August 2016

ERLC event: gospel applies to race, politics, art

August 29 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Speakers at a Southern Baptist-sponsored conference on cultural engagement provided guidance Aug. 25 on how the gospel of Jesus addresses issues from race relations to politics to the arts.

Rocket Republic photo
Bryan Loritts, lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in California’s Silicon Valley, addresses “evangelical passivity” on race during the opening keynote speech of the ERLC’s National Conference Aug. 25.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) 2016 national conference attracted more than 900 attendees for the first of two days of considering how Christians can engage the culture while remaining faithful to the gospel. The conference continued Aug. 26 with a full schedule of plenary and breakout sessions.
In the opening session, ERLC President Russell Moore said he wants attendees to approach culture with confidence in the gospel’s proclamation, as well as with kindness and gentleness.
Fear among American Christians is “a very real problem,” and those fears sometimes “actually contradict the gospel itself,” Moore said.
Hip-hop artist and pastor Trip Lee told the audience engaging culture does not require “some grand scheme.”
“If you want to engage culture, be faithful in public,” he said. “When I say in public, I mean in our daily lives in front of other people.”
To engage culture, Christians don’t need “a massive understanding of culture,” Lee said. “You’ve just got to follow Jesus in public.”

Rocket Republic photo
D.A. Horton, a church planter in Los Angeles County, calls for the church to be a “snapshot of heaven” Aug. 25 at the ERLC’s National Conference.

“Hip-hop is not exactly known for its moral uprightness and robust theology,” he said. “As a rapper then, I get the opportunity to try to show off Jesus when it’s not expected. Any time you see faithfulness to Jesus, it feels unexpected and refreshing.”
Minority pastors Bryan Loritts and D.A. Horton urged evangelicals to embrace gospel-based racial reconciliation.
“[E]vangelical passivity when it comes to matters of race” is prevalent, and it exists among minority as well as white Christians, said Loritts, lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in California’s Silicon Valley.
“We’re different, and those differences are not to be ignored. Nor are they to be idolized,” he said in the opening keynote address.
Loritts called for three traits to initiate a “redemptive impatience” that is integral to multiethnic, cultural diversity:

  • Commitment to “a holistic, robust gospel;”
  • “[R]elational intentionality;”
  • Incarnational “discomfort.”

“If the gospel does not come to bear on your social relationships, you have not truly embraced the gospel,” Loritts said.
Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship in Los Angeles County, said of race relations in America, “I see tension. I see conflict. I’m not seeing resolution.”
While the church is positionally a “snapshot of heaven,” practical segregation is still being practiced, he told attendees. He called for more:

  • “[I]ntellectual equipping;
  • “[I]nterpersonal engagement;
  • “[I]nterdependent endurance.”

“[M]any of our conversations about multi-ethnic issues are not multi-ethnic themselves because we lack multi-ethnic leadership. ... It’s one thing to have a multi-ethnic church, it’s another thing to have multi-ethnic leadership,” Horton said.
He urged both white and black evangelicals not to abandon each other when conflict arises. “Conflict is nothing more than the litmus test of our relationships.”

Rocket Republic photo
ERLC President Russell Moore and Atlanta mega-church pastor Andy Stanley discuss their divergent views on preaching Aug. 25 at the ERLC’s National Conference.

Panelists discussing evangelical political engagement agreed the recent cultural upheaval and the disconcerting presidential election campaign is not without some positive effects.
“This election cycle has been a nearly unmitigated disaster,” said Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I say ‘nearly unmitigated’ because I think that it has taken something of this magnitude maybe to awaken many or most of us to the fact that we should not be beholden to any narrative, not the Fox News narrative or the MSNBC narrative or the Republican narrative or the Democratic narrative or any modern political ideology.
“As I see it, every modern political ideology has idols lurking underneath it,” he told attendees. “And I think this election has been unsettling enough that we might once again realize the gospel transcends and calls into question all of those things, and we might regain our witness and the clarity of our voice.”
In a conversation on preaching and engaging culture, Moore and mega-church pastor Andy Stanley demonstrated divergent approaches to sermons.
Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, said he thinks of a sermon series as a 3 1/2–hour sermon that he stretches across about six weeks. He may not even have a biblical text during the first Sunday or two of the series.
He does not lack confidence in biblical authority, but he takes this approach with non-Christians attending his church’s gathering “based on culture and some cultural assumptions,” Stanley said. To remove obstacles, he does not say, “The Bible says,” but refers to the authors and Jesus, attempting to “weave every single sermon” back to Christ and His resurrection, he said.
Stanley told Moore he has never preached a sermon on abortion, believing it is better to address the issue and those involved in a small group setting.
Moore responded by saying it is important that what we “are approaching people with is an encounter with the risen Christ who speaks through His Word.”
“In a worship experience, what you are doing is communicating to your people, I think, and to the people who are watching what is the basis for our authority as a congregation and as a church,” he told Stanley.
One of the reasons he preaches about abortion, Moore said, is to offer “mercy and reconciliation” to those who have participated in an abortion.
In a panel discussion on the gospel and the arts, Steven Bush – lead storyteller at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas – said artists in the church are encouraged to create art not only “for the church” but “from the church.”
He reminds the other artists and himself, “Our identity is not in the art we create but in King Jesus who gives us the ability to create that art.”
Jimmy Scroggins – lead pastor of the multi-generational, multi-ethnic Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla. – said as part of a panel on pastoral ministry he thinks about cultural engagement “every single day.”
“Honestly, I don’t see how you can possibly be pastoring in today’s environment without thinking about it every single time,” he said.
Related articles:
ERLC event to focus on gospel & culture
Moore, Stanley candidly discuss ministry disagreements

8/29/2016 11:52:22 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Disaster Relief volunteers witness power of community

August 29 2016 by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB

Jerry Ritter’s Tuesday began at 4 a.m., but he was still brimming with enthusiasm as the sun slipped low, closing another day of flood relief in Baton Rouge, La.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team member Jerry Ritter, a member of Blackgum First Baptist Church in Vian, Okla., hands two hot meals to flood survivor Pat Thomas, a member of Healing Place Church of Baton Rouge. The SBDR kitchen where Ritter is serving began preparing an average of 14,000 meals per day to aid survivors of flooding in south Louisiana in mid-August.

Ritter, a member of Blackgum First Baptist Church in Vian, Okla., arrived in Louisiana last week with other members of a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) kitchen crew. Though his body was tired, he considered the hard day’s work to be a blessing. He gazed across the parking lot of Istrouma Baptist Church, watching as each trained volunteer fulfilled a vital role in getting supper – hamburgers and baked beans – to those in need. He had another mission for the evening – accompanying the American Red Cross (ARC) on meal delivery.
The Oklahoma kitchen crew is one of four deployed to Louisiana following mid August’s torrential rains, which killed 13 people and left 20 parishes underwater. When the rain stopped, the numbers were staggering. Some areas received more than 31 inches of rain, flooding more than 60,000 homes and 76 Baptist churches. More than 115,000 people have applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Ritter and his fellow volunteers are currently preparing 14,000 meals a day in their mobile kitchen, and, because the need is so great, there is no immediate end in sight.
The SBDR response now includes volunteers from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. At three locations, multi-state teams are serving.
It can be overwhelming, Ritter said, but working in disaster relief has taught him to trust the process and – most of all – trust God. Ritter joined SBDR in 2000. He vividly recalls one of his early Disaster Relief (DR) trips to a Houston flood.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team member Jerry Wallace, a member of Cross Brand Cowboy Church in Waurika, Okla., carries a cambro food transport crate Aug. 23 in Baton Rouge, La., with Ed Patz, of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Wallace, along with other SBDR volunteers from Oklahoma, is volunteering in one of SBDR’s kitchens while responding to severe flooding that occurred in Louisiana earlier in August.

“Everything people owned was out there on the curbs, and I couldn’t see how we could get anything done,” he said. “I thought, ‘It’s so massive. What can I do?’ I learned there’s not much I can do but stand back and watch God get things done.”
Trip after trip, he finds his faith renewed. Once he finishes his kitchen duties, he tries to find time to go out into the community to meet people.
While Ritter waited for his ride with the ARC, Ken Braddock tackled a sea of red cambros – food transport crates. Braddock, a member of Meadowood Baptist Church in Midwest City, Okla., washed each crate thoroughly so it could be disinfected and filled again with the evening meal. Instead of focusing on the labor, he concentrates on the spiritual needs being met.
A few days ago, two women approached the kitchen. One pointed to the other.
“She needs a hug,” the woman told Braddock.
Braddock gave her the hug, then asked if they were hungry. The women left with four meals and another hug.
That spirit is what moved new SBDR volunteer Lesley Lowman to sign up Aug. 20. Lowman, who attends Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, felt fortunate the flood spared her home, but she wanted to help her neighbors. So she joined SBDR. At age 39, she is one of the younger volunteers, but that doesn’t faze her.
“You learn as you go,” Lowman said, stirring a vat of beans with a long paddle. “The need is so great, and it’s right in my backyard.”
Driving the streets of Baton Rouge, the need is apparent. Life is slowly getting back to normal in some places, but deep pain remains in a majority of neighborhoods. In these areas, SBDR volunteers are greeted with smiles, tears and heartfelt gratitude.
Baton Rouge resident Pat Thomas, a member of Healing Place Church, was among several people who came to the curb when the ARC truck arrived with Ritter aboard. The truck’s intercom chattered, fighting for attention against whining saws and staccato hammers. “This is the American Red Cross! We have hot food!”
When the waters began to rise, Thomas fled with her children to shelter in Prairiville, La. She did not know that they, too, would soon be surrounded by water.
Cell service was sporadic, but the little news she heard did not sound good. Her neighbors were rescued by boat. Almost everyone she knew had lost almost everything they owned.
She thought about her neatly manicured lawn and her cozy house. It had been a place of refuge and healing for her and her children. Now she wondered if there was a place of refuge left in Baton Rouge.
When she finally made it back to her house, she made a startling discovery – out of 80 homes in her neighborhood, seven had survived. Hers was one of them. The water had lapped the threshold but gone no farther.
Immediately, she turned her attention to her neighbors, taking in those who had been displaced. Most of her houseguests have now found other arrangements, but one remains. He is working by day and trying to repair his mother’s house at night.
Thomas took two meals from Ritter – one for her guest and one for his mother – and thanked him, then called out to a quiet woman shuffling toward the ARC truck. They typically have a neighborhood gathering each month, and the woman was to be this month’s host.
“This month isn’t good,” the woman said. “My house is … a mess.”
She was not one of the fortunate ones.
Thomas nodded.
“Why don’t we do it at my house, and you can come over?”
The woman looked tired. Dazed.
“Go on, honey, go get you some hot food now,” Thomas said, urging her toward Ritter’s waiting hands. “And make sure you get a salad. They’ve got cold salad.”
Thomas watched as the woman walked away. Some people are angry and some still cry every day, Thomas said, clutching the food containers to her chest. But she sees something else, too – community spirit.
“I believe everything is going to be okay,” she said. “There were workers out here praying before they started their day.”
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the ARC and The Salvation Army.
Watch a local Baton Rouge news station’s package on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work in the area:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carmen K. Sisson is a freelance writer reporting for the North American Mission Board.)
Related articles:
Baptist relief ramping up flood response in South Louisiana
Amid Louisiana flooding, social media conveys hope
SBDR deploying 4 kitchens to south Louisiana
Flood relief to extend ‘as far as the eye can see’
Volunteers continue to aid Louisiana flood survivors
Chaplains relay ‘glimpses of hope’ amid flood crisis

8/29/2016 11:38:41 AM by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB | with 0 comments

Sturgis bike rally remains fertile soil for evangelism

August 29 2016 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

Josh Mueller wasn’t exactly sure what he was getting into when he drove to the annual Sturgis bike rally.

Dakota Baptist Convention photo
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally visitors pass by Dakota Baptists’ bike giveaway venue where “catchers” invited them to register for a 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic by first listening to a three-minute testimony. The evangelism initiative yielded 242 professions of faith.

His brother Jeff is his pastor at Restore Church in their hometown of Yankton, S.D. Jeff had recruited Josh to volunteer at the Dakota Baptist Convention’s Sturgis Bike Giveaway evangelism initiative.
During their first shift at the evangelism venue, Josh was too nervous to share his faith with anyone, much less a stranger. Like many Christians, Josh was nervous about personal evangelism. Unlike many Christians, Josh develops a stutter when he’s nervous.
That night he observed and prayed for the team.
The next night Josh was a different person, Jeff said.
“It was definitely divine circumstances and by God’s grace that he was able to share his testimony and faith in Jesus,” Jeff said.
On that shift, Jeff was in front of the venue working as a “catcher,” interacting with Sturgis attendees and inviting them to register for the free Harley-Davidson motorcycle drawing at the end of the rally. First, they would need to listen to a three-minute testimony from someone like Josh, who was a “sharer.”
The brothers had a signal. If Josh was too nervous to speak to the prospects Jeff brought in, he would nod. As Jeff approached with the first two guests, there was no nod. Josh shared his story with two young men who had life stories similar to Josh, and they both made professions of faith in Christ.
“We were on cloud nine that whole night,” Jeff said. The rest of the week, Josh was a “witnessing machine.”

Dakota Baptist Convention photo
At the Dakota Baptist Convention’s 2016 bike giveaway, “sharers” meet with Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees as they presented their three-minute testimony.

Josh and other volunteers made 3,085 gospel presentations that yielded 242 decisions at the Sturgis rally. Visitors came not just from across America but also from England, New Zealand, Australia and Slovakia.
Not every decision to follow Christ was immediate. A couple from Arizona visited during a 7-10 p.m. shift, and the woman told a volunteer sharer from Georgia that she was a Wiccan. After leaving the event venue, the woman felt deeply troubled and decided to go back and find those “church people.”
It was after midnight, and the venue had closed. But someone directed the couple to a recreational vehicle behind the storefront venue in an alley where Buck Hill, director of missions for the Dakota Baptist Convention, and Bob Clardy, a volunteer from Whitefield Baptist Church in Belton, S.C., were staying.
“I need something, and I need it now,” the woman said through tears.
Hill shared God’s plan of salvation, and the woman prayed to receive Christ. Afterward, Hill congratulated her on her new spiritual birthday.
“Does that mean I’m worth something now?” the woman asked.
The next day when the couple revisited the venue, Clardy didn’t recognize the woman. Her countenance had changed from darkness to light.
“Only God can do what only God can do,” Hill said.
This year’s Sturgis attendance, estimated at 300,000 from Aug. 8-14, was down significantly from the rally’s 75th anniversary last year. Still, the spiritual conversations with visitors were deeper and more intense, Hill said of the interaction.
Garvon Golden, the Dakota convention’s executive director, said the success of the annual Sturgis Bike Giveaway has been their prayer emphasis. Each of the 128 volunteers received a guide called “Thirty Days of Prayer for Sturgis” to prepare spiritually to share their three-minute testimony.
The giveaway’s prize was a 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic, which maintains historic characteristics of original Harley-Davidson motorcycles, other than minor tweaks through the years.
The 2016 Sturgis Bike Giveaway – the 11th occasion for the evangelism outreach – entails a partnership between the Dakota Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board, Georgia Baptist Mission Board and donations from individuals and businesses. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., supports the event by bringing students for an evangelism practicum in a course led by administrative staff member David Sundean.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer and photojournalist living in Atlanta. For more information about the Dakota Baptist Convention’s annual ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, visit
Related articles:
Sturgis bike rally volunteers move into ‘devil’s playground’
Impacting lostness among bikers at Sturgis
Sturgis volunteers ready for more miracles of faith
At Sturgis, Alaskan grocer finds divine appointment

8/29/2016 11:31:17 AM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC board honors O.S. Hawkins, Barrett Duke

August 29 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) honored two fellow Southern Baptists Aug. 25 with their annual awards for religious freedom advocacy and Christian service.

Rocket Republic photo
Barrett Duke, center, accepts the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award from the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the entity’s board meeting Aug. 25. The award is conferred on a person displaying excellent service to God’s kingdom.

In its annual meeting in Nashville, the ERLC board unanimously approved GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins for the John Leland Religious Liberty Award, which goes yearly to a person exhibiting a deep commitment to religious freedom.
On Aug. 24, the trustees had unanimously approved ERLC Vice President Barrett Duke for the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award, which is conferred on a person displaying excellent service to God’s Kingdom. ERLC President Russell Moore presented the award to Duke during the Aug. 25 meeting.
The actions came during the Aug. 24-25 meeting at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in which the trustees approved a slight budget increase, elected new officers and received reports on the commission’s activities and communications growth in the last year. The board meeting concluded on the day the ERLC’s national conference began at the same site.
In recent years, Hawkins has led GuideStone in its legal challenge of the Obama administration’s abortion-contraception mandate, the rule implementing the 2010 health-care law that requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for drugs or devices with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions. The Supreme Court has instructed the administration and the plaintiffs to seek to reach a resolution that satisfies the conscientious objections of GuideStone and other religious nonprofit organizations to an unsatisfactory accommodation to the rule.

Rocket Republic photo
Ethics & Religious Liberty president Russell Moore, at podium, addresses the entity’s trustees at their meeting in Nashville Aug. 25. Among other business, the trustees honored two fellow Southern Baptists with their annual awards for religious freedom advocacy and Christian service.

Hawkins has shown “incredible courage,” Moore told trustees, “[O]ne of the easiest things [Hawkins] could have done as someone who is leading an annuity and health-care organization is to simply be quiet and go with the stream.”
GuideStone “invested immense institutional resources, time and energy in going forward through the court system, saying it cannot be that the government would impose a requirement that entities, organizations pay for abortion-causing drugs that violate their conscience,” Moore said.
Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research, received the distinguished service award for his 20 years of ministry with the entity.
He “has done many things, but one of the things that I’m grateful for is that he has always been a prophetic voice speaking up for the least of these that others are forgetting,” Moore said in presenting the award to Duke. Citing unborn children, immigrants, widows, orphans and prisoners, Moore said Duke “has consistently not only spoken up but lived out a commitment to the image of God in the least of these.”
In receiving the award, Duke said, “It’s been a blessing to be a part of what God is doing on the front lines of culture, and that’s where the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is.”
The Montana Southern Baptist Convention’s executive board is to vote Sept. 8 on its search team’s unanimous recommendation of Duke to be the next executive director of the convention.
In his written report to the trustees, Moore said the “surreal events in American culture and politics” have made the last year, in many ways, “unprecedented.”
“The cultural and political tumult we see right now may be unique to America, but it’s not unique to the church,” he wrote. “From the very beginning, the church has been forced to defend its right to exist in the public square.”
During the last year, the ERLC has issued “a call to soul freedom on the one hand, and a gospel invitation on the other,” Moore said. “These are challenging times. We’re facing questions we’ve never faced before, and the stakes are high. But we’re not fearful people or panicky people: we’re gospel people.”
In comments during the meeting, Ken Barbic, board chairman, thanked Moore and the rest of the staff for “showing a willingness to not shrink from gospel clarity even when it may be unpopular in our culture, it may be unpopular from many of those around us.”
In other actions during the meeting, the ERLC trustees unanimously approved:

  • A 2016-17 operating budget of $4.099 million, compared to a $4.080 million budget in 2015-16.
  • Barbic and secretary Barry Creamer to second terms in their offices. They also elected Trevor Atwood, pastor of City Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., as vice chairman. Barbic is a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for the produce industry, and Creamer is president of Criswell College in Dallas.
  • A response to a motion at the 2016 SBC meeting from Tennessee messenger Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, asking SBC entities to consider opening all meetings to news reporters. The trustees’ response explained the ERLC’s standing policy for news media is for plenary sessions of the board to be open and on the record and for committee meetings to be open on a background basis.

Moore announced he is expanding the role of Daniel Patterson to be not only chief of staff, a position he has held the last three years, but vice president for operations. As chief of staff, Patterson will continue to direct staff and day-to-day operations in the office of the president. In his new, vice presidential role, he will direct public relations, coordinate board operations, and drive strategy and execution for initiatives across departments.
The ERLC staff reported on the continuing growth in communications, including:

  • An expected doubling of page views of the ERLC’s websites to six million by the time the year ends Sept. 30.
  • An increase from about 80,000 followers to more than 120,000 combined for the Twitter accounts of the ERLC, Moore, and Canon and Culture, the entity’s Christian thought podcast and blog channel.
  • A 1,000 percent growth to more than 340,000 downloads of the ERLC’s four podcasts.

During the last year, the ERLC’s events and initiatives included:

  • The first Evangelicals for Life conference in January in Washington, D.C., cosponsored with Focus on the Family.
  • The publication with B&H Publishing of the first three books – addressing same-sex marriage, racial reconciliation and religious freedom – in The Gospel for Life series.
  • Four Capitol Conversations events in Washington, D.C., that addressed in order the sanctity of human life, refugees, abortion and the Supreme Court, and religious freedom.
  • Joining in eight friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court and two more with lower courts.
  • The placement of ultrasound machines with ministries in Knoxville, Tenn., and St. Louis through the Psalm 139 Project.

Four trustees were recognized upon completion of their service to the ERLC: Vice Chairman James Reamer of Nevada, Dennis Schmierer of California, at-large trustee Reed Johnston of Virginia and Lee Bright of South Carolina.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Related articles:
ERLC event to focus on gospel & culture
Moore, Stanley candidly discuss ministry disagreements

8/29/2016 11:22:06 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Malnourished children doubling amid Boko Haram

August 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The number of malnourished children in and around northeastern Nigeria will more than double by the end of 2016 under Boko Haram terrorism, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said in its latest report released Aug. 25.

UNICEF/Esiebo photo
Children line up to receive food at a camp for internally displaced persons in Borno on Aug. 12.

By year’s end, more than 475,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in the Lake Chad Basin comprising parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, up from 175,000 at the beginning of the year, UNICEF said. About 3.8 million people of all age groups are facing severe food shortages across the area.
“The Lake Chad crisis is a children’s crisis that should rank high on the global migration and displacement agenda. It is one of the world’s most neglected crises, and the children’s voices must be heard,” UNICEF said. “Given the magnitude of the crisis, there is an urgent need to scale up humanitarian assistance. New areas previously unreachable in northeast Nigeria are becoming accessible; the extent of the humanitarian needs is becoming more apparent and will likely grow.”
Boko Haram, a terrorism group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has killed an estimated 25,000 and displaced 2.6 million people since 2009 in a quest to establish strict Sharia law across Nigeria, with many of the fatalities and displacements occurring since 2013.

UNICEF/Esiebo photo
In this Aug. 10 photo, a widow whose husband was killed by Boko Haram feeds their 6-year-old daughter a bag of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) from UNICEF at a camp for internally displaced persons.

“Communities in the Lake Chad Basin are among the poorest in the world, and the conflict has exacerbated the situation,” UNICEF said. “The situation might be even worse: as some of the areas previously under the control of Boko Haram insurgents become accessible, it is becoming evident that many more children are in desperate need of food and therapeutic treatment.”
UNICEF estimates 2.2 million people, over half of them children, might be trapped in remote, inaccessible areas under the control of Boko Haram.
Among the 244,000 children affected in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state alone, an estimated 49,000 could die this year without treatment for their malnutrition, UNICEF said in its report titled “Children on the move, children left behind. Uprooted or trapped by Boko Haram.” In Borno, 60 percent of health facilities are partially or completely destroyed, and 75 percent of water and sanitation facilities need to be repaired, the report said.
Boko Haram has also murdered children by using them as suicide bombers, using 38 of them as bombers through June of this year, compared to 44 in all of 2015, and four the previous year, UNICEF said. Children are believed to have comprised 24 percent of suicide bombers over the three years.

UNICEF/Esiebo photo
Mariam Muhammed, 30, brings her daughter Fanne Saleh to receive treatment for severe acute malnutrition at a health center in a camp for internally displaced persons in Borno, Nigeria on Aug. 10. The 1-year-old child weighed 13.4 pounds.

UNICEF released its report in advance of the UN General Assembly High Level Plenary Meeting on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants, set for Sept. 19 among the UN’s 193 member states. President Barack Obama is scheduled to host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees the following day.
“As world leaders discuss the plight of refugees and migrants, they need to pay attention to this major displacement crisis and its profound impact on children,” the report said. “The international community needs to act urgently to scale up humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad Basin.”
Although the region typically deals with malnutrition amid epidemics, droughts and floods, residents are helping internally displaced persons, the report said, with eight of 10 of them sheltered in host communities instead of camps.
“The vast majority are hosted by relatives, friends or neighbors who, in many cases, have themselves faced multiple crises, such as droughts and floods,” the report said. “Maiduguri, a city in northeast Nigeria with a population of 1 million, has already received more than 700,000 displaced people. In Cameroon’s Far North region, more than 190,000 displaced people are living in host communities, while Niger’s Diffa region has welcomed one displaced person for every two of its residents since the start of the crisis.”
The complete report is downloadable at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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Nigeria ‘worst’ humanitarian crisis, activists say
Boko Haram fractured & weakened, analysis says
Chibok girls shown in Aug. 14 Boko Haram video
Censoring Islamic sermons new anti-jihad tactic

8/29/2016 11:03:24 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore, Stanley candidly discuss ministry disagreements

August 26 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

“Approach is everything,” said Andy Stanley, founder of Atlanta-area North Point Ministries, in a candid, on-stage conversation hosted by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The two influential leaders cordially disagreed on a range of ministry topics in an Aug. 25 session of the 2016 ERLC National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., called “Leadership, Preaching and Cultural Engagement: A Conversation with Russell Moore.”

ERLC photo
Andy Stanley, right, and Russell Moore dialogue during the Ethics & Religious Liberty National Conference Aug. 25 in Nashville, Tenn.

Moore asked Stanley about his practice of discouraging preachers from using the phrase, “The Bible says …” in their sermons. “It’s not what the Bible says that is the issue,” said Stanley, “it’s what else the Bible says.”
“In their minds,” he said, referring to Christianity’s skeptics, “when they can discredit parts, it discredits the whole.” When preaching from a particular passage, Stanley prefers to point to the authority of the specific author of that text, who serves as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“The foundation of our faith isn’t the Bible,” Stanley said. “The foundation of our faith is the resurrection.”
Moore challenged, “If we don’t appeal to the authority of the scripture, we appeal to the authority of ourselves.”
Stanley was emphatic that he does not question the inerrancy or authority of scripture. “This is just a different approach,” he added. “To have a discussion around the resurrection is a much easier discussion than trying to defend the whole Bible.”
Moore also questioned Stanley’s gradual approach to preaching. “I think of the sermon series as a three-and-a-half hour sermon,” he answered, describing how he stretches multiple elements of a sermon, like the introduction or application, into sermons of their own.
Stanley said, “If you show up at the introduction week, you might think, ‘Do they use the Bible?’ If you show up the last week, you might think, ‘Do they always have people stand up and pray to receive Christ?’”
He prefers the gradual approach because it makes non-Christians in the service feel more comfortable. “The wrong approach can cancel the content,” Stanley said.
He added, “When people who don’t believe in God … show up in a church environment and enjoy it, that is shocking.”
Moore took issue with the gradual approach, due to the potential absence of exegetical teaching in each individual sermon. He opts instead for a more distinctive message, citing numerous examples from the New Testament.
“I think it’s very important,” Moore said, “that what we’re approaching people with is an encounter with the risen Christ who speaks through His Word.”
Moore also asked Stanley how he decides which controversial topics to address or avoid from the pulpit. “There are questions you should never answer out loud,” Stanley answered. “Not because you don’t have an answer but because of who’s in the audience.”
He continued, “I’ve never preached a sermon on abortion, and I’ve never preached against abortion.”
Stanley said highly controversial topics are “better handled in a circle than a row,” pointing out his church’s reliance on small groups and one-on-one conversations.
“That’s a topic that I don’t blink on,” Stanley emphasized. “I’m so pro-life I used to picket in front of an abortion clinic … But when I have a room full of people that I don’t know, that’s a topic that I would rather move women or boyfriends into an environment where they can talk about it.”
Moore cited historically controversial topics that influential preachers publically addressed, such as the 18th century Hindu practice of burning widows on their deceased husbands funeral pyre (commonly called sati) and 19th century American chattel slavery. He asked Stanley if he would’ve spoken about those issues publically.
“I don’t know what I would do, to be honest,” Stanley replied.
Moore said so many people have directly or indirectly participated in an abortion that he feels it’s important to address not only the devastating guilt of the practice but the “liberating power” of the gospel to forgive and redeem those same people.
The conference is available to watch live online at

Related article:
ERLC event to focus on gospel & culture

8/26/2016 2:52:25 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Promises fulfilled as IMB, churches send 27 missionaries

August 26 2016 by Julie McGowan, IMB

With white knuckles, Laekan Carter gripped the pew. She listened with her 11-year-old ears as a college student shared how he witnessed God at work while he was on mission in Africa. “One day you will walk those dusty dirt roads,” Carter felt God promise her.

Photo by Roy M. Burroughs
Family, friends and other supporters of Chris and Katie Broome, members of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., gather around them to pray during the couple’s appointment as International Mission Board missionaries to European peoples. The Aug. 24 Sending Celebration service honored and challenged 27 new missionaries and the churches sending them on mission.

Years later, in fulfillment of that promise in her life, Carter is being sent by her church, Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., to train college students to share the gospel in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is one of 27 new missionaries appointed Aug. 24 by the International Mission Board (IMB) during a special Sending Celebration near Richmond, Va. The celebration featured testimonies from each of the appointees, a scriptural charge from David Platt and emphasis on the integral role local churches play in assessing and sending Southern Baptist missionaries.
From Crosspointe Baptist Church, in Vancouver, Wash. – more than 2,500 miles away from New Orleans – Stanton* and Rachel Bender* are fulfilling the call they felt from God to work where Jesus Christ’s name is unknown in Central Asia. When Rachel was 18, she attended a conference where God gave her a desire to share the gospel among the nations. For Stanton, that desire came on his 14th birthday while he was on a short-term trip to Thailand.
“God showed me that He created me with skills and interests which I should use for His glory among the peoples of the world,” Stanton said.
Nearly 3,100 miles across the country from Vancouver, God led Patrick and Erin Schwartz from Lowell, Mass., to follow Him on mission. The new missionaries, being sent from Mill City Church to take the gospel to European peoples, have been on a journey of obedience for years.  

Photo by Roy M. Burroughs
Preaching from Acts 13-14, IMB President David Platt offers 16 ways Southern Baptists can pray for missionaries. Platt preached the sermon during an Aug. 24 Sending Celebration highlighting the appointment of 27 new IMB missionaries.

“At 15 years old, I placed faith in Jesus Christ,” Erin said. “At 20 years old, I went on my first mission trip and saw the God of the nations at work. At 28 years old, my husband and I are moving overseas with our daughter to minister to European peoples.”
“As a freshmen in college the Lord opened my eyes to his heart for the nations and, in turn, opened my heart to the idea of someday going,” Patrick shared. “Ten years later as a husband, new father and homeowner, Jesus began to disrupt my plans of comfort with the thought of ‘if not now, then when?’”
Commit to pray
“Why are we celebrating sending missionaries tonight? Because we’re united by the gospel, enthralled in God’s worship, and we’re focused on mission,” IMB President David Platt said. “This is why we as an IMB, as an [Southern Baptist Convention] SBC, as a coalition of churches represented in this gathering tonight – it’s why we exist: because we believe we can do more together on mission than we can apart.”
Platt said the unifying factor of the people attending the Sending Celebration in person or via livestream was “not that we all come from the same background or traditions, the same ethnicity or socioeconomic status. We’re not even in the same location. Now, what unites us together, is that we’ve all come face to face with the saving power of God in the gospel.”

Photo by Roy M. Burroughs
New International Mission Board missionaries Katie and Chris Broome, right, share a moment of joy with Jerry Brown, name changed, who serves in Africa, during an Aug. 24 Sending Celebration. The Broomes, members of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., are being sent to share the gospel among European peoples.

Preaching from Acts 13-14, Platt offered 16 ways Southern Baptists can pray for the new missionaries as they obey God’s call to the nations:

  • Pray that they would be confident in God’s Word.
  • Pray that they would be filled with God’s Spirit.
  • Pray for their victory in spiritual warfare.
  • Pray for their success in gospel witness.
  • Pray for peace with other believers.
  • Pray for favor with unbelievers
  • Pray that the gospel will be clear through them.
  • Pray that God will open hearts around them.
  • Pray for their joy in the midst of suffering.
  • Pray for their kindness in the midst of slander.
  • Pray for supernatural power to accompany them.
  • Pray for Christ-like humility to characterize them.
  • Pray for their patience.
  • Pray for their perseverance.
  • Pray that God would use them to make disciples.
  • Pray that God would use them to multiply churches.

Platt reassured the new missionaries that they have the prayer support of not only their 27 sending churches, but also members from the tens of thousands of churches comprising the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We have 40,000 churches behind you saying, ‘We are with you,’ praying for you, giving to support you,” he said. These 27 – and all IMB missionaries – are supported by Southern Baptists’ generous gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®.
Scott Harris, missions minister at Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church and chairman of IMB’s board of trustees, echoed that support in the benediction to the celebration, which included a time of fellowship and refreshment for the new missionaries and their families and friends.
*Names changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations leader for IMB.)

8/26/2016 10:45:47 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

ERLC event to focus on gospel & culture

August 26 2016 by Baptist Press staff

More than 900 people gathered Aug. 25 for a Southern Baptist-sponsored conference designed to prepare followers of Christ to minister in a culture increasingly hostile to the gospel.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) convened “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel” – the entity’s third national conference – to help Christians apply the gospel of Jesus in their interaction with various facets of the culture, including the arts, politics, sports, race, sexuality, marriage, parenting and everyday life.
The conference is designed to equip all Christian disciples “to speak with kindness and prophetic boldness to the world around them,” ERLC president Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Engaging the culture without losing the gospel is a task given to the whole church, and that’s why I’m excited to meet with hundreds of other Christians as we seek to be faithful to our mission in this generation.
“My hope is that each attendee would leave this conference with a strengthened courage and a renewed hope in the kingdom of Christ,” said Moore, who will speak on the conference’s theme, which also is the title of his most recent book.
The conference arrives at a time when evangelical Christians and others who hold to biblically faithful views on such issues as marriage and human sexuality increasingly are finding themselves marginalized in American culture.
The two-day conference – which began Aug. 25 and ends today (Aug. 26) at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville – will feature among its speakers:

  • Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas Metroplex;
  • Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today and author;
  • Bryan Loritts, lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in California’s Silicon Valley;
  • Gabe Lyons, founder of Q Ideas;
  • Andy Stanley, founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta;
  • Jackie Hill-Perry, poet and artist with Humble Beast Records;
  • Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College;
  • Alissa Wilkinson, chief film critic at Christianity Today;
  • Trip Lee, pastor in Atlanta and hip-hop artist.

The speakers will address topics in plenary addresses, panel discussions and breakout sessions.
The ERLC and Alliance Defending Freedom will cosponsor a post-conference event on the morning of Aug. 27 – “The 2016 Presidential Race, Religious Liberty and the Future of the Church.”
The first ERLC National Conference, which was held in 2014, focused on applying the gospel to homosexuality and marriage, while the 2015 conference addressed the gospel and politics.
The conference is being live streamed at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/26/2016 7:01:51 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Insanity of God showing Aug. 30 across U.S.

August 26 2016 by Marty King, LifeWay Christian Resources

The Insanity of God, the true story of missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken and their work with the persecuted church, will be shown in 500 U.S. theaters Aug. 30 for a special one-night, feature event.
The presentation will include International Mission Board (IMB) president, author and speaker David Platt interviewing Nik Ripken, as well as a performance by music artist Todd Smith.
The film is based on the best-selling book, The Insanity of God (B&H Publishing Group), which tells the story of the Ripkens’ journey from rural Kentucky to the Horn of Africa, where their faith was tested to the limit by the death of their 16-year-old son. The film also documents the stories of persecuted Christians from across the world, collected by the Ripkens after their time in Africa. Over the past 18 years, the Ripkens have interviewed more than 600 persecuted Christians in more than 72 countries.
“I don’t think we are as aware of their stories as we should be,” Platt said. “With everything going on in the world, there may be no single issue more urgent to the church in 2016 than persecution. We need to be praying continually for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and learning more about how they are persecuted.”
“I encourage you to go to the theater and watch this film. It will change your perspective on what it means to follow Jesus, and your life will be changed as a result,” Platt noted.
The Insanity of God is released in association with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and LifeWay Films. Tickets for The Insanity of God can be purchased online by visiting or at participating theater box offices. Watch a trailer of the film at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

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8/26/2016 6:53:21 AM by Marty King, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Social justice training or institutionalized intolerance?

August 26 2016 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Oregon State University (OSU) will soon launch a mandated “social justice” training course for all freshmen. The five-part course will begin as a pilot program this fall, with a full rollout in January, according to university documents.
The idea is not novel – a growing number of universities require social justice courses or training for all students. Administrators claim the training is needed to encourage a collegial and welcoming environment on campus. But critics argue that instead of encouraging inclusivity, liberal social justice rhetoric often encourages intolerance.
Examples of “tolerance” training include Gonzaga University, which requires all students take one course with a social justice designation. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst requires two courses in diversity. And Wayne State University decided to drop its math requirement this summer and is considering requiring a three-credit diversity course, according to The College Fix.
OSU’s stated course goal is to give students “orientation to concepts of diversity, inclusion, and social justice,” helping them “contribute to an inclusive university community.” The five modules include a history of diversity and social justice in Oregon and at OSU, training in what “systemic and local inequities” exist, expectations around inclusivity at OSU, and information on how students can identify and report bias.
“We feel that every student has a role to play in creating and sustaining an equitable and inclusive university community – one that is defined by shared respect for diverse backgrounds, perspectives, ideas, and the ways that individuals live,” Angela Batista, OSU’s interim chief diversity officer, said in an email to The College Fix.
This growing trend is concerning “because a lot of the social justice narrative that is being taught on college campuses is extremely one-sided,” said Mary Clare Reim, a research associate in education policy at the Heritage Foundation. Reim argues social justice rhetoric often stifles political debate and intellectual curiosity: “I fear we would be losing a lot of the value in a college education.”
As evidence, Reim points to student groups protesting conservative speakers on several campuses during the last academic year.
“Students no longer need to defend their ideas, they just need to shut down the other ideas,” she said. “The only way to respond to someone you disagree with is to silence them.”
OSU’s new training is also entirely online, a much more “worrisome” system than classroom instruction, according to Robby Soave, associate editor at
“A student has no method of dissenting during an online training session on the necessity of complying with the university’s diversity dictates,” wrote Soave. “Indeed, students might reasonably fear that agreeing with the ideology of the trainers is a precondition of coming to campus.”
Soave also criticized OSU’s administration-led Bias Response Team, a committee that responds to reports of perceived harassment by students who fill out a Bias Incident Report Form.
“Students are no longer merely required to grapple with leftist ideas in the classroom – they increasingly must live, sweat and breathe ‘oppression studies.’… They are being trained – not taught, but trained – to think everything that offends them is a bias incident,” Soave noted.

8/26/2016 6:52:08 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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