August 2014

'Vision for missions' highlighted at VBS

August 4 2014 by Ariana Castro Acuña, IMB/Baptist Press

Although this wasn't the first time Kingsland Baptist Church highlighted missions through their Vacation Bible School, organizers said they did it with renewed purpose, making missions the focus of the week's activities.

The church wants the children to "have a passion for sharing Jesus across the street and across the ocean," Kingsland pastor Pat Fiordelise said.

"We want to plant a vision for missions in our kids."


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IMB photo by Heather Pendergraft
A child tests a pair of homemade binoculars during LifeWay's "Agency D3" Vacation Bible School at Kingsland Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., July 13-17. The church used the spy-themed VBS to help 120 children who attended the event "Discover, Decide, and Defend" how to become a missionary "special agent."

Beginning with a worship rally each evening, July 13-17, Kingsland Baptist in Richmond, Va., showed the 120 VBS participants a different video each day featuring International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Martha Moore and the student ministry she started in Europe called Connexxion. The church's VBS media director Amanda Campbell talked with the children about what they had just seen.

"A missionary is someone who goes and tells people about Jesus," explained Campbell, addressing the children on the second day of the program.

In addition to further explaining missions as part of LifeWay's VBS curriculum, the church collected an offering throughout the week to support mission work around the globe. To encourage the kids to give to the offering, VBS directors made it a competition among the different age groups. Divided into three groups -- kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grade -- those from the group that brought in the most money at the end of the week would get a reward, Campbell told them. The reward was throwing pies in the volunteers' faces.

After announcing the reward, Campbell said there was a noticeable jump in giving. One of the groups brought in $40 the next day. The total amount collected was $154.81. The fourth and fifth grade group came in first place.

Kingsland member Alicia Barrett was happy that her daughter, Haley, learned about the importance of missions through VBS.

"It teaches them selflessness and to think outside [where they live]," Alicia said.

All ages can have a part in sharing and supporting missions, Haley said.

"VBS was a good cause for people to come have fun," she said.

Missionary Martha Moore encourages young people to "make a world of difference" where they are. For more information and to see more of her story, go to imb.org/VBS.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ariana Castro Acuña served as an IMB summer intern.)

8/4/2014 10:19:21 AM by Ariana Castro Acuña, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BSC releases annual meeting app

August 1 2014 by BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptists can enjoy their very own mobile app starting August 1. The free N.C. Baptist app highlights information for the 2014 annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The meeting will be held Nov. 10-11 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
The app is available for download at the Apple App Store, on Google Play (Android Market) and at the Windows Phone Marketplace and can be found by searching for “NC Baptist.” More information about the app is available at ncannualmeeting.org/app
 
The app will feature schedules, speakers, information about break out sessions, exhibits, alerts and much more about the annual meeting. Users will have access to the Book of Reports and the Tuesday Morning Update, as well as several other downloadable resources from the convention.
 
Additional updates to the app will be made following the annual meeting, allowing North Carolina Baptists to remain connected to the convention throughout the year.
8/1/2014 12:27:33 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Russell Moore discusses tough issues about sex

August 1 2014 by Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

The issues sound like they belong on the therapist’s couch:
 
The couple that hasn’t had sex eight months into their marriage.
 
The parents who can’t deal with their son’s homosexuality.
 
The male teen who wants to be called by a girl’s name.
 
But they’re also the kinds of topics that frequently crowd the inbox of Russell Moore, who recently marked his first anniversary as the Southern Baptist Convention’s top public policy expert.
 
Though he often grapples with contentious political issues – the Hobby Lobby case, religious persecution and, most recently, the immigrant border crisis – Moore has spent much of his first year at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writing blog posts on Christian sexual ethics.
 
“Probably day to day I’m dealing with more church issues of how do we deal with these tough ethical issues,” he said recently.

 
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RNS photo courtesy Paul W. Lee
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion with (left to right) Phillip Bethancourt, director of strategic initiatives at the ERLC; Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.; and David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Moore, 42, cited a query from a minister on how to deal with a transgender congregant as a reason for his commission’s upcoming conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” He hopes to help church leaders tackle modern-day questions as they hold onto age-old scriptures. More than 1,000 are expected for the fall national leadership summit.
 
“That pastor is asking a question that nobody at the 1970 Southern Baptist Convention was asking,” he said of the minister who hesitated to address a 15-year-old boy in his congregation as a girl.
 
But these quandaries aren’t new for Moore.
 
As a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary years ago, he asked students on a final exam how they would guide a “Joan” who was born “John” but is seeking a pastor’s direction to do what’s right.
 
“Most of the students in the room thought that I was throwing them an ethical curveball but every congregation is having to address that issue,” Moore said in an interview. “I think we have to equip people to be able to deal with that.”
 
In the real-life example from the pastor, Moore said there are no easy answers.
 
“He has to see this person as a person, not as just a set of issues,” he said.
 
In June, delegates to the SBC annual meeting passed a resolution affirming that God created “two distinct and complementary sexes” and opposing “efforts to alter one’s bodily identity,” a statement criticized by the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD.
 
“I think that Russell Moore will always continue to see transgender people as others,” said Ross Murray, a GLAAD staffer with expertise in working with LGBT religious issues. “I think his advice to people comes more out of making sure that he can keep and understand a world order that he understands.”
 
More traditional issues keep him busy, too.
 
Amid recent tweets on the current border crisis and the nominee for U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, he linked to his most recent column on marital life: “Does he need to confess adultery to his wife?”
 
In a word, yes.
 
“I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her,” Moore wrote in his latest “Questions and Ethics” commentary on The Gospel Coalition’s website.
 
He also advised the questioner: “Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her.”
 
Amy DeRogatis, author of the forthcoming book Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism, said Moore represents the mainstream view of U.S. evangelicals.
 
“They’re not anti-sex but they are very clear about the parameters of sanctioned sex,” she said.
 
Moore’s colleagues say he’s giving public expression to topics fellow evangelical leaders might think should be private but need to be brought out in the open.
 
“He brings to the surface a lot of questions that people have and don’t know how to address but need to address,“ said Alabama megachurch pastor and author David Platt.
 
In March, Moore took on the topic of a sexless marriage, raised by a pastor of a small congregation, approached by a woman whose new husband had refused sex in the eight months since they wed.
 
“It seems that I am finding more and more young couples having sexual difficulties,” Moore said at the time.
 
In his response, Moore was direct. “This is a marriage in crisis,” he wrote.
 
Among his suggestions: Seek professional counseling to learn whether there was some unresolved trauma in the man’s life.
 
Moore has also advised parents not to reject their gay children: “Be clear about your convictions, and at the same time don’t exile your child from your life.”
 
Murray said he’s glad Moore doesn’t want parents to kick out their gay children, “which is something that has been taught by conservative Christian churches.” But he wishes Moore would listen to people who are “just as faithful in their scriptural witness” but come to different conclusions.
 
Trillia Newbell, consultant for women’s initiatives at the ERLC, said Moore has managed to move beyond words on paper to addressing people’s sexuality concerns more directly with “a pastoral heart.”
 
“He’s not just looking at them as an issue – black or white,” she said. “These are real people who are dealing with this. It’s not just something that we can make a statement on and move on.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at RNS.)

8/1/2014 11:51:20 AM by Adelle Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Psalms, hymns enrich Black Church Week

August 1 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs enriched worship, study and fellowship among those gathered at Black Church Leadership and Family Conference (BCLFC), an annual week of spiritual enrichment for the nearly 4,000 African American churches in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“Praise the Lord everybody. Come on, clap your hands and give Him some praise. Come on, just give Him a little more praise,” cried evening worship leader John Ray, minister of music at Light of the World Christian Church (SBC) in Indianapolis, Ind.

“I know we’re on the mountain,” he told those gathered July 22 in Ridgecrest Conference Center’s Spilman Auditorium in Black Mountain, N.C. “We’re on the mountain today, but some of us may have left a situation or two at home. You might have brought a situation with you. I want to encourage you to put it all in His hands. How many know [Jesus Christ] can handle it?” Ray asked.

“Just tap your neighbor and tell them to put it all in His hands,” Ray told worshippers.


A week of enrichment

Activities July 21–25 included 6:15 a.m. praise and worship, 60 morning classes offered in two concurrent segments, morning coed Bible study, separate afternoon Bible studies for men and women, fellowship meals, evening worship and state-specific fellowships. At the same time, Centrifuge Camp engaged teenagers in worship, small-group Bible study and team-building activities. Educational, spiritual and recreational activities also kept children busy during the week.

Mark Croston, national director of Black Church Partnerships for LifeWay, organized the event with a host of sponsors and supporters.
 

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Photo by Diana Chandler
K. Marshall Williams, president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached the July 22 evening sermon at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“Black Church Leadership and Family Conference is first, a great training event. We seek to provide training for all ages and areas of church life,” Croston told Baptist Press. “Second, BCLFC is a great place to showcase all the entities of the SBC, to help people to see what they offer and how they can help the local church fulfill its kingdom mission. Third, BCLFC is a great time of fellowship and spiritual renewal.”

Black church week registration totaled 1,000, including 671 adults, 53 youth, 85 children, and 191 teenagers who attended Centrifuge. Joining LifeWay in sponsoring the week were the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, the Woman’s Missionary Union, the National African American Fellowship and the National Black Pro-Life Coalition.
 

Biblical sermons

K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., preached the July 22 evening sermon. Using Philippians 4:6-7 as a text, he addressed worshippers as “beloved” and encouraged those in attendance to rely on God for all they need.

“Don’t you know [a] king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, and He moves it any way He wants,” Williams preached, invoking Proverbs 21:1. “You know the folk can’t put you out unless the Lord say so. ... We don’t have to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow belongs to Him.”

Worry is like a rocking chair, Williams said. You move back and forth, but go nowhere.

“Let me throw this in parenthetically, beloved,” Williams said. “The problem in our nation today is that we haven’t settled the bread [livelihood] issue. We’re allowing political ideology and even our cultural ethnicity to be elevated over our biblical authenticity.”

He encouraged worshippers to call on God for provision and guidance.

“I heard Him say, ‘My grace is sufficient,’” Williams said. “He said, ‘If you yoke up with Me, My yoke is easy; My burden is light. When trouble comes in your life, whoever you yoke up with, that’s who you ought to trust. If you yoke up drugs, then call on your cocaine. If you yoke up with alcohol, call up your Seagram’s 7...”
 

Morning classes

Cross-cultural discipleship, conflict management within the church, financial stewardship, urban discipleship, marriage and biblical sexuality, church revitalization, ministry to people with special needs, and the history of African Americans in global missions were among numerous topics addressed during breakout sessions.

Gary Frost, vice president of the Midwest Region and Prayer for the North American Mission Board, was one of nearly 100 breakout session teachers. He taught sessions on “Revival and Awakening: The Greatest Need of Our Cities.”

He likened the United States to the doomed ship the Titanic, which had been billed as unsinkable.

“The water is creeping into this ship. This ship is about to go, as we call America,” Frost said, “and the blame cannot be laid at the feet of President Obama, President Bush, no president. The blame is to be laid at the feet of the body of Christ.... God has no covenant with America. God has a covenant with the body of Christ.”

He referenced 2 Chronicles 7:14, which points out God’s promise to heal the nation if Christians will humble themselves, repent from sin, seek God’s face and pray.
 

Fellowship

Men and women gathered in separate afternoon Bible studies and fellowship dinners.

Valerie Carter, executive director/treasurer of the Women’s Missionary Union, addressed hundreds of women gathered for a fellowship dinner sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.

Carter, WMU’s first African American executive, used the account of sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 to encourage women to flourish in their individual callings and to respect the callings of one another.

Every calling in the body of Christ is essential, she said, and women only hurt themselves by trying to operate in someone else’s calling.
 

NAAF Scholarship

In other activities, NAAF presented inaugural $1,000 annual scholarships to Stephanie Joy Pigg, a Leavell College student and member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., where she led worship; and Joel Caffey, a 2014 International Baccalaureate Program graduate of Granby High School, Norfolk, Va., and keyboardist at Fairwood Agape Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va.

In presenting the awards, NAAF president Williams recognized LifeWay as the scholarship’s leading contributor among SBC entities, and praised A.B. Vines, immediate past NAAF president, for leading NAAF in founding the scholarship.
 

Attendance recognition

Croston, national director of Black Church Partnerships for LifeWay, recognized churches for attendance, based on congregation size, during the final worship service.

“If you are a member of a church with 1,000 or more members I want you to stand,” Croston said. “I want you to think about how many actually came with you.”

As he narrowed those standing to churches that brought more than 90 members, the only church left standing was Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, the pastorate of immediate past SBC President Fred Luter, with 147 in attendance.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

8/1/2014 10:29:33 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. pastor wins congressional primary

August 1 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Mark Walker’s transition from pastoral ministry to congressional candidacy was based on his concern about tone as much as substance.

Walker, who had served in multiple pastoral roles in Southern Baptist churches, gained a decisive upset July 15 in a runoff for the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives in North Carolina’s Sixth District.

The pro-life, pro-marriage conservative began contemplating a congressional run while he served as associate pastor of music and worship at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. Though concerned about the erosion of freedom facing his three children, he also was burdened about the way some communicated his party’s message.

“[A]s a Republican, I felt like we had reached the place where a lot of our message was shared with great vitriol and anger and rage, and it wasn’t resonating with people,” Walker told Baptist Press.

While he affirms the Republican platform, Walker said he “felt like there was a way to go and share that message that was much more palatable but also to share it with genuine compassion for our fellow man that hopefully is driven from a walk with Christ.”

Other Southern Baptist pastors also have sought seats in Congress this year:
 

walker08-01-14.jpg

Mark Walker

  • Jody Hice, who was pastor of The Summit Church in Loganville, Ga., until April, won the GOP nomination in Georgia’s 10th District primary July 22.

  • Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., finished third in North Carolina’s Republican primary for the Senate in May.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma is seeking a Senate seat after serving in the House for four years. Lankford was the director of the Falls Creek Youth Camp for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for 13 years before his election to the House.

Walker entered the primary race after serving Southern Baptist churches for about 15 years in such roles as executive pastor as well as lead pastor of a church plant.

Walker won 60 percent of the vote against the favorite at the start of the primary season, Phil Berger Jr., a county district attorney who had vastly greater financial resources and the support of the GOP establishment, including Rep. Howard Coble, who is retiring after 30 years in Congress.

Walker’s victory counts among some upsets or near-upsets of members of Congress or establishment-backed candidates in Republican primaries this year. The most notable was the failure of Rep. Eric Cantor, majority leader of the House of Representatives, to survive the primary in his bid for reelection in Virginia.

The primary results this year, a conservative leader told BP, indicate GOP voters have grown frustrated “with what had become a bipartisan consensus in Washington to grow government, restrict freedom and insult our values.”

“It is clear that Republican primary voters this cycle are looking for bold, reform-minded conservative candidates,” said Wes Goodman, an evangelical Christian and managing director of the Conservative Action Project, in an email interview.

“Even when ‘establishment’ candidates have prevailed in some primaries, by and large it has been because they have run away from the record and agenda of the political establishment in Washington, painted their conservative opponents as liberals and embraced some form of a conservative agenda,” Goodman said. “In other words, even a political establishment largely bereft of ideas is discovering that embracing a principled and courageous conservative agenda is a winning strategy.”

Walker’s primary win differs from the upset of Cantor, a social conservative in North Carolina told BP.

Walker and Berger have “almost identical views, especially on the issues that matter to us – life, marriage and religious liberty,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition and a trustee of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“I believe Mark Walker won because he was able to turn out his supporters,” Fitzgerald in an email interview, “and because of the negative campaign run by a super PAC,” Keep Conservatives United, which spent about $200,000 in support of Berger.

Walker’s “personality and charisma were a plus factor in the race and account for his broad support from the grassroots,” Fitzgerald said. His win proves “money is not always the recipe for success. Grassroots can still win the day when done effectively,” she said.

Fitzgerald predicted Walker will be a “very good” congressman if elected in November. “He is articulate; he understands the complexity of a myriad of issues; and he is a man who serves God first and foremost.”

Walker believes “you can make a case” that his win is part of a pattern in Republican primaries, but he thinks “it comes down to the individual race, the individual candidate and the platform.”

“So I don’t think there is a general rule, even though I think there’s a concept that people are tired of what’s gone on in Washington. The lack of Congress holding [President Obama and his administration] accountable has gone to a new height in frustration level. ... And I think people are looking to send people who live and work and breathe in everyday life,” said Walker, who asserts he is “not a career politician obviously.”

Walker said he determined not to accept money from special interests, political action committees or lobbyists, raising about $330,000 in individual gifts in the process. How did he gain the victory?

“People are calling me all over the country asking that,” Walker said. “And without being too spiritually minded, I do believe that God just put His hand on this.”

He pointed to the “unprecedented” turnout for a second primary as support for his belief God “just saw fit to allow us to move forward.”

“When things happen that are unprecedented, or things that people have to say, ‘Well, that’s never happened before,’ it just provides such a great opportunity to give God the glory,” Walker said. “When you say a thing’s never happened before, there’s usually a supernatural reason behind it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

8/1/2014 10:15:26 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Slaughter of Nigerian Christians rises sharply

August 1 2014 by Baptist Press/Morning Star News

Boko Haram extremists and others have killed nearly as many Nigerian Christians in the first seven months of this year as were killed in all of 2013, the advocacy group Jubilee Campaign reported Tuesday (July 29).

Approximately 1,505 Nigerian Christians have been killed for their faith to date this year, compared to 1,783 Nigerian Christians killed in all of last year, based on Jubilee’s tally of deaths on its blog FactsNigeriaViolence.org, a compilation of reports from various news sources.

The 2014 total to date is nearly 85 percent of those killed in all of last year.

In attacks targeting religious communities, Boko Haram and others also killed Muslims, government officials, and other civilians in Northern Nigeria, for a total of 4,239 deaths to date this year, compared to 3,124 deaths in all of 2013, Jubilee reported.
 

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Christians killed to date include seven fathers of the 223 Chibok school girls still missing after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 students in mid-April. The men were killed July 20 when Boko Haram attacked Damboa, just 52 miles from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, and hoisted Boko Haram flag there, the Associated Press reported.

Boko Haram and others have killed at least 52 Muslims this year, compared to 66 in all of 2013 Jubilee reported. Based on an interview with Emmanuel Ogebe, manager of Jubilee Campaign’s Justice for Jos Project, Morning Star News reported a trend this year of Boko Haram targeting some Muslims primarily because they cooperate with the Nigerian military.

“The pattern therefore is that if you do not do what they demand, even if you are Muslim, you become an ‘apostate’ deserving of death,” Ogebe said. “Therefore the difference between Boko Haram’s approach to Christian ‘infidels’ and Muslim apostates is you are killed as a Christian ‘just because’ your name is Christian – you go to church, etc. – whereas Muslims are generally killed ‘for cause,’ for example working for the government or refusing to pay extortion taxes to Boko Haram.”

In terms of the number of faith communities attacked, 75 Christian communities were assaulted in the first six months of this year, compared with eight attacks on Muslim communities, the group reported. Christian communities were defined as churches, pastors, predominantly Christian enclaves and other explicitly Christian targets. Muslim communities were defined as imams or explicitly Muslim targets, though Jubilee noted Boko Haram itself insists that it does not target mosques.

“Prior to 2014, all so-called mosque attacks were assassination attempts on prominent Muslims who disagreed with Boko Haram,” Jubilee reported. “The attacks took place when the targeted Muslims were entering or leaving a mosque, but there were no attacks on the mosque or Muslims as such.”

This year, however, marked the first targeting of Muslims in a mosque, Jubilee reported.

“It should be noted that this attack was reported to be retaliation for their cooperation with the authorities and not necessarily for their faith,” Jubilee reported. “It is instructive that even in perceived random attacks on communities, there is still distinct religious cleansing going on in selection and separation of Christians for elimination.”


Borno attacks

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled launchers were among the weapons that suspected Boko Haram gunmen used in a July 14 attack on the predominantly Christian village of Dille in Borno state, Morning Star News reported. The gunmen set three churches ablaze, including one belonging to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and reportedly killed dozens of people.

Among the dead is Taiwo Dokun, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Morning Star News reported. The assailants burned down his house in the Askira-Uba Local Government Area in the northeastern state, but the bodies of Dokun’s wife and three children were not found, their whereabouts reportedly unknown.

In November 2013 the United States designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization. At a June 11 hearing before the Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey blamed Boko Haram as a major factor in the displacement of 3.3 million people in Nigeria.

Christians make up an estimated 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor, with reports from Morning Star News.)

8/1/2014 10:02:06 AM by Baptist Press/Morning Star News | with 0 comments



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