December 2012

Sharing truth focus of couple in Brazil

December 17 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

On a crisp December morning in Cary, N.C., Nancy and Danny Callis arrived bundled up with several layers of clothing during a visit to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) building. It’s much cooler than the warmer Brazilian climate they’ve grown accustomed to over more than 30 years.
“We get colder faster than anybody else does around here,” Nancy later joked as she shared about the couple’s mission work in Salvador, Brazil. As International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries, the couple has been in the United States on stateside assignment since August.
While living in missionary housing provided by First Baptist Church of Cary, the Callises occasionally visit the nearby BSC building.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Danny and Nancy Callis serve in Brazil through the International Mission Board.

Danny is using one of the building’s computers to help him translate into Portuguese a training manual for a DVD-based apologetics study called the Truth Project by Focus on the Family. Danny plans to train Brazilian leaders to teach the material when he and Nancy return to Salvador in the spring.
For the Callises, of Fuquay-Varina, their heart remains with the people of Brazil. As they visit churches throughout N.C. this Christmas season, they share how they wouldn’t be able to continue their ministry in Brazil without the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“First … we say thank you for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Nancy said. “As far as … being on the field, we’ve got a good package, a good salary, … transportation if we need it, health care and everything,” Danny added.
“I think where it’s really crunching is the [IMB] is not able to send more people.”
When the couple first arrived in Brazil, after being appointed in 1978, there were around 300 Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) missionaries in the country.
“Today we’ve got around 85 or 90 missionaries,” Danny said.
In recent years, the IMB has been unable to keep up with the rising expenses that come with missionaries living overseas. Today there are about 4,900 missionaries serving around the globe. That is down from nearly 6,000 missionaries a few years ago.
And unfortunately, Nancy said, many of those in Southern Baptist churches today have little knowledge of how the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports missions.
“One lady admitted it,” Nancy said. “She said ‘I don’t understand this. I was gonna ask my pastor [but] I’m glad you’re talking about this.’” 
Danny said he is less concerned about economic trends and more concerned about the biblical worldview of Southern Baptists and the need to “rescue the perishing.”
Without a solid worldview, Danny said missions in places like Brazil and other parts of the world will suffer.
Many Brazilians are caught up in idol worship, spiritism and “cultural Catholicism.”
“It’s all blended together,” Nancy said.
“In Salvador, any day, you’re driving around and you’ll see sacrifices on the side of the road,” Danny added. “Usually it’s a dead chicken inside of a clay pot dish … with whisky, cigarettes, a little bit of money, nothing really valuable, sometimes a goat head or a cows head.”
And with a high crime rate, – more than 50,000 murders per year – Danny said many Brazilians live “on edge” in a continual state of fear.
While some worship idols and rely on works to save them, younger Brazilian generations are wrapped up in materialism and a secular lifestyle. It’s this trend that Danny hopes to address through helping teach a biblical worldview to young people with The Truth Project.
“What’s going on here in the states with post humanism and modernism, whatever you want to call it, is the same thing [going on in Brazil],” Danny said.
“The church is losing the young people, and they don’t have a good solid basis for defending the faith. The Truth Project is a systematic study of the truth, and our biblical worldview.”
If a person has a biblical worldview they will naturally become a disciple of Christ, Danny contends.
While Danny and Nancy have served in various roles during their years in Brazil, the couple – who have two grown sons – has worked in Salvador their entire missionary career. During that time, they have seen many lives changed for Christ in Brazil. They shared about one man named Miguel.
When the Callises first met Miguel years ago he struggled with drugs and robbed ATMs. Today he is an evangelist and church planter.
“He’s just growing by leaps and bounds,” Danny said. “He’s totally different.”
Much of their ministry, they say, would not be possible without help from Baptist partners or volunteers.
In a city of more than 3.5 million people, Danny and Nancy are the only missionaries in the greater Salvador area. The area encompasses a 50-mile radius and has a population of around 8 to 9 million.
Though there are about 120 Baptist churches in Salvador, and some reports show higher numbers of evangelicals, the IMB reports less than 2 percent of the people in the city are evangelical.
As “catalytic connectors,” the couple works with churches and various Baptist groups and entities – both in Brazil and the U.S.
They help connect partners to ministry opportunities among the Brazilian people. This includes presenting the gospel in public schools and through community projects, such as remodeling and rebuilding homes.
The couple also finds opportunities to share Christ with the Brazilian interpreters they recruit to work with partnering teams. While interviewing interpreters, Danny explains the material they will be working with, which includes the plan of salvation.
“One of the [translators who] … showed up was a pastor,” Nancy said. “He walked out of there vibrant. He says, ‘They just got evangelized and they don’t even know it.’”
The Callises hope more churches will be willing to take a risk and invest in some type of ministry overseas.
“You do need to take a risk,” Danny said. “You do need to go out on a limb.
“If anybody goes as a missionary or volunteer partner, you have to count the cost, assume the risk and jump in ... If not, how are you going to see God at work?”
Today Danny and Nancy aren’t sure when they’ll retire and step away from Brazil and the people and ministry they’ve grown to love. “As long as we’re healthy [and] our love, our heart is there, we don’t want to retire,” Nancy said.
“Even though we’ve been [in Brazil] forever, we’re never going to be Brazilian,” she added.
“And we’re never going to be Americans totally again either. We’re definitely citizens of heaven.” 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For those interested in more information, contact Danny and Nancy Callis at This year’s theme for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to

12/17/2012 3:27:16 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Learning stewardship through discipleship

December 17 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Neal Eller has been a Christian for nearly 50 years. But he said he never fully appreciated the true sense of biblical stewardship until nearly a decade ago, when he realized the radical nature of giving and sacrifice that is expressed through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Christ did an amazing transformation in my heart,” said Eller, who serves as church health team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “I’ve never experienced the spiritual growth that I’ve experienced over the last few years.”
During a breakout session at the BSC’s annual meeting in Greensboro, Eller shared how God transformed his heart in the area of financial stewardship. Individual believers and churches can experience that same transformation, he added.

BSC photo by K Brown

Neal Eller, church health team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), leads a breakout session Nov. 13 during the annual meeting in Greensboro.

Next year, stewardship will become an area of emphasis for the church health team. Too many churches are failing to teach believers about stewardship, he said.
“If your church only speaks about stewardship once or twice a year you are sending the wrong message to your people,” Eller said. “Your church needs to adopt a discipleship approach to stewardship.”
Churches must rediscover, he added, the meaning of the Great Commandment and teach what it means to love God and others above self.   
“Much of American Christianity believes that we have to preserve our wealth in order to meet our needs and that being generous is a matter of having enough money first,” he said.
Instead, Eller said when Christians learn to give out of a deep love for God and fellow man they will discover a new level of spiritual growth. The path to change, he explained, is to understand stewardship as a biblical and spiritual issue.
Eller said Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative for all areas of life should live by the Bible’s standards of generosity and sacrificial giving.
“We have not come to terms with the Bible’s teaching on money because we want to pick and choose what we want to believe,” he said. “We say we value the Kingdom of God and missions, but in reality we like to spend more money on ourselves than on missions while our community around us is dying and going to hell.”
As a spiritual issue, a fundamental connection exists between the spiritual lives of Christians and how they handle money. Spirit-filled Christians are compelled to recognize that everything they have belongs to God. 
“How we handle money is an indicator of our idols and a measure of our love for Jesus and our love for others,” Eller said. “As Christ-followers we have to live life with hands wide open, not only to God, but to others.”
Contact Eller at
12/17/2012 3:15:49 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Great Commission Partnerships host interviews with key leaders

December 17 2012 by Melissa Lilley & Dianna L. Cagle, BSC Communications & Biblical Recorder

Messengers to this year’s annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) enjoyed a unique opportunity to hear from partnership leaders during live interviews held throughout the meeting in the exhibit hall.
Michael Sowers, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, hosted the interviews with leaders representing each of the national and international partnerships associated with his office. Chuck Register, church planting and missions development executive leader, also conducted some of the interviews, which took place in the exhibit hall Nov. 12-13.


Boston, and the interior of the I-495 loop around Boston, is home to 4.5 million people. Within this metropolitan area are 100 Southern Baptist churches and cities as large as 100,000 that have no gospel-preaching church.
“For many people, there’s no framework. It’s not even on the radar,” said Josh Wyatt, a Boston church planter. Some adults in Boston have never even heard the message of the gospel.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Mike Sowers, left, senior consultant for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, leads a question and answer time about unreached, unengaged people groups with Joe Dillon, center, missional church strategist at the International Mission Board, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

The greater Boston area is also home to about 250,000 college students, most of whom are not believers.
“You can reach the world when you reach the campuses in Boston,” said Curtis Cook, pastor of Hope Fellowship Church and city coordinator for the North American Mission Board’s Send Boston initiative.
Cook encouraged N.C. Baptist churches to pray about becoming long-term partners with Boston church planters.
“Please pray for the longevity of church planters,” he said. “It’s a slow process and you have to work some hard soil. Church planting is not just build it and they will come.”

Send North America

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), shared about NAMB’s goal to plant 1,500 churches a year and the missionary “Farm System” NAMB is launching to help plant these new churches.
The “Farm System” will allow potential church planters, pastors and ministry leaders to serve alongside mentors in a context specific to their ministry area. From student missionaries to interns and church planting apprentices, the goal is to help train and equip the next generation of leaders to effectively advance the gospel. “We need more church planters, but at the same time we have to raise the bar of the criteria we expect in a church planter,” Ezell said.
Ezell also spoke to the importance of long-term partnerships. “A perfect partnering church or sending church is one that desires a very tight relationship. Planters want more than anything the connectivity; they need continual contact from a pastor or someone on that staff,” he said. Ezell encouraged Southern Baptists to utilize technology and the modern conveniences of travel to begin forming partnerships with churches and church planters in areas all across the nation.
“There are no limits. It’s amazing to me still that you can get on a plane and in just an hour be in such a drastically different context,” he said. “It’s a different day, and we need to take advantage of that.”
To learn more about the church planting “Farm System” through NAMB, visit 


With 8 million people, Toronto provides a daunting task for church planters. “It’s ripe,” said Brett Porter, part of the Toronto church planting network.
Porter was joined by Andrew Lamme, NAMB church planting consultant, in saying their work will be a “journey.”
“We want to see this area, this neighborhood impacted for the gospel,” Porter said.
Partnering with NAMB and N.C. Baptists will help them mentor, disciple and train new leaders. Funding is also a major concern. Since Lamme was raised in Toronto, he knows the challenges they face.
When he visits North Carolina, he sees numerous churches, but in Toronto churches are rare. Churches with facilities are even more unique.
First, they recommend forming a prayer team followed by sending a vision team to survey the area and meet with local leaders.
Porter said the partnership will work better if both sides jump in the deep end of the pool together “instead of wading in the shallow end.”
They mentioned the need for long-term commitments, because their goal is to plant a multiplying church. Toronto is creating a hub where planters can network and share resources allowing them to take ownership of their church plants.
“We don’t have to worry about encroaching on other people’s territory,” Lamme said.
The idea, Lamme said, is to “church the area, not just have church.”

New York

The effects of Hurricane Sandy affected the course of the New York interviews with Steve Allen, NAMB catalyst; George Russ, executive director of Metro New York Baptist Association (MNYBA); and Jae Lee, pastor of Ebenezer Mission Church in Oakland Gardens, New York.
Russ mentioned that several of MNYBA’s churches are “right in the middle of efforts” to help victims of the superstorm. MNYBA has a paypal account link on its website so funds can be donated toward the relief efforts. In one church 31 families were flooded, Russ said. Of those, 19 families were permanently displaced.
A bivocational pastor lost his work vehicles so his livelihood is in jeopardy. “Other communities are trying to help,” said Russ, and MNYBA is working to provide training for people so they can help others.
While Sandy affected some of Ebenezer’s members, Lee’s church has mainly been trying to pool resources within the community to help neighbors.
The storm has given them “an opportunity to share the Word of God and love of God with people,” Lee said.
Within a 75-mile radius of Times Square in New York City, Allen said there are numerous big cities, “some of which have been hit really, really hard by the hurricane.”
When Register asked Allen about the landscape for New York church planting, he shared stories about where there is a lack of churches.
On Staten Island, there is one Southern Baptist church. In Jersey City, population 300,000 plus, there is one Southern Baptist church.
Allen challenged N.C. Baptists “to think about ways to be co-laborers” for N.Y. church plants.
With New York’s diversity, Allen said church planting has opened doors to ministry around the world.
“It’s been a blessing,” Allen said.
A church that reaches a Japanese person in New York could, in fact, reach that Japanese person’s family in Japan.
Russ called the relationship between New York and North Carolina “two-way, reciprocal” and “mutually beneficial” because Russ also comes to N.C. to help train leaders on reaching a more diverse population within the state.


Unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPG) are the main focus for the International Mission Board (IMB). The Office of Great Commission Partnerships also helps churches move toward adopting a UUPG.
Sowers interviewed Joe Dillon, IMB missional church strategist, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The Baptist State Convention and IMB have done several stories about Old Town’s partnership with the T people, a UUPG in Asia. See stories at or


John Miron, president of the Baptist Union of Moldova, thanked N.C. Baptists for their involvement in helping them with ministry.
A vision team was there in October to encourage Moldovan pastors and inspire N.C. pastors to catch a vision for the Moldovan people. Miron shared about the many unreached villages in Moldova. The dream is to raise up missionaries to go to areas where there is little evangelical work. There also are many Moldovan pastors and church leaders who struggle to make a living. 
Moldovan Baptist leaders are also focusing on reaching younger generations.
“We have a lot of children with no parents,” said Miron, who hopes N.C. Baptists will bring mission teams to help with camps for the children, and help provide training for Moldovans to lead the camps.
For information on how your congregation can become involved in partnerships with church planters in Boston, metro New York, Toronto and Moldova through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, contact Michael Sowers at or visit
12/17/2012 3:01:45 PM by Melissa Lilley & Dianna L. Cagle, BSC Communications & Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

NCBM ready to move forward with ministry in Cuba

December 17 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Joel Luis Dupont grew up in Cuba and lived through the days when most people wanted nothing to do with Jesus or the gospel.
Now, things are starting to change.
“This is the best time in Cuba for the gospel. People are ready,” he said, during a recent visit to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “Today is the hungriest generation there has ever been.”
Dupont, president of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, said interest in the gospel is growing because Cubans are coming to realize that earthly things cannot satisfy.
“The government tried to feed the souls of people with culture, education, philosophy, sports and entertainment. But none of this worked. The people tried all of that and it didn’t satisfy them,” he said.
“The people can destroy their lives, or turn back to the author of life. And that’s what is happening in Cuba; they are turning back to the author of life.”
About eight years ago North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) began a partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention that focused on building a Cuban Baptist retirement home in Santiago, the country’s second largest city.
Although the government does not allow Cuban Baptists to purchase buildings for church services and ministries, the government did grant permission for the retirement home, and about 40 senior adults are already living in the facility.
“With our own resources we couldn’t have achieved that,” Dupont said.
“God used North Carolina Baptist Men as a channel to make this a reality. We want to express thankfulness to North Carolina Baptist Men for being used as an instrument in God’s hand.”
When North Carolina Baptist volunteers first began arriving in Cuba to help build the retirement home they were greeted with suspicion and questions. Over the years trust developed as they faithfully continued to love the Cuban people and help provide for their needs. Now the people know that the volunteers continue to come because they want to serve.
“The government knows we care for the people,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director.
Brunson said he sees a genuine desire among many Cubans to know God.
“Difficulties in this country have turned people to God, not away from God. People want to hear about the freedom that comes in knowing Jesus Christ, and the churches in Cuba are strong.”
Existing churches are growing and strengthening, yet many more are needed, as one church exists for every 1,000 people. The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention has a goal to plant multiplying churches all across Cuba that will reach people with the gospel.
Dupont shared that churches are now more focused on evangelism, as well as social ministries, as they are no longer content to leave social ministries to the government. Churches are ministering to alcoholics, prisoners, deaf people and now, thanks to the retirement facility, senior adults.
As a variety of cults and false doctrines remain in Cuba, one of the greatest needs there is theological education and training.
“We want to prepare our leadership in the churches to serve with integrity and knowledge,” Dupont said.
With the retirement facility completed, NCBM moves into a new phase of the Cuba partnership that will focus on leadership training, disaster relief training and construction of a new conference center to be used for training leaders and pastors.
Earlier this year a team of N.C. Baptists traveled to Cuba to lead training for youth leaders, university leaders and camp staffs, and to provide life skills training for women.  
“Cubans are depending on God working. You really see God working because He is all they have,” said Tom Beam, NCBM student missions mobilization consultant.
Beam participated in the youth leader training and is also leading a group of students to serve in Cuba next year through Deep Impact. Deep Impact mission weeks are pre-packaged experiences that provide middle and high school students an opportunity to serve and share the gospel.
Spots are still open for the July 26- Aug. 2 Deep Impact mission trip to Cuba. To sign up or for more information, contact Beam at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5626, or
Beam encouraged N.C. Baptists to get involved in ministry in Cuba. “You will see miracles there,” he said. “You see God at work there unlike anywhere in the world.”
When Hurricane Sandy hit near Santiago, Cuba, in October, the retirement facility, as well as many homes and churches, suffered much damage.
For more information about how you can help, visit
12/17/2012 2:51:47 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

‘Grieved’ – Conn. Baptists responding to shooting

December 15 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. – Area Southern Baptists are preparing to provide any assistance that may be needed for families impacted by Friday morning’s (Dec. 14) mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, where at least 27 were killed, including 20 children.

Bryan Sims, pastor of Southbury Baptist Church about 15 minutes from the school, said hours after the tragedy he was contacting members to see if any of them were directly impacted. A resident from the Newtown area has been visiting Southbury for a few months, Sims said.

“We’re all very grieved, definitely praying for those who are going through that down in Newtown. It’s such a tragedy. It’s one thing when it’s adults, but when it’s little children being killed, it’s just hard to fathom,” Sims said. “I’ve emailed everybody in the church and put it on our church Facebook page that ... I’m here to talk, pray if anybody needs to. I’m kind of gauging the response right now. I’m not sure if people want to come to the church or if they want to be with their families right now.”

Itamar Maciel, interim pastor of the Spanish-language-speaking All Nations Church, a Southern Baptist plant in nearby Danbury, said his church will sponsor a community prayer meeting Saturday (Dec. 15) at 7 p.m. in response to the tragedy.

He said the children of his 100 members are likely enrolled in public schools in Danbury, rather than Sandy Hook Elementary, the scene of the mass shooting.

The tragedy unfolded when one or two gunmen entered the school and began shooting. Police were still on the scene Friday afternoon (Dec. 14); the presumed shooter was dead inside the school with other victims.

Sims said Southbury could itself use prayer to know the best way to respond to the tragedy.

“We’re just here to reach out to anybody we can,” Sims said.

Mark Angerosa, interim director of mission for the Western Connecticut Baptist Association, said he will work across denominational lines to access the need for assistance, even as the association is still responding to Connecticut’s damage from October’s Hurricane Sandy.

“It’s still very early to tell,” Angerosa said. “There are some ... very large churches in that area. In the evangelical community in Connecticut, we tend to work across denominational lines where it’s helpful. And we’ll certainly see if we can get on board with anything they are doing in that area already.”

Angerosa said any outreach could be an extension of disaster relief already underway in response to Sandy.

“We’ve just had some people in our association trained for disaster relief, through the Baptist Convention of New England, and we’re gearing ourselves up to assist with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which is still a great need in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey,” Angerosa said. “So it is very possible that we could take some with chaplaincy training and make them available to those in Newtown if they have need of such. ... It’s been a very difficult few months with the hurricane and now this tragedy is just devastating.”

Lisa Siedlecki, director of communications for the mega five-campus Walnut Hill (nondenominational) Community Church, said many of the families in Newtown attend Walnut Hill’s Danbury campus. The church had just held an emergency planning meeting in response to the tragedy when Baptist Press spoke with Siedlecki.

“It hits home here. We have families there,” Siedlecki said with tears. “But our families are, I think right now, all accounted for, which is good. There are a few we haven’t heard about so we have pastors out there now. We’ve had pastors there since early this morning. We’ve got a team there now ministering to the families.”

Walnut Hill cancelled Friday’s Christmas musical to hold instead a prayer service, she said. “We are opening our doors up to the community for prayer [Friday]. We’ve also got pastors mobilized in our prayer room and chapel for people who ... need to come and be prayed for. We’ve engaged the counselors we work ... with, at a Christian counseling center ... in Danbury, which is kind of our hub town in our region.”

“What I can tell you is ... everybody is just devastated to the core,” she said. “The people who live in Newtown come to our main campus that’s been there for 30 years. Everybody’s wrecked.... We can’t begin to even predict what the long-term effect is going to be.”

Angerosa said he will continue to contact churches in the area to access how Southern Baptists can respond.

“There’s going to be an awful lot of personnel there, both Christian and secular. So the important thing I think is being able to find out what exactly the needs are,” he said. “Right now ... they’re in shock and the initial grieving process is going to be huge. It’s going to be community-wide. Until we connect with some of the churches there and find out what their needs are, it’s hard to know exactly what we can do.”

“I have found oftentimes people want to go immediately when they hear that there is a problem or tragedy or disaster,” Angerosa said. “But sometimes it’s good to take a step back, try to make connections with people and get a good feel for what’s really happening before just rushing in.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)
12/15/2012 12:39:31 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hurricane changes view of N.Y. community toward faith

December 14 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy in the Northeast, but God used the life-altering superstorm to change the hearts of people in Rockaway Beach, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, from totally disinterested in the gospel to yearning for spiritual guidance.

A couple of years ago, Larry Holcomb, director of Urban Impact, a ministry connected with a Southern Baptist congregation in New York, arranged for the purchase of a large old house in a rough part of Rockaway Beach, not fathoming what God would do next.

After renovating the beach house, Holcomb moved in bunk beds to house short-term mission teams coming to New York to help Urban Impact reach immigrants in the city through language and job training classes.

A sign welcomes people in Rockaway Beach to receive free food and other supplies as well as prayer after Hurricane Sandy. Though there is no Beach Church yet, the storm accelerated plans for launching the church by giving organizers an opportunity to serve the community.

With a goal of launching Beach Church in the summer of 2013, Holcomb and others this past summer handed out about 5,000 invitations to Bible studies in Rockaway Beach.

“We went door-to-door, handing them out to people,” Holcomb, a former North American Mission Board church planter, told Baptist Press. “We got less than a dozen responses. Through that, from the surrounding community, maybe five people had come to Bible study. So that was a ratio of 5 to 5,000. We knew it was a hard neighborhood. People don’t have the time or the interest in spiritual things.

“But after the tragedy, we’ve handed out thousands of tracts and Bibles, and people eagerly say, ‘Can I have this?’ ‘Can you please give me this? I need this guidance.’ They’re asking us for prayer and saying, ‘Can you please come to my house?’

“It has really turned around the spiritual openness of the neighborhood, and where before we were slaving away to find someone who had any interest, now the problem is, How can we possibly have time to address these hundreds and hundreds who are asking us to help them understand the Bible and get closer to God?” Holcomb said.

Hot meals and supplies

When Sandy hit, the beach house lost power along with most others on Rockaway Beach. It also sustained some water damage. Holcomb realized in the immediate aftermath of the storm that “there was no Red Cross, no FEMA, no church here.” So he called his staff at Urban Impact and said, “You won’t see me for at least a few weeks,” as he aimed to repair the beach house and help as many other people as he could.

Rockaway Beach is home to about 40,000 people, and there are two Catholic churches and one church “that’s not evangelical or biblical by any means,” Holcomb said. “That’s it. That’s all we have.”

Two days after the storm upended Rockaway Beach, Holcomb and “a hodge-podge of totally unrelated people” began giving hot meals and basic supplies to hurting people in the unchurched community. After repairing the centrally-located beach house, it became a makeshift relief center.

Before the storm, Holcomb had approached the landlord of a nearby warehouse about the possibility of renting the space as a location for future worship services. The landlord was not necessarily warm to the idea.

After the storm, the landlord’s property had sustained some damage, and Holcomb led a team of volunteers to pump out the whole building, saving him thousands of dollars.

“He called us back and said, ‘Hey, you know, about renting, I’ll be glad to do that. I’m going to see if I can cut you a deal.’ That’s locked in, and now we’ve got a space just a few blocks from the beach house that’s a warehouse,” Tom Richter, pastor of New Hope Christian Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Flushing, N.Y., told Baptist Press. Holcomb planted New Hope, and he and Richter minister together in the area.

“The landlord, I don’t even think he’s a believer, but he’s been so moved by all this,” Richter said.

Holcomb and the others moved their relief supplies, ranging from diapers to dog food to canned goods, from the beach house to the warehouse, and the ministry to the community has flourished.

“It’s going to be a church, but right now it’s a relief center for Hurricane Sandy in a much larger space,” Richter said. “We’re able to focus on doing good in the community beyond the hurricane. Now people know us. They know that there are Christians down there that care and they’ll be able to get help long-term.

“In the midst of all of this, we’ve been meeting families and connecting. Some folks come for some diapers and some canned goods and you hook them up and that’s it. Other folks say, ‘I could use some help cleaning out my basement,’“ Richter said.

Church on the horizon

As relationships developed, Holcomb invited about 50 people to a Thanksgiving dinner in the warehouse and was able to connect with them on a more personal level.

“We hope many of them will form the core group of this new church,” Richter said.

“I get pretty excited thinking about in the midst of this disaster God all along is being glorified. In this case a church had been on our hearts, but now it’s going to happen sooner.”

Holcomb spoke of a middle-aged man named Bobby who lives a few doors down from the beach house. Bobby’s house was totally washed out by the storm. Though the walls were still standing, nothing of value was left inside. Holcomb began ministering to him right away.

“He was unemployed at the time, so he started volunteering with us every day,” Holcomb said of Bobby. “He asked a lot of questions about why we do things and commented on how great it is that people care and really help. We found out that he was a Muslim man – American, but Muslim. He had some experience with the church as a kid. He grew up in America. His parents are American. But he turned away.

“He hasn’t converted, but every day he comes to visit and to volunteer for at least two hours to help other people,” Holcomb said. “He has said, ‘As soon as you start your Bible study and prayer meetings, I will be there every time.’ That’s the kind of progress we’ve made with many people in the neighborhood.”

The opportunities to change lives like Bobby’s abound in Rockaway Beach, Holcomb said. Holcomb and his fellow volunteers, made up largely of people from other states who have traveled to the region for disaster relief, have struggled to keep up with the physical needs of people there, and next they hope to enlist New York-area volunteers and focus on meeting spiritual needs.

The Northeast, Holcomb said, is not like the South where after a hurricane churches are there to address long-term spiritual needs.

“The thing that people don’t realize is in an area like we are, there are no evangelical churches,” he said. “I don’t mean Southern Baptist. I mean there are no evangelical churches in our neighborhood of 40,000 people within a 10-block radius.”

Holcomb, who moved to New York 20 years ago as a church planter after graduating from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, requested that Southern Baptists pray “that churches will be there to follow up and disciple people” in Rockaway Beach long after the disaster relief work is over.

“Something like this gives us that opportunity where people are open and eager to have a church,” Holcomb said. “This gives us the opportunity not just to hand out some food, not just to help people with their houses, but an eternal destiny. We can now establish something through this tragedy that will be in the community for a long time but better than that will see people saved and discipled and can carry on to win the whole region.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
12/14/2012 2:30:36 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New Hispanic generations to be conf. topic

December 14 2012 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Although Southern Baptists have a long history of reaching and starting churches among Hispanics, changing demographics will require a new strategy, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) evangelism consultant has noted.

“The majority of the growth in the Hispanic population is coming from second and third generations,” said Joshua Del Risco, evangelism coordinator for the mission board’s God’s Plan for Sharing nationwide outreach. “That presents a whole new set of challenges because if there’s an area that we’ve struggled to reach as a convention, it’s second and third generations.”

NAMB photo by John Swain

Joshual Del Risco, North American Mission Board’s evangelism coordinator for God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), is assisting preparations for the National Hispanic Evangelism & Mobilization Conference, Jan. 17-19, 2013. The conference will be hosted at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio. The event is being held in partnership with NAMB, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas.

Del Risco is among the organizers of the National Hispanic Evangelism & Mobilization Conference, Jan. 17-19 in San Antonio, that will focus on key challenges in outreach to Hispanics.

According to a Pew Research Center report in 2009, 9 of 10 Hispanic children had been born in the United States – and that number was growing. Overall, U.S. Census stats show that Hispanics in the country grew by a rate four times faster than the U.S. population between 2000-2010.

Historically, Del Risco noted, Southern Baptists have started most churches among Hispanics born outside of the United States. The number of Hispanic SBC churches grew by more than 65 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Annual Church Profile statistics provide by LifeWay Christian Resources.

What makes reaching second and third generation Hispanics a challenge is both language and culture, said Del Risco, who came to the United States from Cuba at age 5. Many second and third generation Hispanics aren’t fluent in Spanish, making the gospel inaccessible in traditional Spanish-language churches.

From a cultural standpoint, many have grown up in a Hispanic home and with Hispanic culture but they identify much more than their parents with the broader American culture, Del Risco said.

“Many second and third generation Hispanics will attend Anglo congregations because of the language issue,” Del Risco said. “But they don’t find the cultural identity there that they’re looking for. So they’ll also visit off and on a Spanish-speaking congregation but never plug in.”

Eloy Rodriquez, who recently planted his third Hispanic Southern Baptist congregation in Florida, underscored another major challenge – the diversity of Hispanics. While many Anglos think of Hispanics as a single block, they come from many nationalities.

“We are so diverse,” said Rodriquez, who was born in the United States but lived from ages 1 to 18 in the Dominican Republic. “Any location where you try to plant a Hispanic church, you’ve got to figure out what kind of Hispanics are there. It changes completely how you’re going to reach them – whether they come from Central America, the Caribbean or South America. They are different in their identities.”

Each of Rodriquez’s three church plants had a different makeup of nationalities. About half of the attendees at his current plant, a part of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., come from Columbia.

Del Risco said NAMB’s upcoming National Hispanic Evangelism & Mobilization Conference will address these and other issues, noting that the conference will focus on helping first generation Hispanic churches understand and reach its members’ children and grandchildren.

The Jan. 17-19 conference also will include, along with the main Spanish-language track, an English-language track. Del Risco said the English track is mainly for Hispanic church leaders trying to reach English-speaking Hispanics in either a multi-cultural or predominantly Hispanic setting.

Because the ministry contexts of those serving among first and second generations Hispanics are so different, Del Risco said the content for the conference will be different in the two tracks.

The conference will include such sessions as “Send North America Overview,” “Growing an Evangelistic Church,” “House Church Models for Church Planting” and “Churches Planting Churches Training.”

“It’s Kingdom focused,” Del Risco said. “It’s the only one of its kind with the diversity of people that’ll attend. Our hope is that it helps Hispanic leaders reach Hispanics. But it’s about more than just reaching Hispanics. We believe that Hispanics will be mobilized to reach others in North America – regardless of ethnicity – and people around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The conference will be held at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas.

For registration information, click here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
12/14/2012 2:24:16 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Prof: ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ can be helpful

December 14 2012 by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – In the classic TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus reminds the rest of the Peanuts gang of the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.

Christians could do worse than to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this holiday season, seminary professor David Mills says, because it can remind them to share the gospel.

“Linus gets it,” said Mills, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“God gave us Jesus in Bethlehem because we need His death at Calvary,” Mills said, emphasizing the necessity of Jesus to be fully human and fully divine in order to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption of sinners.

Mills suggested that Christmas be celebrated by looking forward to the second coming of Christ.

“Connect the birth of Christ with the throne of David,” Mills said. “The manger points toward the throne, and the first birth anticipates the second coming. The Old Testament does not miss this connection. We shouldn’t either.”

Mills also shared some practical ways that Christians can maximize the Christmas season by proclaiming the gospel:
  • “Do what you do best in evangelism with a Christmas focus. For example, if you preach or teach, explain why the birth of Christ is essential to the gospel. As you witness one-on-one, exalt the birth of Christ.”
  • “If someone interjects Santa Claus into a conversation or celebration, politely turn the conversation to the history of Nicholas the bishop of Myra and his generosity to the poor. The real story is far more fascinating than the myth.”
  • “Sing louder during the Christmas season than you have ever sung before.”
  • “Your Christmas cards, your decorations, your gifts, your prayers and your gospel tracts can all exalt Christ at Christmas.”
  • “Do a Christmas survey of people you see in public. Ask them what they like most about Christmas and what they think Christmas means. Keep the results and share them.”
  • “Invite friends to your church’s Christmas celebrations. These have grown in popularity in the last decade and with good reason. Hearts hunger for the truth when Jesus is exalted as He is in the Christmas season.”
  • Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern, added other opportunities for sharing the gospel during the Christmas season:
  • “Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood as a family and use it as an evangelistic opportunity.”
  • “On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, purchase a gift or meal and take it to a struggling family or neighbors and use it as an evangelistic opportunity.”
  • “Many churches or associations have toy store ministries during this time. Volunteer as an evangelistic counselor for a church or association with whose doctrine you agree.”
  • “If you decorate your yard with Christmas lights or decorations ... in a neighborhood where people drive through to see Christmas lights or decorations, consider setting up a table outside with hot chocolate, coffee and gospel tracts, and invite them to park for a moment and share the gospel with them.”
Although, for many people, the holiday season is a time to rest, Queen said there should be no breaks from sharing the gospel.

“Paul instructs Timothy, and all of us by extension, that we must preach the word in season and out of season,” Queen said.

Christians also should remember “that lost people everywhere are dying with no hope for salvation outside of hearing the gospel and being given an opportunity to respond,” Queen said.

“Death takes no holiday,” he said in citing an oft-spoken phrase at Southwestern of the responsibility to ‘Preach the Word. Reach the World.’“

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is senior newswriter for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
12/14/2012 2:20:15 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christianity in Britain losing ground to Islam, secularism

December 14 2012 by Trevor Grundy, Religion News Service

CANTERBURY, England – New figures from the 2011 Census show that the number of people who identify as Christians in England and Wales has fallen by 4 million over the last 10 years.
The data shows that numbers fell from 37.3 million in 2001 to 33 million last year.
The statistics came as the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, claimed that English cathedral congregations are growing dramatically, challenging the claim made by secularists that the Church of England is fading in Britain.
Figures from the 2011 Census show the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than 6 million, to 14.1 million.
“It should serve as a warning to the churches that their increasingly conservative attitudes are not playing well with the public at large,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. “It also calls into question the continued establishment of the Church of England, whose claims to speak for the whole nation are now very hard to take seriously.”
Other polls have detected similar shifts. The 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey showed that only about half of Britons claim a religious affiliation, down sharply from 20 years ago when two out of three Britons did. Barely a quarter of young people identify themselves as religious.
The new figures show that Islam is the U.K.’s second-largest religion, at 2.7 million. Hinduism is third, at 817,000. The number of self-identified Jews rose by 3,000, from 260,000 to 263,000.
12/14/2012 2:16:24 PM by Trevor Grundy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

SBC-wide call to prayer for 2013 issued by Frank Page

December 13 2012 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Frank S. Page, president and “chief encouragement officer” of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, is asking Southern Baptists to come together in 2013 for a year of emphasis on prayer “like none we’ve ever seen before.”

“For some time, God has been burdening my heart about prayer and spiritual awakening,” Page wrote in a guest column. “I talked about this a great deal when I was president of the Southern Baptist Convention (2006-08). I saw then what was happening in our nation, in our churches and in our convention. That deep sense of need for revival in our land has only gotten stronger over these past six years.”
guest column: link gcpage posting today

This is not a new message for Page. On the SBC President’s page, posted after his election in 2006, Page wrote, “Across the nation I have spoken about the three ‘R’s’. I have thanked God for the push for doctrinal rightness. I thank God for the conservative resurgence which has brought us to this point. However, we must, with equal passion, attack the issues of relevancy and revival. If we do not have God’s reviving hand upon us, we will move into a precipitous decline from which we will never recover.”

Page will be enlisting others to help elevate the call to prayer throughout the year, sharing historical insights about prayer and spiritual awakening; first person accounts about spiritual breakthroughs; organized prayer ministry initiatives such as GuideStone’s “Widow’s Might”; focused prayer reminders such as prayer for the U.S. Supreme Court justices as they consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8; as well as pastoral and theological reflections.

Page noted he is not alone in his call for prayer and spiritual awakening. Earlier this year, current SBC president Fred Luter addressed the SBC Committee on Order of Business expressing his desire to see spiritual awakening and revival sweep across the SBC and the nation. Citing 2 Chronicles 7:14 and the high priestly prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said it is his “heart’s desire” for this convention to “work together as one.”

“This will not happen unless there’s passionate, purposeful revival,” Luter told the committee. “My theme [for the 2013 SBC annual meeting] will be centered around revival and prayer. Prayer is the great equalizer, the great energizer.”

Luter also has underscored the SBC Call to Prayer scheduled for the month of January. Luter said the call to prayer is “a pivotal opportunity as churches cast a vision for ministry in 2013. This coming January we will have the chance to gather as a denomination and center our thoughts and prayers on the lost in our communities and around the world.”

Tom Elliff, president of the SBC International Mission Board (IMB), has noted the urgency of prayer and spiritual awakening in addressing the IMB’s board of trustees. “The truth of the matter is that if we don’t experience spiritual awakening we will forfeit our capacity to effectively partner with others in carrying out the Great Commission,” he said at the board’s fall 2011 trustee meeting.

“[Spiritual] awakening is a missions issue, because if we don’t have an awakening in the hearts of Southern Baptists, then the pool out of which we fish for missionaries ... gets smaller and smaller,” Elliff explained. “We’ll just become another denomination that had its day and has now slipped off into irrelevancy, and when people say ‘Southern Baptist Convention,’ they will probably say it with a yawn.”

Such an awakening, Elliff noted, will require a “totally different” kind of prayer, one that rests on God’s character rather than our own.

“I’m afraid that so much of our praying is a shot at getting something done by God with the thought that if He doesn’t come through we’ve got another plan. Folks, if God doesn’t come through, we don’t have a plan.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, echoed a similar message. “We’re at a pivotal point as Southern Baptists as we do the work to penetrate lostness in North America and around the world,” he said. “We are a people of action and sacrifice, but we also need to be a people of wholehearted prayer. I hope to see amazing things happen as God works through a faithfully-praying people.”

Pointing to the SBC Call to Prayer slated for January, Ezell said the prayer emphasis is designed to be a tool churches can use as they focus prayer on family and friends, their community, the nation and the world, at each point seeking ways to reach those without Christ.

PrayerLink, a network of state convention and SBC entity prayer ministry coordinators who met in October to pray together and to encourage prayer ministries across the convention, focused on ways to elevate the importance of prayer for spiritual awakening in local churches and among SBC entities. The network adopted three statements committing to Seek God, Elevate Prayer and Pledge Cooperation.

“Recognizing that our only hope is a God-given spiritual awakening, we acknowledge God is calling His people to seek Him through wholehearted love, righteous living and fervent, united prayer,” the PrayerLink network said.

The same week that PrayerLink met, Page met with Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, to discuss his burden for prayer. After praying together, Rainer pledged to assemble a list of prayer resources to assist the convention and its cooperating churches in setting prayer and spiritual awakening as a priority.

Rainer, co-author with Ed Stetzer of “Transformational Churches,” has identified “prayerful dependence” as one of the most significant characteristics of churches that are making the greatest Kingdom impact.

“A prayerful dependence is evident in Transformational Churches,” Rainer wrote. “These churches are humbly dependent on God for the vitality of the church. Prayer is not a program, and in many cases a weekly prayer meeting is not offered. Yet prayer undergirds everything a Transformational church does.”

“Jesus wanted His churches to be called ‘houses of prayer,’“ Page said. “Let us not disappoint our Lord.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. Potential resources for the Call to Prayer listed below are produced by LifeWay Christian Resources and may be ordered online at, through LifeWay Christian Stores or by calling toll-free 1-800-458-2772. For product descriptions go online to

* A House of Prayer: Prayer Ministries in Your Church by John Franklin
* Disciple’s Prayer Life: Walking in Fellowship with God by T. W. Hunt and Catherine Walker
* God’s Gateway to Supernatural Power: A Resource, Testimony, and Practical Guide on Prayer and Fasting by Ronnie W. Floyd
* Growing Disciples: Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray and Bo Stephens
* Growing Disciples: Live in the Word by Philip Nation
* Growing Disciples: Pray in Faith by T. W. Hunt and Claude King
* Growing Disciples: The Call to Follow Christ by Claude King
* Lord, Teach Me to Pray by Kay Arthur
* Praying for Keeps: Conversations with God (Fellowship Church Series with Ed Young Jr.)
* Praying God’s Word Day-By-Day by Beth Moore
* Praying God’s Word: Scripture-Prayer Resource by Beth Moore
* The Life-Changing Power of Prayer by T. W. Hunt
* The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian (workbook, leader guide, DVD leader kit)
* The Prayer of Jesus: Living the Lord’s Prayer by Ken Hemphill
* Vital Skills: How to Have a Quiet Time (Age Group: Student)
* Vital Skills: How to Pray Using Scripture (Age Group: Student)
* Vital Truth: Prayer (Age Group: Student)
Resources Related to Revival, Spiritual Awakening, and Sacred Assembly
* Come to the Lord’s Table by Claude King
* Consecrate the People: Renewing Our Covenant Commitments to Jesus Christ by Claude King
* Downpour: He Will Come to Us Like the Rain by James MacDonald (multiple resources)
* Follow Me by David Platt (coming Spring 2013)
* Fresh Encounter: Experiencing God’s Power for Spiritual Awakening by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King (multiple resources)
* Fresh Encounter: Seeking God Together for Revival in the Land (28-day devotional guide) by Henry Blackaby and Claude King
* Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer
* MasterLife (The Disciple’s Cross, The Disciple’s Personality, The Disciple’s Victory, The Disciple’s Mission) by Avery T. Willis Jr. (multiple resources)
* Putting on the Armor: Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare by Chuck Lawless
* Radical Small Group Study by David Platt
* Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory by John Franklin and Chuck Lawless
* Subversive Kingdom (book & curriculum) by Stetzer
* Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Tony Evans
* Vital Truth: Spiritual Warfare (Age Group: Student)
* When God Speaks by Henry Blackaby

Evangelism Resources
* Faith Evangelism 1 & 2 (multiple resources)
* Get Uncomfortable: Serve the Poor, Stop Injustice, Change the World… in Jesus’ Name
by Todd Phillips
* Growing Disciples: Minister to Others by Richard Leach and David Wheeler
* Growing Disciples: Witness to the World by W. Oscar Thompson with Carolyn Thompson Ritzmann
* Leading a Child to Christ Training Pack with DVD-ROM (and related resources)
* Learning to Share My Faith by Chuck Kelley
* Live It, Tell It: Learning to Share Your Story (Age Group: Student)
* More to Life: Engaging Through Story by Dennis Pethers (multiple resources)
* Outreach Teams that Win: G.R.O.W. Kit, Revised by Jerry Tidwell
* Sent: Living the Missional Nature of the Church by Ed Stetzer
* Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay and Ralph Hodge (multiple resources)
* Share Jesus Without Fear: Students Reaching Students by William Fay (Age Group: Student)
* Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Tony Evans
* Vital Skills: How to be a Campus Missionary (Age Group: Student)
* Vital Skills: How to Do Servant Evangelism (Age Group: Student)
* Vital Truth: Service and Ministry (Age Group: Student)
* Vital Truth: Witnessing (Age Group: Student)
* When Worldviews Collide: Christians Confronting Culture by Ergun Caner

Awaken 2012
* Claude King has written a 21-day prayer guide for revival and spiritual awakening. Permission is granted in the copyright notice for free, non-commercial use of the files. You may download a variety of formats for printing or to share electronically at Claude’s blog:

Related stories

Guest Column: Individuals, churches, SBC entities – pray ‘like never before’
SBC prayer emphasis focuses on the lost
12/13/2012 3:50:00 PM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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