreshing Alternative to the Half-Empty Life, published this summer by B&H Publishing Group.

The book is not about international missions, he said, but rather about surrendering everything to God.

“I want people to know true fulfillment is waiting on the other side of surrender,” he says. “I hope people will come away from reading this book inspired and encouraged to inquire more seriously of God about what He wants of their lives so they can step into that fulfillment.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

8/27/2014 10:30:04 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd: Iraq crisis calls for urgent action

August 27 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

Christians in Iraq are the targets of a “horrific injustice” and immediate action is required to help them, said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in an Aug. 25 statement.

Floyd, who is pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, called on political leaders in the United States “to stand strong for international religious freedom” and urged followers of Jesus to take action themselves, “both prayerfully and compassionately.”

In a statement released to Baptist Press and published at www.ronniefloyd.com, Floyd said:

“The eyes of the world are watching the crisis in Iraq. We know that 50,000 Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds are still trapped on a mountaintop, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of others are being forced from their homes across Iraq by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), many of which are being killed by these barbaric extremists. Sadly, we now also know that … (American journalist James Foley) has been beheaded by these ruthless terrorists.
 

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Ronnie Floyd

“While the leaders of our nation strategize about this situation politically and militarily, I call upon them to stand strong for international religious freedom,” Floyd added. “Christians in Iraq are the targets of religious cleansing, suffering abuse, injustice, violence, and death ... This is a time for action, especially by Christ-followers, both prayerfully and compassionately.”

The Middle East is entering a new phase of a larger crisis that has been intensifying over the past two years, Floyd said.

“The current crisis in Iraq is driving Christians and other non-Muslim minorities – as well as Muslims who won’t submit to Islamist rule – from their homes. About 1.5 million Iraqis have been forcibly displaced,” Floyd said. “This Iraq crisis compounds the Syrian refugee situation, in which more than 9 million people have been driven from their homes. Jihadists have ruthlessly martyred Christians who did not flee.”

Floyd urged Christians not to “become paralyzed by the sight of this horrific injustice” and quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor martyred by the Nazis during World War II: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Refugee lives are on the line right now and will face even greater danger in the weeks ahead, Floyd said. Many families were forced to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Right now they are suffering under extreme summer temperatures. In a few months, they will be ill-prepared for bitter winter weather.

“As Southern Baptist people, leaders, and churches, we must rise up and send resources immediately to respond in this unprecedented moment in history, demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus Christ among the peoples of the world,” Floyd said. “Millions are in desperate need. The international community is not rising to save these lives, and in any case, no one but Christians can speak the love and hope of Christ into these souls.”

Floyd urged Southern Baptists to act immediately in two ways: “We must give and give now!” and “We must pray and pray now!” He pointed people to the website of Baptist Global Response, which has been working with Baptist churches in the Middle East, as well as other partners, to provide refugees with the basic needs of life: water, shelter, food and sanitation.

“Last week, I was on a global call with leaders of our Southern Baptist relief effort, who were there to meet refugees and ministry partners. As they briefed me on the severity of this crisis, I knew it was incumbent upon me to ask Southern Baptists to respond immediately to this humanitarian need,” Floyd said in the statement. “Rise up and join me, as well as our church in responding compassionately, financially, and prayerfully.”

For the full text of Floyd’s call to prayer and action, click here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, www.gobgr.org.)

8/27/2014 10:22:41 AM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘3 Circles’ conveys the gospel on napkin or app

August 27 2014 by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press

As Derek Staples prepared for a mission trip to Honduras, he was on the lookout for a visual way to express the gospel. The church mission team, in setting up a medical clinic at a local school, would be sharing the gospel with people in a pre-literate environment.
 
Staples’ outreach got a lift at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June when he heard a fellow pastor, Jimmy Scroggins, talk about the "3 Circles."

"I thought it [3 Circles] was an incredible visual representation of the gospel," said Staples, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Ala., who led a volunteer team to the Central American country in July. "Most of the people in Honduras," he noted, "can’t read or write."


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Staples preached about 40 times and witnessed at the clinic using the 3 Circles as an outline. Nearly 600 people trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior during First Baptist’s mission trip.

Staples now plans to train members in his church how to use 3 Circles to share their faith, noting, "I’m always trying to give my people as many tools as possible to help them effectively share the gospel.
 
"This is a memorable, easy way to explain how anyone can have a personal relationship with Christ."

Staples is among a growing number of Southern Baptists using 3 Circles, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) evangelism tool to share the gospel through personal evangelism and preaching – and to train others in sharing their faith.

Scroggins, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., who described 3 Circles during NAMB’s presentation at the SBC in Baltimore, developed it to train and mobilize his congregation for personal evangelism in a post-Christian environment.
 
The tool helps people use three simple circles that represent God’s Design, Brokenness and the gospel – which can be drawn, for example, on a napkin during lunch – to communicate the gospel. NAMB has produced a variety of resources to help support pastors who want to train their churches to use 3 Circles, including free Apple and Android apps, a conversation guide, a PowerPoint presentation and online videos. The 3 Circles tool is part of a larger set of resources NAMB is releasing this year around a "Life On Mission" theme centered on mobilizing all believers for the mission of God.

David Burton, director of evangelism for the Florida Baptist Convention, trained 700 students in 3 Circles at the state’s Super Summer camp earlier this year. Students particularly liked the fact that their smartphones could be among the ways they share the gospel, he reported.

Burton, who typically teaches evangelism at two conferences and one church each week, said the 3 Circles tool will be a staple in his presentations.

"I think 3 Circles is going to be something that people will catch hold of because you don’t have to have an app, you don’t have to have tools, you don’t have to have your Bible to do this," Burton said. "As Jimmy [Scroggins] says, you just need to have a napkin or a piece of paper or the back of your hand."

Ohio church planter Randy Chestnut, who started Hope Community Church in Dayton, used the 3 Circles tool to lead a teenager he had been witnessing to for two years to faith in Christ. After listening to the 3 Circles presentation at the SBC annual meeting, Chestnut said he asked two teenage brothers to listen to "something interesting" he had heard. Following the presentation, one of the boys committed his life to Jesus.

"In my context [in downtown Dayton], we can talk about what brokenness is and the evidences of it all around – poverty, crime, drug addiction," Chestnut said. "You can start with that second circle [Brokenness] and then go back to the first circle and say, ‘Well, that wasn’t a part of God’s design.’"

Chase Smith of Fellowship Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ill., taught a three-week series on evangelism called "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The final sermon in the series focused on how to share the gospel. Having discovered the 3 Circles tool through Twitter, Smith gave the congregation copies of the 3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide before the training.

One of the things Smith appreciates about the 3 Circles tool is that churches of any size can incorporate it into what they’re doing.

"This is something every church can do," said Smith, whose church averages 50-60 people on a typical Sunday. "You can present it in a way that’s easy. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in a seminary class or you’ve only been a pastor for a short time, you can talk about each of these circles without much prep work. As a small church pastor, I love that it’s so easy to do."

Pastors of several large SBC churches have incorporated the 3 Circles presentation into their sermons. Former SBC president Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led his congregation through the tool on Aug. 10, while another former SBC president, Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., shared the tool in a sermon on Aug. 17. Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd preached through the 3 circles on Aug. 24.

For more information about 3 Circles and the tools NAMB has created to help churches teach the method to their members, including a new book "Life on Mission" slated for release Sept. 1, click here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

8/27/2014 10:11:37 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Egypt yet to help persecuted Christians

August 27 2014 by Morning Star News/ Baptist Press

One year after the attacks, Mina Thabet can still see the ruins in his mind – a seemingly endless series of scorched, hollowed-out church buildings, schools, homes and businesses stretching out across Egypt.

On Aug. 14, 2013, thousands of Muslims began a four-day rampage throughout the country seeking revenge for the military-backed, popular ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. They reportedly attacked anything remotely associated with Christ, Christians or Christianity.

When it was over, Thabet, a well-known Coptic human rights activist, went to survey the damage. He said it was a life-changing experience.

"I visited Minya – it was awful," he said. "When I got to the Corniche area, I saw how much damage had been done, and I saw the bathroom that had what remained of two people who were burned alive inside."

A year has passed since the attacks, but Thabet and others say Christians continue to struggle to rebuild their lives. After the first day of attacks, then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, now the nation’s president, publicly promised the army would restore all church buildings destroyed in the attacks. Only five of the 32 destroyed church buildings have been rebuilt.

More importantly, Thabet and others said, Christians have received no government assistance to replace more than 100 homes, businesses and other items of personal property lost in the attacks.

"There were three stages for rebuilding and renovating churches," Thabet said. "Of the three stages, they haven’t finished the first step, which doesn’t even include 10 churches. They haven’t done anything to help the people."

The August 2013 violence was reportedly one of the most widespread acts of persecution of Christians in Egyptian history. Although only six Coptic Christians were killed, a small figure compared with other attacks on them, the number and variety of places attacked dwarfs other instances of violent persecution in the country.

Property damage estimates still vary, but human rights activists and church officials generally say 32 church buildings were destroyed – 25 burned down, and seven looted and then torn to pieces by mobs. Fifteen other church buildings, including monasteries, were severely damaged along with eight Coptic-run schools, two buildings on church compounds and an orphanage belonging to Christian social service groups. One of the monasteries lost was more than 1,600 years old.

Days after the attack, Egyptian officials publicly promised to rebuild all of the destroyed church buildings. Instead, the government opened an account for Egyptians to make donations to rebuild, and donations lagged. The rebuilding was supposed to take place in three stages, with the first stage to be completed at the end of June.

"The first stage included 10 places. Five of them are churches and five of them are schools or church associations," said Ishak Ibrahim, freedom of religion and belief officer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "But the work is going so slow that people are still going out to pray on top of the ruins of their old churches."

Some churches have opted to forge ahead with renovations and rebuilding and not wait for the army to do the work, Ibrahim said.

"We are very disappointed, because it has been a year and no government officials have come out publicly and announced their plan as to what churches are going to be fully or partial renovated," he said.
 

Lost homes, businesses

Coptic Christians who lost homes and businesses in the attacks have largely been left to fend for themselves, human rights activists said. The Coptic-owned Watani Weekly estimated that Coptic Christians sustained 65 million Egyptian pounds (US$9.09 million) in personal losses from the attacks.

"As for the individual Copts, neither the government or the army provided any financial or material support to them," Ibrahim said. "The support is only limited to the churches and church associations."

Charities, aid agencies and churches have provided most of the relief that Coptic Christians have received, he said.

"Some of the pharmacies that were burned – their owners received some help from the pharmacy bar, such as options to pay for their stocks of drugs over a longer period of time, or they gave them some small loans to start over again," he said.

Wael Ibrahim, manager of the Assuit branch of the Egyptian Bible Society (EBS), was among the businesspeople who did not receive government help. Last August Ibrahim watched helplessly from a distance as a group of Morsi supporters destroyed his store. The mob set it on fire along with Bibles and other Christian literature inside. He estimated the losses at 230,000 Egyptian pounds (US$32,000).

The Assuit EBS is a private business run by a religious association, so it was unclear whether it qualified to be rebuilt by the army. But rather than wait for the government, the store decided to rebuild on its own using association funds. The store was finished in late July.

Wael Ibrahim said an officer on security detail at the store’s opening told him to apply for compensation from the army.

"He told me to go to their financial office and submit a receipt with all our rebuilding expenses for reimbursement," he said.


Lax prosecution

Adding to the Coptic Christians’ suffering is the government’s lack of prosecution for any of the attacks.

Although hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested and tried for attacks against police, military and other government targets during the rampage, not one person has been convicted of attacking Christian property. Many of those convicted, including some 1,212 who were sentenced to death by a judge in Minya, were found guilty of committing acts of terror or for the murder of a police officer. But no one has been tried for killing any of the Coptic Christians who were slain, for the church burnings or for damage to private property. None of the imams who called for Muslims to attack Christian were prosecuted.

Though the attacks have been referred to as "the nightmare," Coptic Christians have said, the attacks did have some good effects for Christians in the country. Different denominations reached out to each other in a spiritual climate that had been fractious at best. Even a year later, Christians are still holding 24-hour prayer meetings.

"We believe that God is going to do something majestic," one Christian said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared in Morning Star News (www.MorningStarNews.org), a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)

8/27/2014 9:43:14 AM by Morning Star News/ Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Moldova, Dublin FBC partnership yields teenage visitor

August 26 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

When Dublin First Baptist Church signed up for an international partnership in January 2013, they did not expect it would include a teenage girl from Moldova spending her summer with them. But Tabitha Mesina left her small, southern Moldova village of Vadul Lui Isac in June for nine weeks of ministry in Dublin, N.C.
 
The 18-year-old is a talented, rising high school senior who speaks French, English, Italian, Romanian and Russian. She wants to serve God in missions.
 
“I want to do what God wants me to do,” Mesina said. “Before I came here, I asked God to show me how He wants to use me. Every sermon that I hear is about missions ... about going and telling people about God. It is like a confirmation that I should do missions.”
 
Cameron McGill, pastor of the Dublin church, said, “There are amazing similarities between Tabitha’s home church in Moldova and Dublin First Baptist. Both are in small towns, both have a lot of young people, and in both cases the churches are a big part of their communities.”
 
Mesina met Cameron and Tiffany McGill last November when they visited her church. Her pastor, Andre Ciobanu, visited Dublin last year.

 
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Tabitha Mesina

“Bringing a teenager to America for the summer is not something we thought we would have done,” McGill said. “We spent a week in their village, and we really connected with Tabitha and her family. They are a very devout family – her dad is a deacon, mom sings in the choir, her brother and sister are active in the church. They are the epitome of a church family.”
 
Mission teams are strongly advised against inviting Moldovan nationals to come to America. Many nationals live in deep poverty and believe life in America is glamorous. “But much of what they have in the village, to me, is far more precious,” McGill said. “I preached a sermon in the village and said, ‘if you ever get what you think is valuable, you may discover it is not worth what you thought.’ I illustrated it by explaining that a racing dog’s career is over if he ever catches the rabbit, because he will realize that what he was chasing wasn’t worth it.”
 
But they invited Mesina to work with the youth in Dublin for the summer. When her parents agreed, they began a five-month process of praying, completing online forms and waiting for a response from the United States Embassy.
 
“It is difficult to come from Moldova to here,” Mesina said. The embassy is reluctant to grant visas since there is a strong attraction for Moldovans to stay in the states.
 
“We pretty much felt like it was a long shot,” McGill said.

She was assigned an interview at the embassy in the capital city of Chisinau on May 14.
 
“I was very nervous,” Mesina said. “There are two people who do the interviews at the embassy. There is a lady and a man. I was praying that I could talk to the lady, because I thought it would be easier to talk to her. I heard that most of the people who talk to the lady usually got [approved for] the visa, but those who talked to the man did not really get a positive answer. So, I prayed God would send me to the lady, but He didn’t. He sent me to the man.”
 
She explained to the agent that her church has a partnership with the church in North Carolina, that a team from Dublin visited their church in November, and that a team will be coming again for Christmas this year.
 
“He listened to me, and he asked me what I am going to do in North Carolina,” Mesina explained. “I showed him the invitation I have from pastor Cameron. My pastor wrote a letter to the embassy to say that I am a member of the church, and he will guarantee that I will come back to Moldova after the summer.”
 
The American agent listened and responded. “I will give you the visa. I am a believer, too, and I trust you to do exactly what you said.” 
 
Mesina was surprised. “I was praying before I had the interview, that if it was God’s plan for me to come to Dublin, He will make it happen.”
 
Her summer experience was not limited to Dublin. Mesina worked at the church’s youth camp in the N.C. mountains, sang in many services, shared her testimony in several events and participated in the church’s New York partnership for a week.
 
McGill said Baptist leaders in New York were “amazed at how Tabitha reached out to people in N.Y. She’s pretty quiet around us, but if there is somebody of another language or they look like they are not fitting in, that’s who she gravitates toward.”
 
Her favorite part of the trip was working with children in Vacation Bible School events in Brooklyn and Queens. Mesina confessed that she was taken aback by some of the extroverted expressions of people in N.Y., especially in the subway and the open displays of homosexuality.
 
“That was the first time that I saw that. In our country you don’t see that. So that was not a nice experience,” she said. “In my country you are not really free to express whatever you think. Some things are forbidden.”
 
Mesina loves her homeland, but is open to serving in another country. “I am happy that I was born in Moldova. That country, my family and my church helped me to be the person I am today. God has put many amazing things in my life. But, I would like to go to another country if that is what God wants me to do.”
 
McGill is pleased that his church got involved with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s office of Great Commission partnerships. “I want to encourage pastors to not be scared of missions,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt your church – it’s going to strengthen your church, and it’s going to strengthen your walk with the Lord.”

8/26/2014 10:44:08 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Cutting-edge ideas mark event for collegiate leaders

August 26 2014 by BSC Communications

The Collegiate Partnerships Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is holding a new conference for both seasoned and emerging collegiate leaders. Jonathan Yarboro, Western Region Consultant for Collegiate Partnerships said, “We came up with something N.C. Baptists have never seen before. Over a 24-hour timeframe, we are going to have seven collegiate ministry practitioners – all of whom use different models of ministry and don’t necessarily agree with each other – present their big idea for ministry in a mere 15 minutes.”
 
After the presentations the microphone will be handed to the audience to ask hard, probing questions. Yarboro described Converge365 as “a fast-paced, unfiltered event built around cutting-edge ideas for collegiate ministry.” There will be no music and no preaching. It is designed to be “a consortium of leaders from every collegiate context imaginable sharpening and challenging each other, all for the sake of engaging collegiate communities more effectively.”
 
The shift in collegiate strategy for N.C. Baptists has been a reversal of ownership and support. For decades, the BSC employed professional campus ministers at select schools across the state and asked the local churches to support the ministry of the BSC.
 
In the new strategy, local churches are engaged in contextualized ministry utilizing multiple models, while the BSC supports the work of the churches.
 
“The bumps in the transition are largely due to a lack of training,” Yarboro said. “Churches aren’t aware of alternative collegiate ministry models and just haven’t done it before. Converge365 is about changing that.”
 
The conference features many leaders including Brian Frye, National Collegiate Strategist for NAMB; Stephen Wagoner, lead pastor of Church of the Triad in Greensboro; Kelton Hinton, director of missions, Johnston Baptist Association; Gene Parr, Morehead State University in Kentucky; Joy Turner, Baptist University of Oklahoma; Josh Hyde, lead pastor of Campus Church at Western Carolina in Sylva; Reggie Hunt, pastor of Cornerstone Summit in Boone and Appalachian State University football chaplain; Frank White, BSC staff; Rick Hughes, BSC staff; Faith Beam, Campbell University; and Seth Norris, pastor of Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone.
 
The event is set for Sept. 26-27 at N.C. Central University. The cost is $50. Teams who register three persons will receive a fourth registration free. The conference will be limited to the first 180 people who register. Register at ncbaptist.org/converge or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536.
 

8/26/2014 10:30:40 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



SEBTS professors, student appointed ERLC research fellows

August 26 2014 by SEBTS Communications

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention named seven Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) faculty members and one student as fellows for the new Research Institute.
 
Daniel Akin, Bruce Ashford, Nathan Finn, Daniel Heimbach, David Jones, Mark Liederbach, Devin Maddox and Walter Strickland will “assist the ERLC in its mission by producing a variety of materials to equip Southern Baptists and churches to engage ethical and cultural issues of the day.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, said, “The aim of the Research Institute is to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the gospel to the complex questions of the day – and to do so at the highest levels of academic scholarship for the good of local congregations.”
 
“I am thrilled to get to work together with an exceptionally gifted band of scholars and leaders as we seek to be a persuasive, prophetic witness engaging the academy and equipping the church,” Moore emphasized.
 
David Jones, associate professor of Christian ethics at SEBTS, said, “Being named an ERLC research fellow in Christian ethics is both a blessing and a stewardship.
 
“It’s a blessing in that you get a chance to work with some of the best moral minds in the country on the cutting edge ethical issues of our day,” he explained. “It’s a stewardship in that you are responsible for giving counsel to denominational and evangelical leaders on the most pressing moral problems in the culture. I am honored and thankful for the opportunity to serve the church in this way.”
 
Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies, added, “I am honored to join with several of my colleagues in working with the ERLC’s relaunche Research Institute.
 
“Russell Moore and his team are doing such a fine job of helping Southern Baptists to engage our culture with both conviction and civility. I’m thankful for this chance to partner with the ERLC in this strategic ministry.”
 
There are varying levels of fellows for the institute – senior research, research, associate research and research fellows in Christian ethics.
 
Akin is listed as a senior research fellow while Liederbach, Jones and Heimbach are research fellows in Christian ethics. Ashford is a research fellow and Strickland is an associate research fellow along with SEBTS doctoral student Maddox, who also works for B&H Publishing.
 
Former ERLC leader Richard Land is also a senior research fellow. He is president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte.
 
Visit erlc.com/institute.

8/26/2014 10:15:57 AM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Students challenged to know God, make Him known

August 26 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

Every summer, nearly 7,000 youth from across North Carolina attend one of seven summer youth weeks at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
This year, more than 400 of those students committed their lives to vocational ministry.
 
“We had 10 to 15 students the first few years I was here respond to God’s call on their lives for vocational ministry,” said Merrie Johnson, BSC youth evangelism and discipleship consultant. “Every year that number just grows and grows. To me, that is just huge.” 
 
Johnson, who has directed youth weeks for 14 summers, said challenging youth to commit to vocational ministry is not an emphasis at youth weeks, but each week students are given the opportunity to respond to that calling if they feel led.

 

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BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Members of the BeDoTell team, from left, Kyle Crouthamel, Hayden Cork, Jeremy Robertson, Henry Felden and Jonathan Waggett, are part of the “Tag: You’re It” theme for Youth Weeks this summer at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. See photo gallery online at BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery.

“These kids are responding to the call to be preachers, music ministers, youth ministers. God is working on their hearts,” Johnson said.
 
She said the primary focus of youth weeks is to challenge students to glorify God with their lives regardless of their career aspirations.
 
“We want them to understand that God wants a relationship with them that would change the world; that our purpose is to know God and make him known,” Johnson said. “Whether you’re going to be a teacher, lawyer, musician, you are called to give Him glory with your life and use your talents to further the Kingdom.” 
 
Johnson added that many of the youth, in addition to those making commitments to vocational ministry, are growing in their faith as they incorporate what they learn at camp into their daily lives when they return home. 
 
“We are seeing spiritual growth in these students as they learn what it means to live for Christ,” she said. “A lot of students commit to going back home to start prayer groups and evangelistic rallies at school. They are just coming up with things God is placing on their hearts to do.”
 
Youth weeks provide youth opportunities to grow in their faith through times of personal and small group Bible study, supplemented with times of worship that include contemporary Christian music and world-class Christian speakers.
 
This year’s youth weeks theme was “Tag: You’re It,” based on Joshua 1:9. Each week, students learned how to pray for their lost friends and relatives, how to share and defend their faith and were challenged to be witnesses for Christ every day.
 
“Anytime you share your faith, it’s a win,” said Adrian Despres, who served as the camp speaker one week this summer.
 
Despres encouraged the students to remain committed to witnessing even when the fruit of their labor is unseen and to share and defend their faith with Christ-like attitudes. “Most people don’t come to faith the first time they hear the gospel. Just keep sharing it,” he said. “Share it with kindness and love, that’s how we treat people who do not believe the Bible and Jesus Christ.”
 
Justin Crouse, youth pastor at Richmond Hill Baptist Church in Booneville, said youth weeks’ mission component and emphasis on spiritual growth has a tremendous impact on students.
 
“I like youth weeks because it gets the students away from the world’s influence and gets them focused on the Lord,” he said. “When that happens, God can move in amazing ways, and He has done that this week.”
 
Crouse, who has been coming to youth weeks for as long as he can remember, said the spiritual change in student’s lives keeps him coming back.
 
“Youth weeks is my highlight of the year,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
 
A total of 6,573 youth attended youth weeks this summer, representing 264 churches. During the summer, 487 youth made first-time professions of faith in Christ and 3,267 rededicated their lives to Christ. The camps are for rising seventh graders to high school seniors.
 
Visit bedotell.com.

8/26/2014 10:03:35 AM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



NCMO: Giving so that others may serve

August 25 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

About every three days North Carolina Baptists launch a new church in the state. Church planting is one of the ways to strategically reach an estimated 5.8 million lost people in N.C. with the gospel of Jesus Christ. An essential ingredient for this outreach is the annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).
 
September is the focal month for North Carolina Baptists to give to the NCMO, a special offering that supports mission and ministry initiatives including Baptists on Mission (BOM) – also known as N.C. Baptist Men – church planting, mission camps, associational projects and mobilization ministry projects.
 
Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said, “I hope North Carolina Baptists recognize that the NCMO is not an optional offering, but an essential source of support for church planting in our state. While the vast majority of church planting funds come from the Cooperative Program, and a smaller portion comes from the North American Mission Board, the NCMO provides the additional funds necessary to help church planters impact lostness through disciple-making in our state.”
 
North Carolina Baptists help start more than 100 new churches each year, two-thirds of them reaching many new language and culture groups. NCMO provides about a third (28 percent) of the church planting team’s budget each year. More than 4,500 people made decisions to follow Christ in these new churches last year.

 
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N.C. volunteers

In 2013, there were more than 117 churches planted in North Carolina. Between 2008 and 2013 the BSC has helped start more than 715 new churches. The convention’s team of church planting consultants provides training, coaching and additional support to church planters like Joshua Gilliam.
 
Gilliam is missionary pastor of La Mision in Concord, a church plant started in 2011 under Crosspointe Baptist Church in Concord.
 
Through the support of pastor Leon Hawks of Crosspointe and others, Gilliam launched core groups and they meet at the facilities of Kerr United Methodist Church. La Mision does this to better reach the communities in that area. After approximately 10 months, the church noticed the need to minister to the children at their location.
 
“In partnership with the congregation of Kerr UMC we began a children’s ministry with the assistance of Roger Gadd, a proven children’s minister,” Gilliam said. “During the children’s time we began to meet with the parents in a Spanish Language Bible study.”
 
Starting with a small group of 10, the group has blossomed to 120 through the church’s three services.
 
Recently, La Mision had a backpack drive to meet the needs of local residents. With the help of churches from six different denominations, Gilliam said, “We fed 400 people and gave out 290 backpacks.
 
“This was an event where we saw that even though we are from different denominations, backgrounds and styles of worship, as the body of Christ we can meet people with the gospel message.”
 
La Mision has witnessed Christ at work over the last 20 months. Sixty-four individuals have professed faith in Jesus and 21 were baptized.
 
Davis said that the NCMO also helps North Carolina Baptists engage lostness in some of the most impoverished communities in the state.
 
Davis added, “Your generous gifts to the NCMO provide resources that help volunteers working at Red Springs address sub-standard housing, hunger and meet many other needs in the surrounding communities.”
 
Larry and Teresa Osborne lead Red Springs Mission Camp in Red Springs. They perform numerous tasks such as large and small maintenance of the camp, community outreach and daily preparation of meals.
 
“We cook anywhere from three to four meals a day, and that’s where Teresa comes in. We try to make them feel at home when they come,” said Larry Osborne.
 
The camp’s volunteers “do more than simply repair leaking roofs and distribute food, they are sharing the Living Water and the Bread of Life with those they serve,” Davis said.
 
Several groups of ladies come every year to spend a few days baking cakes, pies and cookies to take to nursing homes, hospital waiting rooms and local fire and police departments.
 
Red Springs and Shelby Mission Camp in Shelby are directed by BOM. Fifteen percent of the 2014 NCMO is allocated to these two camps. Volunteers at these camps engage in a number of mission projects in the surrounding communities and counties.
 
The Osbornes’ ministry expands far beyond the three square miles of Red Springs. They also serve Bladen, Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties.
 
“It’s a huge area to cover,” Osborne said. “Our hearts are the people we serve. We want to build relationships with the people we are ministering to.”
 
He tells the project teams to take a one-day project and turn them into three-day projects so they can get to know the individuals they’re helping.
 
Osborne expressed his deep gratitude for being a part of the work N.C. Baptists are doing through NCMO.
 
His wife added, “I always urge people to come and see what we’re doing. … We try to accommodate churches that want to work with children or want to work with women’s ministry or other ministries. People may have a hard time seeing how their gifts impact communities, but we see it every day.”
 
The 2014 theme for NCMO is “Choose Now.”
 
The largest portion of the offering’s $2.1 million goal supports BOM. The second largest sum supports church planting. Every dollar given to the offering impacts lostness in the state.
 
Richard Brunson, executive director of Baptists on Mission, noted that all of the ministries, partnerships and projects of BOM get their budget from NCMO.
 
Every year, one of BOM’s primary ministries is disaster relief. After disasters hit particular areas, disaster relief volunteers provide organization, equipment and strategy for affected individuals and families to help rebuild their lives and homes.
 
Brunson said, “Every week, hundreds of men, women and students are using their hands to share Christ with a lost and hurting world. … [NCMO] is a vital offering for everything from mission camps to mission partnerships, from disaster relief to medical missions, from agriculture to aviation, from places of hurting to places of healing and hope. The NCMO enables thousands of N.C. Baptists to be missionaries for Christ.”
 
To learn more about NCMO, visit ncmissionsoffering.org. Learn more about North Carolina church planting, visit ncbaptist.org/churchplanting; and to schedule a visit or learn more about Red Springs Mission Camp, go to facebook.com/RedSprings or call (910) 843-7700.

8/25/2014 4:51:17 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Baptist youth send millionth meal to Haiti

August 25 2014 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Baptist youth participating in the 2014 Baptist State Convention’s summer youth program at Caswell met a major milestone regarding efforts to provide meals in Haiti.
 
During the closing hours of July 30, participants of Youth Week 7, the last week of summer camp, packaged the one-millionth meal.
 
This was the fourth summer youth attending the summer camp sessions have packed the meals; they packed 300,000 meals this summer alone. The four-year total came to 1,000,225 meals.
 
A total of 6,573 young people – more than 1,000 youth and leaders most weeks – attended seven one-week sessions this year during the summer, part of the BeDoTell ministry led by Baptist State Convention of North Carolina staffer, Merrie Johnson.
 
Campers came from 264 churches.
 
The summer youth weeks have long been one of the convention’s most successful ministries offering blended Bible-based discipleship teaching, personal quiet times, innovative worship/celebration times and contemporary Christian music along with sports, beach activities and other recreation unique to the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell on Oak Island.

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BSC photo by Mike Creswell.
The BeDoTell team prays over the final box of meals bound for Haiti. This summer, youth filled more than 300,000 packs of food. The four-year total came to 1,000,225 meals. See photo gallery at BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery.

 

Of the 6,573 attending, 487 professed faith in Christ for the first time and 3,267 rededicated their lives to Christ.
 
Young people cheered and balloons rained down during the closing Wednesday night worship session of the final week when Johnson told them about the millionth meal.
 
Buying the food to fill 300,000 packets called for $75,000 to be raised over the summer through offerings received during the camps, plus several more thousand to ship it to Haiti and pay import fees and other costs, and the total amount raised over the summer came to $86,066.66.
 
“Pretty cool to see how much impact it has had,” said Russell McBride, a BeDoTell staff member. McBride recently graduated from the University of Tennessee and is studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
In each packing room large posters headed with “Millionth Meal Summer” were autographed by thousands of Baptist youth who helped pack the meals.
 
Periodically youth leader Doug Bryant of Providence Baptist Church in Hickory, signaled his youth for quiet as they gathered round a box of food they just packed and prayed for those who would receive it.
 
Along with the printed word, “Hope,” each box carried the handwritten words, “Jezi renmen ou” (Jesus loves you) and “priye pou ou” (praying for you).
 
As Change This World staffers counted off the boxes that afternoon, excitement grew among the packers. “Just 30 boxes to go,” one announced. As the final packet and box were packed, Johnson gathered her summer staff around to pose for photos and then to have a prayer. She asked for God to let the Haitians know that, “... yes, You will provide for their physical needs, but also for their spiritual needs.”
 
Johnson said it was four years ago that she began looking for a way to involve youth in some kind of ministry that would both meet physical needs and help the gospel be proclaimed.
 
Then at a missions conference she heard about a ministry called Change This World, headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando, which is based around packing food on location. She talked with the ministry’s representatives, telling them, “The only way we’ll do it is if God will be honored and the gospel would be presented as well.”
 
Two weeks later, they called her to say an opportunity in Haiti had just been found: the House of Abraham, an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, a city about three hours from Port-au-Prince. The food will be distributed among 300 orphanages and schools in and around Jacmel.
 
Change This World staffer Andrew Neal said the organization stresses they do not just distribute food, but want to use food as a way to bring hope and the gospel to people. He said they work with groups across the country to collect funds, buy food and get it shipped to Haiti, Honduras or Burundi – their three partner countries.
 
“Food changes everything. It changes opportunities,” Neal said. “Parents who have never sent their kids to school will send them if food is provided,” he said.
 
Each food packet contains rice, soy, dried vegetables and vitamins, said Cogan Blackmon, a Change This World summer intern from Anderson, Ind.
 
Because of the food partnership, One of the two summer interns with Change This Word was Murphy Johnson, Merrie Johnson’s son.
 
Murphy has worked with the summer program for years. He said he concentrated on tracking the numbers of packets and filling the shipping containers.
 
Often the kids at Caswell at first were less than happy about taking an hour from their week to pack food parcels, Murphy said. But as they learned more about the program through video and talking to staffers like him, their attitudes changed.
 
“By the end it’s cool to see them with a smile on their face and knowing they’ve done something bigger than themselves,” he said. And the work has not gotten tiresome for him, he said.
 
That’s partly because he was able to visit Jacmel, Haiti, and see the food packed at Caswell actually given to hungry kids. During one prayer time, he saw one of the Haitian kids lift his plate of food up to the sky as he gave thanks.
 
“I’d see kids eat four bites and say they were taking the rest to their mom because she hasn’t eaten in a week. It’s humbling to see how much Americans take for granted,” he said.

8/25/2014 4:38:19 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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