August 2014

Mark Driscoll removed from Acts 29 network

August 11 2014 by Religion News Service and Baptist Press

Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has been removed from a church-planting network of more than 500 churches he helped found after a pattern of “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.”
 
Driscoll, co-founder of the Acts 29 Network, has been an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. His own Mars Hill Church attracts some 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states each Sunday.
 
At the same time, however, Driscoll has been controversial in evangelical circles for years. The New York Times Magazine called him “one of the most admired – and reviled – figures among evangelicals nationwide.” He has been provocative, occasionally profane and has faced allegations of plagiarism and inflating his book sales.

 
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Mark Driscoll 

After Acts 29 board action, all of Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church locations have been removed from the website of the network.
 
“It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network,” the Act 29 board wrote in a letter. “In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.”
 
In a longer letter obtained by blogger Warren Throckmorton, the Acts 29 board asked Driscoll to “step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.”
 
“Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior,” the board wrote. “We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.”
 
Driscoll, who’s been facing the same heavy criticism in recent years that he was known for dishing out to others, recently admitted to and apologized for comments he made under the pseudonym “William Wallace II” where he posted statements critical of feminism, homosexuality and “sensitive emasculated” men.
 
The Acts 29 board’s letter suggested that it could not lean on Mars Hill’s own board for discipline.
 
“In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter,” the letter states. “But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.”
 
As Throckmorton has reported on his blog, the Acts 29 action comes after evangelical leaders Paul Tripp and James MacDonald resigned as members of the church governing board, and ex-members staged a recent protest at the church.
 
The Acts 29 Network is a network of churches attempting to be “gospel-centered” and “missional.” Its mission is to plant new churches with an emphasis on holiness, humility, diversity and evangelism.
 
Driscoll stepped down as president of Acts 29 in March 2012, appointing Matt Chandler as his successor and moving the headquarters to Dallas, where he is a pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.
 
The Village Church cooperates with the Southern Baptist Convention, and Chandler is a well-known speaker at many Southern Baptist events
 
Many other Acts 29 churches also cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention, though the two organizations have disagreed over issues ranging from alcohol to Calvinism to Driscoll’s demeanor.
 
Earlier this year, Driscoll apologized for missteps in publishing and quit social media for the rest of 2014.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled news from Religion News Service and Baptist Press.)

8/11/2014 11:34:39 AM by Religion News Service and Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Baptists called on to provide aid to Iraqi Christians

August 11 2014 by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press

As U.S. military forces launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, International Mission Board (IMB) and Baptist Global Response (BGR) are asking Southern Baptists to help provide humanitarian relief for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds forced from their homes.

Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country’s Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar’s Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.

While the U.S. has begun airdropping water, food and other supplies to Yazidi refugees in the mountains, BGR representatives are focusing efforts on helping the reportedly 200,000 internally displaced Iraqi refugees who have fled ISIS militants’ rapid advance. BGR is a primary ministry partner of IMB.

In June, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, ordering thousands of Iraqi Christians to leave, convert to Islam, or pay heavy taxes. Yazidi Kurds and other Iraqi minorities have been forced from Sinjar and surrounding villages under threat of death. Many of the refugees have fled to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, or south to Baghdad.

“The news coming out of Iraq is even more heart-breaking than usual,” Jeff Palmer, BGR’s executive director, said. “We have been helping Iraqi families over the past few months but must now intensify our efforts due to this heightened conflict. We are grateful to have so many friends who care about people in need. Suffering Iraqis will have an opportunity to know God’s love firsthand as our partners bring desperately needed relief.”
 

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IMB photo
Thursday in front of the White House, Rob Schenck (front, red scarf), president of Faith in Action and the National Clergy Council, prays in Jesus’ name for the Yezidis and Christians suffering in Iraq.

Rallying for relief

Thursday, Aug. 7, more than 150 Yazidi immigrants rallied in front of the north lawn of the White House to plead for American involvement in the growing crisis. The protestors came from across the U.S., with at least one group driving more than 30 hours from Phoenix, Ariz. Holding signs and chanting slogans such as “Down with ISIS!” and “Save our kids!”, the Yazidis’ pain and sense of desperation was evident in the faces of protestors such as 27-year-old Nayyaf Abdo.

Abdo grew up in Sinjar and came to the U.S. in 2011 after serving as a translator with the U.S. Army. He traveled to Washington for the rally with a group of more than 50 Yazidis from Lincoln, Neb., and said his parents, six brothers, sister and grandmother are among those stranded in the Sinjar Mountains.

“I don’t know if they are still alive or not,” Abdo said. “The mountain is surrounded by ISIS, they cannot move anywhere.”

He spoke to his sister by cell phone earlier that day, but acknowledged he is afraid she is trying to protect him from the truth about his family’s situation.

“She’s not going to tell me my brothers are dying. She’s told me, ‘We are okay’ – but I know they are not okay,” he said.

Yazidis at the rally also showed support for Iraq’s Christian community by chanting “Save Christians in Iraq.” Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council and an ordained minister with the Evangelical Church Alliance, was among a handful of Christians in attendance to show of solidarity with the Yazidis.

“Anytime there is a human crisis on this scale good people cannot be silent,” Schenck said. “To be silent is to be a conspirator with the tragedy. This is as much a religious issue as it is anything else. ... We want to move this administration to act immediately and swiftly along with humanitarian and religious organizations that have resources to assist, and we want to urge all of them to take action now. Thousands are dying by the day.”

Schenck said he represents clergy from numerous Christian denominations in Washington, and suggested believers can also make an impact by contacting their congressman or the White House.

“Jesus said the second of the greatest commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself. Christians and Yazidis have been neighbors for centuries in Iraq – peaceful neighbors,” Schenck said. “Let me ‘bottom line’ it for my Baptist friends: This is a wonderful way of being a witness for the gospel and showing the love of God in Jesus Christ.”

Pray for the crisis in Iraq, and specifically for the Iraqi Christian and Yazidi Kurdish refugees:

  • Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and to provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.

  • Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.

  • Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.

  • Ask God to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Mosul and Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the gospel.

Help respond to Iraq’s refugee crisis by donating to the International Mission Board’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund.* To give through Baptist Global Response, visit gobrg.org or text bgr to 80888.

*Text to donate: $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Message and data rates may apply. Must have account holder permission to donate. Terms: igfn.org/t

(EDITOR’S NOTE – ­Don Graham is an IMB senior writer.)

8/11/2014 11:10:27 AM by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



WWI remembered as ‘stand for liberty’ 100 years later

August 8 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Though Southern Baptists didn’t want America to enter World War I when it broke out, they came to see it as a necessary fight to preserve liberty and morality, historians have noted at the war’s 100th anniversary. One scholar added that America’s victory may have helped inspire the Cooperative Program (CP).

“Prior to America’s entry into the war, there is a strong antiwar sentiment (among Southern Baptists) that ‘we don’t need to get involved,’” Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, told Baptist Press. But when President Woodrow Wilson, “who was favored by Southerners and Southern Baptists,” recommended that America enter the war, Baptists “pretty well supported him. You find very little – though there’s some – dissent about entry into the war. For the most part Southern Baptists rally to join the conflict.”

In its final annual meeting before the war ended in late 1918, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted a report from its Committee on World Crisis that deemed military conflict the only way to stop Germany from suppressing democracy.

If America’s “entrance upon this vast enterprise had been dictated by lust of power, or gold, or land, or could be attributed justly to hate or vengefulness, the only notice which this Convention could properly take of it would be in the way of disapproval and condemnation,” the report said. “But the world has never witnessed such a situation as this in which our people are placed at this solemn and critical hour. Peace-loving, coveting nothing which belonged to Germany or her allies, living in good-will with all the peoples of the world, we are now challenged to use all the measureless resources of our country, that we may help to overcome, at any cost of blood or treasure, the hateful menace of German domination of the world.”

If Germany prevailed, the report warned, “the whole world will thus fall into moral chaos.”
 

Opposing the war

The war began on July 28, 1914, a month after the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungry was assassinated by a Yugoslav nationalist, provoking a series of diplomatic maneuvers and threats. Tensions escalated in Europe as both sides called on their allies for support. Within weeks, the world’s economic powers were aligned in two opposing groups with Germany and Austria-Hungry on one side and the United Kingdom, France and Russia on the other.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons
"The world has never witnessed such a situation as this," Southern Baptists said of WWI in a report adopted at the 1918 SBC annual meeting.

The next four years saw 70 million military personnel mobilized for war and more than 9 million soldiers killed, including more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers following America’s entry to the war in 1917.

Initially President Wilson issued a proclamation of neutrality declaring that the conflict was not America’s business. Most Southern Baptists agreed.

The 1915 SBC adopted a resolution praising Wilson, a Presbyterian with a reputation for personal piety, for “the firm stand he has taken for the ideals of peace, and at the same time the requirements of international law.” The convention “rejoice[d] in” Wilson’s “restraint,” “discrimination,” “judicial fairness” and “courage.”

The resolution was consistent with sentiments expressed in the SBC Social Service Commission’s 1914 report, issued two months before the war began.

“War, whether economic or political,” the commission said, “is the enemy of the life of man, and the Christian Church is called to leadership in its ultimate abolition.”

North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder newsjournal editorialized in 1915, “We believe that the incessant talk of war is little short of a high crime against civilization.” Similarly Georgia’s Christian Index urged America to remain on good terms with all nations fighting the war, and Virginia Baptists recommended at their 1915 annual meeting that “the United States maintain, in act and in utterance, the tone and attitude of neutrality as to the belligerent nations.”

During the war’s first two years though, Germany repeatedly sunk passenger and cargo ships, some with Americans aboard. The Germans deemed such attacks necessary because the ships carried materials to be used in the war effort. But Wilson demanded in 1916 that Germany recognize the “incontrovertible rights of neutrals.” He also asked the U.S. military to establish “reasonable preparedness” for war.

The military escalation made some Southern Baptists uneasy, with the Christian Index warning that if “preparedness” continued, Americans would “soon find ourselves involved in disastrous wars.” Baptists elsewhere likewise cautioned that military escalation might lead to war. One pastor wrote to The Alabama Baptist newsjournal asking Baptists to contact their congressmen in protest of the “war madness which is about to sweep our country into a career similar to that which has deluged Europe in blood.”

In January 1917 Germany announced unrestricted warfare against all shipping in volition of its pledge that no ocean liners would be sunk without warning and that the safely of all non-combatants would be guaranteed. With Germany demonstrating a seemingly aggressive and autocratic impulse to control Europe, the U.S. declared war in April. Most Southern Baptists had come to believe that the use of military force was regrettably needed.

“Americans were very isolationist and didn’t want to get involved in other people’s conflicts,” Lloyd Harsch, professor of church history at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP. “But when the United States entered the war and understood that it was not just European powers fighting themselves but a war of the autocrats against liberty, then to stand for liberty was something that was necessary. As people who stood for religious liberty, there was a connection” for Southern Baptists.
 

Accepting the war

Antiwar activists were few at the 1917 SBC annual meeting. A proposed resolution pledged to Wilson and the government “our loyal and sacrificial support in the war in which we are engaged.” When J.J. Taylor, a pastor from Savannah, Ga., spoke against the resolution and urged prayer for the enemy, other messengers shouted him down and the resolution was adopted. Taylor later resigned his pastorate after agreeing with the congregation that his pacifist views caused disruption in the church.

There have been “elements of pacifism” in the SBC, “but it’s not very prominent in our heritage,” Sumners said. The majority of Southern Baptists “are reluctant for this country to go to war but know that sometimes it’s necessary.”

J.B. Gambrell, president of the SBC in 1917 and a leader among Texas Baptists, wrote America had to enter the war to defend the New Testament principle of individual liberty from the “absolutism of the (German) Kaiser.”

“We did not wish to go into the war; everything was done to keep out of it that could be done in honor,” Gambrell wrote in the Baptist Standard. “But, when Autocracy set out to bestride the world, the spirit of liberty was aroused, and America is in with the other great democracies, to fight the war out to a finish and make it possible for the people of the earth to come into the liberty wherewith Christ makes people free. It is pretty clear that in this conflict of ideas the best idea will win the field.”

In support of the war, Southern Baptists established a military training center on the campus of Wake Forest University, an institution then connected with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, toured hospitals for wounded troops. In a letter to his wife, Truett recounted his visit to a military hospital in England, where he met men willing to die “for me and my family, and my country, and for liberty and civilization.”

“Tonight I spoke in a hospital – Canadian – that has some American boys,” Truett wrote. “The chapel, holding perhaps 1,000 was packed, and, oh, they did give me such a welcome, some with one hand, some with a foot, some with one eye etc. Never, never, never can I get away from the impressions of such a visit. I saw them unloading a trainload of new arrivals of wounded. The sight of it all is seared into my brain, I think, forever.”
 

Wartime challenges and opportunities

At times the war effort presented Baptists with moral dilemmas. A 1918 Biblical Recorder article explained some wartime charities supported by Southern Baptists purchased cigarettes and hosted dances for soldiers – both of which seemed morally objectionable.

The Recorder noted, “There has been a tremendous letting down in our attitude toward certain moral questions since the war began. Who would have dared suggest before the war that our preachers urge their people to give money to buy cigarettes for our boys, or to provide dances for their pleasure? ... Those things show a sub-normal state which the churches and preachers should set about correcting.”

At other times Southern Baptists saw the war as an opportunity for evangelism among soldiers. The convention voted unanimously in 1918 to assign all troop ministry to the Home Mission Board and urged the military to guarantee religious freedom for soldiers.

When World War I ended on Nov. 13, 1918, Baptists turned their attention to plans for establishing a League of Nations – a precursor organization to the United Nations – with most supporting it as an important peacekeeping tool. But the war also led to an even more important discussion for the future of the SBC: how to reach the world for Christ.

Although the war was over, Southern Baptists’ sense of triumphalism “continued with the idea that they wanted to win the world for Christ,” Harsch said. “Within months of the end of the war, Baptists in the North and the South were putting together five-year campaigns to raise money for missions so that the gospel could go to the ends of the earth.”

The SBC’s 75 Million Campaign, though it collected only about $58 million of its $75 million goal, showed Baptists the value of a unified fundraising effort for all of the convention’s missions and ministries. In 1925, the 75 Million Campaign was the basis for Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program, which still serves as the convention’s chief avenue for funding Kingdom work.

In a sense, World War I helped spawn CP, Harsch said.

To say the war “was the direct cause” of the 75 Million Campaign “I think would be an overstatement,” he said. “But the campaign did grow out of the triumphal view that the war has been won, now let’s push forward with bringing the gospel to the rest of the world.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is the chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

8/8/2014 10:38:35 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GuideStone assets nearly double

August 8 2014 by Timothy E. Head, GuideStone/Baptist Press

GuideStone assets have nearly doubled since the bottom of the economic downturn of 2008-2009, trustees learned during their 2014 summer meeting.

Total organizational assets rose to $13.1 billion by the end of June, nearly doubling the trough in organizational assets of $6.8 billion experienced in February 2009, GuideStone chief operating officer John R. Jones told trustees.

"For 2013, we didn't think we could be more blessed with the results in the way that God's hand just continued to be on GuideStone," Jones said during the July 28-29 meeting in New York. "We shake our heads and continue to say that, here going into the latter half of 2014. We give thanks to the Lord."

"Over the course of the last five-plus years, we've seen an increase of 91 percent in the total assets base of GuideStone Financial Resources," Jones said, noting the returns are unprecedented and unsustainable in the long term. "Thankfully, for the benefit of our participants, our being focused on enhancing their financial security, their participant account balances are at an all-time high."

Even as assets have performed well, GuideStone Funds continue to receive recognitions from national ranking firms. For the 14th consecutive quarter since early 2011, industry firm fi360 has ranked GuideStone Funds in the top 20 percent of all fund families, using broad-based criteria selected to reflect prudent fiduciary management.

Additionally, in fund performance based on 10-year periods, Lipper ranks 10 of 14 GuideStone Funds as performing above the median. Morningstar rates 18 of 20 GuideStone Funds as three star or better in the Overall category.

"Not only has it been a wonderful environment for investors just because of how well the financial markets have done, but also GuideStone Capital Management has shown their ability to add value, additional returns, to enhance the financial security for the benefit of our participants," Jones said.
 

Insurance

In medical plans participation, GuideStone experienced a 1.3 percent increase in enrollment over 2013.

Additionally, trustees were updated regarding GuideStone's challenge to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has set the oral argument in the government's appeal of the preliminary injunction in the GuideStone litigation against the abortifacient mandate. A three-judge panel will hear the appeal at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29 in Denver.
 

Property and Casualty

GuideStone's alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company continues to prove beneficial for GuideStone and the churches it's able to serve, Jones said. GuideStone serves as Brotherhood Mutual's agent in Alabama and Texas, and has an endorsed relationship in other states where Brotherhood Mutual does business.

Written premiums grew by 42.8 percent in 2014, while total accounts grew by 24 percent, Jones reported.

"About 75 percent of the number of accounts reflects renewals," he said. "These are relationships that are beginning to enter their second if not third year. Fortunately, we have a 99.5 percent renewal rate. This underscores the strength of the partnership we have with Brotherhood Mutual."
 

Mission:Dignity

Gifts for Mission:Dignity, the GuideStone ministry that provides financial assistance for retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows, grew by 5 percent between 2013 and 2014. Mission:Dignity receives contributions from individuals, churches and Sunday school classes; it receives no Cooperative Program gifts.

"We are expecting the best year that we have had in recent years," Jones said. "We are very encouraged by the fact that there were 5,800 churches across the Southern Baptist Convention that on Sunday, June 22 got bulletin inserts that trumpeted and made greater awareness of Mission:Dignity."

The Relief Committee, a trustee sub-group that provides oversight and guidance to Mission:Dignity, approved changes to the eligibility guidelines and increased support payments to recipients. Under the new rules that take effect in October, eligible couples with at least 10 years of paid SBC service will see their monthly assistance rise to $300. Monthly assistance will rise to $600 for the neediest couples, those with at least 25 years of paid ministerial service.

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins informed trustees of his latest book, "The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer," now available online and in stores. All author's royalties and proceeds from the book will benefit Mission:Dignity, just as with Hawkins' 2012 book, "The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know."

For more information on Mission:Dignity, visit www.MissionDignitySBC.org.


Mutual fund expansion

GuideStone Chief Business and Marketing Officer John T. Raymond updated trustees on the expansion of GuideStone's mutual fund eligibility.

In May, GuideStone Funds officially became available to Southern Baptist and other evangelical church members through the GuideStone 100 plan, an expansion approved by messengers to the 2013 SBC annual meeting in Houston.

Some 222 new accounts, totaling $6.5 million in new assets, have been opened since May 1, at least half of which are a result of the expansion of GuideStone Funds' new eligibility rules, Raymond said. Various branding and public relations activities are planned through 2015 to make eligible investors aware of the new opportunity, Raymond told trustees.

"At the end of the day, there are three things we want people to be aware of when they hear about GuideStone Funds," Raymond said. "First, GuideStone Funds is the largest Christian-screened mutual fund family in the entire world. Secondly, we've been around since 1918 and we have had great performance indicators. Lastly, we're a no-load fund; we have low expense ratios. It's a very compelling story."

In other action, trustees welcomed new board members David Puckett of Alabama and Renée Trewick of New York. Trustees will meet again in February in Dallas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources.)

8/8/2014 10:25:25 AM by Timothy E. Head, GuideStone/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Relief teams working at quake’s epicenter

August 8 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

Some remote communities in southwest China still have not received relief supplies, three days after a 6.1 earthquake killed nearly 600 people and destroyed 80,000 homes.

One Baptist Global Response-trained relief team working in the area, reported Aug. 5 that two villages they managed to reach had received no relief supplies, including clean water, even though they were near the road. “The situation of other mountain villages is more serious, but we have not been able to get there,” the team leader reported.
 

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BGR photo
An estimated 230,000 people are at evacuation centers in southwest China after a 6.1 earthquake destroyed 80,000 homes on Aug. 3. BGR-trained volunteers are now working at the quake’s epicenter, helping villagers who had not yet received relief supplies.

Efforts to reach the most isolated communities are being hampered by road collapses and landslides, as well as a steady stream of civilians trying to bring supplies into the disaster zone, said Pat Melancon, Baptist Global Response (BGR) managing director of disaster response.

“It is not unusual in disaster response for well-meaning untrained volunteers to become a burden to the local communities already struggling to get back on their feet,” Melancon said. “That is why BGR trains national partners to respond in a self-supporting fashion, so they are an asset during this difficult time, not a burden.”

Chinese authorities have urged untrained volunteers to stay away from the quake zone, according to news reports. Many civilians have walked or hitchhiked to the area. Some drove their own vehicles into the worst-hit areas, further clogging already congested roads.

The BGR-trained teams are working in the epicenter of the earthquake, Melancon said. In outlying areas that still have not received any assistance, water continues to be a practical and urgent need, as well as tents, food and clothing. BGR teams are assessing survival needs related to water, sanitation, shelter, food and health issues, as well as helping people with supplies they bring with them.

The death toll jumped by nearly 200 on Aug. 6 as rescuers began searching previously unreachable mountain villages. The count of houses destroyed has about doubled.

Rescuers freed one woman from a pile of rubble where she had been trapped for almost three days, but hopes that others will be found alive are waning, according to news reports. Residents of some communities reported school dormitories had collapsed.

An estimated 230,000 people are living in evacuation centers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)

8/8/2014 10:07:36 AM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Popular author, speaker debuts on HGTV

August 7 2014 by Baptist Press

Jen Hatmaker, Christian author, speaker and self-proclaimed “worst end-of-school-year mom ever,” begins a new reality home renovation show with husband Brandon, Thursday (August 7) at 11 p.m. Eastern time on HGTV.

My Big Family Renovation” follows the Hatmaker family as they sell their Austin, Texas, home and buy and renovate a 105-year-old farm house in need of major repair.

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HGTV begins airing “My Big Family Renovation” Thursday, August 7. The show features popular blogger and author Jen Hatmaker and her family as they renovate an old farmhouse.

Hatmaker gained national notoriety when her 2013 blogpost on the rigors of mothering school-age children went viral, landing her an interview on NBC’s Today Show. The author of many Bible studies, including the bestselling B&H Publishing book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, is popular among many evangelical women.

She shared on her blog at jenhatmaker.com how she was initially hesitant about the opportunity on HGTV.

“When HGTV came knocking last summer, our little family was really wobbly,” the mother of five wrote. “As I’ve told you, my travel schedule had taken a real toll on our marriage and kids. We were super, super shaky. I, personally, was on the verge of disintegrating. ... At the close of [filming the HGTV] show, Brandon and I sat down to evaluate the experience, and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘This show saved us.’”

Hatmaker’s latest Bible study, Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith, is also available at LifeWay. Her husband founded and pastors Austin New Church, blogs at brandonhatmaker.com, and is the author of Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, wrote the book’s foreward.

Baptist Press featured the Hatmakers in a July 1, 2011 story on the couple’s challenges in adopting two Ethiopian children. The son and daughter, Ben and Remy, are now part of the Hatmaker family.

Steven Lerner, HGTV senior vice president of programming and production, predicts viewers will enjoy the show.

“We fell in love with the Hatmaker family right away,” Lerner said in an official HGTV statement. “They [Hatmakers] wanted to treat this farmhouse renovation as a fun, family adventure, and these are the reasons that viewers are going to enjoy this show.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/ editor.)
8/7/2014 10:38:11 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Jesus clinic’ in Southeast Asia offers healing

August 7 2014 by Harper McKay, Baptist Press

A choir of roosters welcomes the rising sun as patients roll up their mosquito nets and blankets to get ready for their follow-up appointments. Slowly, new patients trickle in, and doctors, nurses and other staff finish their breakfasts of noodle soup or saucy meat and rice.
 
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IMB photo by Hugh Johnson
Every day patients arrive at the Jesus clinic from all over this Southeast Asian country. Through the Christian staff at the clinic, every patient will witness God’s love in action and will hear the gospel of hope at least once during their visit. As a result 100-200 people come to Christ each year.  
 

Patients come to the clinic from all over their Southeast Asian country. The poorest of the poor, most of them can’t afford to go to the nationally run hospitals. But within minutes, patients can see that this clinic is different. While the physicians and staff work to provide a polite, respectful atmosphere, what really makes the clinic stand out is its mission to share the gospel of Christ with each patient that comes through the doors. It’s a trait that leads the locals to call it the “Jesus clinic.”

“If you look at the New Testament, Jesus’ ministry was about preaching and healing,” International Mission Board (IMB) missionary and clinic board member William Bailey,* said. “Medicine is a way to demonstrate compassion and meet real needs [while being] a platform for evangelism and church planting.”

The Jesus clinic, a multi-national, multi-organizational medical center comprised of Southeast Asian believers, IMB missionaries and missionaries from other organizations around the world, is not just concerned with providing medical care.

“We see 100-200 people per year come to Christ,” Bailey said. “By giving compassionate care to the poor, they open up to the gospel.”

To date, the clinic is involved in 13 church plants, either leading or assisting and training villagers. One employee estimated that about four people make a decision to follow Jesus each week.

“Great medical care is a great witness,” Margaret Bricker,* International Mission Board missionary and public health specialist, said. “People come to us without hope and we use healthcare to share the hope of Jesus.”

Margaret and her husband Joseph,* IMB missionary and medical doctor, serve on the clinic staff together. Many times they are able to consult with each other in treating patients.

 

Saturated with the Gospel

Throughout the day, a team of believers who work on the clinic’s spiritual impact team has the unique role of sharing the gospel with patients as they wait to see a doctor. They begin the day offering health advice – good hygiene, proper diet and exercise. But each health lesson leads to an aspect of the gospel, giving the team the opportunity to talk to patients about Jesus.

Local believers share their testimonies and show Christian films to patients. The testimony of local believers seems to have a greater impact. “The ultimate church planter is their own people,” Joseph said. “They come from the same context and their opinions hold more weight.”

In other areas of the hospital, spiritual impact team members, receptionists and nurses sit and talk to patients one-on-one as they wait.

“My favorite thing to do is one-on-one talking with patients,” Mako Mao,* a member of the spiritual impact team, said. “I can answer questions easier.”

“I enjoy helping patients by bringing them wheelchairs,” Theary On,* a dental assistant, said. “The patients feel close to me, and I ask ‘Have you ever heard about Jesus?’”

Talk about Jesus doesn’t stop in the waiting room and in the halls. At every step during a patient’s appointment, someone is talking about or showing the love of Christ.

From early morning to late afternoon, doctors bustle about the six outpatient department exam rooms and three urgent care units, giving their utmost attention to each patient.

“When patients come to see me, I greet them and talk with them about their medical conditions and their lives,” Joseph said. “After I treat them and take time to answer all of their questions, I share the gospel with them and pray for them.”

As IMB’s Margaret Bricker enters an exam room, she smiles brightly to a returning patient. She gives the petite elderly lady a gentle pat on the arm. Because Margaret speaks a minority language, she instantly connects with many of the patients who come once a week.

“In medical care, you can have intimate conversations with people in a short amount of time,” she said. “Medical care provides ... opportunity. You don’t get that when you’re just walking down the street.”

Doctors from other organizations and Southeast Asian employees likewise provide caring consultations and medical treatment in the name of Jesus, often visiting with the families and sharing the gospel. The common core that pulls all these mission groups together is simple – sharing Jesus and planting churches.

 

Reaching far but staying in one place

It may be hard for some to believe that one medical clinic could sustain both a steady inflow of patients and an active church-planting ministry. That’s why the Jesus clinic is not doing all of the work but collaborating with referring partners from throughout the country.

“About 90 percent of our patients come from referring partners,” Bailey, IMB missionary and clinic board member, said. “They reach into provinces where other organizations don’t.”

Referring partners can be local mission organizations, national churches or individuals who commit to help the patient they refer with the cost of their medical care. More importantly, these partners follow up with the patients spiritually. This oftentimes leads to church plants in places where the gospel was once unwelcome.

 

In the hands of local believers

IMB missionaries and other international missionaries working at the Jesus clinic have seen the value of national partners having ownership of the ministry. The clinic is full of national doctors, nurses, receptionists and technicians.

While the missionaries mentor and train the national partners – filling in gaps their education left – each department is run by a Southeast Asian, giving them decision-making abilities and ownership.

“Local believers have very much to add to the work,” Joseph said. “Their opinions are highly valued.”

Margaret said, “Our goal is to see the [Southeast Asian] believers sharing the gospel and planting churches – us walking alongside them. They are passionate about healthcare and about the gospel.”

For more information on how you can become involved in healthcare missions, contact medicalmissions@imb.org or visit http://www.imb.org/healthcare.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is a writer for AsiaStories living in Southeast Asia.)
8/7/2014 10:30:24 AM by Harper McKay, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Local Lazarus becomes bold witness for Christ

August 7 2014 by Harper McKay, Baptist Press

His name is Chum Sok,* but to many people, he’s known as Lazarus.

Lazarus, similar to his namesake in the Bible, shared how he went from death to life, literally.

As a result, he said, God took this modest and elderly Christian and turned him into a bold witness for Christ.

lazarus08-06-14-1.jpg

IMB photo by Hugh Johnson
Lazarus’ wife Mean Sary* looks on as he describes his death-to-life experience. His testimony is a powerful witness among his devoutly Buddhist neighbors, who no longer mock him for being a Christian but now come to him for prayer when they are sick. *Name changed. 

Today, Lazarus is hard to track down. He has a calling to share Jesus with his own people. Every week, he spends at least two days going out to evangelize, traveling on Sundays to a village far away to share the gospel and teach.

He and fellow believers gather to study the Bible every night, often hearing of someone who is sick and going to pray for them until they are better.

Lazarus’ experience not only impacted his life but stirred a strong response in his village, where there are now more than 80 people attending church.

Lazarus remains thankful to God. “Now villagers understand that Jesus can save,” he said, choking back joyful tears.

In a village where Buddhist neighbors once criticized Lazarus and fellow Christians for believing in the foreigners’ God, they now call on the Christians to pray when someone is sick.

 

The darkest day

Though he’s been a Christian for many years, Lazarus’ faith started out weak. “I used to be embarrassed,” he said. “I would hide my Bible in my shirt when I went to church. I prayed for God to help me not be ashamed.”

Lazarus and others shared how God answered his prayer in a way no one could expect.

As the sun began to set one evening, he started having trouble catching his breath. Soon it became alarming as he began gasping, unable to breathe. His tiny, elderly wife, Mean Sary,* rushed to find a car to take her husband to the hospital.

She and their son managed to get Lazarus to the main public hospital. By the time he arrived, Lazarus’ organs were shutting down. The doctors soon lost his pulse.

That’s when Mean Sary, who was not a believer at the time, began to pray.

“I had no hope,” she said. “My husband was always praying, but he couldn’t. So I cried out to God for him.”

Lazarus’ pulse returned and he remained on a ventilator for the next six nights with no improvement and no clear diagnosis. Eventually doctors told Mean Sary to take her husband home to die.

A few times, Lazarus regained consciousness long enough to write, “Pray.” Then he would slip back into his comatose state.

Feeling defeated, Mean Sary began the journey home in the ambulance with Lazarus, who by that time had begun to look black and lifeless.

 

From death to life

Lazarus’ home was filled with friends and family, both Christian and Buddhist. Mean Sary collapsed once she made it home, unable to be consoled. Meanwhile, International Mission Board missionaries and friends, William and Nancy Potter,* and local believers from Lazarus’ church helped Mean Sary get Lazarus onto a bed and prayed for the family.

As the believers prayed, Buddhists mocked them saying that Lazarus was being punished for being a Christian. They wanted the Christians to leave so they could prepare a proper Buddhist funeral.

As believers prayed, William urged people to take the ventilator out of Lazarus’ mouth so he could die with dignity. When they did, a miracle happened – Lazarus began to cough.

The Christians all got down on their knees and began praying for God to heal Lazarus, to give him his breath back. Gradually, Lazarus began to show more signs of life – regaining his natural color.

“That’s when I started having hope and faith,” Mean Sary said.


The “Jesus clinic”

The Potters asked if they could take Lazarus to the Christian doctors in the area. Mean Sary agreed, and Lazarus was soon in the care of IMB missionary Joseph Bricker* at what’s known by the locals as the “Jesus clinic.”

The clinic is a multi-national, multi-organizational medical clinic whose mission is to provide quality medical care in the name of Jesus and share the gospel with each patient. The Jesus clinic is actively planting churches throughout surrounding villages and has played a part in many church plants countrywide.

At the clinic, patients “experience the love of God in a way they would not experience anywhere else,” Bricker, who was one of the doctors attending Lazarus, said.

Test results at the clinic looked good, and Lazarus no longer had multiple organ failure. As he regained consciousness, he looked around and saw doctors and nurses praying for him.

“I knew I would live,” Lazarus said. “I knew Jesus was in those doctors, and their wisdom comes from God.”

Lazarus began to recover and was eventually sent home in good health.

 

A changed man inside and out

Lazarus only remembers a few things from his time in the hospitals – the Jesus clinic in particular shapes how he now lives his life.

“I remember waking up once and praying ‘Oh God, if I am your child, please give me the chance to evangelize. If you let me live, I will tell people about you,’” he recalled, stopping a few times to wipe tears and take a breath.

After slipping back out of consciousness in the hospital, Lazarus had a vision. “I saw three people – Jesus, a soldier and a guard,” he said. “Jesus said to me, ‘Let your hope rise in me.’”

Today, Lazarus is alive and well, and he’s keeping his promise to God. He didn’t just come back to life physically; he was revived and emboldened spiritually. No longer a shy Christian hiding his Bible in his shirt, Lazarus joins his fellow believers to make Jesus known in their village, surrounding villages and even villages far away. His wife and son are now believers in Christ.

Reflecting on his ordeal, Lazarus said, “[It was] like Satan wanted me to shut up ... God saved me, and now I speak the truth.”

He expressed his gratitude for the Jesus clinic and the care he received there.

“The doctors at the Jesus clinic have hope,” he said. “Their faith stands out as different.”

Lazarus said he is especially appreciative of Dr. Bricker. “I like that he knows how to pray in my language,” he said. “He prayed I would be able to serve the Lord.” And that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Lazarus often goes back to the “Jesus clinic” for checkups. When he does, he shares his testimony, helping the clinic in its mission to share the gospel with every patient.

“If we’re God’s children, we must have fruit,” he said.

 

Pray for Lazarus

He asked for people to pray for the following requests.
  • Pray for Lazarus and his wife to have good health so that they can continue in ministry.
  • Pray for Lazarus’ family to remain close and follow God with all of their hearts.
  • Pray Lazarus would continue to take time to share the gospel in every situation.
  • Pray Lazarus would “remain connected to the vine of Christ” and continue to bear fruit.
  • Pray for everyone in Lazarus’ country to have the opportunity to hear the gospel and believe in Christ.
*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is a writer for AsiaStories living in Southeast Asia.)
 
8/7/2014 10:22:07 AM by Harper McKay, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bank robbery leads to answered prayer

August 7 2014 by Jonathan Guenther, Baptist Press

One pastor learned the answer to prayer sometimes comes in the least likely of ways – even a bank robbery.

This unexpected answer to prayer came while Calvary Baptist Church in Southgate, Mich., was trying to sell its building to move to a larger location. The facility had been on the market for more than four years.

“We were getting ready to give up because of the lack of interest in the building,” Dan Russell, the church’s executive pastor, said. “We asked the Lord to show us what to do.”

The next week, Russell made a trip to a bank in Brownstown, Mich., when it was robbed.

“I was doing my banking ... and the guy next to me was robbing the bank,” Russell recalled. “He got away quietly, but the bank was on lockdown and everyone, including me, had to stay in order to be interviewed by the FBI.”

While waiting, Russell talked with other witnesses to the robbery. One of them, he learned, was with an organization that was interested in their church building but was under the impression it had been taken off the market.

“Great, I’ll bring it up at the board meeting tonight!” the woman responded when Russell informed her it was still for sale.

She brought it up at the meeting and the organization toured the building three days later. They made an offer the week after that and the building sold.

“Talk about the providence of God!” Russell said. “The bank robber robbed four more banks but got caught and is in federal prison now. He may never know that God used him to bring about the sale of our church building so we could move forward and reach more people with the Gospel of Christ!”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jonathan Guenther is managing editor of The Baptist Beacon, newsjournal of the Baptist States Convention of Michigan, where this article first appeared.)
8/7/2014 10:15:44 AM by Jonathan Guenther, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Famine in South Sudan ‘worst in the world’

August 6 2014 by Charles Braddix, IMB/Baptist Press

An escalating civil war is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those most affected by famine in South Sudan, says a senior International Mission Board (IMB) strategy leader for sub-Saharan Africa.

“Pray for doors to open in good time,” IMB’s Tim Cearley said.

The United Nations Security Council expressed “grave concern” over the ever-worsening food situation. They are calling it the “worst in the world.”

The crisis is the result of ongoing military and civilian conflict and displacement, the council said in a statement released July 25. Fighting broke out eight months ago between two major rival political and tribal factions.

southsudan08-06-14-1.jpg

UNICEF Photo © NYHQ2014-0336/Holt, used with permission
A South Sudanese child displaced by recent fighting waits in the town of Mingkaman, where humanitarian assistance is being provided. 

“It is like a perfect storm when drought, political unrest and subsistence farming practices all come together,” Mark Hatfield, Baptist Global Response (BGR) director for sub-Saharan Africa, said.

“Hunger due to cyclical drought is a growing problem all across Africa, especially in the Sahel,” he said. “When there is political unrest, the situation is exacerbated due to the lack of ability to get into the fields to cultivate crops and manage herds. This all collides in places like South Sudan, where you have large groups of people living in situations where they have no surplus food stored or financial savings available to mitigate for crop and herd failures.”

Some 3.9 million people in South Sudan face “dangerous levels of food insecurity,” according to a joint statement issued by UNICEF and World Food Programme (WFP), “with many of them not knowing when and how their next meal is coming.”

The two organizations estimate nearly one million children will require treatment for acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

“The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children are dying each and every day,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said. About 50,000 children could die from malnutrition in 2014 alone, he said.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, its neighbor to the north, in 2011. There are now nearly 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) because of conflict in South Sudan, according to UN sources.

“Many times in hunger situations like what we are seeing in South Sudan, missions organizations need to focus on mentoring the local church in fulfilling its biblical role as a holistic expression of the Gospel by assisting in food distribution,” Hatfield said.

Missions organizations struggle with helping, he said, because long-term goals are focused on keeping dependency low. When assistance provided by national churches is not subsidized, they find local reproduction is more possible.

“This is a worthy goal in long-term church planting and development work,” Hatfield said, “but in times of disaster, when local resources are just not available, we have to step up and share the abundance that God has given us by supporting local churches and organizations that are providing food for the hungry.”

Cearley, an IMB strategy leader for sub-Saharan Africa, said the situation is real and is not going away; and soon the entire country could be affected. He said the next few months will be critical for mission personnel as they face possible escalation of violence and more food shortages. The challenge, he said, is the balance between meeting urgent physical needs and meeting urgent spiritual needs.

People are responding to the Good News. But Cearley added, “Quoting Carl Henry, the gospel is only Good News if it gets there in time.” He said pastors of the Baptist convention in South Sudan are passionate about reaching the unreached as a result of recent training in utilizing oral strategies for sharing the gospel.

“Pray that the South Sudanese followers of Jesus would be faithful to share their faith and ready to show His love as the church tries to respond to the hunger that will come,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles Braddix is an IMB writer based in London.)
8/6/2014 9:05:41 AM by Charles Braddix, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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