August 2017

Survey spotlights American views on sin

August 16 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

According to a study released Aug. 15, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they are sinners. And most people apparently aren’t too happy about it – only 5 percent say they have no desire to mend their ways.


As America becomes more secular, the idea of sin still rings true, said Scott McConnell, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
 
“Almost nobody wants to be a sinner,” he said.
 
The survey question about sin was inspired in part by an exchange McConnell witnessed on his way to a Nashville Predators hockey game.
 
A religious group of protesters began preaching at people on the street outside the hockey arena, calling them sinners, McConnell said. That led a few people in the crowd to embrace the title with enthusiasm.
 
“I wondered how many people really think of themselves as sinners,” he said.
 

Diverse responses to sin

Americans tend to fall into three categories when it comes to sin, according to LifeWay Research’s representative survey of 1,000 Americans that was conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016.
 
A third (34 percent) of Americans say they are sinners and are working on being less sinful, while a quarter (28 percent) say they are sinners and rely on Jesus to overcome their sin. One in 10 say sin doesn’t exist (10 percent) or that they are not sinners (8 percent), while a larger 15 percent prefer not to say if they are sinners at all.
 
Only 1 in 20 are fine with being sinners (5 percent).
 
Among the other findings:

  • Folks in the Northeast (9 percent) are more likely to be fine with being sinners than those in the South (5 percent) and West (4 percent). They’re also more likely to say sin does not exist (14 percent).
  • Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say they rely on Jesus to overcome their sin (72 percent) than those without evangelical beliefs (19 percent).
  • Nones – those with no religious preference – are more likely to say sin does not exist (32 percent). Ten percent of nones say they are fine with being sinners, while 27 percent say they work on overcoming their sin. Six percent say they depend on Jesus to overcome sin.
  • Members of non-Christian faiths (27 percent) are more likely to say they are not sinners than Christians (7 percent) and nones (6 percent).
  • Catholics are more likely than Protestants to work to be less of a sinner (48 vs. 31 percent) and to say they are not a sinner (11 vs. 5 percent), but less likely to say they depend on Jesus Christ to overcome sin (19 vs. 49 percent).
  • Americans 18-44 are twice as likely (14 percent) as those 45 and older (7 percent) to say sin doesn’t exist.

 

Sin and salvation

A 2016 LifeWay study about theology also found many Americans think sin is commonplace.
 
In that study, two-thirds (65 percent) agreed that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) said it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin.
 
However, few Americans seemed to think most sins put them in spiritual danger. Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagreed with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagreed.
 
In the current survey, McConnell said he was struck by how few Americans – outside of those with evangelical beliefs – say they rely on Jesus to overcome sin, a core Christian belief.
 
“To some Americans, saying you’re a sinner is a way of admitting you are not perfect,” he said. “To those folks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evil or should be punished for your sin. That’s something the church should pay attention to.”
 

Methodology

LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
 
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is an 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.)

8/16/2017 9:10:51 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments



Special ops good prep for bivocational pastor

August 16 2017 by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today

Retired Army Maj. Tim Morgan spent 24 years as a soldier serving his country. Now he’s focused on serving others as a bivocational pastor.

Contributed photo
Former special ops pilot Tim Morgan, now military contractor and Kentucky Baptist pastor, is shown here during a tour in Iraq with one of the helicopters he used to get servicemen into and out of hot spots.


Morgan, pastor of Silent Run Baptist Church in western Kentucky, now seeks to bring the same courage and tenacity to his ministry that he was decorated for as a special operations helicopter pilot delivering Delta Force soldiers and Navy Seals into hot spots around the world.
 
Five years after retiring from the military, life is busy for Morgan who is working two jobs, one with a military contractor making sure the special ops aviation regiment at Fort Campbell has all the tools and resources it needs and the other as pastor of a rural church in the farming community of Nebo, population 220.
 
“If you did a demographic study into where to build a church, this is not where you’d choose,” he said. “Yet, God has blessed. As a congregation, we’ve not only grown in numbers, but we’ve grown deep in our relationship with the Lord.”
 
Sunday morning attendance has more than doubled from 70 to about 150 and counting since he brought his no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point preaching style to the church in 2013.
 
Morgan’s enthusiasm for sharing the gospel is contagious, said Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood.
 
“He loves the Lord, the Lord’s church and has a passion to see the lost saved,” Chitwood said. “His job as a Special Ops pilot found him in some of the most dangerous war zones on the planet, but Tim realizes that the battle for souls has even greater risks and consequences and approaches his work as a pastor-evangelist with even more courage and conviction.”
 
Morgan shares his faith with urgency and has preached in all kinds of places, including state parks, even arts and crafts festivals, wherever he found crowds of people to listen. For years, he has volunteered with World Changers, a LifeWay ministry that provides students with opportunities to repair homes and do one-on-one evangelism. He has prayed with lots of soldiers as they prepared to go on dangerous missions.
 
Through the years, he has found that the job of pastor isn’t easy. In fact, he said, it’s far more difficult in some ways than leading soldiers.
 
“They were trained to follow without question,” Morgan said. “In a church, you might ask the whole congregation to help with a project and get maybe 25 to show up.”
 
But Morgan is a dynamic personality who is able to inspire church members to get involved in reaching out with the gospel. He notes that he has little tolerance for interpersonal drama that can hamper that.
 
“I’ve only got one mission here,” he said. “I don’t have time for pettiness. I don’t have time for nonsense. We have to be about reaching people with the gospel because I just don’t believe we have a lot of time left before Jesus returns for His church.”
 
Morgan says he’s simply obeying Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord.
 
Still, caring for the needs of Silent Run families is a huge task for a man working a demanding second job. Morgan said fortunately, he has lots of help from others in the congregation.
 
“A leader’s relevance to the fight isn’t always measured in proximity to the battlefield,” he said. “I have the most cherished thing of any pastor, I have amazing men of God, some of whom carry the title of deacon, to go and care for the flock when I need them to. They love me, pray for me and sometimes even protect me.”
 
Todd Gray, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s evangelism team leader, described Morgan as “a faithful, Spirit-filled pastor” who, as a bivocational pastor, is having a huge impact in his community.
 
“The work that God is doing through Tim’s life and ministry would be notable if Tim’s only job was serving Silent Run Baptist Church,” Gray said. “Thank God for pastors like Tim Morgan. They deserve our respect and our support.”
 
Morgan said God has been kind in allowing him to make the most of the time he has for ministry, Bible study and sermon preparation.
 
“Only He can do through me what needs done, so I am forced to rely on Him for all things,” Morgan said. “As long as a man is willing to rely on the God of all creation for everything, including time, all things are made possible. If you don’t rely on Him and Him alone, it’s impossible.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

8/16/2017 9:10:06 AM by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



SBC staffers serve on World Changers mission team

August 16 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A group of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) staff members participated in 2017 World Changers youth mission initiatives that combined gospel conversations with service projects at 712 sites nationwide.

Photo by Sharon Robinson
Students participating in the 2017 World Changers outreach in Nashville painted a wooden fence at Cottage Cove Urban Ministries.


Four members of the Executive Committee (EC) staff participated in the Nashville outreach July 17-21, leading a team of youth from 12 churches in projects across the city. The volunteers were among 8,000 who served in 50 cities in June and July that led to nearly 5,000 gospel presentations and 281 decisions for Christ, according to LifeWay Christian Resources, which has partnered with World Changers ministry since 2011.
 
“On the surface it is easy to label the effectiveness of World Changers in terms of work done and jobs completed, but the true impact is so much deeper,” Ben Trueblood, LifeWay’s student ministry director, told Baptist Press (BP). “Each summer as part of World Changers projects, teenagers are trained in how to share their faith and are given opportunities to engage in gospel conversations within the communities they are serving, and each summer we hear stories about teenagers leading people to Christ through these conversations.”
 
Two Nashville locations of Cottage Cove Urban Ministries, a nondenominational outreach to at-risk children and their families, were among several sites served by the Nashville team. For the afterschool and summer program that serves 85 children a week with a staff of only four full-time employees, the help of World Changers is invaluable, Cottage Cove Executive Director Brent MacDonald told BP.
 
“We’re highly dependent on volunteers, not only for our everyday program, but when you have a group like World Changers that comes in, you get those big projects done,” MacDonald said. “The projects that are labor intensive, we just don’t get a chance to get to, it seems. It’s just invaluable to us.”
 
World Changers completed several projects for Cottage Cove, providing extensive yard work, painting the inside of a fence surrounding a playground and beginning construction on an external shed.
 
Wayne Mann, EC manager of information technology (IT), volunteered as a construction supervisor and oversaw the work of one of the teams who volunteered at Cottage Cove. Mann said he appreciated the opportunity to encourage students in service and ministry.

Photo by Sharon Robinson
World Changers 2017 summer volunteers complete yard work at a Nashville residence.


“It provides an opportunity to work with students and help them complete projects and watch them realize that it really does change lives,” Mann said. “This provides opportunities to all involved to share the gospel. This also gives me the opportunity to be involved in helping people in a different way. I enjoy working with my hands, so it’s a chance to do something to help people that is not IT-related.”
 
In addition to the Cottage Cove work, the five teams Mann supervised built wheelchair and handicap ramps at homes of people in need and patched and painted walls at a community center for the elderly.
 
SBC Building superintendent Phil Baker volunteered as Nashville construction coordinator. Other EC volunteers were executive assistant Sharon Robinson, and Executive Vice President and General Counsel August “Augie” Boto.
 
World Changers, founded in 1990 by the former SBC Brotherhood Commission, describes its missions as helping churches make disciples “by providing missions experiences that develop the heart of students for serving others and sharing the gospel so they can change the city (and) world.” World Changers expanded its reach by partnering with LifeWay Student Ministries.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/16/2017 9:09:35 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



At Annapolis, he pastors military & civilian staff

August 16 2017 by Tyler Sanders, Gateway Seminary

Bart Physioc, the new civilian pastor of the U.S. Naval Academy chapel, is filling the gap for busy Navy chaplains who need help ministering to an entire congregation.

Bart Physioc


Physioc fills a unique position in a congregation that encompasses active duty and retired military, civilians and staff. Because Navy chaplains have responsibilities that limit their ability to pastor the whole church, Physioc helps cover visitations and ministers to and disciples the members. Physioc is a 1983 and 1988 alumnus of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
“What they wanted was somebody whose focus is on the congregation, like you would see typically in a local church anywhere across the country,” Physioc said of his ministry at the academy’s campus in Annapolis, Md.
 
Discipleship is the thread that has run throughout his ministry, a passion “born out of my first experience as I came to Christ.”
 
Physioc accepted Christ in Guam on his first assignment in the Coast Guard in 1977 when he received a Bible within a few days of arriving and attended a church with a fellow officer.
 
“It was through reading the scriptures, the gospels, on my own that my heart was captivated by Christ,” Physioc said. Within six weeks he had trusted Christ while continuing to read through the Bible.
 
He eventually came across some Navigators material on discipleship and began to read through it.
 
“I did not have anyone to take me under their wing to disciple me, but that is how Jesus did it with His twelve,” Physioc said. “That isn’t the way it really is supposed to work, but quite often that is the way it happens.”
 
Physioc’s second assignment sent him and his wife Dawn to Sausalito, Calif. He earned a master of religious education degree from Gateway Seminary (then Golden Gate Baptist Seminary) in 1983 and graduated in 1988 with concurrent master in divinity and doctor of ministry degrees.
 
During this time, he served in the Baptist student ministry at the University of Idaho and then returned to the Bay Area to plant Mt. Tam Christian Community Church in Marin County. He focused on developing discipleship methods in both settings.
 
“By the time I was looking at starting a church, I wanted to start it with a disciple-making model, using small groups to do that,” he said.
 
Physioc also began to consider joining the reserve military as a chaplain. Eventually he had to make a choice between the pastorate or becoming a full-time Army chaplain. He chose the latter, which led to a 25-year career in the military.
 
He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Army Achievement Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters.
 
“When I went into the Army, I just continued to do the discipling process,” Physioc said of one-on-one discipleship and reproducing ministry in which the men he discipled went on to disciple others.
 
Physioc’s discipleship process eventually became a nonprofit called Disciplers International, which he founded in 2006 to provide resources and training for Christians, including material he developed and produced over the years. Today the nonprofit has an international reach and partners with organizations to share the gospel by alleviating poverty.
 
“I could have never predicted how things have gone for me and my family along the way,” Physioc said. “One thing is certain: God has led the way and continues to lead the way.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tyler Sanders writes for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/16/2017 8:17:30 AM by Tyler Sanders, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments



Charlottesville violence: SBC leaders urge prayer

August 15 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist pastors and leaders denounced racism and called for prayer in the wake of white nationalist protests that turned into violence and death in Charlottesville, Va.

NBCNews.com screen capture


The “Unite the Right” rally – linking various movements among white supremacists – never took place Aug. 12 after fights broke out between white protesters and counter-protesters shortly before the event was to begin. City and county officials declared a state of emergency and proclaimed the rally an illegal assembly before clearing a park where the event was to occur, according to The Charlottesville Daily Progress.
 
Later, a car driven allegedly by a white nationalist protester rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19, The Daily Progress reported. In addition, two Virginia State Police officers died when the helicopter they were using to provide surveillance of the scene crashed.
 
The protesters – who reportedly included alt-right supporters, defenders of the Confederacy and neo-Nazis – gathered in Charlottesville to oppose the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park. Hundreds of protesters – mostly young white men – marched through the campus of the University of Virginia on the evening of Aug. 11 carrying torches in a scene reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan rallies of the past and chanting, “You will not replace us,” according to The Daily Progress.
 
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), described the rally as “a gathering of hate, ignorance and bigotry.”
 
“White supremacists such as the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are filled with racism and hate,” Gaines told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “They should not be listened to by any serious follower of Jesus Christ.
 
“God loves everyone the same,” said Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn. “Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone as well. Every person is equal to all others because God created each of us in His image.
 
“For anyone, regardless of skin color or ethnicity, to disdain another human being because of race is as un-Christlike as can be. Christians must reject and repudiate such alt-right groups and work for peace and goodwill among all people.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a column for The Washington Post, “White supremacy does not merely attack our society (though it does) and the ideals of our nation (though it does); white supremacy attacks the image of Jesus Christ himself. White supremacy exalts the creature over the Creator, and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against it.
 
“This sort of ethnic nationalism and racial superiority ought to matter to every Christian, regardless of national, ethnic or racial background,” Moore wrote. “The church should call white supremacy what it is: terrorism, but more than terrorism. White supremacy is Satanism. Even worse, white supremacy is a devil-worship that often pretends that it is speaking for God.”
 
African-American leaders in the convention reacted to the events.
 
Byron Day, president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, said he was “deeply saddened” by the events in Charlottesville.
 
“I am praying for a country which continues to be divided by racial tensions and weakened as a nation by those who insist on pursuing a supremacist agenda,” Day said in written remarks for BP. “I encourage all Southern Baptists to fervently pray for revival in our land; only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal and bring true peace.”
 
Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., also said he prays “the families of those who lost their lives will be comforted by the love of God and his perfect peace.
 
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, tweeted Aug. 12, “Pastors aren’t toastmasters. If you can’t call sinful racism what it is, you’re a coward or a complicit racist – neither is worthy of pulpit.”
 
Meanwhile, Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, called for prayer, especially for a widespread change in the country.
 
“We pray for those whose lives have been turned upside down,” Page said in written comments for BP. “We also pray for those blinded by racism and hatred. Hatred has always been present, but it is becoming highly organized.
 
“We must pray and work for an organized love movement to sweep across our nation! As followers of Christ, we must lead the way, renouncing the deeds of darkness and holding high the Light of God’s reconciling grace through Jesus Christ,” he said. “O Lord, may it be so!”
 
Leaders of the SBC of Virginia (SBCV) spoke out regarding what happened in their state.
 
“The SBC of Virginia opposes every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy and neo-Nazism, as heresy and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” SBCV Executive Director Brian Autry said. “Ethnic hatred must be viewed as a scheme of the devil intended to foster violence, division, and suffering in our society.”
 
SBCV President Bryan Smith, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Roanoke, said, “For twenty years we have made it clear that we stand for biblical inerrancy, and we must make it clear for as long as it takes that we stand opposed to all forms of racism, white supremacy and any doctrine of racial superiority.”
 
Autry commended the response of SBCV churches over the weekend, saying, “Southern Baptist churches were a strong voice of truth and grace across Charlottesville on Sunday, with visible examples of churches of various racial diversity coming together for prayer and mutual support.”
 
It appeared many Southern Baptist pastors throughout the country decried racism and called for prayer during Aug. 13 worship services.
 
A Southern Baptist pastor in Charlottesville expressed his grief over what had happened in his city but said his hope is in the gospel.
 
“The only answer is Jesus,” said Kyle Hoover, pastor of Charlottesville Community Church. “He is all we have and all we need. He is the true answer to bring people to life and bring down the dividing wall of hostility. We, followers of Jesus, are the only ones who have an answer to what happened today in Charlottesville. So let’s not enter the fray with anger, but with love and compassion for those hurting.”
 
Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville died as a result of the car crash, and James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, The Daily Progress reported. The state policemen who died in the helicopter crash were Jay Cullen and Berke Bates.
 
Among white nationalist participants in the events at Charlottesville were David Duke, the KKK’s former imperial wizard, and alt-right leader Richard Spencer.
 
Other protests against the planned removal of the Lee statue preceded the “Unite the Right” rally. An alt-right rally was held in May, while KKK protests were held in June and July.
 
Messengers to the annual SBC meeting in June condemned “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote after failing to address the issue earlier. In the resolution, messengers said they:

  • “[D]ecry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ;
  • “[D]enounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society;
  • “[A]cknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst;
  • “[E]arnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/15/2017 10:09:53 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SEBTS appoints James as EQUIP Network coordinator

August 15 2017 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS Communications

Al James was appointed as the EQUIP Network coordinator at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) on Aug. 1. James, associate dean of ministry studies and professor of missions, is overseeing the network’s partnership with local churches.

Al James


The EQUIP Network is a partnership between local churches and SEBTS to allow hands-on ministry experience for students while receiving course credit. Both graduate and undergraduate students can earn up to 36 hours of course credit while serving in a local church context. The EQUIP Network, formerly led by Jim Shaddix, is a part of the Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching.
 
“Al James is absolutely the right person,” SEBTS President Danny Akin said. “One of the many former missionaries currently on the SEBTS faculty, a professor of missions, pastor and superb administrator, he will help us take EQUIP to the next level as we serve more churches even better.”
 
John Ewart, associate vice president for Global Theological Initiatives and missions, understands that the experience James has to offer will benefit The EQUIP Network greatly.
 
“As an experienced seminary professor and administrator, he understands the details of training and equipping that will make this partnership between church and seminary the most effective and successful,” Ewart said.
 
James also expressed his eagerness to continue the work done by The EQUIP Network’s previous coordinators.
 
“I am excited to serve as The EQUIP Network coordinator as we seek to build upon the innovative work developed by the previous coordinators, Drs. Steven Wade and Jim Shaddix,” James said.
 
James has been teaching at SEBTS since 2002. He and his wife, Cathy, live in Wake Forest, N.C., with their youngest son, Chris, who is a senior in high school. James and Cathy also have three older children as well as six grandchildren. James serves as a pastor at Hales Chapel Baptist Church in Zebulon, N.C.

8/15/2017 10:06:34 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Hmong gather for missions, celebration, business

August 15 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

A Buddhist monk was the first person to approach her booth in 2010, the year Lisa Vang began an outreach to the 30,000 or more people who annually trek to the Hmong International Freedom Festival in Como Park.

Contributed photo
A Buddhist monk talks with Sam and Lisa Vang during the annual Hmong International Freedom Festival in St. Paul, Minn.


“I had never seen a monk before at the festival,” Vang said. “I told him, ‘Christ is the only way,’ and he said, ‘Yeah; I heard that before,’ and he accepted Christ!
 
“We pray, whoever God wants to save, let Him lead people to our booth, and they come,” Vang told Baptist Press (BP).
 
Vang, a pastor’s wife in Irving, Texas, continues this ministry each year in St. Paul, Minn., where festival-goers are showered with love, care and inexpensive gifts – even some Gideon New Testaments – from Vang and a few helpers. And each year a hundred or more people make professions of faith. This year, it was 156, including a Hispanic couple visiting in the area who were drawn to the festival.
 
Major events related to the Hmong Baptist National Association (HBNA) took place in St. Paul in late June so attendees could also participate in the Hmong festival. The Hmong is a people group from southeast countries such as China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
 

Worship, celebration, business

The Southern Baptist fellowship of Hmong Christians included a day-long retreat for pastors and their wives, a day of worship and celebration and a day of business.
 
Guest speakers included W. Tra Xiong, elected last year as HBNA’s executive director; Chue Ger Herr, pastor of First Hmong Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas; Chuck Lu Vang, pastor of Eternal Life Church in Oakdale, Minn.; and Bandhit Dawean, president of the Northern Thailand Baptist Convention.
 
Henry Nguyen, president of Vietnam Baptist Convention, reported that “more than 10,000 Hmong have accepted Christ” and joined Baptist churches in Vietnam that are connected with Southern Baptists, Xiong (pronounced Song) told Baptist Press (BP).
 
Worship at the Hmong gathering was led by La Herr, pastor of Life House Church in Columbia Heights, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb.
 
The theme for the Hmong’s annual meeting was “We are one in Christ,” from Ephesians 4:1-6.
 
“It turned out pretty good,” Xiong said. “Three hundred people came from all over the United States, Thailand and Vietnam.” This is up from last October, when 60 people met in Fresno, Calif., for HBNA’s 2016 annual meeting.
 
“This is my first year as executive director,” Xiong told the crowd. “I plan to visit all the local churches, but I plan to do something [else] first: I plan to build relationships with all the seminaries and colleges to get programs to help our leaders in local churches. If any local churches need training, I will help them to raise leaders in their churches.
 
“We are trying to build relationships with the different ethnic leaders, to help our Hmong people in their countries,” Xiong noted. “That is what we are trying to do.”
 
Business included election of officers and passage of a budget similar to last year’s $273,000.
 
The Hmong Baptist fellowship has two sources of income to meet its budget, said Sam Vang, newly elected president of the fellowship, and pastor of Hmong Baptist Community Church in Irving, Texas. The first is that each church tithe of its income to the Hmong fellowship. The second is asking individuals and families to give $4 each week to the fellowship in addition to their tithe to their local church.
 
Of the $4/weekly donation, $1 is allocated for overseas ministry, $2 for home ministry, and $1 for the fellowship’s budgetary needs. The $2 for ministry in the United States includes literacy, church planting, Christian education, leadership materials and materials for men’s and women’s ministry, in addition to an every-other-year retreat for pastors and wives and support for new mission churches.
 
“That’s a lot of ministry we are doing for $4,” Vang said.
 
Elections included Sam Vang as president; David Moua, pastor of Regeneration Church in Fresno, Calif., as vice president; Foua Lo Vang, member of First Hmong Baptist Church in Coon Rapids, Minn., as Women’s Ministry Leader; Charles Ck. Thao, pastor of Oklahoma Hmong Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., as brotherhood director; Kelly Yang, member of First Hmong Baptist Church in Center Line, Mich., as secretary; and Lydia Ly, member of Follower of Christ Church in St. Paul, Minn., as treasurer.
 
HBNA has three parts to its official documents: constitution, bylaws and policies. One policy was changed, so that the officers now have two-year terms, rather than the previous four-year terms. This means the national meeting, which previously took place every four years to conduct business, now is to be every two years.
 
No other business was conducted. In reports given, three Hmong churches started or joined the fellowship from other denominations in 2016, for a total of 58 Hmong churches cooperating with the SBC.
 
Plans have not been set for the 2019 national fellowship annual meeting. A training missions trip to Vietnam and Thailand is to take place in April 2018.
 

Missions

HBNA focuses its mission work in Thailand and Vietnam.
 
Vietnam has 40 Hmong churches; Thailand has eight and needs several more. There is a future plan to have a training center in Thailand, on land given to the fellowship by the International Mission Board.
 
HBNA, through its Love and Care Ministries department and additional donations, builds 10- by 10-foot water tanks that are six feet tall in Vietnam. Pipes catch the water coming down the mountain and fill the tanks, which have a spigot on the side all people from the village – not just church members – can use to fill their buckets.
 
In the same location, toilets are built, with showers, and people can even do cold-washing of their clothes. The gravity-fed system refills overnight for the next day’s needs.
 
Lisa Vang, who started and continues to lead the annual outreach at the Hmong International Freedom Festival, heads HBNA’s Love and Care Ministries department.
 
“She has been building more than 100 water systems and toilets,” President Sam Vang said. “We are a small organization but our God is not small, so we do a lot of things so other people can see the glory of God and His love.”
 
HBNA also provides theological education and leadership training for pastors and leaders in Vietnam and Thailand. Many men are called as leaders soon after their conversion, and President Vang knows what that’s like. He was a Christian for three months when he was called. Theological education was helpful to him, and he wants the same for other Hmong leaders, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam and Thailand, he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the online news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/15/2017 10:01:41 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Biologists analyze 900-year-old Gospel of Luke

August 15 2017 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

Scholars study old manuscripts by analyzing linguistics and writing styles to learn about the authors and the world in which they lived. But researchers are missing a wealth of information they could glean from biological materials in the texts because libraries prohibit invasive sampling of rare and precious books.
 
“It’s even harder to sample a rare book than human fossils or teeth,” Matthew Collins, a biochemist who has spent the last five years studying a 900-year-old copy of the Gospel of Luke, told Science Magazine.
 
Collins and his team have created a non-damaging way to collect DNA and other biological substances from old manuscripts by sampling tiny fibers librarians pull out of the books when they dry clean the pages.
 
Researchers who analyzed the biological material from the Gospel of Luke learned scribes at St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, England, most likely produced the book around 1120 A.D. and used calf, sheep and goat skins for the pages.
 
Timothy Stinson, a medieval poetry scholar at North Carolina State University, anticipates biological analysis of old texts will reveal “the whole bustling medieval world of monks, scribes, readers, poets, country gentlemen” and anyone who touched the books over the centuries.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

8/15/2017 9:14:50 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



GuideStone congratulates Hawkins on 20 years

August 15 2017 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Trustees for GuideStone Financial Resources gathered July 31-Aug. 1 in regular session to hear reports from GuideStone executive officers and staff about the board’s performance in key lines of business. GuideStone also honored O.S. Hawkins for 20 years as president of the Southern Baptist entity.


Hawkins joined the Dallas-based ministry after having served for four years as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas. He thanked the trustees for honoring him and his wife Susie for their service to Southern Baptists through GuideStone.
 
“We remain so thankful to serve this ministry we have received from the Lord through Southern Baptists,” Hawkins said. “As we consider GuideStone’s first century, and look forward to our second century of service, it is with gratefulness for our heritage and confidence for our future, focused on the Lord’s leadership.”
 
Hawkins addressed trustees about the entity’s annual theme, “the Year of Innovation,” citing the need for GuideStone to not rest on its laurels as it prepares to mark its 100th anniversary in 2018.
 
Citing the ministry’s accomplishments of its long-range plan, GuideStone 100, which has guided its work for more than a decade, and Vision 20/20, which is an enhancement and extension to the long-range plan, Hawkins said the organization is focusing on three strategic goals: increasing market share, responding to changes in the marketplace and continuing to aggressively manage costs while keeping customer service as its No. 1 focus.

It is imperative for GuideStone to stay focused on its mission and to keep faithful to its vision and calling, Hawkins noted.

BP file photo
O.S. Hawkins


Additionally, Hawkins recognized the seven new trustees joining the board since their election in June, expressing his thankfulness “for the wisdom the [Southern Baptist Convention] showed when they elected to the GuideStone board of trustees such godly people.”
 
“I am particularly pleased to see the increased diversity in the board with the election of three more African-American trustees this year,” Hawkins said. “I know of no other Southern Baptist entity with a board as diversified as GuideStone’s board. For that, we are extremely grateful.”
 

Retirement and investments

Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones reported that total retirement and investment contributions were $485 million, an increase of $21 million, or 4.6 percent, year-over-year, with about 80 percent of that increase being directly attributable to GuideStone investment channels.
 
GuideStone’s award-winning mutual funds are available on 22 platforms. Platforms make mutual funds and other financial products available to financial advisors for purchase on behalf of their clients. GuideStone Funds are available on many major platforms.
 
“GuideStone Funds has had attractive performance in their peer universes and against benchmarks,” Jones said. “We have achieved stellar results in the first half of 2017.”
 

Insurance

Like other providers of health plans, GuideStone continues to await an end to the stalemate in Washington regarding the Affordable Care Act.
 
Nationwide, many counties across the United States are currently served by only one of the state or federal health care exchanges, and some providers have threatened to pull out of the exchange market altogether. Some counties may find themselves without any options on the health care exchanges.
 
Despite the challenges, Jones described life and health plans as having “very encouraging results” this year. Total medical insurance enrollment has increased by 1.2 percent, year-over year, despite the headwinds in the industry.
 

Property & casualty coverage

GuideStone’s alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, Jones said, continues to provide benefits for GuideStone and Southern Baptist churches served by Brotherhood Mutual. Jones called it a “home run.”
 
GuideStone has seen a renewal rate of 97 percent through mid-year. The hit rate, or the percentage of new accounts won based on bids, was 79 percent through June 30. Both the renewal and hit rates are significantly above industry average, proving the service and pricing provided by GuideStone and Brotherhood Mutual are being well-received by churches and ministry organizations.
 

Mission:Dignity

Hawkins also told trustees about his two newest books, The Christmas Code: Daily Devotions Celebrating the Advent Season (available Sept. 5) and The Believer’s Code: 365 Devotions to Unlock the Blessings in God’s Word (available Oct. 24). As with all of Hawkins’ recent books, all author proceeds benefit Mission:Dignity. More information on the books is available at OSHawkins.com.
 
Jones reported on continued success for Mission:Dignity, GuideStone’s ministry to provide financial assistance to retired Southern Baptist pastors, ministry workers and their widows in financial need. Gifts have increased 10 percent, year-over-year, as of mid-year. Strong participation in Mission:Dignity Sunday in 2017 will provide additional momentum into the third quarter, Jones noted.
 
As part of the celebration of GuideStone’s centennial, Mission:Dignity has launched a new marketing campaign, “100 Reasons,” which will be part of Mission:Dignity’s promotions through December 2018.
 
GuideStone will mark its 100th anniversary officially June 12-13, 2018, at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone.)

8/15/2017 9:09:58 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Greens’ Museum of Bible to offer free admission

August 14 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Museum of the Bible slated to open in November in Washington will offer free admission while reserving special perks for members, the museum announced Aug. 11.

An artist’s rendering of the Museum of the Bible, slated to open near the U.S. Capitol in the fall of this year.


The museum, founded by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green and family, joins the ranks of such notable venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History in suggesting a donation in lieu of an admission fee, in this case $15.

Timed entry may be reserved online for guests and members at the museum slated to open Nov. 17.
 
Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers said the free admission is designed to encourage public engagement with the Bible.
 
“We can think of no more fundamental way to give people access to the treasures and experiences inside this museum,” Summers said in the press release, “than to offer public admission coupled with the ability to reserve timed-entry tickets.”
 
Basic membership beginning at $60 for an individual and $150 for families will allow unlimited early access, discounts in the museum gift shop and other perks, according to the museum’s website at museumofthebible.org.
 
Paid membership underwrites free admission, according to museum executive director Tony Zeiss.
 
“Members make visitors possible,” Zeiss said, “and each individual or family who commits annually will give people from around the world access to engage with the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.”
 
The 430,000-square-foot museum, just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, will house the expansive Green Collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts, a performance hall and exhibits designed to immerse visitors of all ages into interactive, biblically-based settings. Smithsonian.com described the venue in January as one of nine “must-see” museums opening in 2017.
 
Members may begin reserving timed entry tickets 10 a.m. Eastern Time Aug. 14 in advance of the museum’s fall opening. The online service will be available to guests beginning Aug. 28, also at 10 a.m., the museum said.
 
Full membership descriptions and purchase options are available at museumofthebible.org/join.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/14/2017 8:34:08 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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