December 2012

Ohio Baptists celebrate church planting

December 11 2012 by Baptist Press

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Ohio Baptists celebrated 44 church starts and heard an address by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Fred Luter during their 59th annual meeting in Sandusky.

The new church plants include seven language groups and two primarily African American congregations, joining the 241 new churches that Ohio Baptists have planted the past 15 years, reaching a total of some 700 churches in the state.

Luter challenged Ohio Baptists to share the gospel with a lost and dying world in his message “The Transforming Power of the Gospel,” drawn from Romans 1:16-17. Reflecting the annual meeting theme “Mission Ohio: An Unchanging Mission in a Changing World,” Luter proclaimed the gospel as personal, powerful, practical and persistent.

The convention presented a Church Planting Achievement Award to Jim Mayes, retiring as associational missionary for the Buckeye Erie Baptist Association. The number of churches in Buckeye Erie doubled during Mayes’ tenure.

In business sessions, messengers adopted a $4,371,479 budget for 2013 for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO), anticipating $2,629,445 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from its churches. Messengers allocated 40.25 of CP receipts, or $1,771,330, to national and international SBC ministries, the same percentage as in 2012. The state budget does not utilize any SCBO/SBC shared expenses designation.

Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists support mission work from “Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” simultaneously, SCBO Executive Director Jack Kwok told the Nov. 7-8 convention.

Several Ohio Southern Baptist churches helped Ohio’s Northcoast Baptist Association in Intensive Mission Projects to Affect Community Transformation (IMPACT) and as a result, many Northcoast churches are reporting professions of faith and new church starts, messengers were told.

In preparing for the next IMPACT outreach, targeting the Northwest Baptist Association, messengers prayed for Northwest associational missionary Steve Long and church pastors and members in the region. Those interested in supporting IMPACT 2013 may find details at www.scbo.org.

Kwok and Randy Davis, executive director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, signed a partnership agreement between the Tennessee and Ohio conventions.

Messengers adopted a resolution affirming Ohio’s partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and agreeing to pray for NAMB’s leaders. (The full text of the resolution follows this story.) In another resolution, Ohio Baptists voiced support for the SBC’s Resolution on Marriage and Civil Rights.

Messengers re-elected the full slate of officers: president, Mike Wilson, pastor of the Lincoln Heights Baptist Church in Mansfield; first vice president, Mark Stinson, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Cambridge; and second vice president, James Edwards, pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Bedford Heights. Also elected were recording secretary Faye Rodgers; assistant recording secretary Annett Dessecker; and historian Kwok.

In his presidential address, Wilson preached on “An Unchanging Message in a Changing World,” reminding Ohio Baptists that while the Gospel is an exclusive message, offensive, abrasive and foolish to the world, it is to Christians the power of God to salvation.

David Starry, pastor of Vandalia First Baptist Church, delivered the annual sermon from Romans 12:1-2, exhorting messengers to wholly give their lives to the Lord in sacrifice and worship.

Messengers awarded Guy Morton the 2012 Darty Stowe Award in absentia and applauded national Bible drill winner Julia Bonifield, a member of the Kettering First Baptist Church in the Greater Dayton Baptist Association.

The 2013 meeting is scheduled Nov. 6-7, at the French Quarter Holiday Inn in Perrysburg. Rick Williams, pastor of Violet Baptist Church in Pickerington, is scheduled to preach the 2013 annual meeting sermon, with alternate Rick Shoemaker, pastor of New Carlisle First Baptist Church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from a report by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.)

Affirmation of Partnership with the North American Mission Board

Whereas, The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the Home Mission Board and the North American Mission Board since the 1950’s; and

Whereas, The partnership of the North American Mission Board has provided strong assistance in the starting of churches across Ohio; and

Whereas, Leadership of the North American Mission Board heard and responded to concerns voiced in a resolution of the 58th Annual Meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio; and

Whereas, The North American Mission Board earlier requested that the ratio of joint funding move from the current 62% NAMB and 38% Ohio ratio to a 55% NAMB and 45% Ohio ratio and later to a 50/50 ratio; and

Whereas, The North American Mission Board recently revisited the calculation of jointly funded ratios and determined to move those ratios to a financial basis of Cooperative Program gifts utilized within a state; and

Whereas, The new calculations for the joint funding ratio which move to a 75% NAMB and 25% Ohio ratio in 2013 are beneficial for Ohio by eliminating the earlier announced additional budget reduction from NAMB; and

Whereas, the millions of lost people in the state places Ohio as an under-reached and underserved area for the gospel of Christ; and

Whereas, Missionaries of the North American Mission Board continue to serve as an integral part of Mission Ohio in a number of ministries across the state; and

Whereas, The North American Mission Board has named Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland as SEND North America cities and serves as a key partner in church planting and promotes partnership development for church planting in those cities; and

Whereas, The North American Mission Board continues to serve as a partner in church planting and other joint ministries throughout the state of Ohio; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the messengers of the 59th Annual Meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio meeting in Sandusky, Ohio, affirm to pray for the president, vice-presidents, trustees, and employees of the North American Mission Board as they continue in leadership to work with partners across North America to help reach people for Christ; and be it further

Resolved, That we count it a privilege for Ohio Baptists to have the partnership of the North American Mission Board as we seek to reach people for Christ and work together to fulfill the Great Commission.
12/11/2012 3:35:09 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘52 Sundays’ guide will call NC Baptists to missions prayers

December 11 2012 by BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptist pastors will receive copies of a major prayer guide for 2013 this month in the mail.

“52 Sundays,” a disk-based guide, has been designed to lead churches or prayer groups to pray for a different missionary or missions cause each Sunday during 2013. It is being sent by the Cooperative Program office of the Baptist State Convention of N.C.

“Each Sunday you can pray for one of our Baptist missionaries serving overseas, somewhere in North America or here in North Carolina,” said Mike Creswell, the Convention’s senior consultant for the Cooperative Program.

“You’ll get highlights of the ministry, such as starting a new church or reaching members of an Unreached People Group halfway around the world,” he said. “As in our earlier guides, we have included lots of color photos from around the world.”

Churches can copy PowerPoint slides directly to their computers from the disk and easily project them before or during Sunday worship or at other church gatherings, Creswell said.

A second slide for each Sunday will offer a devotional thought on missions, prayer, stewardship or other aspects of the Christian life, written mostly by Chris Schofield, who leads the Convention’s Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening. Text files are included for each Sunday, so even if a church has no projector, members can print and read the prayer emphases. PDF files are provided for each Sunday so churches can print bulletin inserts to reinforce the prayer times.

Pastors across the state, from churches large and small, have said the prayer times have become an important part of their Sunday services.

“It’s important to remember that most of these missionaries have been educated and trained at our schools with Baptist support, sent to the field under supervision of Baptist trustees and leaders, and supported month by month financially through our Cooperative Program and mission offerings,” said Creswell.

“More than half of our international missionaries are serving in such dangerous places overseas that they cannot be safely named in public media. That’s why some of the prayer guides use made-up names. The Lord will know who we mean,” Creswell said.

Additional copies of the “52 Sundays” disk are available on request from the Cooperative Program office by calling (800) 395-5102, ext. 5539, or by email to atorcasso@ncbaptist.org. Also, the files can be downloaded from www.ncbaptist.org/cpemphasis.
12/11/2012 2:51:11 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Lottie Moon 100 years on

December 11 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s theme for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to www.imb.org/offering.)

RICHMOND, Va. – She died on board a ship 100 years ago Christmas Eve – sick, exhausted, brokenhearted over leaving her beloved Chinese friends in their time of suffering.
 
It was a bittersweet end to a long and fruitful life. But it wasn’t the end of Lottie Moon’s story. What is it about this woman that has inspired so many Southern Baptists, for so many years, to give their own lives and treasure to God’s mission?

Born into privilege on a pre-Civil War plantation in Virginia, rambunctious young Lottie received the best education money could buy. But the difference between the fine words she heard from adults and the realities of life troubled her.

A young, unbelieving Lottie told classmates her middle initial, D, stood for “Devil.” She pulled pranks, missed chapel and scoffed at religion. She was a brilliant scholar, however, and became one of the most educated women of her era. But knowledge alone couldn’t satisfy her soul. She began a search for truth.
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In 1870 30-year-old Lottie, home for the summer from teaching in Danville, Ky., shared her interest in missions with her sister Edmonia, one of Southern Baptists’ first single women missionaries to China. Lottie felt called to follow.


Lottie’s spiritual struggle came to a dramatic climax one night, sealing her commitment to serve God and others. She witnessed the ravages of the Civil War, which destroyed the old society she had known. Matured by the experience, but just as independent as ever, she boldly joined her sister, and they become two of the earliest female missionaries to China.

Little did she know what lay ahead.

‘I cannot be silent’

Lottie arrived in North China in 1873, just as the last imperial dynasty was beginning to crumble. She struggled to learn the ways of Chinese culture as her sister suffered mental and emotional breakdowns. Despite bitter opposition from many Chinese – and the bunker mentality of other missionaries – Lottie was determined to take the message of God’s love to the vast countryside. She went to the villages, often on her own.

“Here I am working alone in a city of many thousand inhabitants,” she wrote in one of her letters home. “It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus. How many can I reach? The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent.”

She experienced isolation and loneliness. She had a chance to marry and return home. Her response: “God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no question about the result.” She persisted through war and famine because the Chinese needed to know her Lord.

Disease, turmoil and lack of co-workers threatened to undo Lottie’s work. But she gave herself completely to God, helping lay the foundation of what would become the modern Chinese church, one of the fastest-growing Christian movements in the world.

She once wrote home to the Foreign Mission Board, “Please say to the [new] missionaries they are coming to a life of hardship, responsibility and constant self-denial.”

Lottie Moon died at age 72 – ill and in declining health after she had made sacrifices for decades for her beloved Chinese.

Who can relate to her today? Many Americans, particularly young people, have all the material things they want – but it’s not enough. In an aimless era, they crave direction and purpose. The more challenging the cause, the better. Her life speaks powerfully to a generation desperate for meaning and heroic role models.

Thousands have followed Lottie’s example during the century since her death – going just as boldly, obediently, sacrificially.

But not without Southern Baptists’ gifts to support them. Giving has its own call to obedience and sacrifice.

Lottie said it best 100 years ago: “How many there are ... who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.”

She followed to the end – and changed history. Future generations of Southern Baptists can change it again.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is named in her honor. Gifts to the offering and through Southern Baptists’ year-round Cooperative Program help Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)

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12/11/2012 2:39:25 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastor’s passion for missions pushes fear aside

December 11 2012 by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s theme for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to www.imb.org/offering.)

CAIRO – Gene Brooks* has good reasons not to return to the Middle East or Central Asia.
 
This small-church pastor has been arrested twice overseas, interrogated by gun-wielding soldiers and forced to spend a night under house arrest. He has worshipped secretly in homes when the church building was no longer safe. On a trip to Egypt, his plane landed in Cairo the day after more than 20 Coptic Christians were killed during a protest in October 2011.

These experiences might keep many away, but they’re not enough to stop this pastor. His passion to encourage believers and share the gospel drives out fear. Partnering with Southern Baptist workers overseas, Brooks has heard their cries for help:

Please pray. Please give. Please come.

Brooks has committed himself and led his church of about 60 people to be a part of God’s work to reach the nations – no matter the cost.

“There is the risk, but Jesus said they hated Him, and they’re going to hate us. I think part of that is having the passion for missions to go and to tell people about Jesus,” Brooks said. “When that is strong in our heart, it tends to suppress the fear factor.”

Despite the unrest in Egypt, Brooks didn’t hesitate to ask God if his church should help fill a request for U.S. churches to partner with Egyptian Baptist churches.
 
Mark Ayers*, a Southern Baptist worker in the region, sees Egypt as strategic in reaching North African and Middle Eastern peoples. And Ayers feels an urgency for Christians to bring truth and encourage the persecuted church.

“Get under the Egyptian church and lift her up,” Ayers exhorts. “Serve the church, bless the country.”

Brooks was willing and, with the support of his church, traveled to Egypt with Louie Smith*, a lay leader who has accompanied him on several international trips.

During their visit, the two men witnessed a church under severe persecution.

“They are facing death every day,” Brooks said. “Yet they are joyful in their experience with Christ. ... They were not fearful to meet together. They were cautious, but yet they said, ‘You know, if we must die for Christ, we are ready to do that.’ It was an amazing experience.”

“Ever since I’ve been back home, I relive my steps in these countries,” Smith added, referring to his multiple trips into territories some might consider dangerous. “I still remember the faces and the places, and I’m constantly praying for them.

“I am planning on going back. We made some friends there, we made some contacts, we made a difference.”

Smith and Brooks remain committed, despite experiences such as the time in Central Asia when their team was prayerwalking through a community and handing out Bibles – and the local police placed them in a hotel under house arrest with an armed guard.

The next morning, the police came to escort the men out of town. They asked about the book the two were giving away. Brooks explained that they were Christians and the Bible is their Holy Book – the Word of God.

“We actually gave six to eight of the policemen a Bible before we left town. That was pretty unique,” Brooks said with a smile.

He is thankful to Southern Baptist workers who have facilitated the work he and other short-term workers have been able to accomplish. His passion to give so that their efforts can continue has become contagious in his church.

“Our people have really caught the vision and understood what it is to support our missionaries around the world. We began to encourage people to find unique ways to give,” Brooks said. “Since that time our Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering for International Missions] giving has actually tripled, almost quadrupled.”

The pastor knows that every prayer, every dollar, every plane ticket matters. And it’ll take more than a couple of arrests to stop him.

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marie Curtis is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.)

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12/11/2012 2:29:54 PM by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Leaders: Window open for immigration reform

December 11 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A window for the federal government to enact “top-to-bottom” immigration reform stands open for now, supporters are saying.

Advocates for comprehensive reform of the United States immigration system expressed new optimism at recent events in Washington. They urged Congress and the White House to work together quickly before the window of opportunity closes.
 
There is a “fairly narrow window,” Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said Dec. 5 at a summit sponsored by Human Rights First. Advocates have until early 2014, when congressional primaries begin, “to get this done before election politics begins to intrude its ugly head again into this issue,” he said.

“The country is hungry for seeing bipartisan agreement in this town, and I think this is an issue where we can achieve it, and we need to do so while we still have this moment,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

On the same panel, nine-term Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D.-Calif., told the audience, “I do think we have the first real opportunity since I’ve been a member of Congress. ... and I’d like to have it done by Easter.”

Immigration is “a mess from top to bottom, and we need top-to-bottom reform,” she said. “I think we have a real opportunity at this point to do top-to-bottom immigration reform.”

The optimism comes more than five years after the last push for immigration reform failed despite the efforts of then-President George W. Bush. The November election that reform advocates said demonstrated the increased voting power of Hispanics provides a significant reason for legislative movement in addressing a long-standing problem that has resulted in about 11 million illegal, or undocumented, immigrants in this country.

The calls in the country’s capital for a new push to enact reform came amid other developments the same week that provided hope for success:
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., said Dec. 5 he is “really hopeful we can deal with the issue of immigration holistically” in the next two years “in a comprehensive package of bills,” Politico reported.
  • Former President Bush called in a Dec. 4 speech in Dallas for “a benevolent spirit” in addressing immigration, according to The Dallas Morning News. “America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time,” said Bush, who has expressed regret he didn’t push for immigration reform before Social Security reform after winning the 2004 election.
  • A new study based on U.S. Census Bureau data through early 2011 confirmed illegal immigration has experienced a sustained decline in recent years and there is no net migration from Mexico any longer, the Associated Press reported Dec. 6. The survey showed 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the country, virtually the same as in 2009.
At the Human Rights First panel discussion, Thomas (Mac) McLarty pointed to three factors that have changed in recent years on the issue: (1) border protection is much more serious and efficient; (2) the latest election changed the political landscape, producing a “wake-up call” for Republicans especially, and (3) Mexico’s economy has improved.

McLarty, chief of staff for President Clinton and cochairman of a 2009 task force on immigration for the Council on Foreign Relations, also expressed optimism about a new reform effort. “It still has some tough politics to it, no question about that,” he said.

Land told summit participants President Obama and leaders from both parties in Congress must provide real leadership “to construct a conscious coalition of the middle – of the moderate conservatives in the Republican Party and the moderate progressives in the Democratic Party who will wall off the radicals on the right and the radicals on the left who will try to sabotage this.”

“[I]t’s going to take a disciplined coalition of the middle, which I think represents at least two-thirds of the country, in terms of their attitudes on this issue, to get this done,” he said.

Republicans told reporters at a Dec. 4 news conference their party needed to change tactics.

Conservatives and Republicans “have been talking to the wrong crowd; we’ve been worried about the wrong people; we’ve been pandering in some cases to a small minority of our party,” said Mark Shurtleff, Utah’s attorney general.

Brad Bailey, a Houston businessman and co-founder of the Texas Immigration Solution, said, “[T]he vocal minority has hijacked this issue, and we need to fight back.”

At the news conference, Hispanic evangelical leaders said immigration is a biblical, moral issue but acknowledged politics is involved. They pointed to the Republicans’ need to change if they hope to gain votes among Hispanics.

Exit polling indicated only 27 percent of Hispanics voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had called for self-deportation during the primaries. Pollsters said the Hispanic vote moved four states – Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico – into the Democratic column, said Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza.

The Hispanic evangelical church is conservative, but the Hispanic vote “moved away from social values to family values” in the latest election, Cortes told reporters.

“One of every five Latinos knows someone who has already been deported, and they’re all members of our family, our extended family. So we voted against self-deportation,” he said.

The Hispanic electorate is expected to double by 2030, and Texas and Arizona likely would be the next states to switch party columns as a result, Cortes said. “So at the end of the day, what’s in it for the Republican Party is survival,” he said.

Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the GOP has an opportunity to make gains if it acts soon on immigration reform.

“If they pass this in 2013, [the Republicans] will have three years to redeem the narrative” among Hispanics, Rodriguez told reporters. “If they wait ‘til the end of the game, it could be difficult next time around.”

Both Cortes and Rodriguez also said Obama must show his commitment to reform.

“The president promised the first-term immigration reform. It did not happen,” Rodriguez said.

The Obama administration announced in June an executive action that will immediately permit illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply to be free from the threat of deportation and to seek authorization to work.

“There are skeptics in the Hispanic community saying, ‘Was that an act of political expediency or was he really committed to that as it pertains to a moral imperative?’ This is his time to prove that wasn’t an act of political expediency but rather he is wholeheartedly committed,” Rodriguez said. “So what’s the president’s role? He must be the moral and the national spokesperson for comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Dec. 4 news conference featuring religious and business leaders, as well as law enforcement officials, came on the first day of a two-day strategy session attended by more than 250 people. Land and others made visits to congressional offices seeking support for reform legislation.

The coalition organized by the National Immigration Forum cited three consensus points: Recognition of the need for border security and safety in communities; establishment of a just pathway to legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants; and modernization of the immigration laws.

On Nov. 13, Land joined nine other leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table in asking Obama and the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to meet with them in early 2013 to discuss a bipartisan solution to the controversial issue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
12/11/2012 2:19:31 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rubio talks creation, homosexuality, abortion

December 11 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio addressed three topics of prominent concern to evangelicals during an event in Washington Dec. 5, sharing his views on the age of the Earth, whether homosexuality is a sin and when life begins.

At a breakfast hosted by Politico, Rubio did not back down from comments he made to GQ last month in which he said the age of the Earth is “one of the great mysteries.”

“I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ.
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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio


On Wednesday, Rubio told Politico’s Mike Allen, “Science says it’s about four and a half billion years old, and my faith teaches that that’s not inconsistent.” Rubio is Roman Catholic but has strong ties to Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation in Palmetto Bay, Fla., attending services often and listening to the church’s podcasts.

“The answer I gave was actually trying to make the same point the president made a few years ago, and that is there is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth,” Rubio, considered a strong contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said.

“I mean, it’s established pretty definitively as at least four and a half billion years old.... I was referring to a theological debate and which is a pretty healthy debate,” Rubio said at the breakfast.

The Cuban-American senator went on to say, “The theological debate is, How do you reconcile what science has definitely established with what you may think your faith teaches? For me, actually, when it comes to the age of the Earth there is no conflict. I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and I think scientific advances have given us insight into when He did it and how He did it.

“But I still believe God did it, and that’s how I’ve been able to reconcile that, and I think it’s consistent with the teachings of my church. But other people have a deeper conflict, and I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever we believe,” Rubio said.

In the GQ interview, Rubio had said, “I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that.”

Rubio also told Politico, “The more science learns, the more I’m convinced that God is real.”

When Allen asked the senator if he believes homosexuality is a sin, Rubio, who does not support same-sex marriage, replied, “Well, I can tell you what faith teaches, and faith teaches that it is.”

The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Rubio said, “but it also teaches that there are a bunch of other sins that are no less. For example, it teaches that lying is a sin. It teaches that disrespecting your parents is a sin. It teaches that stealing is a sin. It teaches that coveting your neighbor and what your neighbor has is a sin.”

“So there isn’t a person in this room that isn’t guilty of sin,” Rubio explained. “So I don’t go around pointing fingers in that regard. ... As a policymaker, I could just tell you that I’m informed by my faith and my faith informs me in who I am as a person – but not as a way to pass judgment on people.”

On the topic of abortion, Rubio said life begins at conception.

“I wish there were more folks in this town who are deeply committed to science and the belief in science [and] would not ignore that scientific fact,” Rubio said. “They’re pretty brave about saying the age of the Earth, but they don’t want to say when life begins?”

A challenge for the Republican Party moving forward, Rubio said at the breakfast, is applying their principles to the 21st century.

“We applied them to the 20th century, but now we have to apply them to the 21st century,” he said.

Also in the GQ interview, Rubio said Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., is his best friend, behind his wife. DeMint announced Dec. 6 that he is resigning to head the pro-family Heritage Foundation.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
12/11/2012 2:00:01 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New England Baptists partner with new college

December 10 2012 by Jim Wideman, Baptist Press

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Baptists learned the latest news of their disaster relief (DR) outreach to survivors of superstorm Sandy and approved a partnership with a new Baptist college during their 30th annual meeting, Nov. 9-10 in Marlborough, Mass.

John Scoggins, one of the convention’s DR volunteer leaders, told the 118 messengers in attendance that assessments were being done of damaged homes along the south shore of Connecticut. Scoggins also updated messengers on New England-operated feeding units in the disaster zone.

Messengers approved a recommendation from their board of directors to enter into partnership with Northeastern Baptist College, a new institution that will open next fall. Northeastern’s president, Mark Ballard, has served in New England for nearly 15 years as a convention president, pastor, church planter and interim director of missions.

Messengers approved a 2013 budget of $2,465,355, a decrease of 4 percent from the 2012 amount of $2,576,652. The convention has budgeted for $709,419 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from its churches, a 7.6 percent increase, allocating 25 percent of the CP gifts to national and international SBC causes, after a designation of $252,439 to shared ministry items with the SBC. The overall budget includes $1,583,957 in funding from the North American Mission Board and $65,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources.

The convention awarded the Robert H. Brindle Award to church planters Rich Clegg and Matt Hastey of Manchester, N.H., for their work in cross-cultural church planting. Grace Baptist Church in Hudson, N.H., was given the Raymond C. Allen Award for missions and evangelism, recognizing their numerous community ministries and commitment to worldwide missions.

Messengers re-elected as president Ron Mills, a layman at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., and, as vice president, Neal Davidson, pastor of Hope Chapel in Sterling, Mass. The group also re-elected Sandy Coelho as clerk and Sandy Wideman as historian.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, presented the keynote address and Shaun Pillay preached the annual sermon. Pillay is pastor of Cornerstone International Church in Norwich, Ct., and NAMB church planting catalyst for southeastern New England.

Messengers honored transformational leadership director Randy Sprinkle with a resolution of appreciation, a cash gift and a book of remembrances. Sprinkle is taking an early medical retirement after serving since 2006 on the leadership development team, focusing on ministry to pastors and other church leaders. Sprinkle also served 25 years in various capacities with the International Mission Board and two years as executive director of the Wyoming Baptist Convention.

Messengers also approved a resolution calling for prayer for national leadership and revival for America, based on the current state of declining morality across the nation.

The 2013 annual meeting will be Nov. 8-9, also in Marlborough. Larry Green, pastor of Timothy Baptist Church in Roxbury, Mass., was chosen to preach the 2013 annual sermon, with Clark Rumfelt, pastor of The Church at Waverly, as alternate.

The messengers and 83 guests represented over 70 churches and all seven associations. The BCNE encompasses more than 325 churches and church plants in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Wideman is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.)
12/10/2012 4:20:43 PM by Jim Wideman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Iowa Baptists increase church plants

December 10 2012 by Baptist Press

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Baptists planted more than twice as many churches in the state this year than last, messengers to the group’s 2012 annual meeting learned.

Church planters and others from across Iowa shared stories of their successes and evidence of God’s power in their ministries.

“We are developing a culture in Iowa that understands that reproduction is natural and something every individual believer, church, association and cluster should be involved in doing,” said Tom Law, Baptist Convention of Iowa (BCI) interim executive director.

Iowa Baptists anticipate they will have planted more than 25 churches by year’s end, compared to 10 in 2011, Law said.

Messengers adopted a BCI budget of $1,589,031 for 2013, anticipating $505,000 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from its churches, down from $540,000 budgeted for the current year. Iowa Baptists will continue to send 20 percent of CP receipts, or $101,000, to national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes. No shared BCI/SBC shared expenses were designated in the budget distributed to messengers.

The BCI’s annual meeting at the Holiday Inn and Suites attracted 157 messengers and 49 guests from 54 churches across the state.

After extensive discussion, messengers accepted the proposed BCI Strategy Plan designed to “reap the harvest of the Great Commission,” Law said, by utilizing church clusters to support each other, work on common problems, pool resources, plant churches and further God’s work.

Law expressed amazement at God’s work within the state and challenged Iowa congregations to ask themselves, “What does God want me to do in His Kingdom?”

“God is blessing us and giving us a tremendous opportunity to expand His Kingdom,” Law said. “It is our responsibility to join Him in His work and do what He has asked us to do.”

Messengers amended the BCI constitution to alter the selection method for annual meeting messengers, giving greater representation to smaller churches and congregations that give to the CP and state missions offerings. Other constitutional changes involved the procedure to fill positions on the BCI Executive Board between annual meetings. These changes will be presented again at the 2013 annual meeting for final approval, as required by the constitution.

Messengers re-elected Dan Wiersema, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, as president. Others elected as officers: first vice president, Dan Doolin, pastor of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Wapello; second vice president, Lloyd Eaken, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Anamosa; and secretary, Jerome Risting, a member of Temple Baptist Church in Mason City.

Wiersema exhorted attendees to embrace the Philippians model for cooperative giving. Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, in the annual sermon challenged Iowa Baptists to develop a greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as the convention engages in courageous leadership and transformational strategic planning.

The 2013 annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 1-2 at the Holiday Inn & Suites on Merle Hay Road in Des Moines.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from reports by the Baptist Convention of Iowa and its newsjournal, the Iowa Baptist.)
12/10/2012 4:15:54 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Colts chaplain impacts lives in fast-paced, ‘Not For Long’ NFL

December 10 2012 by Roman Gabriel, BR Sports Q&A

For 23 years Kenny Johnson has impacted the lives of thousands of young men and their families through the platform God has given him as chaplain of the Indianapolis Colts.
 
As a Christian, former football player, husband, and father, he is well qualified and passionate about preparing NFL players and coaches for more than success on the field. The focus of his calling is preparing men to be strong followers of Christ, husbands, fathers, and difference makers in their communities. Johnson discusses the huge changes to the 2012 Colts, life without the great Peyton Manning, and the focus of his ministry to the next generation of leaders.
 
Q: As chaplain of the Colts over the last 23 years, you have witnessed the glory years of Colts football. What’s it like without Peyton Manning?
 
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As chaplain for the Indianapolis Colts, Kenny Johnson is working with the “Building Champions on and off the field” theme this year. He leads Bible studies and prayer with players.


A: I just can’t process it. Seeing him in another uniform, I mean really. I hope he does well until he plays us (Colts) obviously. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be successful because he’s a winner.  He’s going to find a way, but I just pray that he stays healthy. These guys have a gladiator mentality. I just hope he doesn’t take it too far. … You can’t help but care coming from a chaplain’s perspective. … You want to see guys be successful. Of course I want to see him play as long as he can play and be successful. I just really hope the best for him even though [I] can’t fathom him being in another uniform.
 
Q: Peyton was beloved on the field, but how much is he missed by the city for all he has done off of the field over the years?
 
A: He has been unbelievable. Like the hospital that he built for children in Indianapolis, the countless numbers of things he did for the city that you did not hear about, and what he gave back. … In New Orleans when the hurricane hit, he took truckloads and truckloads of food in, and clothing and assistance but no one ever knew about it. He’s just really a class guy with a tremendous amount of integrity. I have so much respect for him. He’s just a real studious guy, always attended and was involved in the chapel services.
 
[He’s] one of the most professional people I’ve ever been around. … He is a great guy, but as you know it’s the NFL, which stands for “Not For Long.”
 
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Kenny Johnson has some experience with the fast-paced NFL.


Q: What is the emphasis for your players in the Colts chapel program this year?
 
A: Coach Chuck Pagano sets the chapel schedule for the team. Our theme this year is “Building Champions on and off the field.” I am excited as we have 50 new players this year and a whole new coaching staff. I do miss some of the old relationships with previous players. Change is tough, but change can also be exciting. I am excited about the newness of it and the new passion with a new coach and players.
 
Q: Your ministry mission is all about helping this next generation of young people. What are your thoughts on the importance of walking the walk and talking the talk?
 
A: We go into the school with our “Power to Win Tour.” We just believe that when children and people begin to believe that they have real value … they love themselves and then they love their neighbor as themselves and they stop destroying each other…. They won’t belittle and bash each other and sell poison to each other. … The young men won’t hurt young women, and the young women will not look for love in the wrong places. … Our children are our future. Our children are our present. … What we instill in them to choose today will determine their tomorrow. We have to help these young people choose right today. We have to tell them that [they are] valuable.
 
People say, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but I believe words are significant, and they [can] hurt you. I grew up with a mother who was a prostitute, and before she got better she would tell us we were not worth anything and that hurts. It was coaches, teachers, youth pastors … that helped us, that encouraged us. … They said we have purpose and told us we had identity.
That we could set goals so we could be successful, that we can fulfill our dreams and inspired us that we could choose better.
 
Q: What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give parents today?
 
A: Get involved, and continue to be involved. Keep youngsters as busy as you can and get them involved in extracurricular activities, sports and other things. … Get them out of the house and away from TV. … Kids have all [of] this technology and all these modern comforts, but I hear them talk about being bored. … Don’t just put them in front of the computer and the television where they can be educated falsely by the world. As parents we have to educate them [about our] values.
 
Q: What are some of the other ministry opportunities you are involved in throughout the year?
 
A: One of the campaigns we are involved with is to get kids to give back to [The Wounded Warrior Project]. These guys have laid down so much. ... We try to go in [and] encourage them. We help by kids writing letters and delivering support packets. “Emerging Eagles” is the name of our non-profit. … We empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
 
You can find out about this and many other outreach ministries at kenjohnson.org or on Facebook at Chaplain Ken Johnson.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is president of Sold Out Ministries. He hosts Sold Out Sports, which is heard Saturday at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact him at (910) 431-6483 or email soldoutrg3@gmail.com. His website is soldouttv.com.)
12/10/2012 3:40:49 PM by Roman Gabriel, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments



Doctor’s Rx for suffering centers on Jesus

December 10 2012 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s theme for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to www.imb.org/offering.)

CENTRAL ASIA – Flies circle the sparsely equipped operating room in remote Central Asia. One lands on an instrument tray, strutting the length of a scalpel seconds before the previously sterile instrument slices beneath skin of Jalal Hossein*.
 
“Allah!” the 28-year-old mullah (Islamic teacher) moans through a haze of local anesthesia that has failed to kill the pain. The lead surgeon calls for more light, but three of the four bulbs in the operating room’s lamp are burned out.

Cutting-edge medicine it’s not. But at the moment, the hospital – and Hossein – have at least one advantage: the man behind the scalpel is Dr. Doug Page*, one of the finest thoracic surgeons in the country.
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Doug Page (name changed), a Southern Baptist doctor in Central Asia, prays aloud for a malnourished baby. Despite the best care possible in the remote region, the baby died several days later. “There’s an urgency to what we need to be about here,” Page says. “There are people who are dying every day and lost for eternity.”


“Put that bad boy in there,” Page coaches a national colleague who is attempting to insert a catheter into the protective sac surrounding Hossein’s heart. These are teachable moments for Page, 56, a soft-spoken, Southern Baptist doctor who came to this rugged corner of Central Asia with his wife Alice* to be Jesus’ heart, hands and voice among a people in desperate need of physical and spiritual healing. It’s a brutal place to practice medicine, let alone share the gospel.

“There are so many walls here,” Page says. “There are walls around every house and there are barriers between families. ... There’s fighting between villages and tribes. This isn’t just fisticuffs fighting – this is blowing up homes, setting booby-trapped mines, children being maimed, crops being burned, livestock stolen. It’s ruthless.”

During the past several years, Page has scrubbed in for hundreds of surgeries at the hospital. The facility, with 60-plus beds, is dirty and poorly equipped. But as the largest of only three hospitals in an area more than twice the size of the state of Georgia, it’s also the best chance of good health care for more than 350,000 people who call this province home. That’s roughly one doctor for every 15,000 individuals.

Though those numbers are staggering, Page believes the need for the gospel is even greater.

Islam dominates the religious landscape. Estimates place the number of Christians here at fewer than 2,000, and most national believers are forced to keep their faith a secret.

Hardship and risk

Obedience to God’s call hasn’t come without sacrifice. By 7 a.m. the next day, Page is eager to begin morning rounds at the hospital. But first he swings by the office to check email.

“Just another day in paradise,” he jokes with his driver, Farooq*, as their SUV bounces violently across a series of Hula-Hoop-sized potholes – a minor inconvenience compared with the overwhelming hardship of daily life here.

The Pages live in a mud home with spotty electricity. Winters are especially harsh, with temperatures dropping below -20 F – cold enough to coat the walls inside their house with ice. At the hospital, Page regularly treats patients for diseases rarely encountered in the U.S., such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis and dysentery. He has amputated limbs from landmine victims, removed handfuls of worms from patients’ intestines and helped nurse malnourished children back from the brink of death – all while patiently and persistently seeking God-given opportunities to bear witness for Christ.

But cultural and political animosity toward the gospel means those who share Jesus do so at great personal risk, including prison, kidnapping – even murder. Vehicles must be checked for explosives; razor wire protects the walls around the Pages’ home.

“They’re locked into a system of righteousness based on works. ... They have no hope of salvation. They have no understanding or sense of grace or forgiveness,” Page says. “Famine, disease, injustice, abuse of women and children, human trafficking – all of these things relate to that darkness. ... And they’ve been enslaved for hundreds and thousands of years like this.

“It’s a kingdom of darkness. I think Satan is very powerful here.”

Most of the town’s few thousand residents survive as farmers or shepherds, but years of drought and conflict have withered harvests, dwindled herds and upended livelihoods. Less than 25 percent of the area’s households have access to safe drinking water and fewer than 10 percent have adequate toilet facilities. More than 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; one-third of all pre-school children are underweight.

Mohammed is one of them. Just 18 months old and severely malnourished, he was brought to the hospital suffering from pneumonia and an infection in his right thigh. He winces in pain at the slightest touch, his squeaky cries broken only by a thick, wet cough. “I’m sorry,” Page says softly as he listens to the boy’s breathing. “Poor little guy’s struggling. ... He may not make it.”

‘What Jesus did’

The tone in Page’s voice reveals a tender heart. Dealing with the hardness of life here takes its toll, he admits. But worse than a patient’s death, he says, is witnessing their suffering – especially that of women and children.

“It’s a culture of men,” he explains. “The women are basically property.”

But even in the midst of overwhelming need, lives are being changed. Page regularly treats patients outside the hospital, free of charge to those who simply show up at his front gate. Alice works closely with a group of women she’s befriended and runs a handicraft program to help them earn extra income.

“This is what Jesus did when He was on earth. He healed people. He went out of His way to touch people, to feed people,” Page says. “And He says that when we do these things, it’s like we’re doing them to Him.”

Page also has seen one person place his faith in Christ: a man nicknamed “Paul.” Like his biblical namesake, Paul once verbally abused believers. Through months of heart-to-heart conversation, he eventually gave his life to Jesus.

But those sorts of triumphs are few and far between. Given the stakes involved in becoming a believer, receptivity usually starts in small ways – with a prayer.

After lunch, Page strolls through the hospital’s courtyard and passes little Mohammed, the malnourished 18-month-old, waiting in the sunshine with his grandmother for an X-ray. He stops and talks with the grandmother about Mohammed’s condition, explaining the importance of the formula they’ve prescribed to fight his malnutrition. Then he seeks the grandmother’s permission to ask for some extra “help.”

Page kneels in the dirt, holds Mohammed’s tiny hand and prays aloud for the child in Jesus’ name. Despite Page’s prayers and the best care the hospital staff could offer, Mohammed died within a few days.

“We’re not indispensable to His plan,” Page says, “but at least today if this little team that’s here wasn’t here, there wouldn’t be any evangelical witness here. This place would be totally, totally dark. It’s very dark, but there’s one little, little, little candle light burning here. I feel very responsible to stay here and keep that burning for now.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer at the International Mission Board. Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.)

 

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12/10/2012 3:20:05 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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