August 2017

Iron Stream Media acquires WMU’s New Hope Publishers

August 30 2017 by Julie Walters, WMU

Iron Stream Media will acquire New Hope Publishers, Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) publishing arm, effective Sept. 1, in an effort to allow more readers to engage in relevant, contemporary issues with a missional focus.

“With each book published by New Hope, we pray the content will transform the lives of believers and inspire them on their spiritual journey,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director/treasurer of national WMU and publisher of New Hope. “Because of Iron Steam Media’s success in publishing and delivering solid, web-based Bible studies, we believe they are poised to position New Hope books and Bible studies for exponential impact for kingdom growth.”
John Herring, president and CEO of Iron Stream Media, noted his company initially began as a part of Student Life. The titles and studies associated with Student Life Bible Study were sold to NavPress. After a brief time with NavPress and the Navigators, Life Bible Study was born as an independent company and expanded to include content for adults and children in addition to students.
“Now known as Iron Stream Media, we produce curriculum, discipleship materials, educational content and other tools for ministries and missions,” Herring said. “Much of our content is well-known by missionaries who use our studies at no cost in regions around the world. For our friends in the United States, we deliver incredibly beautiful Bible Study lessons designed to be taught in a variety of ways, keeping God’s Word central in all we do. And, we do it very economically for our church partners.
“The Iron Stream team has a great fondness for New Hope Publishers,” Herring said. “We share a common love for the Bible. We also share a common love for all things ‘mission.’ The acquisition of New Hope by Iron Stream is a natural merging of ministry minds – a combination that will enable us to grow faster together than we can separately.”
Both New Hope Publishers and Iron Stream media plan for a seamless transition. Iron Stream Media will welcome four New Hope Publishers staff members to their team and will continue to work at WMU’s building in Birmingham, Ala., where Iron Stream leases office space and operates its business.
Wisdom-Martin said, “The name [New Hope Publishers] will remain the same.”
“The mission will remain the same,” she said. “The employees our authors talk to will remain the same. I have complete confidence that only God could have orchestrated such details, and we are excited to see where He leads.”

About New Hope Publishers

WMU, auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, began New Hope in 1985 as the book publishing imprint of WMU. In 1997, WMU launched New Hope Publishers as a separate publishing division to take WMU’s evangelistic vision to a broader audience.
Their books, fiction and nonfiction, received immediate acclaim and have won several awards. In 2009 and 2015, New Hope was chosen as publisher of the year by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.
Representing more than 70 authors – that include Henry Blackaby, Frank S. Page, Jeff Iorg, David Crosby, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Rick Morton – and more than 200 individual works, New Hope Publishers continues to provide books that challenge readers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God. New Hope Publishers is a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the Protestant Church-owned Publishers Association.
Iron Stream Media, which derives its name from Proverbs 27:17, provides a variety of solutions for churches, missionaries and nonprofits ranging from in-depth Bible study curriculum and Christian book publishing to custom publishing and consultative services. Through its Life Bible Study and Student Life Bible Study brands, they provide web-based full-year and short-term Bible study teaching plans as well as printed devotionals, Bibles and discipleship curriculum.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Walters is WMU’s corporate communications team leader.)

8/30/2017 8:27:05 AM by Julie Walters, WMU | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists wait for calls to respond to Texas

August 29 2017 by BR staff

While North Carolina Baptists await a possible response to Texas’ Hurricane Harvey catastrophe, leaders were watching a potential tropical storm as it skirts the N.C. coast.
“Images of catastrophic flooding in Texas and now a potential threat in Louisiana motivate us to pray for those affected and to seek ways to help,” said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief director with Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), in an email to the Biblical Recorder and other leaders.
Moss said N.C. Baptists are standing by to assist Texas in its disaster response.

“We have been in touch with state and national relief organizations and are prepared to respond as needed,” he said.
Preparations began last Thursday (Aug. 24) as NCBM began “preparing three of its mobile kitchens and leadership for the possibility of response,” Moss said.
Disaster relief volunteers have also been alerted to the possibility of response. Generally when disasters strike, states that are closer go in first when it is safe to do so. The problem with Hurricane Harvey is that the system has stalled and rains continue. Flooding issues are causing major concerns. Many rescues are taking place, and in many areas, it is not safe to respond yet.
Tropical storm watches and warnings were issued for the N.C. coast by forecasters on Monday (Aug. 29). If it became a storm, it would have been named Irma. But the system is not expected to form a tropical storm, although wind gusts are up to as high as 40 miles per hour in some places and rain is expected to continue, especially in the Outer Banks. Moss said he will monitor the situation, along with other state disaster relief leaders.
Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions partnership for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, posted some pastoral lessons Aug. 28 on his Facebook page.
On Aug. 28, he wrote, “Even while the water is rising 1) if your church facility is flooded, secure a place for corporate worship during the months ahead – your people will need it; 2) contact pastor friends now and form church to church partnerships for relief and recovery; 3) secure a staging area for volunteers coming from outside the city – you will need space for lodging, eating, bathing, etc.; and 4) be prayerfully dependent on the Father and His people!”
Register is the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss., where he was serving when Hurricane Katrina hit 12 years ago today (Aug. 29). Register witnessed firsthand the ministry of N.C. Baptists as thousands of volunteers poured into his state and set up a partnership in his area. NCBM built and repaired hundreds of homes in the area.
Register also advised church leaders to work on town partners to bring in essentials – water, ice, baby formula/diapers, MREs (meals ready to eat), gasoline – to the church community.
“Concentrate only on the basics,” he said. “Do not count on the government or relief organizations to provide for your people; this is too big a disaster. The system is overloaded. You are the Under Shepherd, be proactive in loving on your community by securing/providing these life-saving essentials.”
Anyone who would like to participate or give can do so at

8/29/2017 9:44:31 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Harvey response begins amid widespread flooding

August 29 2017 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

As of Monday morning, news outlets reported that Hurricane Harvey had already dropped 11 trillion gallons of rain over south Texas. More than 300,000 customers were without power. Officials have declared 62 counties disaster areas as the initial destruction caused by 132 mph wind gusts has been showered with unprecedented levels of rainfall.

Facebook photo
A Texas Baptist Men mobile kitchen team moved with Texas task force operations from city to city, serving breakfast as they conducted rescue operations. This photo shows the team serving breakfast at 5:30 in the morning just before they packed up and traveled to Rosenburg at 8:55.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) expected some of the hardest-hit regions to be accessible only to search and rescue teams.
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (SBTC DR) teams reported they were still in a holding pattern as flooding closed numerous roads. Many of the rivers had not yet crested to their expected flood levels. As that happens, the number of road closings is expected to go up, making it even more difficult to send recovery units.
Daniel White of the SBTC DR team said, “I have been hearing reports from different people that this may be worse than [Hurricane] Katrina. It may be the largest national disaster in U.S. history. I have never seen anything like this in my time in disaster relief.”
SBTC DR Units are “ready to roll” into Rockport and Corpus Christi, White said. They have dispatched laundry units to Latham Springs Baptist Camp and Retreat Center in Aquila where nearly 500 special needs evacuees have been settled.
Mass care feeding, administration and water treatment units were preparing to set up in Houston along with several SBTC DR chaplains. Once the floodwater starts to recede, SBTC DR will be ready with cleanup and recovery as well as flood response teams.
Texas Baptist Men (TBM) has faced similar challenges getting teams into heavily flooded areas.
In Robstown on the outskirts of Corpus Christi, teams set up a shower and laundry unit as well as a rapid response kitchen. One kitchen unit has been embedded with the search and rescue responders, going from city to city and feeding first responders as they conducted rescue operations.
Also along the coast, TBM teams were able to set up a feeding unit near Victoria, 30 miles outside of the Port Lavaca area. In both Uvalde and Texas City, the county judge asked for teams to help with the evacuees and victims located there.
TBM has set up shower stations as far inland as San Antonio. Stations were also set up in LaGrange, west of Houston, in order to assist evacuees there.
As TBM prepares to move into Houston, they have been tasked with providing meals for those sheltered in Houston’s George Brown Convention Center. They expect to provide at least 20,000 meals a day. Very soon, they will be moving into Katy and The Woodlands, suburbs of Houston, as the water has started to recede.
Terry Henderson, disaster relief director for TBM, echoed White’s sentiments regarding the significance of the storm.
“I would compare this to Katrina or bigger,” Henderson said. “Our response is running smoother thanks to new technology, but this storm will probably affect a larger area than Katrina did.”
Leading up to the storm, Southern Baptists collaborated with the American Red Cross (ARC) to determine the best strategy for sending aid. The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Relief team will continue to work with ARC as Southern Baptists prepare to send volunteer teams.

A call for volunteers and prayer

There are several ways Southern Baptists can and will help out in the coming days, weeks and months.
In addition to traditional SBDR roles, NAMB’s Send Relief will be mobilizing up to 4,000 volunteers to serve in storm shelters, feeding kitchens, childcare units and in other capacities. Experience in disaster relief is not required but background checks are necessary for those willing to serve in childcare.
Send Relief is currently waiting for specific instructions from government officials as to when it will be safe to enter affected areas, but volunteers and churches can email to be added to the “mobilization ready” list.
SBDR and Send Relief will be providing long-term aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Cleanup response teams will be mudding out houses and chainsaw crews will be clearing fallen limbs. Beyond that, Southern Baptists anticipate being involved in rebuild efforts to assist homeowners.
“There are some events that mark a time in history for generations to come,” said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. “I believe Hurricane Harvey is one of those events and Southern Baptists will be known by the way we respond.”
Donate online to SBDR or Send Relief by giving here. You can also text SENDRELIEF to 41444 to aid the residents of the Texas coast.
Pray for the survivors of Hurricane Harvey as well as for those who are working diligently to respond in the wake of this tragic storm. Pray for the first responders, aid workers and the volunteers who will be working tirelessly to restore the communities affected by the storm.
Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee president and CEO, said in a statement over the weekend, “Our prayers go out to the people of Texas in the massive flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Our Baptist disaster relief units will be the first on the scene to minister in a variety of ways. I call on Southern Baptists to pray and be ready to assist through giving and going. God bless Texas.”
Steve Gaines, SBC president, also issued a statement: “Our prayers are ascending to the Lord on behalf of all who are suffering and endangered by the hurricane and its effects  in and around the Houston area. Our Southern Baptist volunteers are prepared to help those who are in need. We will pray and we will serve in every way possible in the days to come.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

8/29/2017 9:43:09 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

ERLC conference urges parents to be models for children

August 29 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christian parents must seek to be what they want their children to become, a sellout audience was told during the final two days of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) 2017 national conference.

ERLC photo by Kelly Hunter
Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, answers questions from ERLC President Russell Moore during the Aug. 25 evening session of the ERLC’s 2017 national conference.

A diverse collection of speakers – including a United States senator, a filmmaker, storytellers, songwriters, as well as pastors and authors – addressed about 1,300 attendees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. The three-day event – titled “Parenting: Christ-centered Parenting in a Complex World” – concluded Aug. 26.
Longtime pastor and author Crawford Loritts told the crowd Aug. 25 whatever he wants his children to be they have to see in him. “They have to see me moving aggressively toward” that goal, he said.
“[A]t the end of the day, the thing that’s going to shape your future, shape your family, help your child to make it home before dark spiritually are [callouses] on your knees with an open Bible and a walk before God,” said Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga. “That must never be forsaken. That has got to be the centerpiece of what we’re really, really all about.”
Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin said in an address on rearing an “alien child” – a phrase based on I Peter 2:11 – the bottom line is: “The only reliable way to raise an alien child is to be an alien parent.
“Just think about this, before your child ever learns to read a Bible, they will read you,” she said.
The “alien parent” is not concerned with what other parents think; they are concerned with what God thinks, Wilkin said. “Alien parents trade the fear of man for the life-giving fear” of God.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said parents are going to feel guilty about the lack of time with their children in an age when work is normally separated from home.
“[Y]ou’re always going to feel guilty, because we’re going to fail as parents,” he told attendees Aug. 26. “So one thing to do is to flee to Christ. ... They’re ultimately His kids, and we’re trying to steward them.”
In an in-person interview with ERLC President Russell Moore, Sasse addressed themes in his new book The Vanishing American Adult.
Sasse described the concept of adolescence – the “greenhouse phase” from about 18 months to four years after reaching puberty – as “basically a pretty good thing.” He said, however, “Perpetual adolescence is a disastrous thing where you never end that middle state.
“Adolescence is a means to an end. It’s not a destination,” Sasse told Moore and the audience.
Sasse said the practice by churches of “generational segregation” in corporate worship is problematic.
“The reality is that we should recognize that we live across generations and ultimately we’re going to be in a dependent state again unless the Lord returns prior,” he said. “We live in a world where we are going to decline, and we should love our neighbor, and we should start doing that now.”
The Aug. 25 evening session focused on artists Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible and other books; singer/songwriter/author Andrew Peterson; and Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales and “What’s in the Bible?”
Lloyd-Jones told Moore in an in-person interview she wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible because she wanted children to know God loves them.
“We’re part of an incredible, real-life fairy tale,” she said. “[S]tory-telling is often the most effective way to ambush us.
“Really, the most beautiful characters in the Bible are the ones who turn and repent. And we love them because we see ourselves in them.”
Lloyd-Jones encouraged the audience to tell children the truth even about scary things.
“Tell it in an age-appropriate way, but don’t shy away from it,” she said. “Unless you tell them the truth, it’s more terrifying to them.
“Our job is not so much to protect children as to equip them.”
Peterson told his story of being captivated by fantasy novels as a boy until an experience when he was 19 transformed him and he became “wide awake to God’s presence.”
“What I was looking for all along had found me,” he said. “This beautiful, broken world that had been hidden in plain sight my whole life suddenly ambushed me.”
“I believe the Lord used those books to pique my desire for another world, to exercise the muscle of my imagination ... and even to comfort a little kid,” Peterson told attendees.
“I think the trick to captivating your child’s imagination with the beauty of the gospel is to show them that the gospel matters at all, and it matters in every corner of the universe,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t exercise discernment. It does mean that Christ is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
After he spoke, Peterson sang a song he had finished writing only a couple of days before on the pre-eminence of Christ based on Col. 1.
After the end of Veggie Tales, Vischer said he looked back and wondered, “Am I persuading kids to behave Christianly without giving them Christianity? I realized to help kids I needed to go deeper.”
The DVD series “What’s in the Bible?” came as a result. He encouraged parents at the conference and watching by live stream to tell kids the whole story about the Bible so they can build a “spiritual foundation for a moral imagination.”
“The world today is trying to decorate a tree with morals without a tree,” Vischer said. “The world is hanging morals in the air and hoping they’ll just stay there somehow. We still have the tree to hang morality on.
“The world desperately needs us to keep telling our story, the story of God who made you special and loves you very much, who has a plan, a plan of salvation, a plan of redemption, who’s calling us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. We can change the world because we are the ones with the story.”
Dennis Rainey, longtime president of FamilyLife, offered from his own experience four gospel lessons for parents:

  • “Model and pass on the truth about God and your experience of God.
  • “[Pass on] the good news about how Jesus came to rescue us from the wrath of God from hell.
  • “Model and teach your children to love God and to love others.
  • “[Transmit] a vision for their mission.”

“Your home is an embassy of the King of kings and Lord of lords,” Rainey said. “The world we’re operating in is not our home. The embassy you’re from represents the place that is home. And so you’re raising emissaries; you’re raising dignitaries; you’re raising children who are to be ambassadors to their generation.”
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told attendees “a strong marriage empowers us to be strong parents.”
“When you love your mate well, you are loving your children well,” he said. “And your children first see love and understand what it is by watching the way you love one another.”
Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC’s executive vice president, said in remarks based on Eph. 6:10-13 parents must give their children “a purpose to pursue,” “an identity to embrace” and “a battle to fight.”
“One of the best ways we can lead our children in the battle is by modeling what it means to fight the good fight of faith in our home,” he said. “We’re not just seeking to tell our kids they need to engage in spiritual warfare. We’re saying, ‘Watch me, because I’m going to show you what it looks like.’”
On Aug. 25-26, the conference included panel discussions during the plenary sessions, as well as breakout sessions on a variety of topics Aug. 25.
One of those breakout sessions – on sexual orientation and gender identity – was greeted by a group of about 50 demonstrators from the pro-lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender organization Faith in America, which is seeking to persuade churches to change their viewpoint about the biblical teaching on the issues. The group gathered outside the room where the session was held and sang “Amazing Grace” as part of its peaceful demonstration.
The ERLC’s 2018 national conference is scheduled Oct. 11-13 in Dallas. With the theme of “The Cross-shaped Family,” the event will feature such speakers as Bible teacher Beth Moore, Nashville pastor Ray Ortlund, as well as Moore and Wilkin.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related articles:
Gospel vital to parenting, speakers at ERLC conference say
Parenting about cross bearing, Moore tells ERLC crowd

8/29/2017 9:42:47 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump issues transgender military directive

August 29 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Armed Forces to “return to the longstanding policy” of precluding transgender individuals from military service.
In an Aug. 25 memorandum to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees the Coast Guard, Trump directed the military to bar transgender individuals from entering the service. By March 23, 2018, the Armed Forces also must “halt all use” of government funds to pay for gender reassignment surgery for military personnel, Trump stated, “except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.”
Additionally, Trump ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit by Feb. 21 a plan “to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.” That plan will be implemented by March 23.
Estimates of the total number of transgender troops in the U.S. military range from just over 1,000 to more than 10,000. In all, there are more than 2 million reserve and active duty troops.
Trump’s directives were anticipated Aug. 23 in a Wall Street Journal report and were the subject of a Baptist Press report, in which Southern Baptists with military and Defense Department experience underscored the biblical concept of gender and urged prayer for leaders of the Armed Forces.
In his memo, Trump criticized the Obama administration for its 2016 decision to lift a previous ban on transgender service members.
“In my judgment,” Trump wrote, “the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects.”
A ban on transgender troops will remain in place, Trump stated, “until such time as sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have” negative effects on the military.
The president left open the possibility of permitting transgender military service in the future if the Secretary of Defense “provides a recommendation ... that I find convincing.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Related articles:
New transgender military guidelines called ‘wise’
Trump reverses Obama transgender military policy
Army’s promotion of transgender ideology ‘misguided’

8/29/2017 9:42:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Late pastor’s widow found murdered in Kentucky church

August 29 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The funeral service for a 70-year-old widow reportedly murdered in the fellowship hall of Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky., was held at 11 a.m. Aug. 28 at the church founded by her late husband.

Facebook photo
Murder victim Carolyn New with her late husband and Denham Street Baptist Church founding pastor J.S. New.

Carolyn Elliott New, identified in news reports as Ruthie Carolyn New, had been discovered dead in the church fellowship hall four days earlier, 30 minutes after family members reported her missing.
Current Pastor Jeffrey Griffith, who discovered the body, officiated the funeral.
The church of about 250 worshippers is handling the tragedy “hourly,” he told Baptist Press (BP) after leaving the gravesite.
“It’s just been a real rollercoaster for many of them,” he said. “It’s just been an up and down ordeal.”
Griffith described New as a beloved member of the church her late husband, J.S. New, founded in January 1973 as a mission of Slate Street Baptist Church. She remained active at her husband’s pastorate after his death in 2012.
“The funeral today, and our Sunday service, it seemed to help us make meaningful steps in the right direction,” Griffith told BP. “We’re just praying, and other churches across the country are praying for us, and we’re making it.”
Pulaski County Coroner Clyde Strunk said an Aug. 25th autopsy confirmed New’s death was a homicide, WTVQ-TV reported.
“We knew that this was something that was an act of violence, that was aggressively done and that put everything into a different mode,” Strunk told WTVQ. “When we see these kinds of hideous crimes, it makes us back up and realize that we’re living in troubled times.”
Strunk did not disclose the cause of death. New’s car was also missing, according to reports.
New was a charter member of the church and “took pride in serving her Lord as she continued her support of the church and the new pastor,” according to her obituary. The church custodian, she often cleaned the church on Thursdays and was perhaps doing so when the murder occurred, WKYT reported.
Mike Correll, Somerset Police Department public information officer, described the congregation as “a tightly knit church” in a “tightly knit community. You just want to pray for them, pray for the family and pray for this entire community that’s been affected by this,” he told WKYT. “It’s a sad situation.”
No arrests had been made in the murder, but officers were following leads.
New was preceded in death by her first husband, Bob Padgett, and is survived by two children, a step-son, four siblings and several relatives. She was buried in Southern Oaks Cemetery in Somerset.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/29/2017 9:41:44 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: With evangelism, small things matter

August 29 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Small churches can make a difference by sticking to the basics, according to a study released Aug. 28.
The study – conducted in partnership by the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College, LifeWay Research and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary – identifies at least 13 effective ways small churches can attract and retain more new converts, including many practices churches have used for years. graphic

The research, additionally sponsored by 11 denominations, and undertaken by LifeWay Research, shows that among the 13 are: holding classes for new attenders, committing a healthy portion of the church budget to evangelism and missions, serving outside the church to share the gospel with unchurched people and having the pastor set up specific hours to share the gospel.
LifeWay Research tested 29 factors that could potentially affect the number of people who decide to follow Christ and stay committed to small churches. Thirteen of those factors predicted which churches retained more converts.
Doing all 13 well can create an environment that helps newcomers connect with the church, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “There’s no single approach or strategy that leads to more converts in small churches,” he said. “Instead, it appears that doing a lot of small things really adds up.”

A little more intentionality matters

The phone survey of 1,500 pastors of small churches – evangelical and Black Protestant congregations of 250 or fewer – asked how many converts each church had in the last 12 months and whether those converts stayed with the church after they came to faith.
Researchers then compared the 20 percent of churches with the most retained converts (11.7 or more per 100 attendees) to the 50 percent with the fewest retained converts (5.56 or fewer per 100 attendees).
Here are some of their findings. Among pastors of churches with the most retained converts:

  • 93 percent say their church engages in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched.
  • 92 percent consistently hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians.
  • 68 percent offer classes for new attenders at least every six months.
  • 66 percent ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
  • 57 percent block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
  • 51 percent attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
  • 26 percent have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30 percent or more) given to evangelism and missions. 

Pastors of churches with 5.6 or fewer converts are less likely to follow these strategies so frequently:

  • 83 percent say their church engages in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched.
  • 77 percent consistently hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians.
  • 47 percent offer classes for new attenders at least every six months.
  • 37 percent ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
  • 31 percent block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
  • 32 percent attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
  • 16 percent have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30 percent or more) given to evangelism and missions.

The number one predictive factor, according to researchers: Churches with more converts tended to attract and keep more unchurched people. Pastors of churches with the most retained converts were more likely (35 percent) to say half of their congregation used to be unchurched. That dropped to 18 percent for churches with the fewest retained converts. graphic

Small churches may be able to reach more people simply by doing what they are already doing – with a little more consistency, McConnell said.
Asking more non-Christians to come to church, sharing the gospel with them, following up with them and inviting them to follow Jesus can all lead to more converts.
Jeff Farmer, associate professor of church, ministry and evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and lead researcher on the project, said inviting more unchurched people to attend services is key. “We need to be focusing on lost people – those who have no previous church background – and there are plenty of them,” he said.
And a pastor can lead the way, Farmer said.
“No one in the church is going to share the gospel more than the pastor. Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact,” he said.
Rick Richardson of the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College agrees, saying that the churches with the most converts in the study seemed to do a better job at attracting and keeping new people.
“Those churches go the extra mile when it comes to inviting people and extending hospitality,” he said.
Overall, Richardson was encouraged by the study, which showed that most small churches are active in evangelism. They’re doing the right things, Richardson said. They just need to become more consistent in evangelism and outreach.
“A few small things can make a big difference,” he said.


The study was sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The phone survey of pastors of churches in evangelical and black Protestant denominations was conducted March 16 to March 31, 2017. The calling list was a random sample, stratified by church membership and denominational groups, drawn from a list of all evangelical and black Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. The completed sample is 1,500 surveys. Responses were weighted by region and denominational group to more accurately reflect the population. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.7 percent (This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting). Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
The research was sponsored by the Billy Graham Center, the Caskey Center, the Assemblies of God, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, Converge Worldwide, the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Foursquare Church, The Missionary Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, Vineyard USA, and The Wesleyan Church.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

8/29/2017 8:03:56 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Appalachia: Preachers ‘doing what Jesus would do’

August 28 2017 by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today

Some people come to Appalachia to test their mettle in mountain climbing or bear hunting. Lifelong friends C.B. Scott and Tim Searcy came for a different kind of challenge.

Kentucky Today, Roger Alford
C.B. Scott, left, and Tim Searcy haven’t let gray hair hinder them from ministry in the impoverished Appalachian region.

The Southern Baptist preachers arrived in the mountain region to offer help and hope in communities where a collapsed coal economy has spawned widespread unemployment, poverty and rampant substance abuse.
Now in their 60s, both men have spent their lives in ministry and academic roles across the South and beyond. They brought to the Kentucky mountains an enthusiasm that has others taking note, and their congregations are swelling with new believers as a result.
“They’re doing what Jesus would do, taking the good news to people who really need it,” said Paul Badgett, a regional consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “They’re setting a great example for all of us.”
Look any direction from Allen Baptist Church in Prestonsburg, where Searcy serves as pastor, or McDowell (Ky.) First Baptist Church, where Scott serves, and you see lush, green mountains rising skyward. But beyond the area’s beauty, a deeper look reveals great pain.
People have been laid off from the mines and have no prospects for jobs to provide for their families. Friends and relatives have been forced to move to distant cities for work. Drug abuse and alcoholism are rampant. Funerals for addicts who have overdoses on powerful painkillers have become all too common.
Lunch time in the local schools speaks to the widespread poverty. Nearly 90 percent of the students have family incomes so low that they qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.
“The greatest challenge is the sense of hopelessness that I find in many people due to the lack of jobs and the absence of any promise of jobs in the future,” Scott said.
The folks at Allen Baptist Church have a comprehensive ministry strategy that includes a substance abuse recovery program for people struggling with addiction and an anti-hunger initiative that provides backpacks filled with food for children. At McDowell, one of the ministries involves teenagers growing vegetables on church property to provide fresh produce to a food ministry that caters to the poor.
“If you’re not fulfilling the command to love your neighbors as yourself, it’s going to hinder your ability to preach the gospel,” Searcy said. “What’s that old saying? People don’t care what you preach until they know you care.”
Searcy and Scott said they arrived in Appalachia to find a dedicated group of pastors and Christians who, though outnumbered, have been faithfully working to offer the hope of Christ to hurting people. The newcomers heaped praise on those pastors and on their church members for working feverishly to meet needs and share the gospel.
“The people of the mountains are a caring and loving people,” Searcy said. “They’re very honest, straight-forward people who, as they would put it, don’t put on airs. They’re honest to a fault, even those who are not in church and not even saved. The old saying they’d give you the shirt off their back is true.”
“There’s a misconception that people in the Appalachian Mountains are stupid and dragging shotguns behind them,” Scott added. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met are in these mountains. Our churches are filled with them, and they’re working hard to share Jesus, who is the only hope.”
Serving churches about a half-hour drive from each other, Scott and Searcy have preached around the world. They’ve worked on Baptist campuses where future pastors and missionaries are being trained. They’ve served in numerous leadership roles within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Now, with a combined 80 years of experience between them, they, like Caleb in the Old Testament, have set their sights on the hill country, where statistics show the vast majority of people don’t go to church.
Residents have welcomed Searcy and Scott, both of whom started their ministries in the Kentucky mountains as students at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College. They’ve logged lots of miles in the years since.
Scott’s experience includes leading churches in Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia and serving on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga.
Searcy has led churches in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia and served as a missionary in the South American country of Columbia. He also has been on staff at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisiana College, International Baptist Theological Seminary in Cali, Columbia and Clear Creek Baptist Bible College.
Church members typically refer to them as “Brother Tim” or “Brother C.B.” Others call them “Pastor” or “Preacher.” Few refer to them as “Dr. Scott” or “Dr. Searcy,” though they hold doctoral degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“They don’t care if I have preached all over the earth or how much Greek or Hebrew I know,” Scott said. “They don’t care who I know in SBC life or who I can quote from personal conversations or the books I have read. They want me to preach ‘thus saith the Lord’ and be able to back it up with scripture.”
Since Searcy arrived at Allen three years ago, he has baptized more than 80 people. Scott came just over a year ago and has baptized 35 so far.
Neither want anyone to think it odd that they’re spending the twilight of their careers in small-town Kentucky. Both say they’re exactly where God wants them.
“I have done and been about everything a Southern Baptist preacher can do and be in a lifetime,” Scott said. “I want to finish well for Jesus. If He wants me to finish here in the Appalachian Mountains as pastor, I will gladly do that, as long as He gives me strength. I must not let my life be about me. It must be about Jesus.”
“I have followed the Lord’s call to a lot more difficult places than this,” Searcy said. “I love the people of the mountains. They are real in a fake world. I’m home.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today,, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

8/28/2017 10:44:01 AM by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Gospel vital to parenting, speakers at ERLC conference say

August 28 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christian parents need the gospel and grace-powered effort to rear children faithfully, a capacity crowd heard on the first day of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) 2017 national conference.

Contributed photo
Parents are powerless without the gospel, said J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

About 1,300 people gathered Aug. 24 for “Parenting: Christ-centered Parenting in a Complex World” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. The three-day event concluded Aug. 26.
Parents are powerless without the gospel, said J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
“The Bible teaches us our kids have more than an information problem,” Greear said in an address based on Psalm 127. “They’ve got a heart problem. They are spiritually dead. Their loves are disordered.... Only the power of God can change that.”
After sharing an illustration contrasting a helium-filled balloon with one that is not, Greear said, “The gospel is the helium that transforms the heart.”
The wise parent is not seeking just obedience but “a heart that obeys God because it craves God,” he told the audience. “There is no technique that can guarantee the right heart to be developed in our children. That is something that only the new birth can do.”
He said, “It is faith, not technique, that is the most important element in parenting.
God “does not give you success as a parent because you did everything right, but it’s because you hoped in His grace,” Greear said. “The well of His grace never runs dry, never.”
Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., told the crowd, “A grace-driven, gospel-fueled effort is essential in the war on pornography.”
While filters and warnings “are wise, they are not enough,” he said, adding that Christians need a different approach.
“[A] gospel-centered approach is the only way to truly have teens who are not resembling the world,” Inserra said, noting that a “gospel-centered home” creates an environment where a deep respect for women is learned and practiced.
Parenting is about cross bearing, ERLC President Russell Moore said.
“Parenting shows that the only way we can gain our lives is by losing them and the only way we can win is to lose,” Moore told attendees, “so we have the freedom to pour ourselves out for the next generation not because we want everyone to see how successful we were as parents, not because we feel the obligation to always do the right thing but because we love and in that love we have the ability to risk.”
Greear also urged parents to recognize their goal.
“Our kids were given to us for the purpose of sending them into the mission, and that changes how we think about rearing them,” he said.
If Christian parents treat children like furniture or art to be kept in the home instead of arrows to be sent out, they discourage them from discovering God’s plan, Greear said. “The ultimate mission of the family is not to protect children from all harm but to mobilize them for the mission of God.”
John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, pointed to four undercurrents that shape the current culture. Americans, he said, live in an age of: 1) Overwhelming information; 2) unbelievable connectivity and unbelievable loneliness; 3) perpetual adolescence; and 4) loss of identity.
Antidotes exist for these, Stonestreet said, including discernment, relationships and the reality that every person is made in the image of God.
“The most true thing about our cultural moment is the most true thing about any cultural moment, and that is Jesus Christ is risen from the dead,” he said.
Bible teacher and author Nancy Guthrie shared four ways God uses the hard seasons of parenting in Christians’ lives:

  • To train them to trust God in new ways.
  • To turn their focus toward what really matters.
  • To make them desperate for God to do what only He can do.
  • To persist in prayer.

“Nothing has put my claim of trusting God to the test quite like parenting,” Guthrie said. While two of her children died after six months because of a rare condition, “it’s trusting God with my living child that I have found so very hard,” she said.
Guthrie told the audience, “Give up fixing, but never stop praying. Give up worrying, but never stop praying. Give up despairing, but never stop praying.”
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly encouraged parents to allow their children to experience failure.
“Give your children the chance to fail ... the chance to walk through adversity, and when you do it when they’re young, you can control it,” Daly said. “Love your kids, let them fail ... and train them up in the faith.”
Dallas pastor Todd Wagner spoke on overcoming failure as a parent, and singer/songwriter Randall Goodgame shared about saturating children with God’s Word.
The first day of the conference also included two panel discussions, one on talking to children about difficult issues and another on helping children understand sex.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/28/2017 10:32:26 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marijuana tourism site draws associations’ focus

August 28 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A cannabis company’s plan to turn a Southern California town into a marijuana-focused tourism destination has prompted two local Baptist associations to make it a destination for missions too. screen capture

This month, the cannabis company American Green Inc. announced it is purchasing the entire 80-acre town of Nipton, Calif., along the California-Nevada state line, some 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas. American Green says it will develop Nipton into a “first-of-its-kind eco-tourism experience for conscious cannabis consumers,” CNN reported.
Upon hearing of the reportedly $5 million purchase, the High Desert Baptist Association in Lancaster, Calif., and the Southern Nevada Baptist Association in Las Vegas were moved by the need for ministry in Nipton, which is 25 miles from the nearest church of any denomination.
“The need for gospel witness is magnified by” the potential transformation of Nipton into a marijuana tourism destination, said Harry Watson, director of missions (DOM) for the Southern Nevada Association.
American Green’s plans for the desert town – which currently has about 20 residents – include marijuana retail outlets, cannabis-infused water and marijuana edibles, according to media reports. Nipton already includes an old west-style hotel, an RV park, houses and a coffee shop, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
High Desert DOM Don Parker told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, “My hope is that we can work together to start a ministry or campus church in that area to proclaim the gospel and help people understand the implications of rejecting the gospel.”
Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, recreational use of the drug has been legalized in both Nevada and California.
The two DOMs have scheduled a meeting in October to plan ministry ventures in Nipton.
Watson envisions beginning the ministry by asking American Green if local Baptists can provide a chaplain for the town to help employees and tourists grappling with emotional, psychological and spiritual issues. The ministry likely would be based in Las Vegas and model the chaplaincies at various Nevada resorts, Watson told BP.
Resort owners often welcome such “industrial chaplaincy” because it improves workers’ lives and makes them better employees, Watson said.
Hopefully, the chaplaincy “would lead into a Bible study, which would lead into a worship service,” Watson said.
Parker said goals for ministry in Nipton would be to “understand the people and serve them where they have needs,” “build relationships [and] trust” and “be a listener” – because “good listeners can be good influencers and share the gospel as God draws people to Christ.”
While American Green CEO David Gwyther cited Nipton as part of a “cannabis revolution” with “the power to completely revitalize communities,” according to AP, Parker believes marijuana’s effects on Nipton will be negative.
Watson added that “making a change in society is the ultimate end” of Christianity, but “the ministry [in Nipton] will be purely to the people” in order to share the gospel.
People who will travel to Nipton to abuse marijuana, Watson said, “know what they’re doing is wrong. But they need the opportunity to discover the gospel.”
American Green’s development plan for the town will take 18 months, CNN reported, and cost some $2.5 million.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/28/2017 10:25:31 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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