December 2012

‘How on earth am I going to explain this to my wife?’

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 – The first time Doug Page* set foot in the remote Central Asian town where he was sent to serve Christ, a single question echoed through his mind: “How on earth am I going to explain this to my wife?”

The Southern Baptist doctor scanned the dozens of small, sand-colored dwellings that littered the surrounding hills. And very soon, Page and his wife would be living in one of the homes made of mud.

“I remember getting off the little plane on a little dirt airstrip and being met by some locals in a pickup truck and driven up a hill,” Page says. “No paved roads, just one hole in the ground after another ... weaving our way around donkeys and goats and sheep ... and thinking, ‘Wow, this is a pretty rough place.’

“I felt I could probably survive here, maybe live in a sleeping bag in a hole somewhere,” he adds with a laugh. “But I wanted her to be comfortable and happy and be able to minister and live.”

“Her” is the love of his life, Alice*, his wife of nearly 30 years. They started dating during his freshman year in college, and though Alice swore she’d never marry a doctor or a preacher, she found herself with both.
12-10-12docwop2.jpgRazor wire lines the walls of the home and office where Baptist doctor Doug Page and his wife Alice serve in Central Asia, a constant reminder that obedience to the Great Commission doesn’t come without risk.

Page was glad he’d come alone for this first introduction to the couple’s new home; he would use the scouting trip to prepare Alice for the primitive conditions they’d have to endure. It was a far cry from the simple but comfortable lifestyle they enjoyed back home in Mississippi. But despite his initial shock, Page says there was a “certain wildness” about this part of Central Asia that drew him in.

The town lies in a shallow valley locked deep within the country’s rugged interior. The lone highway connecting it to the outside world is plagued by bandits during warmer months and cut off by heavy snowfall that chokes mountain passes in winter. Charter flights are the only secure means of reaching the area. From the air, the town is a pallid oasis, a speck of life surrounded by desolate, sun-kissed mountains.

Most of the few thousand residents here survive as farmers or shepherds, but years of drought and conflict have withered harvests, dwindled herds and decimated livelihoods. More than a third of the town’s children are malnourished; life expectancy is less than 50 years. Adult literacy is under 20 percent.

Electricity a bit ‘overrated’

Like most of their neighbors, the Pages live in a simple, mud house, which they have outfitted with a Western toilet, shower and kitchen sink. These “luxuries” aren’t available during the region’s glacial winters, however, since nighttime temperatures dip below -20 F and threaten to burst pipes. Electricity is spotty, available for only a few hours each night.

Staying warm is especially difficult. Kerosene heaters provide a little respite from the cold, but some nights are so bitter that sheets of ice form on the walls inside the Page’s home. “I put toothpaste and shampoo bottles in our bathroom and they just turned to ice.... I didn’t know toothpaste could freeze,” Page laughs.

The couple have learned to stockpile food, fuel and firewood; they also must constantly sweep snow from the mud roof to avoid leaks or collapse. Even driving is a chore. Besides the challenge of navigating icy roads, the SUV’s brakes freeze; a blowtorch is used to thaw them each morning.

The learning curve was steep for the Pages, who have spent most of their lives in the southern United States weathering heat waves instead of blizzards. Survival techniques came by watching their neighbors. Alice learned to dry apples and tomatoes on the roof in the sun and preserve onions and potatoes by burying them in the yard. Doug stored up barrels of kerosene and salted slabs of beef.

Trial and error also was a good tutor. During the Pages’ first winter in town, their new cast-iron water heater burst because it hadn’t been fully drained.

“That first winter was pretty harsh,” Page says. The couple’s supervisor gave them the option to spend winter in the nation’s capital, complete with full-time heat, running water and electricity. But the Pages turned the offer down because they knew winter was when the hospital would need Doug most.

Despite difficult circumstances, the Pages have maintained a positive attitude. “I think electricity is a little bit overrated,” Doug says with a grin. But the cold weather and poor infrastructure are only half the challenge. Security is always on his mind.

Personal safety

Sunlight glints off coils of silver razor wire snaking its way around the mud walls of the Pages’ home. The protective barrier is a constant reminder of the risks Doug and Alice face simply by being here – to say nothing of sharing the gospel. Deportation, prison, kidnapping and murder are very real threats for Christian workers in Central Asia, even more so for the nationals with whom they partner.

Bars cover the Pages’ windows and a guard stands watch at their home 24/7. Doug’s frisky, blue-eyed mutt, Cleo, adds another layer of protection, though the dog’s playful nature means there’s a chance she might just as well lick intruders as bite them.

Trips to nearby villages outside the relative safety of the town are dangerous. But Page often puts himself in harm’s way if a patient needs his help. Security was so tight during one out-of-town visit that Page was given an armed escort so he could safely use the bathroom.

“When we drive around we pass people with AK-47s.... You’ll hear something explode once in a while,” he says. “[But] we’re not paranoid. My wife and I don’t sit around worrying about things that can happen.”

Page recalls waking one evening to the sound of bomb blasts rattling his bedroom window. “We just said a little prayer together and went back to sleep.”

It’s not foolishness or arrogance, he says. Just a genuine trust in God’s calling on their lives and the understanding that obedience to the Great Commission doesn’t come with any guarantee of personal safety – or without sacrifice and pain.

Compelled by love

Page admits there are moments when he questions what he’s doing, whether he’s actually making a difference among so much suffering. But it is during those periods of doubt that Page’s calling keeps him on the field, a calling 30 years in the making.

“I had a very strong sense as a teenager that God really wanted me to do something special. And it was very important to me to find out what that was,” Page says. “I can remember being awake at night as a teenager, just praying and asking God to please show me what He wanted me to do with my life.”

The son of a Southern Baptist pastor, Page remembers that Sunday morning at church in Texas when he finally discovered what God’s plan was. As his mother played piano during the invitation, Page walked the aisle and announced his decision to serve the Lord overseas as a doctor. He would be Jesus’ heart, hands and voice to a people who didn’t know Him, sharing love as Christ did – preaching and healing.

Page turned down an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and enrolled in a pre-med program at a nearby university. What he didn’t yet understand was that God’s timing would keep him stateside for the next 30 years – teaching, maturing and preparing him for ministry – before finally sending him overseas in 2003, at age 47, first to East Asia and then Central Asia.

But Page’s commitment to follow Christ goes beyond simple obedience. It’s about a sense of urgency – and love.

“We honestly feel that we are not sacrificing much, that God has given us so much that we’re thankful for. And that we’re obligated, compelled because of our love for Him,” Page says.

“There are people here who are dying every day and lost for eternity. ... And I don’t want to miss an opportunity that God puts before me to share with somebody. I pray that I’ll be bold to do that.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer with the International Mission Board.)


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12/10/2012 3:05:17 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Landmark: Sup. Court to consider gay marriage

December 10 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – In a landmark move, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Dec. 7 to take up two cases that could either lead to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide or affirm the rights of legislators and voters to protect traditional marriage.

The court’s action means that sometime next year – perhaps in March – the court will hear oral arguments in the cases and hand down a decision by the end of June.

The justices will consider the constitutionality of two laws. One is the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as being between a man and a woman. The other is California Proposition 8, a voter-approved constitutional amendment which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Together, the cases pose a question at the core of the marriage debate: Under the U.S. Constitution can the federal government and the various states define marriage in the traditional sense, thus prohibiting the recognition of gay marriage and other non-traditional unions? Supporters of gay marriage say DOMA and Prop 8 violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
12-10-12case-(1).jpg

Nine states recognize gay marriage, and 30 have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The other 11 states define marriage in statutes as between a man and a woman.

If the Supreme Court strikes down California Prop 8, then the 41 states that don’t recognize gay marriage could be forced to do so. If it overturns DOMA, then the federal government will be forced to recognize the gay marriages of the nine states where it’s legal, something it currently does not.

Lower courts struck down DOMA and Prop 8 in the cases at issue.

California voters passed Prop 8 in 2008 by a margin of 52-48. The amendment reads, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It reversed a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized gay marriage.

“Every one of the numerous legal steps we have taken for the past four years has been in anticipation of this moment,” Andy Pugno, general counsel for California’s ProtectMarriage.com, said in a statement. ProtectMarriage.com is the organization behind Prop 8. “Arguing this case before the Supreme Court finally gives us a chance at a fair hearing, something that hasn’t been afforded to the people since we began this fight. We are delighted that the nation’s highest court will decide whether to uphold the will of more than seven million Californians who voted to preserve the unique definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

The Defense of Marriage Act was passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by President Clinton.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is a universal good that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western Civilization,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell said in a statement. ADF supports DOMA and Prop 8. “Marriage expresses the truth that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life. The ProtectMarriage.com legal team looks forward to advocating before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the people’s right to preserve this fundamental building block of civilization.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
12/10/2012 2:44:32 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tufts Univ. reinstates Christian ministry

December 10 2012 by Leigh Jones, Baptist Press

MEDFORD, Mass. – Student religious groups should not have to appoint leaders who do not share their beliefs, a student judiciary at Tufts University announced Dec. 5.

It was a big victory for a Christian group on campus that had lost official recognition in October.

Like several other private colleges, Tufts has an “all comers” policy that requires official student organizations to be open to all students for both membership and leadership, regardless of beliefs. But in reviewing a discrimination complaint filed against Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), the largest evangelical group on the Medford, Mass., campus, the Tufts Committee on Student Life decided unanimously the policy should not apply to leaders of religious groups.

“It is reasonable to expect that leaders within individual [religious groups] be exemplars of that particular religion,” the committee ruled. “Therefore, an ‘all comers’ policy for group leadership may not be appropriate for all [religious groups].”

Under the new policy, religious groups must remain open to all students for membership but can use doctrinal statements when selecting leaders.

Tufts Christian Fellowship lost it official recognition in October after members of the Tufts Coalition Against Religious Exclusion complained the group’s leadership requirements violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy. TCF members applauded the new policy in a statement released Dec. 6: “We appreciate that the Committee on Student Life recognizes that faith-based groups may need the freedom to use faith-based criteria in its leadership selection in order to remain consistent with the mission and beliefs of their faiths. We also appreciate the Committee’s desire to protect all students on campus by both affirming the nondiscrimination policy and defining its proper context and application for student religious groups.”

TCF will remain on suspension until the group submits a new application for recognition, which it intends to do immediately. The new policy requires the university chaplaincy to review applications for doctrinal justification for all departures from the nondiscrimination policy.

Like other campus groups affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, TCF requires student leaders to affirm statements of faith that include adherence to sexual purity. InterVarsity chapters on dozens of campuses, both public and private, have faced challenges during the last few years to their teachings on homosexuality.

Most public schools have affirmed the group’s right to operate freely. But many private schools, which are not bound by constitutional protections for religious freedom, have adopted policies that restrict Christian groups’ autonomy. Last year, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University adopted an “all-comers” policy that forced 15 evangelical Christian groups to sever ties with the school.

Leaders of campus ministries across the country feared other schools would follow Vanderbilt’s lead. But Tufts adopted a position of true tolerance by protecting religious groups on campus, said Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity: “We urge other universities like Vanderbilt University to rethink their positions.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WorldonCampus.com, where this story first appeared.)
12/10/2012 2:37:34 PM by Leigh Jones, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BGCT budget to remain at $38M

December 8 2012 by Baptist Press

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) approved a $38 million budget for next year during its 2012 annual meeting in Corpus Christi.

The budget has remained the same since 2010. It includes $33.85 million in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from BGCT member churches and $2.15 million in investment income.

Messengers allocated 79 percent of the budget for the work of the state convention and 21 percent for national and international causes, allowing each church to determine the recipient or recipients of its gifts beyond the BGCT.

In making the budget presentation, BGCT treasurer Jill Larsen shared the stories of people who have been transformed by Christ as a result of ministries supported by the Texas CP.

“That’s what this budget is all about: sharing the gospel so men, women and children can know the hope of Christ,” Larsen said.

With revenue from other sources such as the North American Mission Board, conference and booth fees and product sales, the convention expects to receive an overall total of $41,314,307 in revenue for 2013, just $28,224 less than this year.

Newly elected as BGCT officers are: president, Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce; first vice president, Byron Stevenson, pastor of The Fort Bend Church in Sugar Land, and second vice president, Kathy Hillman, director of special collections for the Baylor University libraries.

Johnson served the past year as first vice president, has served on the BGCT’s Executive Board and has pastored churches in Del Rio, Bonham, Sherman and Ivanhoe.

Stevenson served the past year as second vice president and has served on the BGCT Executive Board and as secretary of the African American Fellowship of Texas. Hillman is chairwoman of the BGCT committee to nominate executive board members and is a former chairperson of the BGCT committee on order of business.

The 894 convention messengers approved two constitutional amendments, one granting the BGCT executive board the authority to adopt the budget at its fall meeting in years when a summer annual meeting is held. The other will grant presidents of BGCT-recognized fellowships voting privileges on the BGCT Executive Board.

Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist in McAllen, was selected to preach the annual sermon at the 2013 convention, July 14-17 in San Antonio, with Bob McCartney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, named as alternate. The 2014 BGCT annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16-19 in Waco and the 2015 annual meeting will be Nov. 8-11 in Frisco.

Messengers also scheduled a “family gathering” July 14-17, 2013, in San Antonio in conjunction with the African-American Fellowship of Texas and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from reports by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist Standard newsjournal.)
12/8/2012 4:12:43 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Okla. Baptists renew focus on Sunday School

December 8 2012 by Baptist Press

MOORE, Okla. – The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) set forth a “ReConnect Sunday School” initiative at its 106th annual meeting Nov. 12-13 at First Baptist Church in Moore.

The meeting, with its “Connect” theme, provided an opportunity for Oklahoma Baptists to conduct business, elect officers, gather as a community of faith and share their vision for 2013.

The “ReConnect Sunday School” initiative calls on Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches to revitalize adult and children’s educational Sunday Schools as a means of evangelism.

Also, a preview of a 2013 service evangelism initiative called “Serve Oklahoma” was presented to help mobilize Oklahoma Southern Baptists to get outside the walls of their church buildings to transform their communities for Christ.

“The annual meeting is designed to bring [the state’s Baptists] together for worship and projects centered on the common mission to serve others and reach people for Christ,” Anthony Jordan, the BGCO’s executive director, said. “The initiatives will be an avenue through which we’ll accomplish these goals.”

Messengers approved nine resolutions, including one on prayer and encouragement for elected officials, one on the sanctity of life and personhood, one on the covenant of marriage, one on religious liberty and one on the Armed Forces.

The religious liberty resolution, which took note of the controversial HHS contraception/abortion mandate, states, “We advocate religious liberty for all people and call for action in two areas. We call on the president to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw the mandate for healthcare plans to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices as a violation of religious liberty. We also call on the president to ensure the religious liberty of military chaplains to minister according to their religious consciences without fear or coercion. We wholeheartedly support the ministry of chaplains in the United States military.”

Messengers elected Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, as president, along with Johnny Montgomery, pastor of First Baptist Church in Red Oak, as first vice president, and Danny Ringer, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Elk City, as elected second vice president.

A 2013 BGCO Cooperative Program (CP) allocation goal of $25.6 million was approved. The budget is up from $24.9 million in 2012. Of the new budget total, $3.4 million is designated for shared ministry causes between the Southern Baptist Convention and the BGCO, with the remainder divided at 46 percent ($10.2 million) to the SBC and 54 percent ($12 million) to remain in Oklahoma. The percentages were unchanged.

In his address, Jordan preached from the Old Testament account of Nehemiah, whose heart was broken when he learned that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were still destroyed and who determined in his heart to see them repaired. Jordan pointed out some leadership principles he gleaned from Nehemiah:
  • “God’s leaders see what others ignore. Nehemiah saw the rubble, while others ignored it.”
  • “God’s leaders see what others can’t see and don’t see. Nehemiah envisioned walls rebuilt and city gates re-hung.”
  • “Leaders have the ability to hear differently. Nehemiah heard the voice of God speaking to him, even though he was far from Jerusalem.”
  • “God’s leaders risk what others will not. You don’t have to rely on your ability ... but God’s. He is our source.”
Jordan said he sees rubble all across Oklahoma – “in 90-some casinos, the fact that we are No. 5 in the number of teenage pregnancies, the churches are in turmoil.

“But the greatest rubble is plain, everyday apathy,” Jordan said. “And I see the apathy more demonstrated in our Sunday Schools than in any other place.

“But, I want to tell you it’s not a worn-out tool. It connects people, it’s transformational, it’s inspirational, it’s doing life together ... it’s me caring about you and you caring about me.”

With a brief look at the progress made at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, Jordan cast an eye to the future and said there is more to be done there.

“There is a debt to be removed,” Jordan said. “Under God, we have a responsibility to rise up and get the remaining debt paid. Also, we need to rise up and convert the amphitheater – what the youth call ‘the old tabernacle’ – into a cafeteria and more meeting space and add motel rooms.

“Finally, we need to move our disaster relief vehicles from their current housing at Boys Ranch Town. It’s time to rise up and build a new facility to house our disaster relief equipment and free the space at Boys Ranch. We’re serving the world through disaster relief.”

In conclusion, Jordan said, “I ask you to take hands with me and others. Can we arise and build? We can because we serve a mighty God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Other speakers included Douglas Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Jim Shaddix, a preaching professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Bobby Kelly, a professor of religion at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Melton, who served as BGCO president for two years, preached from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David and Goliath, urging messengers to face their giants.

“In our churches and conventions, we face a giant. It is the giant task of reaching a lost world with the gospel,” Melton said. He called on Oklahoma Baptists to be obedient to God like David, who despite popular opinion did what was right.

“David did not retreat in battle because he was where God wanted him to be, and that is the way we should be in these challenging days.”

Shaddix, who also serves as pastor for teaching and training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and who previously served as a pastor in Colorado, said that by some accounts “anywhere between 92 to 98 percent of the Colorado population” is unreached.

Shaddix implored Oklahoma Baptists to keep the cross at the forefront. “A gospel without a cross is no gospel. Don’t share a gospel without a cross in it. It won’t save anybody,” he said.

Kelly, preaching from Romans 8:18-39 on what he called the apostle Paul’s most stirring passage, held up various U.S. bills and noted that the words “In God We Trust” are printed on them all.

Preaching the convention’s annual sermon, Kelly said there are times when believers need to be reminded what the nation’s motto really means.

“We find our confidence shaken and cry out for someone to rescue us,” Kelly said. “Paul knows suffering, having been stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned, yet in this passage he speaks of the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Messengers also heard a report on BGCO Conference Center and Camps. Scott Phillips, leader of the convention’s church & family equipping team, said attendance at the summer 2012 CrossTimbers Mission Adventure Camp was 2,564.

“There were 326 decisions for salvations and 622 total decisions,” Phillips noted. “One in four children who go to CrossTimbers Mission Adventure Camp will make a decision. Half of those decisions will be for salvation.

“Last year, when I shared this report, I told you we were at capacity, that we could not get more kids in. But that’s only if the camp were located where it was,” Phillips said.

“Unexpectedly, God has done more than we could ask or imagine. This spring, through the generosity of the Green family and Hobby Lobby, God provided us with a new camp [the Newburn Conference Center in Davis] that is more than double the capacity for what we have known for the last years, for potentially more than 500 students housed in the facility on any given week of camp,” he said.

Andy Harrison, program director at Falls Creek, said this past summer marked the highest number of salvation decisions on record at the camp.

“There were 2,469 students who gave their life to Christ [in 2012],” Harrison said. “Hearing numbers like that never gets old. God has blessed us tremendously.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Based on reporting by the staff of the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma.)
12/8/2012 4:08:47 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ariz. Baptists seek church renewal

December 7 2012 by Elizabeth Young, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Messengers to the 84th annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (ASBC) heard a call to church renewal and unanimously conducted business in a single hour-and-a-half session.

During the meeting at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, the 252 messengers elected three new officers by acclamation, adopted a 2013 Cooperative Program budget of $3,180,000 and heard a report from the search team charged with recommending a new state missionary (executive director).

Prior to the business session and worship rally Nov. 9, Arizona Southern Baptists strolled through 30 booths in a mission fair presenting the ministries of the convention, along with other opportunities to be on mission.

“It is my view that God would be honored if in 2013 we turn our hearts toward thoughts of church renewal,” said Byron Banta, interim state missionary.

Quoting the convention’s motto of “Healthy Leaders Influence Healthy Churches to Evangelize and Plant Churches,” Banta challenged messengers to “think about ways that we can be healthier churches for the glory of God.”

He presented two assumptions about church health. First, he said, “A church is responsible for its own health.” Second, “Church health – church renewal – is like digging a posthole: it’s not that complicated, but it is hard,” he said.

Church renewal, Banta said, entails turning to God, seeking His face and honoring Him with acts of obedience. “God wants what we say to Him and how we behave to be in concert,” he said.

Emphasizing the need for renewal, he said, “I believe there are hundreds of thousands of church members in the West who have unwittingly embraced American cultural religion that cuts the heart out of biblical Christianity.”

Banta quoted John Guillott, director of evangelism and missions for the Catalina Baptist Association in Tucson, who said in a meeting in another association, “If you want to be healthy, you need to do healthy things.”

One healthy thing for churches to do is to emphasize stewardship, Banta said.

“If I were a pastor and I suspected that members of my church had been infected with a secular worldview,” he said, “I might spend the better part of a year helping them figure out what God says about money.”

When secular people hear what God’s Word says about money and resources, they are confronted with the lordship of Christ, he said, noting, “Once you learn to trust God with your money, it is easier to trust Him with all other areas of your life.”

Another healthy thing a church could do, Banta said, would be to develop a written evangelism and discipleship strategy. “It would challenge secular-minded people to understand and adopt God’s purposes,” he said.

However, he cautioned, the goal is not to have a program to make your church grow. The point is “doing healthy things as a part of repentance and seeking God for His glory.”

Chad Garrison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, was elected president by acclamation.

In Garrison’s 20 years as pastor of Calvary, the church has grown from an average attendance of under 100 to more than 1,000, said Bret Burnett, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson, in nominating Garrison. Calvary, which gives 19 percent to missions and gave almost $100,000 through the Cooperative Program last year, “is known in their city for being a church that loves the Lord and stands for the Lord and cares for their community,” Burnett said.

Also elected by acclamation were Randy Mullinax, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Tucson, as first vice president and Paul Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler and associate professor at the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, as second vice president.

The churches of all three officers rank in the top 20 churches in Cooperative Program giving in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

Messengers adopted a $3,180,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,605,562 state convention operating budget for 2013. The Cooperative Program budget remains unchanged from 2012.

The budget calls for 26.05 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, also unchanged from 2012.

The Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: SBC Cooperative Program, $828,390; Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $1,913,911; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $236,550; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, $125,456; and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $75,693.

Income sources in the ASBC operating budget beyond Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches include $999,970 from the North American Mission Board, $118,800 in church gifts designated for Arizona ministries only, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $20,000 in trust income designated for the Cooperative Program and $69,550 in other revenue.

ASBC First Vice President Shaun Whitey, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, presided during the meeting in the absence of President James Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, who had back surgery recently.

Joe Chan, pastor of Tucson Chinese Baptist Church in Tucson, and a member of the state missionary/executive director search team, presented Harms’ written report from the search team.

The search team met Oct. 19 and reviewed the presentation of a candidate who did not receive the required two-thirds affirmative vote of the Convention Council in September, Harms wrote. According to the ASBC constitution, a candidate must receive a two-thirds affirmative vote of both the Convention Council and ASBC messengers in annual or special session.

The team also “evaluated the other candidates that had been previously interviewed by the team” and then “voted to begin the search again,” he wrote. Recommendations and resumes are being received by email at ASBCsearchteam@gmail.com, and the team also will consider some recommendations received earlier, Harms wrote.

The search team was appointed by Harms in May 2011 when Steve Bass resigned as ASBC state missionary to become the West Region vice president of the North American Mission Board. Members of the original eight-member search team will continue to serve, with the exception of Harms, who was on the team and served as chairman by virtue of his office. Newly elected ASBC President Chad Garrison now will serve as team chairman.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention will be Nov. 15 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.)
12/7/2012 3:43:05 PM by Elizabeth Young, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ark. Baptists’ budget to surpass $22M

December 7 2012 by Baptist Press

CABOT, Ark. – Messengers to the 159th Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) annual meeting approved a 2013 Cooperative Program (CP) budget of $22 million and honored Emil Turner in retiring as ASBC executive director in February.

“NOW” was the theme of the meeting at First Baptist Church in Cabot, where the convention’s president, Greg Addison, serves as pastor. Addison was elected to a second term during the Oct. 30-31 sessions.

The meeting was attended by 634 messengers, slightly down from the 687 messengers at the 2011 meeting in Little Rock and from the 761 messengers at the 2010 meeting in Jonesboro.

In addition to Addison’s re-election as convention president, Ken Jerome, interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, was re-elected as first vice president, as was second vice president Matt Pryor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wooster. All three were unopposed.

Messengers approved six resolutions, including recognition of Emil Turner. The ABSC executive director will retire in February after 16 years of service to Arkansas Baptists.

The resolution, in part, noted:
  • The Cooperative Program budget has increased during Turner’s tenure from $16 million to $20 million. While “some state conventions have chosen to decrease their giving to the Cooperative Program, Dr. Turner has led Arkansas Baptists to a continuing increase toward Cooperative Program causes beyond Arkansas.”
  • The Arkansas convention has seen a per year average of 28 church starts with nine of them involving other ethnicities, “so that on any given Sunday Arkansas Southern Baptists are worshipping in nine different languages.”
Other resolutions included opposition to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act (which lost on the Nov. 6 ballot); support of the biblical definition of marriage and of Christian citizenship and civic participation; and gratitude and prayer for members of the armed forces. The full text of resolutions approved by the messengers is available at www.arkansasbaptist.org/2012 resolutions.

Miscellaneous business included a motion by Brad Coble, a messenger from Calvary Baptist Church in Benton, asking the convention to recognize the late Roy Fish, retired professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Fish died Sept. 10.

“I thank God for his influence on my life,” Coble told messengers. Addison asked messengers to approve the motion, which they did with a resounding “amen.” Coble was then asked to pray.

Other miscellaneous business included a motion to dedicate the 2012 Annual of the ABSC to Frank Shell and L.B. Jordan, both former pastors, associational missionaries and longtime leaders in Arkansas Baptist life who died this year.

The ABSC budget of $22 million approved by messengers is slightly higher than the $21.4 million 2012 operating budget.

It includes $9,395,389 (42.71 percent) for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes; $12,469,611 (56.68 percent) for missions and ministries in Arkansas; and $135,000 for shared SBC/ABSC ministries.

The SBC portion includes an increase of $201,332 (0.2 percent) above this year’s allocation, the first such increase in a five-year plan to increase the SBC portion by 1 percent. The convention is currently completing a similar five-year plan for 2008-12.

Additionally, the 2013 CP budget will reflect the first year of the convention’s revised budget formula approved by messengers at the 2011 annual meeting. The approved recommendations set forth in the formula – which will be in effect for the 2013-17 budget years – increase the percentage of funds (total receipts) forwarded to the SBC and divide state budget surpluses with the SBC.

The convention’s nominating committee report was approved with no challenges. The committee nominates people to serve on boards of ABSC entities and institutions.

Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, was elected as president of the ABSC Executive Board, with Mike McCauley, pastor of Bella Vista Baptist Church in Bella Vista, elected as first vice president.

The 2013 annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention will be Oct. 29-30 at Cross Church in Rogers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of the Arkansas Baptist News.)
12/7/2012 3:36:50 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ga. Baptists increase budget 3.7%, honor White

December 7 2012 by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. – Messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention’s (GBC) annual meeting increased their budget, honored their executive director, J. Robert White, for two decades of service and emerged with a renewed commitment to reach their state and world for Christ.

“My commission ... the Great Commission” was the theme for the 191st annual meeting at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins.

The 1,128 messengers heard reports, approved a 2013 budget of $41,800,000, collected Buckets of Care for Hurricane Sandy victims in Manahawkin, N.J., and welcomed 50 new churches and missions.

New Orleans pastor and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Fred Luter closed the meeting with a Great Commission sermon on “If the gospel was enough to save you, why can’t it save those on the streets?”

The 2013 budget was an increase of 3.7 percent from last year’s $40,300,000 adjusted budget. Last year messengers originally approved a $42.3 million budget for 2012, but the struggling economy immediately forced the convention to trim 6 percent, or nearly $1.7 million, and reduce staff in late January. That brought spending to levels not seen since 1998.

The new budget reverses a trend of steady declines and is the first increase in four years. Even with the cuts in recent years, the newly approved budget retains the convention’s long-established standing as a 50/50 percent split between Georgia and SBC Cooperative Program funding, executive director J. Robert White said.

The budget is divided equally with 40.18 percent remaining in the state and 40.18 percent forwarded for national and international ministries, with the remaining 19.63 percent, known as “jointly funded ministries” or “shared ministry” also divided between state and national CP causes.

President’s message

In his president’s message, John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro, said the heartbeat of Georgia Baptists “ought to be the Great Commission. The call is too clear, the need is too great, the time is too short for us to have a heartbeat for anything less than the Great Commission given by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Waters called for all Georgia Baptists working together to carry on the work of the Great Commission.

“Jesus didn’t intend for just His disciples to do the Great Commission. He didn’t intend for just me to do the Great Commission. Jesus intended for us to do the Great Commission together,” Waters said.

He encouraged messengers to “share a common heartbeat for missions and evangelism which is the very heartbeat of God. Let’s set aside our differences and go forth with a single cause, single mission, single heartbeat.”

Cooperative Program

Jeremy Morton, chairman of the Cooperative Program Allocation Study Committee appointed by the GBC Executive Committee, updated messengers on the group’s findings. Morton, pastor of Cross Point Baptist Church in Perry, explained that after exhaustive interviews with SBC entity heads, the committees agreed to maintain the 50/50 percent funding split between state and national ministries.

Morton also updated messengers on the move, hailed as groundbreaking by some, which updates the funding relationship between the state convention and church planters.

The updated policy reflects current Cooperative Program percentage giving from churches and empowers church plants to make a personal commitment of their resources to missions rather than having a specific percentage dictated to them.

In order to receive funds, church plants previously were required to give 10 percent to Southern Baptist missions causes through the Cooperative Program. But that average amount has been declining for several years and should no longer be considered the benchmark, committee members said. They are now challenged to give more than the average, which is currently at 5.01 percent.

Morton said it was felt that the previous understanding created a double standard between existing churches and new church plants. He noted that in 1982 the average GBC church gave 9.7 percent through the Cooperative Program; 20 years later in 2002 that amount dropped to 6.8 percent. As of 2011 churches average only 5.01 percent.

The new policy is expected to bring Georgia to the forefront of state conventions attracting church planters and will position it to gain the attention of some of the brightest planters in the denomination, Morton said.

Recognition of 20 years

White, as GBC executive director, was honored for 20 years of service to the state convention in a special recognition ceremony featuring video tributes from many across the denomination.

White, who began his ministry in January 1993, was cited in a resolution for “demonstrating exemplary leadership, a passion for Jesus Christ, and a heart for lost souls” and for having “skillfully guided the missions and ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention for two decades with executive leadership skills, a pastor’s heart, and as a personal friend to pastors throughout the state of Georgia....”

Under White’s leadership, Georgia Baptists have given more than $800 million to missions through the Cooperative Program as a part of more than $1 billion given in total missions gifts. Churches have grown from 3,303 to 3,615 during his tenure, with 631,582 baptisms reported.

White was joined on the platform by his extended family for the presentation of the resolution and a statement from the governor’s office acknowledging his service.

Officers

Statesboro First Baptist Church pastor John Waters was elected to a second one-year term as convention president, and Danny Henson of New Liberty Baptist Church in Ringgold was re-elected as recording secretary by acclamation. Rentz Baptist Church pastor Tom Vann and Freddie Rhodes, pastor of Westview Baptist Church in Hawkinsville, were elected as assistant recording secretaries by acclamation.

Tom Hocutt, director of missions for Mallary Baptist Association in Albany, was elected first vice president with 549 votes; Michael Stovall, pastor of Ewing Road Baptist Church in Austell, was elected second vice president with 523 votes; Tom Rush, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Social Circle, was elected third vice president with 485 votes; and Tony Christie, pastor of Sherwood Forest Baptist Church in Rome, was elected fourth vice president with 471 votes. Atlanta pastor Rusty Couch of Woodland Hills Baptist Church also was nominated but received 446 votes.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention will be Nov. 11-12 at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index in Georgia.)

The text of the resolution honoring J. Robert White for 20 years of service follows:

WHEREAS, Dr. J. Robert White has served as executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention for the past twenty years, beginning his service in January 1993, demonstrating exemplary leadership, a passion for Jesus Christ, and a heart for lost souls; and

WHEREAS, Dr. J. Robert White has skillfully guided the missions and ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention for two decades with executive leadership skills, a pastor’s heart, and as a personal friend to pastors throughout the state of Georgia, embodying the spiritual leadership of Psalm 78:72, which says, “he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands;” and

WHEREAS, under the leadership of Dr. J. Robert White, Georgia Baptists have give more than $800 million to missions through the Cooperative Program as a part of more than $1 billion given in total missions gifts, which have enabled the gospel to go forth, beginning at Jerusalem and extending to the uttermost (Acts 1:8); and

WHEREAS, Dr. J. Robert White has led by personal example by participating in 35 mission trips, including work in Alaska, New York, California, Utah-Idaho, Chicago, Panama, Germany, Mexico, China, Canada, North Korea, South Korea, Moldova, France, India, and Russia; and

WHEREAS, the number of Georgia Baptist churches has grown from 3,303 to 3,615, and Georgia Baptists have baptized 631,582 persons under his tenure; and

WHEREAS, Dr. J. Robert White has faithfully preached the unsearchable riches of Christ in churches across this state, and is recognized as a leader in missions and evangelism across the entire Southern Baptist Convention.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the members of the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention commend Dr. J. Robert White for his leadership, vision, and faithful service to the work of our state convention and the advancement of the Kingdom of God; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Dr. J. Robert White be acknowledged as one of God’s choice servants, full of the Holy Spirit, compassionate for lost souls, a leader in God’s Kingdom, a friend to pastors, and a man divinely chosen and prepared “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:4); and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that heartfelt and sincere congratulations be extended to Dr. J. Robert White for his twenty years of faithful service to Georgia Baptists, his unwavering commitment to God’s Word, and his steadfast devotion to the cause of Christ, with the fitting commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
12/7/2012 3:32:25 PM by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Md./Del. convention has multi-ethnic flair

December 7 2012 by Baptist Press

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The 177th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) included participation by several ethnic churches as well as the largest number of language church members ever present at the convention’s annual gatherings.

With the theme “We Can’t Stop,” based on the account of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, the meeting at Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md., drew 260 messengers and 96 guests.

During worship, groups from Burmese, Chinese, Haitian, Kenyan, Korean and Nepalese churches shared hymns and praise music in their native languages, and an international dinner featured American, Chinese, Haitian, Hispanic, Korean and Nepalese foods.

Robert Kim, a BCM/D Asian church planting missionary, told messengers the convention hosts two language ministry events each year – a Palm Sunday music festival and a concert of prayer in the fall.

Also during the Nov. 11-12 meeting, the convention’s executive director, David Lee, announced he will retire July 31. Lee said God changed his life at age 15 and it made “all the difference in the world.”

“My life in ministry has not always been easy, but I can stand here and tell you God has always been faithful,” Lee said.

“It has been such a privilege to serve you and to serve with you. When I came here, I was given specific tasks by God. I’m convinced that that assignment has been completed,” Lee said.

During his address, Lee referred to the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and warned that the church may be moving toward a world similar to the first century when Christians could face lions’ dens or fiery furnaces.

“I am concerned that we may not be far from living in a strange land that we will no longer recognize,” Lee said. “We may be about to experience ‘Daniel World,’ an exile of sorts, where our freedoms will be limited. Following Christ will have a price tag.

“It’s so critical that you and I join hands and hearts together, and we’re going to need leaders to step up and keep it together because what is in front of us is going to require the very best in all of us,” Lee said.

Dennis Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church, speaking on the theme “We Can’t Stop Praying,” told messengers, “All the days I’ve been here in America, I praise the Lord for you.”

“Korean Christians learned to pray from Western missionaries,” Kim said. At Global Mission Church, prayer is a priority, he said, noting that prayer warriors are praying at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday, resulting in God’s blessing on the church which now has eight services.

Chuck Lawless, dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on the theme “We Can’t Stop Pursuing,” using John the Baptist’s statement in Mark 1:7.

“When’s the last time you were so amazed by Jesus that you stopped wherever you are in your spiritual journey?” Lawless asked. “I don’t care how long you’ve served the church. You just had to stop and say, ‘Who is this?’ See, when we don’t have those moments, we lose our wonder.

“It’s one of the reasons God puts us in the boat that’s going into the storm. It’s in the storm we find out just how mighty the Son of God is,” Lawless said.

Messengers elected Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., president and re-elected Ron Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Havre de Grace, as first vice president and Andrew Bell, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Essex, as second vice president.

There were no nominations for recording secretary or assistant recording secretary, so Anderson will appoint officers to fill those vacancies.

Messengers approved a $6,102,609 BCM/D budget, a 0.2 percent increase from 2012, and a $1,877,300 Skycroft Conference Center budget, which was a 1.3 percent increase from 2012. For 2013, the budgeted Cooperative Programs receipts are expected to total $4,250,000. BCM/D allocated 43.5 percent to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries, which includes a 0.5 percent-of-budget increase approved by messengers. The remainder, or 56.5 percent, will stay in the BCM/D. The budget does not designate any shared expenses with SBC.

John Schoff, representing the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware, delivered to the convention a check for $137,882 for the starting and strengthening of churches. The funds were derived from interest on loans provided to churches.

Harold Phillips, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., introduced a statement to reaffirm the BCM/D’s 2011 resolution defending traditional marriage, which messengers approved.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-12 at Ogletown Baptist Church in Newark, Del.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Sharon Mager, a correspondent for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)
12/7/2012 3:25:52 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hanukkah provides opportunity for Baptists to reach Jews

December 7 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

With Hanukkah season upon us, Sam Nadler challenges Southern Baptists to view this holiday as a reminder of opportunities to reach out to Jews who have not embraced Jesus Christ as their true Lord and Savior.
 
Aside from what believers in Christ may know about Hanukkah, Nadler, president of Word of Messiah Ministries based in Charlotte, pointed out that the holiday can be found in John 10:22, where it mentions Jesus and the Feast of Dedication.
 
“The Feast of Dedication … That’s Hannukah,” said Nadler, noting that the holiday is a “wonderful time for outreach” and to engage the Jewish community in conversation.
 
“We can utilize this,” he said. “What a glorious opportunity for the Jewish people to hear the Good News.”
 
Nadler’s ministry works closely with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF) and the North American Mission Board. Word of Messiah Ministries focuses on training and church planting among Messianic Jews. He spoke at SBMF’s event in June during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Nadler also has led training at the International Mission Board’s learning center near Richmond, Va. For more information about Word of Messiah Ministries go to http://www.wordofmessiah.org/.  
 
12-07-12hanukkah.jpg

Photo by Bill Bangham

Sam Nadler, president of Word of Messiah Ministries, speaks during a service of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship at First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., June 16.


While many Southern Baptist churches work to advance the gospel among people groups here and abroad, Nadler challenges Baptists to not forget the Jews.
 
“[Christ] has been raised from the dead,” he said. “We have a mandate for the gospel to go to all peoples, including the Jews.”
 
It starts with learning to speak the same language and avoiding getting lost in translation with what Nadler called “Christianese.”
 
“You have to be ‘cross-cultural,’” he said. “You have to be able to speak in a language they understand.”
 
For instance, Nadler said the word “Christian” is word that can mean different things to different people.
 
“They don’t interpret the word [Christian] to mean that I believe He is the Messiah of Israel,” said Nadler, who identifies himself as “a Jewish man who believes that Jesus is Lord.”
 
“They believe Christ is the Messiah of the Gentiles. Christian is not a bad word, but it just doesn’t communicate what we intended it to mean.”
 
Nadler said it’s no different than when a mission team travels to another country.
 
“When we go to France, we have to learn French to preach to the French,” he said. “With Jewish people you just have to be able to speak their language.
 
“I want to see Jewish people saved,” he added. “We want everyone saved, everyone discipled, preaching the Word. God loves us all. We all have the same rights and privileges  … all one in the Messiah.”
 
Howard and Melissa Taylor of Rich Square, N.C., also are seeking to reach the Jewish community in the northeast part of the state, where there are around 4,000 Jews. Though both are of Jewish descent, they grew up Baptist. They moved to Rich Square from Virginia a few months ago. The Taylors have started a new church plant this month focused on reaching Jews. Services are held in the West Chowan Baptist Association’s building in Ahoskie.
 
“It’s perfect timing with Hanukkah,” said Melissa, who grew up in Rich Square.
 
“We both had a heart for evangelism for Jewish people in northeast North Carolina,” said Howard, who makes a living restoring old homes.
 
“We figured the West Chowan Baptist Association would be a good place to start.”
 
Through their ministry, the Taylors hope to provide a community for Jews who choose to follow Jesus. While applying many New Testament teachings, they also apply some Jewish traditions – such as reading from the Torah. The Taylors maintain a kosher lifestyle that helps them provide a welcoming environment for Jews who visit their home.
 
“A Jewish community is very tight-knit,” Howard said. “It’s almost like a giant extended family.”
 
Jews who choose to follow Jesus often become outcasts among friends and loved ones, he said.
 
“They lose their entire family … their community,” he said.
 
“Having a Messianic Jewish community established means that there is a community that will accept [them] as a Jew … and will still be able to bring glory and proclamation of Messiah to the world.”
 
Regardless of the challenges, Howard said reaching the Jews for Christ is something we all should care about.
 
“It’s the heart of the Messiah,” he said. “It’s His people … of course He wants them to come into the Kingdom … and Scripture is clear [that] no one comes into Kingdom except through the Messiah.”
 

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights, is an eight-day feast beginning on the 25th of Kislev, which this year falls on sundown, Dec. 8. The first Hanukkah was established in 164 BC as a memorial to the purification and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem.
12/7/2012 2:08:28 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 3 comments



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