December 2012

Social media reverberates with Newtown tragedy comment

December 19 2012 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – As news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School spread Dec. 14, Southern Baptists active on social media began to offer their thoughts on the tragedy as well as their prayers for the people of Newtown, Conn., and messages of hope for all those impacted.

Immediately after news broke, many were left with questions about why such a place was targeted. Alvin Reid (@AlvinReid), a professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted, “Early report that 27 have been killed at an elementary school in CT. Reports unconfirmed, but an elementary school?”

Later, Reid and the North American Mission Board (@NAMB_SBC) sent out a prayer request for Bryan Sims (@SBC_pastor), who leads Southbury Baptist Church just north of Newtown.

Bryant Wright (@BryantWright), former SBC president and pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, tweeted that he was “sickened by another mass murder of children. So angry at the evil one for using empty misguided souls for such evil. Sad, praying 4 parents.”

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. (@AlbertMohler) expressed his immediate thoughts on Twitter. “It has happened again. Connecticut. Agony. Death. Children. Grief. Guns. Unfathomable. Horror. Evil. Murder. Heartbreak. Grace? Pray.”

For Richard Ross (@richardaross), professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the murder of children demonstrated the need for cultural change. “They took canaries to old mines,” Ross tweeted. “Toxic gas would kill little lungs and give adults time to escape. Children suffer most from toxic culture.”

Terry Dorsett (@TerryDorsett), a NAMB church planting catalyst in Connecticut, reported what was happening in the area. “Prayer meetings are being held at several places around Newtown, CT, tonight. Proof that deep down inside, our nation still believes.”

Many turned to scripture to give comfort and hope. Dorsett retweeted Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Mark Dever (@MarkDever), pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., quoted from Psalm 142:2, “I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble,” and offered his prayers “for those who’ve lost loved ones through this tragic sin.”

Rick Warren (@RickWarren), pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” quoted from Matthew 2:18: “A cry of anguish ... unrestrained weeping and mourning. She weeps for her children uncomforted, for they are no more.”

Denny Burk (@DennyBurk), a professor at Southern Seminary’s Boyce College, and David Platt (@plattdavid), pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and author of “Radical,” both tweeted Bible verses and words from Christmas carols.

After quoting from Jeremiah 20:11, Burk tweeted lyrics from “Joy to the World”: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

Platt turned to Psalm 33 and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” for comfort: “O come, O come Emmanuel. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight.”

Noting that the tragedy happened so close to Christmas, several linked the killing of schoolchildren in Newtown with the slaughter of young boys by Herod in Bethlehem recorded in the biblical Christmas narrative.

Bart Barber (@BartBarber), pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, tweeted, “How tragic that the season of Christ’s birth should be marred once again with the voice of Rachel weeping for her children!”

Thom Rainer (@ThomRainer), president of LifeWay Christian Resources, gave voice to the feelings of parents across the nation. “As a parent, I cannot imagine the grief the Connecticut families are experiencing,” he tweeted. “I am praying for all of them.”

Later, as time allowed pastors and leaders to write out more developed thoughts, many began sending out links to various articles crafted during the aftermath or dealing with related subject matter.

Several tweeted a link to Russell Moore’s (@drmoore) blog post “School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare.” In it, Moore, Southern Seminary’s dean of the school of theology, encouraged readers to recognize the true origin of such horrific acts.

“We don’t know why God didn’t stop this from happening,” Moore wrote. “But we do know what this act is: it’s satanic, and we should say so.”

Mohler also wrote a post that was shared across social media sites, “Rachel Weeping for Her Children – The Massacre in Connecticut,” noting that the Christmas story includes the mass killing of innocent children, but that the story does not end there. Christmas offers hope in Christ.

Mohler and Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin), president of Southeastern Seminary, retweeted links to a previous article they had written on the fate of children who die prior to being old enough to respond to the gospel.

In “The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?” they assert that although everyone is born with a sin nature, “Scripture does indeed teach that all persons who die in infancy are among the elect.”

Ed Stetzer (@EdStetzer), president of LifeWay Research, wrote several posts on his blog ( to serve as resources for pastors or others attempting to deal with such tragedies.

As pastors were preparing to preach on Sunday morning, Greg Thornbury (@greg_thornbury), dean of Union University’s school of theology and missions, tweeted, “Jesus was born into a world of violence in which a lunatic slaughtered the innocents. He knows. This is what we should be preaching today.”

Moore sought to express what Sunday epitomizes for the Christian, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy, tweeting, “Sunday still dawns because Roman spikes, or a killer’s bullets, don’t have the last word.”

Overall SBC pastors and leaders attempted to convey that there can be hope in the midst of the pain and joy despite horrific circumstances. Many did this by looking not only at the first coming of Christ, but anticipating His second coming.

Eric Geiger (@RealEricGeiger), vice president of LifeWay’s church resources division, tweeted, “Horrific news today. Groaning with all of creation for Jesus to return and liberate us from all corruption (Rom 8).”

Trip Lee (@TripLee116), a Christian rapper, student at Boyce College and member of Capitol Hill Baptist, quoted from the lyrics of his song “War,” about spiritual warfare and the return of Christ. “People still dying, sin is still potent / The devil’s still tempting and evil ain’t slowin / Just wait until that trumpet gets blowin....”

The Billy Graham Evangelical Association (@BGEA) sent out a quote from Billy Graham that sums up the dichotomy of the Christian approach to such a tragedy. “‘Evil is real, but so is God’s power and love.’ - @BillyGraham #PrayforNewtown #SandyHook.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer in Wake Forest, N.C.)
12/19/2012 2:55:04 PM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Southeastern endows missions director

December 19 2012 by SEBTS Communications

The name George Leile is not well known. Leile, as reported in Daniel Akin’s book, 10 Who Changed the World, was the first Baptist missionary who predates international Baptist missionaries William Carey and Adoniram Judson.
In 1773, Leile was saved at age 23. He preached for two years in the slave quarters of plantations surrounding Savannah, Ga., even making his way into South Carolina.
A black man and former slave, Leile left America to plant the gospel in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1782.
Once in Jamaica, Akin writes, “This cross-centered man set about the business of preaching Christ to a people in need of both spiritual and personal emancipation.”
The fruit of Leile’s labor consisted of his influence in the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, the eruption of nearly 20,000 Baptists in Jamaica, and thousands of lives saved through a single man’s obedience to the Lord.
In honor of Leile and his ministry, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has endowed the George Leile Directorship of Missions. This endowment accomplishes several objectives: (1) it honors the testimony of a nearly forgotten missionary by bestowing his name upon the directorship for one of the leading missionary training centers in the world; (2) it helps cover the costs of ensuring a competent and Christ-like director leading The Center for Great Commission Studies (CGCS) until Christ’s return; (3) the endowment forecasts to the world that Southeastern desires to become more like the Kingdom of Heaven – a multicultural and ethnically diverse institution here on earth. 
Scott and Pam Reed and David and Susan Morrison, both of North Carolina, are underwriting this endowment.
The Reeds have been supporters of the CGCS since 2006, while the Morrisons began supporting Southeastern by helping a student directly. They then became contributors to the Southeastern Fund and recently became interested in ways to encourage faculty and staff in their work.
This endowed directorship is the first at Southeastern.
“Directors, in one way or another, are here to serve Christ by serving students, and they are a critical part of the ‘behind the scenes’ work of equipping students,” said Daniel Palmer, director of financial development. “We hope this new endowed level of ‘directorship’ at $500,000 will encourage more donors to consider how they might be a significant part in helping to ensure that there is competent and Christ-like leadership in place to prepare future champions for King Jesus regardless of any future economic headwinds we may face.
For more about endowed directorships, contact Daniel Palmer at or call (919) 761-2352.
12/19/2012 2:50:16 PM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Christians most populous, Pew research affirms

December 19 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Christians are the world’s largest religious group and are nearly evenly dispersed globally, according to a new Pew study on the size, geographic distribution and median ages of the world’s major religious groups.

Of the world’s 6.9 billion people, 2.2 billion or 32 percent are Christians, Pew reported Dec. 18. While only 12 percent of Christians live in North America, the vast majority of Christians, 99 percent, live outside the Middle East-North Africa region where Christianity began.

Apart from North America, Christians are geographically dispersed, with 26 percent in Europe, 24 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 24 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found, based on 2010 data.

Researchers did not study the degree to which people actively practice their faiths, but relied on the subjects’ self-identification of their religious affiliation.

The majority of the world’s other religions lives in the Asia-Pacific region, including nearly all Buddhists and Hindus, and most Muslims and the religiously unaffiliated, researchers found. While 58.8 percent of the world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific region, it is home to 99 percent of Hindus and Buddhists, 62 percent of Muslims and 76 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew reported that the world’s population includes 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists, 400 million adherents of various folk and traditional religions, 58 million adherents the study confined to the category of “other,” comprised of many religions including Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Wicca.

A plurality of the world’s 14 million Jewish people, 44 percent, live in North America, while 41 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa, nearly all of them in Israel, the study found.

In the U.S., 78 percent, or 243,060,000 of the country’s 310,390,000 people are Christian, the study found. The U.S. also has 50,980,000 religiously unaffiliated, 5,690,000 Jewish people, 3,570,000 Buddhists, 2,770,000 Muslims, 1,790,000 Hindus, 630,000 adherents to folk religions and 1,900,000 affiliated with other religions.

The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010 encompasses more than 230 countries and territories. Based on more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers, the research is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, analyzing religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

Globally, about half of all Christians are Catholic. An estimated 37 percent of Christians are Protestant, including Anglican, independent and nondenominational churches. The Orthodox Communion, including the Greek and Russian Orthodox, make up 12 percent of Christians.

Researchers categorized Christian Scientists, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as “viewing themselves as Christian,” and computed them as comprising about 1 percent of the global Christian population.

Most of the world’s population, 5.8 billion or 84 percent, affiliates with a particular religion, leaving 1.6 billion, or 16 percent, with no religious affiliation, the study found. But many with no religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit, while not identifying with a particular religion.

The study found that some religions have much younger populations, determined in part by the growth rate of countries where the religions are largely found. For example, religions concentrated in China tend to be older, because the population growth is slower.

The median age of the world’s overall population is 28, while the median age of Christians is 30, the study found.

See full report.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
12/19/2012 2:23:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christmas music enjoyed by 70% of Americans

December 19 2012 by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Christmas music is nearly inescapable every December and most Americans enjoy it.

According to a new LifeWay Research study, 70 percent of Americans enjoy hearing Christmas songs in December and 86 percent believe school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.

However, in the November 2012 online survey of 1,191 Americans, one in five Americans (21 percent) said the prevalence of Christmas music in December is “overdone” while 7 percent find it “annoying.”

“When seemingly everyone does something,” LifeWay Research director Scott McConnell commented, “it is sure to grate on someone’s nerves. But 10 times as many people find Christmas music everywhere enjoyable than find it annoying.”

More than eight in 10 (83 percent) Americans who consider themselves to be a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian say they find the prevalence of Christmas music enjoyable compared to 59 percent of those who “never” attend religious services, according to the survey, which was released Dec. 17.

Favorite types of music

When it comes to which type of Christmas music Americans prefer, 67 percent say they enjoy listening to “both secular and religious Christmas songs.” Eleven percent enjoy only “secular Christmas songs” as opposed to 6 percent who say they enjoy hearing only songs of a “religious” nature. One in 10 Americans say they prefer not to hear any Christmas music.

Demographically, secular Christmas songs are more popular among Americans ages 18-29 and those who never attend religious worship services. Twenty-two percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are most likely to say they enjoy secular Christmas songs while also being the least likely (50 percent) of all age groups to say they enjoy both secular and religious Christmas songs.

Americans who never attend religious services are least likely (45 percent) to enjoy both types of songs. Nineteen percent in this subgroup say they only enjoy secular Christmas songs in December.

Americans 65 and over (81 percent) are the most likely to say they enjoy both types of Christmas songs. Seventy-six percent of Americans who self-identified as born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist also say they enjoy both types.

McConnell said secular traditions and religious observances often overlap for Americans at Christmas, but they appear to be “comfortable with this blend when it comes to Christmas music. Many Christmas songs have long histories and are entrenched in December traditions.”

School choirs and bands

One of the times the two types of music come together is during performances by public school choirs and bands. A large majority of Americans (86 percent) agree that public school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.

Only 9 percent say religious Christmas music should not be performed by public school choirs and bands. Six percent said they don’t know.

Americans from the South (65 percent) are more likely to say religious Christmas music should be allowed as compared to those in the West (57 percent).

Weekly attendees of religious services (76 percent) and Americans who call themselves a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian (88 percent) are more likely to strongly agree that religious Christmas music should be allowed.

Age plays a factor with nearly three out of four Americans age 55 and over strongly agreeing as compared to 60 percent of those 30-44.

The survey also shows men are less likely than women to strongly agree (57 percent to 66 percent) that public school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.

Methodology: The survey, conducted Nov. 14-16, 2012, sampled an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 1,191 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ atop LifeWay carols

Every year, new Christmas songs are written and performed by popular artists from nearly every music genre, but inside churches, the classics still reign.

The most popular Christmas songs downloaded or sold through are:
  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful
  2. Joy To The World! The Lord Is Come
  3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  4. Angels We Have Heard On High
  5. Christ Has Come
  6. Silent Night, Holy Night
  7. O Holy Night!
  8. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
  9. Go, Tell On The Mountain
  10. The First Noel
  11. Angels, From The Realms Of Glory
  12. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  13. Away In A Manger
  14. What Child Is This
  15. Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy)
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, said most Christmas carols go back to the 13th century.

“Carols were primarily art songs in nature with spiritual or religious themes. As time went by, they became more about the nativity of Christ,” Harland said. “The carols associated with Christmas tended to survive. By the 16th century, the Christmas carol was here to stay.

Now, Harland said, there’s “a certain nostalgia with these familiar classics.”

“People like to sing what they know, and especially at the holiday season it takes you back to places in your memory - singing the same song as a child at Christmas.

“Christmas is a singing season,” Harland said. “It may be the most sung-about season of all. Almost everyone will sing during the Christmas season at one point or another, even if they don’t normally sing at all. The familiarity of the songs is the main factor with this.”
12/19/2012 2:12:16 PM by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GuideStone continues efforts to advocate for church plans

December 19 2012 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone

President Barack Obama’s re-election virtually guarantees that his signature healthcare reform law, passed in 2010, will continue moving toward implementation over the coming four years.
GuideStone continues working toward applying the provisions of the law, while remaining an active part of a coalition of large and historic denominational church health plan providers advocating on behalf of ministers and other participants served by church plans.
“We are continuing our efforts to aggressively pursue legislative and regulatory relief,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. “We recognize that many religious organizations, including some in our own Baptist family, have chosen to pursue litigation to challenge aspects of the law. At this time, GuideStone has chosen to work with legislators and regulators to address the concerns of church health plans, but we are closely monitoring the lawsuits as they make their way through the court system. We fully support these lawsuits and share the foundational commitment to safeguard religious liberty. Since we serve employers and participants throughout the country, we are focused on securing a resolution that would apply nationwide.”
Church health plans have existed for more than a century but were left out of the formulation of the healthcare law. Among the issues to be addressed with regulators and Congress is the issue of premium credit assistance for plan participants. At this point, participants in self-funded church plans, like those offered by GuideStone and other major denominations, are not eligible for this assistance that will become available to participants in secular plans in 2014.
Much of the buzz around the healthcare reform law centers on 2014.
That remains a pivotal year; various requirements do not become effective until then, so many fixes or legislative changes remain options prior to that.
“As GuideStone looks at benefits, coverages and pricing for 2014 and beyond, we will continue to make full use of current and future opportunities to push for resolution of these issues before 2014,” Hawkins said. “As the years unfold before us, we will press on in our pro-active approach of seeking fairness for ministers and others who need the ability to participate in a nationwide plan that respects their biblical convictions.”
GuideStone has been at the forefront of offering values-focused health plans with benefits that put participants first. Before the law was authored, GuideStone’s standard health plans already provided many of the provisions that are touted as successes by the law’s supporters. For example, GuideStone’s standard health plans did not impose lifetime or annual limits and already was providing comprehensive coverage for preventive care services prior to 2010. Additionally, unlike secular health plan providers, GuideStone never terminated a participant’s health coverage for excessive claims.
In 2010, GuideStone was among the earliest health plan providers to begin covering preventive care services at 100 percent (not subject to a deductible, and with no co-pay). GuideStone also offered the ability to cover children as dependents up to age 26 and extended no pre-existing condition limitations on children under age 19.
For more information on healthcare reform, including changes that may come over time, visit
12/19/2012 2:08:12 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone | with 0 comments

Funerals begin in Connecticut

December 18 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. – Funerals were held Dec. 17 for two of the 20 children shot to death last Friday in the presumed safety of a Newtown, Ct., elementary school.

At nearby Southbury Baptist Church, pastor Bryan Sims met Monday with Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers drawn to the community to speed healing and offer salvation. The church is serving as a base for Southern Baptist responders. The leaders encouraged Southern Baptists to pray for Newtown and suggested financial donations be sent to the Baptist Convention of New England’s Victim Relief Fund.

At Sunday’s interfaith prayer vigil in Newtown, President Obama offered the assurance of 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 in his remarks.

“Scripture tells us: ‘... do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,’” President Obama said at the vigil, quoting from the passage. “‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’”

Friday in the town of 30,000, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother at home, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults, before committing suicide.

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter said the mass murder should be a wake-up call.

“What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School could happen at any school in America. No town, city or state in America is exempt from the demonic attacks of the enemy,” Luter said. “As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I would like to call on Southern Baptists across America to do three things in the aftermath of this tragedy in Newtown, Ct.” – to pray for spiritual revival; share their faith; and be “lights in a dark world” and “salt in a salt-less society.”

“If revival is going to happen in America it is not going to happen because of who is in the White House, the governor’s house, or the mayor’s house; but revival will happen because of who is in God’s house,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “The Bible is very clear that if revival is going to happen in our nation, it MUST start with the people of God.”

Like so many pastors across the nation, Sims preached on the tragedy in his Sunday (Dec. 16) sermon.

“I do trust that God will bring good out of this ... thing. For a God who created a universe out of nothing, nothing is impossible,” Sims said.

Sims is keeping the congregation updated through the church’s Facebook page, telling of three Mississippians trained in trauma ministry who were en route to the church.

“Along with [North American Mission Board disaster relief chaplaincy coordinator] Enio Aguero, they will use our church as a home base to coordinate efforts for ministry to Newtown and beyond,” Sims wrote. “They will also help us develop a plan for the future ministry to the community.” To support the outreach ministry, financial contributions can be sent to the Baptist Convention of New England’s Victim Relief Fund, 87 Lincoln St., Northborough, MA 01532.

As families grieve, Obama said the nation must do more to protect its children.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” the president said at the Sunday vigil. “We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law – no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

“But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson (Ariz.), and Aurora (Colo.), and Oak Creek (Wis.), and Newtown, and communities from Columbine (Colo.) to Blacksburg (Va.) before that – then surely we have an obligation to try.”

Obama pledged quick action.

“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens – from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators – in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have?” Obama said.

“We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?” Obama asked. “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)

Related story
At Sandy Hook, chaplains pray, offer hope
12/18/2012 2:54:38 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

At Sandy Hook, chaplains pray, offer hope

December 18 2012 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. – While Enio Aguero has ministered to families of service personnel killed in action, only God’s grace could prepare him to comfort those who lost their children in the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“As you can imagine, this is a difficult situation,” Aguero said. “There is a long road to recovery for these families, and not only the families and first responders, but for all of Connecticut.” Even so, Aguero said he can see God’s hand at work.

The national disaster relief (DR) chaplain coordinator for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) joined area chaplains, including four from the Baptist Convention of New England, in providing whatever comfort they could in the unimaginable circumstances in Newtown, Ct.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell said he’s thankful Aguero is available to help.

“I know Enio wanted to do whatever he could to help and I am glad God gave him this opportunity,” Ezell said. “I know I speak for all Southern Baptists when I say our prayers and thoughts are with the families and survivors in Newtown.”

On the day of the attack, Enio reported to the Sandy Hook volunteer firehouse. After quick introductions with law enforcement officials, he went to work.

“I counseled several first responders. I was part of the death notification teams for the families of the victims of the school shooting,” said Enio, who was accompanied by John Revell, a pastor and police chaplain from Stamford, Ct.

“I am exhausted, but I am OK,” Aguero said. “I am trying not to be an obstacle for what God is putting into place. He is opening doors for ministry. There will be needs for a long time here. After the funerals, there will be needs of the families and those who have responded.”

Aguero plans to remain in Newtown for several days to continue counseling.

Bruce James, DR director for the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE), also expressed appreciation for Aguero’s ministry.

“We are grateful for how in God’s providence He had DR chaplain Enio Aguero in New York [for Hurricane Sandy] and he deployed and began to minister at the Sandy Hook Emergency Response Center,” James said. Four BCNE chaplains assisted Friday (Dec. 14) in 20 counseling sessions with first responders and families of the victims, Aguero said.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has deployed a team of chaplains to Newtown who are trained to assist children in disasters. The Mississippi team of three, including a law enforcement chaplain, will work with area pastors and Aguero, ministering to children and parents.

Southbury Baptist Church pastor Bryan Sims and his congregation, which meets less than 10 miles north of the school, are also reaching out to the community.

Bryan Finch, an SBC chaplain and the command chaplain at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, will conduct a memorial service Wednesday for a U.S. Coast Guard member’s niece, a Sandy Hook victim.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

Related story
Funerals begin in Connecticut
12/18/2012 2:48:17 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Coats for Queens prompts conversations, ‘divine appointments’

December 18 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Their conversation moved from the street, to the front yard and out to the car; the woman did not seem to want their time together to end.
The woman told Brieanna Carlson that many people still needed help getting back on their feet after Hurricane Sandy, especially in the Rockaways area of Queens where she lives. 
Carlson described the woman – like so many others she talked to that day – as broken and looking for something.
“I know what that feels like; to be looking for something,” said Carlson, who only 10 months ago prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.
Carlson works with the young adults ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia, N.C. She was one of about 30 volunteers from the church who participated in Coats for Queens Saturday, Dec. 1. 

Contributed photo

Boto Joseph, left, talks with volunteers outside an Islamic center where the group was giving out coats. Volunteers from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia joined with members of Joseph’s church, House of Worship Church, to distribute the winter wear.

During Coats for Queens, volunteers spread out among seven different sites throughout Queens and Brooklyn and gave free coats to anyone in need. When they had opportunities, volunteers prayed with people and shared the gospel. Last year Coats for Queens was held in Jackson Heights, Queens, and all the donated coats (about 600) were distributed in less than three hours. This year about 7,000 coats were collected, most donated by Bethlehem church members.
This is the second year Bethlehem has partnered with House of Worship Church in Jackson Heights to host the event.
The event came together when Bethlehem began a partnership last year with House of Worship and pastor Boto Joseph.
Bethlehem pastor Dickie Spargo met Joseph during a vision tour with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
Through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, N.C. Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with churches and church planters in the metro New York area. Spargo wanted to find a way to help Joseph and House of Worship reach their community for Jesus Christ.
“Boto has such a call on his life to be in this area. We wanted to partner with someone who has a godly vision,” Spargo said. “Partnership is all about relationships and the brotherhood we now have. Our church has embraced pastor Boto.”
Their community of Jackson Heights is situated in one of the most diverse areas of the world.
More than 130 languages are spoken in Jackson Heights and Greek Orthodox, Sikh, Roman Catholic, Hinduism and Buddhism are all represented.
Coats for Queens is one way House of Worship lives out its mission to love God and to love people.
“Being in a setting with so many other beliefs and religious pluralism, I am so convinced that the only way we will win darkness is true love,” Joseph said. “We see that in the life of our Lord. We have to build bridges to cultures and other religions.”
Bethlehem volunteer Jaron Moss, 24, spent the day serving in the Rockaways. Like Carlson, Moss is a new believer in Jesus Christ and is excited about sharing his faith with others.
“I led a rough life,” Moss said. “God saved me from this life. He was all I needed. I never had excitement about life – now I do.”
Moss met people in the Rockaways who are depressed, anxious and even angry.
Yet, because of their brokenness, Moss said people were very willing to talk with him and to listen when volunteers shared the gospel or asked to pray with them.
Bethlehem and House of Worship volunteers also passed out coats in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, which is a predominantly Pakistani and Russian area with a high Muslim population. One Pakistani businessman in his 50s wanted to know why volunteers gave up a Saturday to help strangers.
He also expressed interest in learning more about the gospel.
Two Muslim young adults also had questions about the gospel. They asked the church members to meet with them another day so they could learn more.
“The way of relationships is very strong with conversations,” Joseph said. “After Coats for Queens, we have a lot of areas and people to follow up with.”
At Moore Homestead Park in Queens, in the heart of Elmhurst, it wasn’t long after the team set up that Joseph was sitting on a park bench and using an Evangecube to share the gospel with a man from Nepal.
Spargo met a woman from Bangladesh who worshipped the Dalai Lama.
He also prayed with a Jewish woman who shared that she was feeling depressed.
“I’m always looking for divine appointments,” Spargo said.
Joseph and members of House of Worship, along with volunteers from Fusion Church near Fayetteville, N.C., also distributed coats Saturday, Dec. 8, in Jackson Heights.
Joseph asked people to pray for Queens, especially Jackson Heights. 
“Some of the most well-known temples in the United States are in Jackson Heights,” he said. “It is the stronghold of Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. The church of Christ must have a single vision of serving the King and His Kingdom. I so desire to see that happen.”
Joseph also asked that churches pray about joining God at work in New York.
“I pray God will stir hearts to come and co-labor with us,” he said. “We need laborers. We need partners. We need churches like Bethlehem. I can’t tell you what a blessing that partnership has been to us.”
To learn how your church can get involved visit or contact Michael Sowers at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654, or
12/18/2012 2:30:28 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Human trafficking focus of seminar

December 18 2012 by Laura Reid, BR Editorial Aide

Your church can help victims of human trafficking find true freedom both physically and spiritually, said Larry Martin. As believers, he added, it’s our duty.
Martin, the Southeast Director of Church Mobilization for International Justice Mission (IJM), shared about the organization’s fight against human trafficking at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest earlier this fall.  Southeastern’s Center for Faith and Culture hosted Martin for a seminar on “The Unfamiliar Passions of God.”
IJM is a human rights agency that helps rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Read more at
When Martin first took a position with IJM in 2001, he was traveling around 300,000 miles a year to support the ministry. Now, as a director of church mobilization, Martin spends most of his time in the United States informing churches about the organization’s work and how they can become involved.

stock.xchng photo

Because of the work of the International Justice Mission (IJM) thousands of people have been freed from slavery. IJM is made up of Christian lawyers, criminal investigators and social workers. They learn the ins and outs of local governments and seek justice for victims of human trafficking.

Martin said too often people forget about God’s passion for the world because it’s a “great big mess,” which at times can seem overwhelming.
“1.5 billion people have no medical care,” he said. “They just don’t get a doctor. I’m seeing children wake up on the streets.”
Referencing 2 Corinthians 5:20, Martin said Christians can engage the world by showing the impoverished the glory of God and offering all they can to help.
IJM has handled many cases of injustice in South Asia and has helped rescue thousands out of slavery. IJM is made up of Christian lawyers, criminal investigators and social workers. They work in foreign countries, mostly the poorest countries, in order to help victims of injustice.
These workers learn the ins and outs of local governments and their justice systems and then work with the local officials to seek justice for their clients.
IJM handles all of its casework overseas because some governments don’t have the resources of trained lawyers and court systems that Americans are able to access.
IJM workers persistently pursue local officials with cases of injustice, Martin said. Workers also have seen impactful responses of progress in local governments taking action on their own, and this is one of IJM’s goals.

Lives changed

Some of the lives impacted by IJM’s work include Shama and Jvoti.
Shama was sold into slavery as a child when her family was unable to pay the medical bill for her sibling’s delivery. For her new master, she had to roll 2,000 cigarettes a day or suffer beatings.
Jyoti was held captive for years in sex trafficking. Women in her hometown drugged her and sold her to a brothel when she was 14. She was beaten and forced into the sex trafficking life.
One day in her brothel a believer shared Jesus with her. Jyoti believed and Christ transformed her life. An IJM investigator showed up a week later and led a raid into the brothel and freed Jyoti.
Referencing the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, Martin said the Lord asks Christians to give what they can to help those, like Shama and Jyoti, who are in need of rescue.
“All He asks is that we would come forward … to offer up what we have,” said Martin adding that in the end, Jesus feeds the masses.
“If you want your light to shine brightly, you have to take it into these dark places.”


Martin recommended several resources to aid churches interested in international and national justice issues. Some of those resources included “At the End of Slavery.”
It’s a kit designed to inspire people to take action against slavery. It also provides helpful tips on writing senators about legislation that fights slavery.
He also recommended two books. They include The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-Taking, Justice-Seeking, Disciple-Making Congregation by Jim Martin and Gary Haugen. Haugen, IJM’s president and CEO, also wrote Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian. Both books address how Christians can take on the topic of injustice and become involved.
12/18/2012 2:22:01 PM by Laura Reid, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

Barcelo honored for service to Hispanic leaders

December 18 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

When Aldo Barcelo joined Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (FBBI) as the school’s first director of Hispanic Theological Training in 2009, few options existed for North Carolina Hispanic pastors and students who desired a theological education in Spanish.

BSC photo by Buddy Overman

Antonio Santos, right, and Larry Phillips, center, present an award to Aldo Barcelo for his service at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.

Barcelo helped establish FBBI regional satellite campuses in Winston-Salem, Statesville and Wilmington. The satellite campuses are specifically designed to provide easier access to quality theological training and education to Hispanic pastors, students and laypersons.
Barcelo, who recently announced that he will leave his position at FBBI to assume a pastorate responsibility in his native Chile, was honored for his work among Hispanic churches during the Hispanic Conference and Banquet held in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting in Greensboro.
“We honored Aldo with a plaque as a way to thank him for his years of service as a pastor and as the director of the Hispanic program at Fruitland,” said Antonio Santos, BSC senior consultant for Hispanic ministry. “His role was critical in connecting Hispanic pastors, church planters and lay leaders to have access to theological education.”
As many North Carolina Hispanic pastors are bivocational and have little formal theological training, the satellite campuses provide an invaluable service to Hispanic church leaders.
“Aldo provided that education, and because of the satellite campuses he has made it much easier for Hispanic pastors from all over the state to gain access to that education,” Santos said. “He will absolutely be missed.”
FBBI president David Horton said Barcelo was instrumental in the design and implementation of the Hispanic satellite campuses, and his contribution to North Carolina Baptists and Hispanic churches will last for generations to come.
“Dr. Barcelo has greatly expanded ministerial training for Hispanic students by adding satellite campuses in strategic locations in North Carolina. He will be missed by all of us at Fruitland,” Horton said.
FBBI has named Robert Fernandez as the new director of Hispanic Theological Education. Fernandez has been an instructor at FBBI since 2007. He is a pastor of Casa De Dios church, a church plant sponsored by Bethel Baptist Church in Canton, N.C.
He is also pastor of El Centro del Senor church in Cullowhee, N.C. Fernandez was born in Cuba but his family moved to Tampa, Fla., where he was raised. A FBBI graduate himself, Fernandez values the training opportunities FBBI provides for church leaders. Horton believes Fernandez will have great success directing FBBI’s efforts to provide high quality theological education to Hispanic students.
“We are very excited about the future for Hispanic ministerial training at Fruitland,” Horton said.
12/18/2012 1:57:43 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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