August 2017

Players & coaches gather for football & the gospel

August 24 2017 by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector

It’s not every day that a rendition of “Rocky Top” rings out from an orchestra in a church.

Contributed photo
Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, right, prays for Butch Jones, head coach at the University of Tennessee, during a faith and football night at Second Baptist Church in Union City. A separate outreach event featured former Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer.


But the University of Tennessee’s signature song is how the evening began at Red Bank Baptist Church in Chattanooga where an energetic crowd – including a large number of football players and coaches from the local area – came together for “A Night of Orange and White.”
 
The July 27 event, which featured former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer, was among a number of football-themed evangelism programs that have taken place across Tennessee and parts of Alabama.
 
Craig Whitt, associate pastor of discipleship at Second Baptist Church in Clinton, Tenn., and Sam McElroy, a minister to adults at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., have served as leaders of this “faith and football” ministry for the past several years.
 
The idea is to bring together football players, coaches and fans for a night of fellowship and to hear the plan of salvation.
 
“One of the things that Sam and I enjoy most is that we get to see these young guys come [to church],” Whitt said, “because a lot of them don’t go to church anywhere.
 
“With this, they’re going to have a great time on a church campus, they’re going to hear the gospel and they’re going to have a great team-building opportunity,” he said. “That’s really the vision behind it.”
 
In addition to Chattanooga, other programs have been held this summer at Second Baptist Church in Union City, Second Baptist in Clinton and First Baptist in Cookeville.
 
In many cases, local football players were able to attend the gatherings for free, thanks to sponsorships provided by local churches, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board or other organizations.
 
Each event typically begins with the special guest addressing the crowd and concludes with a presentation of the gospel and an invitation normally given by the host church’s pastor.
 
“It’s a great outreach,” Whitt said. “It’s a chance for the church to work together as a body and to get these [players] into the church and make a difference in their lives.”
 
Numerous well-known coaches and athletes have been the featured guests, including Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who spoke at Second Baptist in Union City in July.
 
Other featured guests in the past have included coaching legends Bobby and Tommy Bowden, former University of Tennessee star Inky Johnson and, from the baseball realm, John Smoltz.
 
“The [attendees] are coming to hear a player or a coach – that’s the draw,” said Steve Pearson, the Tennessee mission board’s evangelism specialist, “but at each of these events, every one of these coaches/players will talk about their story and give their testimony.”
 
As McElroy puts it, “It’s more than football. It’s about seeing and hearing the personal side of it.”
 
During an interview prior to the Chattanooga gathering, Fulmer said he uses these opportunities as a platform to talk about the importance of living by Christian principles.
 
“We are going to have a bunch of kids in here tonight that are at an age where they can be easily influenced,” said Fulmer, who now serves as the special adviser to the president at the University of Tennessee, “and if they can get the right kind of guidance, then when they have a decision to make, they can make the right one.”
 
The ministry is having an impact. Pearson estimated there were more than 1,000 attendees at the Union City event, including roughly 700 football players, and said he “counted 45 football players who stood up [during the invitation] to say, ‘I am going to follow Christ.’”
 
At the program in Clinton, an estimated 800 attended, including 500 football players and coaches, and roughly 40 first-time professions of faith were recorded.
 
The event at Red Bank Baptist began with Fulmer answering a series of questions from McElroy and concluded with a message from the church’s senior pastor Sam Greer. There were 32 first-time professions of faith during the night.
 
“We use this as an opportunity to not only reach out to our community, but specifically, targeting middle school and high school athletes,” said John Lancaster, senior associate pastor at Red Bank., said on July 27.
 
“Tonight, we have well over 300 players and coaches from 10 different area schools that we’re investing in. And they’re coming in [for] free. Our event sponsors and our church paid for them to be a part of this for free because we wanted them to have the opportunity to hear the gospel.”
 
While the program at Red Bank carried a Tennessee football theme, the event at Second Baptist in Clinton was oriented toward Alabama fans. It featured former Alabama and NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle and his dad, John Croyle, who played for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant.
 
Whitt said he has been impressed with the coaches and athletes who have spoken out about their relationships with Christ through this ministry.
 
“For them to be willing to come and share their faith, and share what Christ is currently doing in their lives – and has done in the past – that takes a lot,” he said. “These guys are in the spotlight, and for them to take a stand, it’s an awesome thing.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Dawson is a communications specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.)
 

8/24/2017 10:21:59 AM by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



Church grows from a street corner among the homeless

August 24 2017 by Emily Howsden, Oklahoma Baptist Messenger

A church that started with no home now offers a home and hope to people of all backgrounds, economic statuses and life situations.

Contributed photo
Earl Krumsiek, left, pastor of Hope Church in Tulsa, Okla., shares the joy of seven members who were baptized this summer.


Hope Church in Tulsa, Okla., is just off of 49th Street in Tulsa not far from downtown, where Hope’s pastor, Earl Krumsiek, first started worshiping with the city’s homeless.
 
“We always say here at Hope, we love people where they are, we don’t leave them where they are,” Krumsiek said.
 
The beginning of what would one day be Hope happened in 2004, when Krumsiek was asked to preach at a street ministry on the curb outside the homeless shelter in downtown Tulsa.
 
After that day, for three years Krumsiek returned to that same corner to share the gospel with homeless people and anyone who would listen. He played music, preached a sermon and even had an altar call, but eventually the man funding the ministry withdrew his support, bringing the homeless church ministry to a halt.
 
Shortly after, the Lord opened another door that led Krumsiek to a ministry that bussed the homeless to different churches where they would be presented the gospel.
 
“We would have our normal street service, then we would bus them to the church afterwards, and we did that for about 13 years,” Krumsiek recounted. “We were a church with no home. I never accepted the title ‘pastor.’ I’m not a pastor, but finally so many people said, ‘You’re my pastor,’ so that’s how I became a pastor.”
 
Eventually, a church provided its fellowship hall where Krumsiek’s congregation could meet, but their services kept getting cancelled due to church functions. This is when Rusty Gunn of Church that Matters in Sand Springs, Okla., became an integral part of what is now Hope Church. Through a series of connections, Gunn and Krumsiek met, and Krumsiek was offered a building owned by Church that Matters.
 
“So many things that we needed to start our church just kept falling into our lap,” Krumsiek said. “We needed a building, and we [were] offered one. We needed insurance, and the Lord provided again. The same [happened] with things like a refrigerator and a microwave. I literally had people call me out of the blue asking if I needed these things.”

Contributed photo
Earl Krumsiek, left, has nurtured Hope Church since his street corner preaching in 2004 among the homeless in downtown Tulsa, Okla.


Krumsiek and Hope Church got connected with the church planting group of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), which provided valuable relationships and church planting resources to help the church grow, including classes at the BGCO’s Haskins School of Christian Ministry.
 
Jimmy Kinnaird, BGCO church planting specialist, said, “Many people don’t know this, but when a person plants a church with the BGCO, they not only get helpful assessment to direct them in ministry enhancement, but they also get training for planting and growing a new church and they get a trained coach.” Gunn is Krumsiek’s coach in this aspect.
 
During this time of growth and learning, Hope Church had its Sunday church service at 2 p.m. On July 2, its 10:30 a.m. service was launched.
 
“God has really blessed us,” Krumsiek said. “We run about 30 kids each Sunday and had our highest attendance of 72, and we have started a membership program where we receive commitments from people and then get them plugged into ministry.”
 
Some Hope members have been with the church from the beginning when Krumsiek was on the corner preaching. Steve was homeless when Krumsiek first met him and was involved in a gang, struggling with alcohol abuse. At a low point when Steve’s health was failing, he prayed that the Lord would deliver him, and he says the taste of drugs and alcohol were removed from his mouth. He was healed.
 
Another who serves at Hope as Krumsiek’s “right hand man” is Arnold, a former severe alcohol abuser. But one Sunday he came forward at the altar call and laid his struggles before the Lord. He entered a rehab program with help from Krumsiek and was delivered from his addictions.
 
Another woman was visited by Krumsiek through the church’s door-to-door evangelism ministry in its new neighborhood. Members visited her one Sunday, but didn’t see her the next, fearing their visit may have been in vain. The following Sunday, however, she was at Hope Church.
 
Through the rapid growth Hope Church has experienced, people are making professions of faith in Christ. On June 30, Hope Church held a Sunday event where seven participated in believer’s baptism.
 
Before each baptism, each person shared their testimony about how the Lord had changed their life and how Hope Church ultimately had a hand in their salvation stories.
 
One woman said, “I lived a life full of drugs and alcohol, and I got tired of living for the devil. The Lord has given me mercy and grace.”
 
Another woman, who was in the intensive care unit six months prior to the day she was baptized, said, “God threw me for a loop, and now He’s taken my shyness and given me a boldness, and I thank Him for that.” The woman, whom Krumsiek visited before Easter Sunday during door-to-door evangelism, followed her profession of faith with believer’s baptism.
 
Another woman professed, “I’ve been through the worst parts of my life, but even through the worst, I still feel the best because I know Jesus is King.”
 
The Lord has heard the prayers of Krumsiek and his wife Christin. They wanted to reach the lost, the homeless and the hopeless to share with them the grace and peace that comes with a relationship with the Savior.
 
“I was very legalistic,” Krumsiek said about how he was raised. “If you didn’t think like me you were going to hell, but these people have opened my eyes to see that God is bigger than me.”
 
With eyes opened and a passion for seeing the lost become found, Krumsiek and those at Hope Church continue to grow and offer hope to the hopeless.
 
“Christ is real, the struggle is real,” Krumsiek said. “At Hope we don’t ‘church it up,’ because [if] you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Jesus understands the struggle, but He gave us life more abundantly, and though you fall and make mistakes, Jesus loves you.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Howsden is a staff writer for the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)
 

8/24/2017 10:20:06 AM by Emily Howsden, Oklahoma Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



SEBTS begins degree program in N.C. prison

August 23 2017 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS & K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

In recent years, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and The College at Southeastern welcomed approximately 500 new students each semester to a variety of study programs. Almost 40 percent take online classes, while more than 1,700 walk into classrooms on the Wake Forest campus.

This term will be very different. Thirty of the new students are incarcerated at the Nash Correctional Institution, located 40 miles from the main campus.

The new North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP), offered through SEBTS, began with a convocation service at the Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, N.C., Aug. 21. 

“Welcome to The College at Southeastern,” Danny Akin, president of SEBTS and The College at Southeastern, said to the NCFMP inaugural class. “Words are not adequate to express how glad I am that you are students at our school.”
 

SEBTS photo
Danny Akin, SEBTS president, welcomes new students in Nash Correctional Institution at the inaugural convocation service for the seminary's North Carolina Field Minister Program.

Jamie Dew, dean of The College at Southeastern, led a prayer at the beginning of the service. 

“We come to this moment with incredible amounts of excitement and joy for what you have done,” said Dew. He gave thanks for the many years of preparation that led to the launch of NCFMP and prayed that God’s mercy would “flow through the prisons of North Carolina.”

SEBTS started the program in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Joe Gibbs’ Game Plan for Life men’s discipleship. In addition to Game Plan for Life, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is helping fund the NCFMP for its first five years in order to cover the program’s capital costs.

The program, which offers a bachelor of arts degree in pastoral ministry with a secondary emphasis in counseling and psychology, 
is offered to inmates who carry a minimum sentence of 15 years. The goal is to offer theological training that will prepare students to minister in the context of the North Carolina prison system. SEBTS faculty will teach courses in dedicated facilities on site at Nash Correctional Institute. 

Seth Bible, director of prison programs at SEBTS, noted the importance of this initial convocation service.

“Today we are not just gathered here to meet for the sake of meeting; we are meeting in a very ceremonial way to ring in the beginning of this academic school year and the start of this very important program,” said Bible.

The NCFMP is best defined by the partnership that makes it possible, Bible said. The college, in cooperation with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, strives to educate and equip long-term offenders for the purpose of changing the culture within the prison system. 

After four years of “intense course work” each student will earn a fully accredited bachelor of arts degree in pastoral ministry. There is no program like this in the N.C. prison system, according to Bible.

Primary financial supporters include Joe Gibbs’ Game Plan for Life and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Additional financial support is being solicited from individuals and foundations. 

Three-time Super Bowl champion and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs sees NCFMP as a personal milestone and reflection of God’s character. 

“I consider the field minister program to be one of the most important things I'll ever do in my life," said Gibbs, “because this could go on long after I’m gone.” 

Gibbs reminded the inmates, “The great thing about our God – He is a God of second chances.” 

Jane Gilchrist, general counsel for the Department of Public Safety, expressed excitement about the program and thanked the sponsors for their support and willingness to “address a critical need in our facilities. 

“This program will prepare these graduates to provide pastoral care and counseling at many of our facilities,” she said. “These men are among the [prison] population daily. They see what’s going on, and they have a feel for problems that may occur.

“They can assist in helping members of our population move forward with their lives in prison as well as assist in preparation for life outside these walls.” 

Gilchrist drew a spiritual metaphor of light and darkness and referred to the recent solar eclipse.

“Today is a unique day,” said Gilchrist. “Most people are paying attention to an event that brings darkness to parts of North Carolina; however, there is no eclipse here at Nash Correctional. There is nothing but light and brightness as we begin the North Carolina Field Minister Program.”

Akin said seminary professors will “challenge and push” the 30 new students to study diligently. 

“We do so because you have answered a calling – a calling to represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords right here in what I think is one of the great mission fields in America. It is our prayer that this model will succeed for the glory of God.”

Akin said he aspires to duplicate this instructional model, “not only in America, but literally, around the world.”

The seminary will admit 30 students into NCFMP each year, allowing for a capacity of 120 participating inmates within four years. The 30 current students were selected from 300 applicants across the state prison system.

The NCFMP is modeled after degree programs in the Angola Prison in Louisiana and Darrington Prison in Texas, which are taught by the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

8/23/2017 3:03:40 PM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS & K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Floyd named National Day of Prayer president

August 23 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Immediate past Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd has been appointed president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, the organization announced Aug. 22.

Ronnie Floyd


Floyd, who will continue to serve as pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, wrote in a blog post announcing his latest ministry assignment, “In this desperate and urgent hour when turmoil and division is evident in America and security threats are being made against America, it is imperative that we do all we can right now to mobilize unified public prayer for America.
 
“America’s greatest need today is to experience the next Great Spiritual Awakening,” Floyd wrote. “We know that no great movement of God ever occurs that is not preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.”
 
As National Day of Prayer president, Floyd will oversee mobilization of individuals, churches, denominations and organizations to participate in ongoing prayer for America, culminating in the annual National Day of Prayer emphasis in May, according to a news release sent on behalf of Floyd.
 
Congress established National Day of Prayer in 1952, and a 1988 law designated the first Thursday in May as a national day of prayer. In 2017, some 2 million people participated in more than 30,000 events in all 50 states, the release stated.
 
The role of president is new for the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Previously, leadership came from the office of chairman, a role filled since May 2016 by Anne Graham Lotz, National Day of Prayer board chairman Dave Butts told Baptist Press in a statement.
 
With input from Lotz and others, the board developed the office of president. Though the board asked Lotz to continue serving through May 2018, she “felt like she had accomplished what the Lord called her to do” and “wanted to give Dr. Floyd the freedom to give direction to this powerful movement of prayer,” Butts said.
 
In the news release, Butts called Floyd “a leader with unique calling.”
 
“As we step into a new phase of carrying this mission and legacy,” Butts said, “I believe we couldn’t have found a man more passionate or dedicated to prayer and spiritual awakening than Ronnie Floyd. Throughout his life, he has demonstrated he is a leader with a unique calling to lead others to unify together to pray for our nation and the need of spiritual awakening. America is blessed to have him as the new president of the National Day of Prayer.”
 
A post on the National Day of Prayer Task Force’s website stated the Colorado-based ministry experienced “a period of transition” leading up to Floyd’s appointment and that he will “build on [the] legacy” of National Day of Prayer leaders like Vonette Bright, Shirley Dobson and Lotz.
 
Among Southern Baptists to release statements on Floyd’s appointment:

  • SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said, “I’m very excited to hear about this announcement. Everyone who knows Ronnie Floyd knows his heart for prayer and spiritual awakening. We are so proud of him to be called to this new task. It is a good day for America, for evangelicals and for Southern Baptists! We are in desperate need of prayer and Ronnie Floyd is the obvious choice to lead this massive effort.”
  • Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin said, “Ronnie Floyd is a dear friend and brother who is perfect for this assignment. He is known for his passion for personal prayer, and I know he will bring that same passion to this annual prayer event. This is good news!”
  • Former SBC President Johnny Hunt said, “Ronnie Floyd is the obvious choice to lead this great ministry. In SBC life, Dr. Floyd leads us in prayer and spiritual awakening. This so excites my heart!”

 
As SBC president, Floyd led the convention to devote an entire session of its annual meeting in 2015 and again in 2016 to pray for revival and spiritual awakening in America. He also encouraged churches to devote an entire worship service to prayer on Sept. 11, 2016.
 
In his blog post, Floyd said his vision for National Day of Prayer includes “unified public prayer for America”; “a multi-church, multi-denominational, multi-ministry, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual movement of prayer”; and engagement “with the digital world via relevant and robust channels.”
 
National Day of Prayer, Floyd wrote, “must become a movement of prayer for America” and “not just one day a year.”
 
“We are praying it will become a catalyst as a national rhythm for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America,” Floyd wrote.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

8/23/2017 10:23:50 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gaines, McKissic, others talk race and SBC

August 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Evangelicals challenge political leaders who support same-sex marriage and abortion, and they should also stand strongly against vitriolic rhetoric, violence and hatred, pastor Dwight McKissic said in a panel discussion he hosted Aug. 20 in Arlington, Texas.

Submitted photo
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, third from left, participated in a panel discussion on the alt-right movement, hosted by Cornerstone Baptist Church pastor Dwight McKissic, center. Also shown are other panelists and program participants.


Among guests on the panel was Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines, who renounced racial and political hatred, saying it has no place in a Christian’s life.
 
Speaking to an ethnically diverse audience of around 650 people, McKissic addressed the racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, Va. He specifically expressed disappointment in President Trump, who publically blamed “both sides” for the clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters that turned deadly, leaving one young woman dead.
 
“Evangelicals need to say on this issue, we respect the president, Trump … but on this issue, he’s wrong and he’s giving air to these racists, and he needs to stop it, period,” McKissic said. “Barack Obama was wrong on same-sex marriage. I said it. Half of my church voted for him; he was wrong.”
 
In addition to Gaines and McKissic, were seven other panelists that included pastors, a law enforcement official and an educator for “A Kingdom conversation on race and the alt-right.” Panelists accepted questions from the audience in a discussion following a 6:30 p.m. worship service and corporate prayer at McKissic’s pastorate, Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
 
Gaines, who described his pastorate Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., as composed of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, said such political diversity “makes it hard” to discuss presidents from any specific party.
 
“I think we ought to be mature enough in the Lord to look at anyone and say I disagree with what you’re saying, but I still respect you as a person,” Gaines said. “You have to respect the office to have any civility in the nation, and whether you respect everything a person in the office does, that’s another matter. I pray for Donald Trump every day, not because I believe in everything he does, but because he’s the president.”
 
Gaines noted, “I have learned to disagree with people’s views … but we have no right to hate anyone, and whether it’s the president currently, we have no right, not as a Christian. You have no right to hate Barack Obama, you don’t. You can disagree with somebody’s views.”
 
McKissic, who introduced a resolution condemning alt-right white supremacy adopted at the 2017 SBC annual meeting, organized the Texas event to begin rebuilding national unity.
 
“I thought it was important for us to experience joint worship,” McKissic told Baptist Press after the event, “and by doing so we made a statement to our God, the world and ourselves.”
 
The 90-minute discussion drew questions regarding President Trump, diversity among Southern Baptist leadership, the lingering effects of America’s systematic enslavement of blacks, ethnic diversity among Southern Baptist congregations, unity among evangelicals, effective dialogue among different ethnic groups, and educating today’s children about race relations.
 
In response to a question regarding the lingering effects of past racism, Gaines said he found it difficult to grasp the pain African Americans still experience as a result of slavery, particularly the separation of families characteristic of the injustice.
 
“It’s hard to be sold. It’s hard for me to even fathom what it was like at those auction blocks where families were torn apart,” Gaines said when asked what is the proper response to suggestions that blacks “get over” the past. “I have 10 grandbabies, one on the way, and I can’t even fathom my children being sold into slavery. So there’s no doubt that that caused a huge impact. So I feel like for somebody to say get over it, that’s a wrong response.”
 
Ronnie Goines, lead pastor of Koinonia Christian Church in Arlington, said the very same leaders who would have blacks overcome the past are “the supporters of keeping the history in front of us to remind us of it, via statues and certain things that represent the very era that they want us to get past.”
 
Joseph Caldwell, president of the Memphis College for Urban and Theological Studies, encouraged whites such as himself to take time to listen to the concerns of blacks.
 
“The issue around race in America is that white leadership doesn’t listen when African Americans try to say that racism is real in America. White leadership doesn’t listen when African Americans try to say, ‘we live in fear.’ White leadership doesn’t listen over and over again,” Caldwell said. “For me it’s important, if we mean we want to be unified, if we mean that we want to be inclusive of everyone in the body of Christ, that those who have traditionally been in positions of power sit down, and allow those who have traditionally had their voices squelched stand up and teach us what it is we need to know about … race in America.”
 
Panelist Jason Paredes, lead pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, encouraged pastors to take the lead in developing relationships with members of other cultures, thereby encouraging congregations to do the same. Only through relations will different cultures learn the issues that are important to one another, Paredes said.
 
“The conversation has to spark first, before we can rise up together and fight on behalf of the other brother and sister,” Paredes said. “This is one place where pastors need to lead out. If we don’t develop those relationships, our congregations never will.”
 
Gaines joined Paredes in encouraging pastors to be intentional in embracing other ethnicities in ministry outreaches and evangelism. The SBC president pointed out a monthly breakfast meeting he hosts with a diverse group of pastors in Memphis.
 
“We have been discussing … all of the issues that we’re talking about here,” Gaines said, “and it really gives me a perspective that otherwise I would not have.”
 
Rounding out the panel were Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson; Kenneth Jones Jr., pastor of First Como Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas; attorney and First Como member Leon Reed; and Oza Jones, Cornerstone’s youth and young adult pastor.
 
In worship preceding the panel, Gaines presented a message from Acts 16 on evangelism unhindered by cultural barriers, McKissic pointed out the birth of all cultures from Adam and Eve, and Jones presented a definition of the alt-right movement.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

8/23/2017 10:22:13 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Eclipse offers ‘tremendous opportunity’ for witness, worship

August 23 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Distribution of nearly 7,000 gospel tracts by a Wyoming church, an outdoor baptism service in Kentucky and a watch party on the roof of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Building in Nashville were among the ways Southern Baptists celebrated the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979.

Photo courtesy of Logan Merrick
Hope City, a North American Mission Board church plant in Lincoln, Neb., launched Aug. 20 and used the following day’s solar eclipse as an opportunity for outreach.


The eclipse – whose 70-mile-wide “path of totality” was visible in 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina – also led some evangelicals to theological reflections on God’s faithfulness, sovereignty and coming judgment.
 
“The cool thing about this eclipse,” said Lincoln, Neb., church planter Logan Merrick, “is I felt for the first time in a long time our divided country was able to slow down and be united together for a historical moment.”
 
Hope City, the North American Mission Board church plant Merrick leads, launched Aug. 20 and used the eclipse weekend as an occasion to meet some 1,000 students at the nearby University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The church distributed “college survival guides” and will follow up with 400-500 students who expressed interest in the church, Merrick told Baptist Press (BP).
 
In Casper, Wyo., Mountain View Baptist Church distributed bookmarks and evangelistic tracts to locals and visitors who descended on the city to take advantage of its typically clear skies for the eclipse. One church member hooked his pet mule Roscoe to a carriage downtown and gave out about 1,000 tracts to passersby who stopped to pet the animal.
 
Mountain View pastor Buddy Hanson told BP he and his wife led one man to Christ during the Aug. 19 evangelistic blitz while church members shared the gospel with others. Mountain View, which averages some 160 in Sunday worship, also distributed water to visitors who watched the eclipse from the congregation’s parking lot.
 
In Chillicothe, Mo., Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly hosted 16 homeschool families for the “Wonders of Creation Solar Eclipse Family Retreat” Aug. 20-21, including mini-golf, hiking, swimming and an opportunity to learn about the eclipse from a Christian worldview perspective.
 
“Grand Oaks provided recreation, lodging, breakfast and viewing glasses for the guests and of course a late night campfire complete with Moonpies to munch on,” camp manager Don Boyer told BP in an email. “But our Lord provided the most amazing show when, following rain and overcast skies all morning, the clouds parted at precisely the moment of totality and stayed clear for most of the moon’s remaining trip across the sun. Attendees, after watching a live feed for a good while, flocked outside as the sun began to emerge and as a group watched the show offering a great many oohs and ahhs.”
 
Hillcrest Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, Ky., canvassed 300-400 homes leading up to the eclipse and invited out-of-town guests at a nearby park to attend worship. Pastor Joe Bufford estimated that more than 100 of the 300-400 attendees at an Aug. 19 cookout and outdoor baptism service were from out of town.
 
After seven scheduled baptisms, a teenager professed faith in Christ and also was baptized, Bufford said. A child wanted to know more about salvation and will receive follow-up counseling from the church.
 
On eclipse day, visitors from Japan, Canada and Illinois all found themselves in Bufford’s front yard, he said.
 
In Hendersonville, Tenn., the local newspaper named First Baptist Church one of the three best places in town to watch the eclipse, said minister of adults Jerry Wooley. The church distributed hot dogs and ice cream to hundreds in its parking lot.
 
“We could not have bought that kind of publicity,” Wooley told BP in an email. “We didn’t know anything about our event was going to be in the news, much less that we would be one of the top viewing spots in the city. Families are bringing their lawn chairs, quilts, telescopes, cameras and most of all their friends.
 
“We are being given a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel – one person at a time – right here on our own campus,” said Wooley, adding the church’s guests included a reporter from Washington D.C.
 
In downtown Nashville, the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) held an eclipse watch party on the roof of the SBC Building.
 
ERLC executive vice president Phillip Bethancourt told BP in an email, “It was an incredible experience to watch today’s solar eclipse from the rooftop of the SBC Building with colleagues from the ERLC, Executive Committee and more. As the heavens declared the glory of God, it reminded us of God’s work in creation and his faithfulness in our convention.”
 
Students and faculty at Anderson University, a ministry partner of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, watched the eclipse on one of the university’s lawns and viewed a NASA livestream of the event in a campus theater.
 
Some Baptists took to the internet to offer theological commentary spurred by the eclipse.
 
Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources’ B&H Academic division, wrote that the eclipse presented an opportunity to pause and marvel at God’s creation.
 
“When God created the world, all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7),” Wax wrote in an Aug. 16 blog post. “The God who sings over His creation is the God who rejoices in His works (Psalm 104:31). If God delights in the work of His hands, shouldn’t we? And shouldn’t the wonders of creation lead us to praise and thank Him?
 
“So, let’s not wait until the next eclipse to stop and pause and wonder. Look up to the heavens, and then look further up, until you find joy in the God who enjoys His handiwork,” Wax wrote.
 
Todd Chipman, pastor for discipleship at The Master’s Community Church in Kansas City, Kan., and assistant professor of biblical studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), reflected on biblical references to darkening of celestial bodies. While he did not call the eclipse a sign of judgment, he noted that scripture at times references the darkening of the sun, moon and stars as a sign of judgment.
 
“The brief mid-day darkening of the sun provides in miniature a display of how God will one day execute His judgment across the globe,” Chipman wrote at MBTS’s For the Church blog. “... May we be emboldened [to share the gospel] on this day of the (brief) total solar eclipse.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

8/23/2017 10:17:51 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NOBTS ‘Million Dollar Monday’ to fund scholarships

August 23 2017 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

When New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley began his day Aug. 7 he had little idea of the blessings to come: two gifts totaling $1 million dollars for student scholarships were received that day.


“This has been one of the greatest Mondays in the history of the institution and quite an exciting way to begin a new academic year,” Kelley said. “It was a ‘Million Dollar Monday.’”
 
NOBTS will immediately distribute more than $200,000 of the money this school year designated for student scholarships. And one-half will be used to endow a scholarship fund which will provide annual scholarships for years to come.
 
“We rejoice at what God has done to lay the needs of seminary students on the hearts of Southern Baptists,” Kelley said. “Scholarships are becoming ever more important for those God has called to the church and the mission field.”
 
The gifts will assist African American students studying on the main campus or at the North Georgia Hub in metro Atlanta; small church pastors in Montana; and expository preaching students from Mississippi.
 
One anonymous donor sent a check for $200,000 to be used immediately as a part of the Fred Luter Jr. African American scholarship program – a scholarship the donor established in 2011. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars will provide scholarships in New Orleans; $50,000 will fund scholarships at the North Georgia Hub.
 
“Southern Baptists need to become more and more racially and ethnically diverse if we are to reach our nation and our world,” Kelley said. “An anonymous donor has been greatly blessed and inspired by the ministry of pastor Fred Luter and wants more God-called African Americans like Dr. Luter to be able to receive quality theological education.”
 
To date the seminary has awarded $878,616 through the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship Fund – $800,641 in New Orleans and $77,975 through the North Georgia Hub. During the past 12 semesters, an average of 102 scholarships per semester have been awarded on the main campus. The scholarship program launched at the North Georgia Hub during the fall semester of 2015 and provides nearly 20 scholarships per semester.
 
“We have watched these scholarships literally change the composition of our student body,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to continue to enhance the diversity in our seminary family and to encourage a growing diversity within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
The largest of the “Million Dollar Monday” gifts – a check for $550,000 – provides full-tuition scholarships for small church pastors in Montana and establishes an endowment to perpetuate the initiative. Fifty thousand dollars will be used to fund the initiative for the first two years while the endowment corpus builds. After the first two years, interest drawn from the $500,000 endowment will be used to fund the scholarships. The scholarship is available to Montana pastors studying at the undergraduate or graduate level. Two students from Montana already have been identified and will immediately receive the scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year.
 
Kelley said the anonymous donor who established the Montana scholarship was inspired by the Caskey Center scholarship program which offers full-tuition scholarships for smaller church pastors and bivocational ministers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The same donor previously funded full-tuition scholarships for small church pastors in Wyoming.
 
Kelley hopes that initiatives like the Caskey scholarships and the Montana and Wyoming scholarships will inspire additional scholarship donors.
 
“This gives us five states with full-tuition scholarships for pastors serving small churches,” Kelley said. “Five states down; 45 to go.”
 
One of the donors from “Million Dollar Monday” also provided $250,000 in scholarships for Mississippi students to study expository preaching through the Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching at NOBTS. The new preaching scholarships will launch during the fall semester of 2018.
 
“Dr. Adrian Rogers is one of the most significant graduates in the history of NOBTS,” Kelley said. “He was quite well-known as a Southern Baptist leader, but the hallmark of his ministry was always outstanding biblical exposition. We want to raise up a whole generation of preachers in the tradition of Dr. Adrian Rogers.”
 
The newly-established Adrian Rogers Center will be formally dedicated during chapel services Sept. 12. The center exists to train the next generation of biblical expositors and to provide resources and continuing education opportunities to enhance the pulpit ministry to local church pastors. For more on the Adrian Rogers Center, visit nobts.edu/rogerscenter.
 
“We at NOBTS love the Word of God. We love having the privilege of equipping and resourcing those who have been called to teach the Word of God to our churches and consider this an investment of the highest order,” said Adam Hughes, director of the Adrian Rogers Center and dean of the chapel. “This scholarship fund, and future ones we are trusting God to provide, will help students prepare to preach the Bible with accuracy, conviction, and excellence for a lifetime of ministry in the local church.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

8/23/2017 10:12:20 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Lay missions pioneer Doyle Pennington dies at 75

August 23 2017 by Joe Westbury, Christian Index

Doyle Pennington, a pioneer in mobilizing Southern Baptist laypersons for missions and ministry, died Aug. 13 in Stockbridge, Ga., following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75.

Doyle Pennington


Pennington, along with his wife, Celeste, was a longtime veteran of Southern Baptists’ lay renewal movement, which sought to bolster church life, marketplace witness and missions during much of the 1970s and ’80s. He was also the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) first lay volunteer with Mission Service Corps (MSC), founded in 1977 at the urging of President Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist, to coordinate and promote self-funded missionary volunteers with the Home Mission Board.
 
Pennington helped the Atlanta-based Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) establish the MSC program and visited President Jimmy Carter at the White House around the time the program was launched. Later, Pennington helped promote missions through the Baptist Brotherhood Commission (which became part of North American Mission Board) and the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board).
 
Pennington’s drive for missions took him to far-flung regions like North Korea to feed thousands of children each day, the American Arctic to lead mission tours and Australia to promote Baptist lay renewal.
 
Often Pennington served as a facilitator, coming alongside other leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention to flesh out their work and dreams. The Home Mission Board (HMB) dispatched him twice to supervise properties in American Samoa, including the construction of a mission home.
 
Working out of the office of HMB President Bill Tanner, Pennington used his real estate and business background to shore up properties in state conventions from New England to Alaska and Hawaii.
 
Initially spurred by a lay renewal emphasis at his church in Florida, Pennington worked with lay renewal pioneer Reid Hardin to establish the concept in Southern Baptist churches, releasing laypeople to serve Christ in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and around the world. He also assisted Hardin with church renewal and church reconciliation ministries.
 
Meeting planning took Pennington around the world. He, along with staff from the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and North American Mission Board, coordinated YouthLink 2000 at the turn of the millennium – an event a decade in the planning for students in seven cities, all linked globally by satellite to celebrate Christ. The historic event also linked live to Jerusalem where evangelist Jay Strack spoke to students to welcome the new millennium.
 
Pennington was active in the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). He served and traveled in more than 40 countries, islands and protectorates. He worked with Baptist Men around the world, serving in and later directing the BWA Men’s Department, working closely with South Korean pastor Billy Kim.
 
“Doyle was a highly gifted person with a wide range of interests. He began as a volunteer in lay renewal and had many opportunities to touch lay people across the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Jim Williams, who served as president of the Memphis, Tenn.-based Brotherhood Commission.
 
“Doyle had an uncanny ability to help people evoke their spiritual gifts and find an opportunity to use those gifts in missions. It takes a very special person to do that.
 
“An enormous number of Southern Baptists are now involved in lay renewal and missions because of Doyle Pennington. The teacher in me saw his special capacity to help people discover and use those gifts, and he was a master at it,” Williams said.
 
Additionally, Pennington helped coordinate volunteers to assist with ministry projects at the International Evangelism Association in west Texas and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) in Kansas City. He served on MBTS’s Board of Regents and helped train Chinese English teachers in Yantai, China.
 
He is survived by his wife, Celeste, of Fayetteville, Ga., two daughters, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
 
A celebration of his life in Christ is scheduled Sept. 2 at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of Christian Index, christianindex.org, news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
 

8/23/2017 10:09:57 AM by Joe Westbury, Christian Index | with 0 comments



Refugee ministry: Finding God in grief

August 22 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Kim Amihan, a Filipina special education teacher who lives in Thailand, said witnessing the faith of Pakistani Christian refugees as they endure difficulty has taught her unexpected lessons about the Christian life.

Contributed photo
Kim Amihan, special education teacher and refugee ministry volunteer, works with James, a 12-year-old Pakistani Christian refugee with cerebral palsy.


Amihan moved to Bangkok in 2011, shortly before Calvary Baptist Church, an international congregation led by Southern Baptist missionaries, launched a refugee ministry. Their outreach is designed to help migrants with critical needs as they navigate the United Nations’ refugee resettlement program.
 
Reports estimate more than 11,000 Pakistani asylum seekers currently reside in Thailand. Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, a minority sect of Islam not recognized by other Muslims, make up the vast majority of the migrant population exiting Pakistan. Both minority groups live in fear of the Islamic republic’s blasphemy laws, which are often used to justify violence against non-Muslims.
 
Afraid for their lives, many book flights to Thailand on 30-day tourist visas and apply for resettlement on arrival through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The relocation process should take months to complete, several Pakistani Christians told the Biblical Recorder, but wait times are commonly counted in years.
 
Thailand is not a party to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention and does not recognize UNHCR refugee status. When tourist visas expire, migrants live in fear of imprisonment or deportation.
 
Amihan began volunteering with Calvary’s refugee ministry from its inception six years ago. Aid workers such as Amihan help prepare and distribute food bags to imprisoned migrants during weekly visits to Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) and monthly visits to asylum seekers scattered across the city who live in hiding.
 
Asked about migrants that have uniquely impacted her life, Amihan told the Recorder about a Pakistani Christian family with special needs. A warm smile spread across Amihan’s face when she mentioned James*, a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy.
 
“He stole my heart the moment I saw him,” she said.
 
Amihan felt a special bond with the family due to her university training and professional experience working with children that have special educational needs.
 
She and others in the refugee ministry developed a friendship with Simeon* and Rachel*, James’s parents, along with his older brother, Aaron*. In addition to food distribution, volunteers aided the family in other ways, such as making arrangements for a Calvary church member to donate a wheelchair to James.
 
The refugee family found it difficult to stay in one apartment for an extended period, Amihan said.
 
Neighbors in the housing complex complained about excessive noise to the property manager and police.

James was nonverbal, meaning he often made loud noises in order to communicate. “When he cried,” Amihan said, “he made this big yawn that got them in trouble many times.”
 
The family relocated on several occasions when James began to draw the attention of nearby residents.
 
They took care to avoid encounters with law enforcement, which could mean imprisonment or deportation because they lacked valid visas.

BR photo by Seth Brown
Kim Amihan, right, a member of Calvary Baptist Church’s refugee ministry, walks beside volunteers from North Carolina, Jared Johnson, center, and Lauren Brown, left, as they discuss the visitation process for Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre.


Amihan continued to visit the family often. She asked co-workers with expertise in occupational therapy to accompany her on days off. At no charge, they created a home-based occupational therapy intervention program to help James develop gross and fine motor skills and learn an alternative communication system.
 
They also provided lifting and movement training for his parents.
 
“His father had probably developed scoliosis,” Amihan said, “because they didn’t have proper equipment for him to take a bath or clean up, so he lifted James every time to take him to the bathroom or feed him.”

Another Calvary member donated a bath seat to further ease the family’s burden.
 
Amihan began to worry, though, after James received medical treatment for an illness. Health care professionals prescribed sedatives that rendered him nearly immobile. His motor skills regressed and communication halted, Amihan said.
 
Around that time, Simeon found work as a restaurant dishwasher to help support the family.
 
It was an off-the-books job that required long hours, but it provided vital income and there were few other feasible options.
 
Undocumented immigrants cannot legally work in Thailand.
 
Asylum seekers are sometimes underpaid, unpaid or otherwise exploited by employers, since they will not risk reporting injustices to police for fear of self-incrimination.
 
Meanwhile, James spent most days in a stationary position, since the palsied adolescent was too heavy for Rachel to carry. Bedsores developed within weeks.
 
“It was very hard for him to heal,” Amihan said, given his condition and the severity of his open wounds.
 
Doctors prescribed more medication as the bedsores worsened.
 
A few days later, James slipped out of consciousness. By the time the family transported James to the hospital, his breathing had ceased. Medics pronounced him dead on arrival.
 
They were all devastated, Amihan said.
 
She believes James was overmedicated, but due to the family’s undocumented status, they have no legal recourse.
 
Difficulties mounted as the family proceeded to purchase a coffin and organize the funeral. A Chinese Christian group donated a burial plot.
 
“It wasn’t easy for them, but it was all by God’s provision,” said Amihan. “I saw how a mother grieved over the loss of her son,” she added. “For the past 12 years she had taken care of her boy, and that’s all the life she knew.”
 
Months later, Amihan said, she watched the mother’s “pain turn to hope,” as Rachel began educating more than 20 preschool-age refugee children in her home.
 
“She enjoyed it,” Amihan said. “She had that smile again.”
 
The family was healing emotionally, given the circumstances, until immigration enforcement officials raided their apartment building.
 
Rachel and Aaron, 17, were taken into custody. Simeon was at work that day, so he was not apprehended.
 
In July 2017, Recorder staff visited Rachel and Aaron in Bangkok’s detention center, where they had been jailed for eight months. Though sorrowful, the mother was thankful that her oldest son is nearby, even if behind bars.
 
Simeon arranges to have food delivered to his family each day via IDC visitors before he travels to work.

Since everyone entering the facility for visitation must show proper documentation, Simeon is unable to see his wife and son.
 
The Calvary refugee ministry team continues to visit Rachel and Aaron monthly in the IDC.
 
Aid workers often serve as vital channels of communication between relatives unable to contact one another. Simeon relies on their reports of his family’s well-being.
 
Amihan said God has taught her many things through relationships with suffering families.
 
“I’m blessed to be God’s hands and feet,” she said through tears. “People might say, ‘You’re good because you’re involved in the refugee ministry.’
 
“‘No,’ I say, ‘I’m involved because God is good.’”
 
The ministry’s bulk food supply sometimes runs low, Amihan said, and there is constant need for more volunteers.
 
“But our God is a great provider,” she continued, “I’m blessed to witness God’s faithfulness. His timing is always perfect.
 
“Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him,” said Amihan, referencing Psalm 34.
 
An asylum seeker recently released from detention helped Amihan gain a different perspective on ministry when he quoted to her Jesus’ words from Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me … I was in prison and you came to me. … Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
 
Amihan understands in a new way that ministry to suffering refugees is also a form of service to God.
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is the second in a three-part series covering the plight of Pakistani refugees in Thailand and the Baptists ministering to them.)

Other articles in the series: 
Baptists serve Bangkok's 'Little Lahore'
Pakistani refugees lost everything but Jesus

Related stories:
Distant churches keep close partnership

8/22/2017 9:33:41 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Reaching the Nations event moves to N.C.

August 22 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Last year’s “first of its kind” Reaching the Nations conference in Brentwood, Tenn., was so successful, planners scheduled a second conference – this time in North Carolina.


Chuck Register, one of the event’s organizers, said he was “more than pleased” with the response to last year’s conference. “There were just under 400 registered participants, which was beyond our expectation. We hoped for around 175.”  
 
According to J.D. Payne, one of the keynote speakers, it was the largest gathering of Southern Baptists to address diaspora ministry ever.
 
“We had practitioners from all across America – 25 states were represented by the group,” said Register, who is executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “They came together for inspiration about diaspora ministry, information about diaspora ministry but also the practical breakout sessions. In my opinion this was the most helpful aspect of the conference.”
 
Breakout sessions provided tools and strategies for participants to return to their communities and begin to engage immigrants, refugees and international students.
 
The conference will be Oct. 27-28 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. Sponsors include the International Mission Board (IMB), North American Mission Board (NAMB), SEBTS and the BSC. Keynote speakers are Danny Akin, president of SEBTS; J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, Durham; Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Ala.; and Chris Clayman, associate director of Global Gates Network.
 
At least 32 breakouts will be led by BSC staff, SEBTS faculty, key leaders at IMB and NAMB and other mission strategists. “We feel like we have an extremely strong lineup of plenary speakers,” Register said. “We have some very strategic field personnel from IMB and NAMB who will be leading breakout sessions on how to engage different world views with an understanding of the gospel.”
 
The original plan was to schedule a second Reaching the Nations conference for 2018, but attendees last year requested momentum, according to Register. “They felt it was excellent training for them, and they wanted to get the next conference on their schedule soon. So the planning committee agreed but moved the conference later into the 2017 fall season. The location allows more students to participate in the event.”
 
Register told the Biblical Recorder this conference is needed because “Southern Baptists are behind the curve in responding to diaspora ministry in the U.S., compared to other denominations. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up in mobilizing local churches to be engaged with diaspora ministry.” Conference organizers say having another conference one year later shines a spotlight on both the opportunity and the challenge of diaspora ministry. Diaspora missions refers to ministries targeted at people and people groups who are living outside their country of birth – those who have been dispersed to other nations.
 
“There are 45 million foreign born residents in the U.S. and another seven million in Canada,” said Register. “The average Southern Baptist church is probably not as engaged in diaspora ministry as she needs to be. Having a conference each year gives us the opportunity to blow this trumpet, to shine a light on what God has done in bringing the nations to North America and our Great Commission responsibility to respond to that challenge. The conference gives local churches some practical handles on how to engage in diaspora ministry.”
 
The target audience for the event is mission leaders and mission practitioners in local churches, associations and other Great Commission ministries. “We certainly hope the pastor, who is primarily the spiritual leader of the congregation, is there, along with anyone who may be responsible for the missions program of the church,” Register added. “But also, those practitioners, the laity, who is involved in implementing the mission strategy of a local congregation. All would profit from this conference.
 
“With 32 breakouts, you really need to strategically assign different people from your church to different topics. There is something there for everyone.”
 
Three of the breakouts and all five plenary sessions will be live-streamed.
 
Brett Gibson, worship pastor at Holly Ridge Baptist in Simpsonville, S.C., who attended the 2016 conference, said others in upstate S.C. who attended the event separately, began meeting together soon after they returned home.
 
“We shared a vision for bringing churches together in the upstate of South Carolina in order to map out and engage people groups in the upstate,” Gibson said. “We continue to meet monthly to pray and share stories. We are currently working on a way to involve church members across the upstate to discover and engage people groups.”
 
Sandi McDowell, who serves as a volunteer International Campus Catalyst with Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) in Richmond, Ky., said, “Last year’s conference has changed my world! God used the conference to open my eyes to the nations around me.”
 
Returning home, McDowell was motivated to meet international students at her local university. “I have begun an international student program with the help of the local BCM and my state director, Brett Martin. Our state ministry is Connect International. My local team is comprised of people from various churches in the local association.”
 
Last year they held a “Thanksmas” dinner to introduce internationals to the Christian ideas behind Thanksgiving and Christmas.
 
At the dinner, they invited the students to visit an American home over the holidays. Eighteen internationals accepted the invitation.
 
This fall the ministry is focusing on the 300 international students in the area. They are hosting a Welcome to America party in September and talking to pastors and church members about being a host family for two students for one year.  
 
McDowell said, “I can’t wait for this year’s conference and a chance to learn more!”
 
To register, visit Reachingthenations.net.
 
Related articles:
August event focuses on reaching the nations in U.S.
Reaching the scattered nations
Diaspora missions conference called ‘catalytic moment’

8/22/2017 9:27:21 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 2 comments



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