December 2013

Lottie Moon's story reenacted at seminary

December 19 2013 by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Laurita Miller told the story of Lottie Moon's call to China by portraying the missions trailblazer in chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Miller gave NOBTS students a vivid picture of Moon's lifetime of service to God. She started with Moon's call and the story of her first trip to China, recounting how other missionaries en route to China broke down in tears as they set sail. Moon saw the journey in a different light.
 
“I could only think with joy that my most cherished purpose was about to be fulfilled,” Miller portrayed Moon as saying. “And in going ... to serve my Lord in north China, I was simply going home, home to the center of what I knew God's will to be for my life.”
 
Miller, of Birmingham, Ala., also portrays Ann Judson, William Carey's sister, and women of the Bible including Mary Magdalene, Jesus' mother Mary, Elizabeth, Priscilla, Sarah, Deborah, the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well. Miller's parents were missionaries to Hawaii and later to Macau.
 
“The most asked-for thing I do next to Lottie Moon is a monologue on the life of Mary,” Miller said. “The name of the monologue is 'Just one of God's servants.' It's a 20-minute interesting take on the life of Mary.”
 
Miller depicted Moon's first few years in Dengzhou, China, as “a kind of training period.”
 
Moon mastered the language and some of the dialects native to north China thanks in part to the help of a language student. Moon also faced some harsh treatment from the people in Dengzhou, which she later tied to the American style of dress she maintained while there.
 
Moon spent her first days in China serving alongside her sister, Edmonia. Unfortunately, illness forced Edmonia to return to the United States a short time later, with Moon accompanying her. Moon said family and friends urged her to remain in the States.
LauritaMiller12-19-13.jpg

Photo by Boyd Guy
Laurita Miller portrays missionary icon Lottie Moon during chapel at New Orleans Seminary.

 
“But you see my friends, it was God that called me to China, and a calling is not a little thing. A calling is not to be shelved because others don't agree with your calling, or they're afraid for your safety, or they want you to come and be their, or whatever,” Miller said in her role as Lottie Moon. “So I chose to return to China at my own expense, knowing that I was completely dependent on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my sustenance and my direction.”
 
During those early years, Moon and other female missionaries became convinced that only women could reach Chinese women with the gospel. A gradual shift from school teaching to direct evangelism and church planting ensued. It was during this time that Moon began her letter-writing campaign as she encouraged Baptist women in the United States to organize for the sake of international missions.
 
Around 1885, Moon moved to P'ingtu, China, to begin more aggressive evangelistic work. There, she exchanged her American dress for indigenous clothes and experienced an immediate impact.
 
“For the very first time, I put on Chinese clothing. Do you know ... the adults began bowing to me and would speak to me by my name. And the children – Oh! – the children began following me home,” Miller said in her portrayal.
 
Moon also saw a huge breakthrough in support from the States during her years in P'ingtu. In 1887, eight new missionaries joined her. And in 1888, Southern Baptist women formed the Woman's Missionary Union and soon organized the first Baptist Christmas offering for foreign missions. The $3,200 collected paid the passage of three women to relieve Moon in north China.
 
“And of course, I couldn't leave. Someone had to train those women. Someone had to take care of those women” was Moon's response as voiced by Miller.
 
Except for a brief furlough in 1890, Moon remained in the field despite war, famine and extreme poverty. Her faithfulness paid off. During her service in China, there were thousands of converts.
 
By 1909, “we had a trained indigenous Chinese ministry in north China,” Miller, as Moon, said.
 
But by 1912, Moon herself experienced the mental and physical fatigue that haunted so many other missionaries in that time who journeyed to China. Late in the year, the decision was made to send Moon back to Virginia because of her failing health.
 
“They took my little bag of bones – there was 50 pounds left of me I am told – and took me to the ship and tucked me in a warm berth,” she said. “When the ship docked in Kobe, Japan, on Christmas Eve of 1912, Jesus came to meet the ship, and He took me home with Him.”
 
Miller used Moon's persona to challenge students in ministry.
 
“God carves out places for each one of His children to serve Him. For me, it was China. For you, you will soon know. God asks us to serve Him. We are to commit ourselves to Him, and He expects commitment. He expects devotion. He expects sacrifice – at all costs.”
 
In an interview apart from her chapel portrayal, Miller said she has known the story of Lottie Moon from a very early age.
 
“In GAs  growing up, we studied about missions and I learned about Lottie Moon,” Miller said. “She's always been something of an icon in our family because of her great mission work.”
 
Miller attended Samford University in Birmingham, where she majored in theater and psychology. Eventually, she began writing and presenting “biblical monologues” and later portraying missionaries.
 
“Back probably in the late '70s or early '80s, I started portraying Lottie Moon to support our Christmas offering in whatever church I was in,” she said.
 
Miller said she also has a close personal connection to Lottie Moon. While serving in Macau, Miller's parents traveled to north China in search of Moon's church and home, which they found. To her knowledge, they were the first modern missionaries to visit Moon's place of ministry.
 
“It was quite a feat in that day and age for my parents to make that journey, really without a visa,” Miller said.
 
Miller portrays Lottie Moon for WMU and, four times a year, for the International Mission Board for every new group of missionaries commissioned to serve overseas. She also travels to churches, mostly in the South and Midwest, to give her Lottie Moon monologues.
 
Miller said the message and story of Moon's conviction, obedience and sacrifice is just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.
 
Lottie Moon was the epitome of Christian sacrifice. I know that, in this day and age, we do have missionaries around the world whose lives are at stake. But most of us here at home live very content, complacent lives,” Miller said. “We have a world to win to Christ. He's the only answer. I think it's important we do everything we can to inspire one another to make the sacrifices necessary to spread the gospel.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
12/19/2013 1:00:15 PM by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.Y. is next stop for church planter couple & kids

December 19 2013 by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board

NEW YORK – Hal Haller III has been named state director of missions in New York, serving as a North American Mission Board missionary with a goal of cultivating church planting movements in metropolitan New York City.
 
Haller, his wife Sharon and their two children, 17-year-old Hal IV and Alexandra, 15, are making the transition to New York from Florida – with the two teens voicing a hesitancy common for missionary families.
 
“My kids are being very open about how they feel about leaving Florida,” Haller said.
 
His daughter has had the hardest time warming up to the change.
 
“I don't really like the idea,” Alexandra said. “I've moved every couple of years. I'm really outgoing. I'm kind of scared. I've moved around Florida but never really moved out of Florida. I don't know if I'll make friends.”
 
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NAMB photo by Danielle Brooks
Hal Haller III is transitioning from Jacksonville, Fla., to New York where he will serve as a North American Mission Board missionary and help foster church planting efforts in the state with the Baptist Convention of New York as state director of missions. Pictured, from left, are son, “Hal 4,” Haller, wife, Sharon, and daughter, Alex.

Uprooting and replanting their lives is nothing new for Hal and Sharon Haller.
 
Before they started their family, the adventure of planting churches and relocating often seemed to define their lives. Even after their kids came along, the Hallers planted churches in Miami, started churches elsewhere in the state, served on the staff of three existing churches and served, most recently, at the Jacksonville Baptist Association.
 
“My background is in church planting. Every few years we get up and go plant again,” Haller said. “They're familiar with it, but it comes with sacrifice. We're not wanting to be disruptive, but we're doing what the Lord wants us to do. We're walking through that journey with our kids.”
 
At the outset, much like her daughter, Sharon said “no way.” She winced at the thought of taking her children away from things they invested so much in, including football, soccer, friends and stability.
 
But now her response is different, and the kids are coming around.
 
It's the kind of opportunity our past has prepared us for. We don't take it lightly,” Sharon said. “It's an overwhelming feeling to make this move, but to say 'no' to God – we can't. We have to do what He says to do.”
 
Hal and Sharon had seen their children take root in their community. Alexandra has a vast network of friends and plays competitive soccer. “Hal 4” plays football, with his team in the running for the conference championship most years. Moving to New York means giving up his senior year.
 
One by one, though, each member of the family has independently come to the conclusion that New York is their new home. Hal 4 is looking forward to seeing the snow, which he's only seen once or twice.
 
“I was kind of blown away by my 17-year-old's response, especially,” Haller said. “He said, 'If this is what God is asking us to do, we have to be obedient.'“
 
Among the many reasons for the move is the seemingly impermeable culture in places like New York. While churches have successfully launched in North America's key cities, a widespread gospel influence in these cities is a long way off.
 
George Barna came out with his top 85 unchurched places, and five of those cities are in New York state,” Haller said. “I think that people's hearts are ready for the gospel.
 
“I think there are people who need to see that we are willing to do the work to cultivate it. They need to do the work of sharing and building relationships, and I think people's hearts are a lot more receptive than we think they are,” Haller said. “I also believe there are men and women God has set aside for Himself who need to be mobilized to action to do whatever it takes.”
 
As state director of missions for New York, Haller will work statewide, including in New York City, to build relationships and mobilize churches to plant churches in strategic locations.
 
“The very first thing I'm going to be doing in New York is build a coalition with the partners who are there,” Haller said. “A lot of my job will be learning and listening and also drawing from my own experience for what might work best.
 
“I believe the growth of the church and Kingdom is found in the unity of its leadership, so I want to make sure we're all on the same page and like each other. If we like each other we'll trust each other, and if we trust each other we'll all work together to accomplish what needs to get done.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)
12/19/2013 12:48:01 PM by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments



WMU-NC launches new partnership

December 18 2013 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

As Tana Hartsell stood in front of the messengers at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting Nov. 12, she listed some of the achievements of the women, men, boys and girls of North Carolina.
 
“We have witnessed God in individual lives and through our organizations and ministries,” said Hartsell, president of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC).
 
“The foundation of Woman’s Missionary Union is the basic core value that we believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life a sacrifice for salvation of people in all the world fulfilling God’s plan for the ages as revealed in the Bible, God’s Holy Word.
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Tana Hartsell, president of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina, addresses messengers Nov. 12 during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.  

 
This is the guiding light that propels Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina to challenge, prepare and equip Christian believers to be radically involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
 
Adults, students and children in churches and associations across North Carolina have “arisen to ensure that indeed God’s story lives on,” Hartsell said, highlighting several of the ministries.
 
Through SHINE (Serving God, Helping Others, Inspiring Believers, Networking Community, Experiencing Christ), young women ages 18-35 participated in its first mission trip to Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
In its effort towards missions education, WMU-NC took part in a special day in October at Campbell University highlighting the ministries of the organization.
 
“God plants the mission seed in women and men, boys and girls through missions education, and He waters it with a passion to arise and shine to support missions with our prayers, our financial resources and our personal involvement,” she said.
 
That responsibility towards education prompted the Christian Women’s Leadership Certification program through Campbell University Divinity School, which now has three women who have completed the courses.
 
Habitat for Humanity work continued through WMU-NC. The women took part in a build in Randolph County. In its sixth year, a Habitat leader expressed thanks and praise for hard work on the house in Randolph County. One volunteer said, “I’m doing it because I like to be where God is working miracles.”
 
Hartsell also drew attention to military missions and Sisters Who Care (SWC). SWC is a ministry focused on African-American women and their involvement in ministry. Through SWC eyeglasses are collected and sent to impoverished areas to aid in ministry.
 
Military missions can vary depending on the needs or desire of the area. Some may participate in prayer partnerships, encouragement and military family support. A ministry that Hartsell mentioned was a retreat for military wives being scheduled in October 2014. She asked messengers to consider providing scholarships for women to attend.
 
Each year WMU-NC hosts a prison retreat for women who are incarcerated in the five women’s correctional facilities across North Carolina.
 

Partnership in Armenia

For the first time in its history WMU-NC has formed a foreign partnership. Hartsell shared about the new partnership with Armenia and thanked North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) for helping with navigating the path. NCBM also has a partnership with Armenia.
 
In September 2012 a team of seven women went on the first WMU-NC-sponsored trip to Armenia.
“It was an amazing experience,” Hartsell said.
 
In May 2013 the WMU-NC Executive Board approved the partnership between WMU-NC and Armenian Baptists. Hartsell said the goal is to work with the women on their role in the church and helping them know how to minister in the communities. A team went in May and worked with approximately 130 women in 10 churches.
 
As part of the partnership WMU-NC had someone develop a 2.5-year course of study for women at the seminary in Armenia. The first class was taught in September with 17 women enrolled.
 
Hartsell mentioned that a couple was going this month to Guatamala with a representative from the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina in hopes of establishing a children’s home there. (See story in the Jan. 4, 2014, issue.)
 
She also highlighted the 2014 theme for the Heck-Jones Offering  – “A Cord of Three Strands: His story, our story, your story.” The theme is based on Ecclesiastes 4:12. The Week of Prayer is scheduled February 10-16. Promotional materials are available via wmunc.org.
 
WMU-NC sponsored a writing competition among the children involved in its organization. Children were asked to write a story about someone who exemplifies a mission lifestyle. Winners of this contest will be featured during the Heck-Jones Offering and will attend a camp free of charge.
 
“It’s our desire to work with every woman, with every man, with every boy, with every girl, to reach across the street, down the street and to the other side, building those relationships that tear down barriers that so often keep people from knowing the love of Christ,” she said.
12/18/2013 1:07:04 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 1 comments



In-person preaching versus video

December 18 2013 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.
 
About a third (35 percent) say they will only visit churches with a live sermon, according to the research released Dec. 17.
 
Three in 10 say a video sermon won't keep them from a church, but they still prefer live peaching. The same number say live or video sermons are fine.
 
Less than 1 percent prefer to watch a video sermon.
 
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Photo Courtesy of LifeWay Research

“I don't think anyone gets up on a Sunday morning saying, 'Boy, I'd really like to watch a video sermon,'“ said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research and author of “Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement's Next Generation.”
 
“But the fact that many churches utilize video sermons means other factors such as relationships, preaching approach, music, relevance and location can be more important,” McConnell said.
 
The sermon question was part of a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans conducted Sept. 6-10 by LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Video sermons are mostly used by multi-site churches, which hold services in more than one location, often called campuses. The campuses frequently have live music, prayers and a local pastor who does everything but preach.
 
About half of the estimated 5,000 multi-site churches in the U.S. use video teaching, said Jim Tomberlin of the consulting firm MultiSite Solutions.
 
Larger churches are more likely to use video sermons, Tomberlin said, noting that many large churches already project an image of their preacher on a big screen during the sermon. So when they open a new campus, people are already accustomed to seeing a video image of their pastor. That's less likely to be the case at a smaller church, he said.
 
“Small churches have a bias against video,” Tomberlin said. “As a church grows bigger, video gives them more options. It becomes a non-issue.”
 
Younger Americans are more likely to accept a video sermon. More than a third (37 percent) of those age 18 to 29 say it doesn't matter if the preaching is live or by video.
 
By contrast, only about a fourth of those 45 to 54 (24 percent) or those over 65 (26 percent) say they are fine with both options.
 
Researchers also found that that those in the Northeast are most open to a video sermon, with 40 percent saying they are fine with either an in-person or video sermon.
 
Nearly half of those who don't go to church (47 percent) also say it doesn't matter if the sermon is live or delivered by video.
 
Those with a college degree are more likely to prefer an in-person sermon (41 percent) as are self-identified born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians (37 percent).
 
Ken Langley, president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and an adjunct professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is skeptical about sermons delivered by video.
 
The sermon is part of the church's worship, and it's incomplete if the preacher isn't there with the rest of the congregation, said Langley, who also serves as pastor of Christ Community Church in Zion, Ill. “I do think that there is something missing when the preacher is not present,” he said. “And it's hard to define. Presence is important.”
 
Langley said he sometimes makes changes to the sermon while preaching, depending on who is listening.
 
For example, while preaching a sermon about finding joy in the midst of suffering, he noticed some congregation members who had been going through a difficult time.
 
He made some subtle changes in language to his sermon in order to comfort them while still making his point.
 
You can't do that when you are preaching to a camera,” Langley said.
 
But Tomberlin points to the example of Billy Graham, whose crusade sermons were sometimes filmed and later broadcast on television. People still connected with Graham's message even though they were watching it at home and not in person.
 
“God could still work, even if Graham wasn't in the room,” he Tomberlin.
 
Methodology: The telephone survey of adult Americans was conducted Sept. 6-10. Interviews were conducted in either English or Spanish. Both listed and unlisted numbers were called and approximately 20 percent of the sample was reached by cell phone. Responses were weighted by age, gender, education, race/Hispanic ethnicity, region and CBSA market size to more accurately reflect the population. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
12/18/2013 12:59:38 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Believer suffers in prison so others can live

December 18 2013 by Ava Thomas, International Mission Board

CENTRAL ASIA – “Dad, I think we're being followed.”
 
Meleeka* drummed her fingers nervously on the car door. Her father kept on driving the familiar route to drop her off at English class, singing a praise song to Jesus as he drove.
 
Meleeka turned around and looked back.
 
“Dad. We're being followed.”
 
He sang louder.
 
“Would you take it seriously?”
 
Not missing a beat, he changed his lyrics mid-verse and belted out a song of his own: “I'm going to prison today!”
 
Ahsan* knew the signs. He'd already been in prison once for his faith in Jesus. That day made it a second.
 
In the region where Ahsan and his family live, people bend over backward to show hospitality. Go to your neighbors' home, and they spread out a feast for you and heap your plate high with special food. Leave your wallet somewhere, and people will guard it until you return.
 
“In lieu of an armored car, I've seen cars left unattended with the trunk open and piles of cash inside. No one would dare bother it,” a friend of Ahsan says.
 
In his country, they take care of each other.
 
But share Christ openly, and they may torture you.
 
“Ahsan has been blindfolded, handcuffed and held in solitary confinement,” his friend says. “During the day, he was confined to a room where there were three compressor units blowing hot air on him, and he was not given any water or food.”
 
Officials interrogated him, asking why he left his former religion.
 
“I am on this way because of Jesus and what He has done for me,” Ahsan responds.
 
At the beginning of his imprisonment, he was put in a very small jail cell at night, his hands released just long enough for him to eat a small piece of bread and drink one liter of water.
 
But Ahsan didn't sleep – he stayed awake praying and singing praises, just as he did in the hot room during the daytime.
 
He's lost nearly 50 pounds since being imprisoned.
 
But he's seen a lot of people decide to follow Jesus – many of them from places where Ahsan could never get access to go and share. One of them had heard part of the Gospel message nine years ago, and when he met Ahsan in prison, he heard the whole message and believed on the spot.
 
“This man had been waiting for nine years to hear the rest of the Gospel, just wanting to meet someone who could tell him. He knew immediately it was God's plan to send him to prison,” Ahsan' friend says. “He danced for joy.”
 
And the guards came and began to beat him.
 
“He cried out for Jesus to rescue him, and he stood firm,” Ahsan' friend says. “He's still standing firm with Ahsan in prison today.”
 
Ahsan is seeing more people come to faith in Jesus Christ during this imprisonment than in the rest of his 20 years as a believer, his friend marvels.
 
“He is enduring all things, and all the time more people are coming to faith,” says his friend. “He is torn between two things – his release, and the work God is doing there through him. His family is very anxious for him to be out of prison, but he is telling them to be patient, because God is doing great things.”
 
His wife, Iman,* and Meleeka got to visit him in prison. Tears ran down their faces.
 
“He put his hands on our heads and said, 'Why are you sad? God has a purpose for me here and He is not finished with it yet,'“ Iman says.
 
He prayed for comfort for them then told them he had a job for them to do.
 
“He said a man had come to believe in Jesus and wanted his wife to know. He asked Ahsan to get us to go and share with his wife,” Iman says.
 
With nerves on edge, Iman and Meleeka loaded up the car and went straight to her house from the prison.
 
“I didn't know what we were going to do, how we were going to tell her or how we would be received,” Iman says. “But when we got there, she said, 'I want very much to hear what you have come to tell me -- there is light all around you, and I want to know why.'“
 
Iman knows the difference light can make.
 
She herself came to faith when she encountered light during childbirth, seven years after Ahsan had first believed in Christ.
 
He was a devout Muslim – even to the point of planning terrorism – before someone gave him a copy of the Gospel of John. In the middle of the night he felt someone call his name, shake him and tell him to go read.
 
He lit a lamp, got the book from the shelf and started reading while his family slept. The words jumped off the page at him. By the following year, he was a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ.
 
“I had been so angry with him for becoming a believer. I tried and tried to get him to return to Islam. I got my mat out and prayed with the kids in front of him on purpose,” says his wife.
 
He didn't change his mind, or his heart.
 
“Finally after years of trying to get him to come back to Islam, I was at the lowest point in my life. I decided to divorce him, even if it meant I had to leave the kids,” Iman says.
 
Then she learned she was pregnant.
 
She headed straight to a clinic to have an abortion – she didn't want to have the baby of an infidel.
 
“But the doctor said I was too far along to abort, so I decided I would have the baby, but that was it,” she recalls.
 
She packed her bags and left to live with family until she had the baby. Ahsan didn't see her again until he got a call while she was in labor. It wasn't to let him know she'd had the baby – it was to let him know she'd decided to come home.
 
During labor, she met Jesus. “All I could see was light,” she says.
 
And now all her children have met Jesus, too, which has helped greatly with understanding why their father is in prison.
 
But they still struggle with his absence.
 
“As the trial with Ahsan has continued, remaining upbeat has grown increasingly harder,” Ahsan's friend says. “His family struggled greatly with sadness and frustration. That being said, however, the Father has been working powerfully to strengthen their faith through it all.”
 
And the Father has made such an impact on Ahsan's fellow prisoners that many of them, after their release, have traveled great distances to let Ahsan's family know he's safe, his friend says. “His wife and kids are encouraged by the reports from the former inmates, but they are also dearly missing their dad and spouse.”
 
But they know that God put him in jail with those men so that their families could also know the truth, his friend says. “Keep Ahsan lifted up so that the spirit of love pours from him into their lives and his light burns ever brighter every day.”
 

Update

Meleeka also was targeted by the police soon after Ahsan's arrest, but she escaped to the U.S., eventually living with John and Mary Harper,* former IMB missionaries with whom she and her father had partnered in Central Asia. The Harpers were forced to return to the United States in 2012 when Mary was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
 
Ahsan was released from prison in spring 2013. He now resides in Europe with his wife and their children, and is still actively sharing the gospel among his people there. Meleeka spent six months at the Harpers' home before leaving for Europe to be reunited with her father. Meleeka says that during her father's nearly two years in prison, almost 40 men put their faith in Jesus as a direct result of his witness.
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board.)
12/18/2013 12:38:40 PM by Ava Thomas, International Mission Board | with 0 comments



Radio preacher, Harold Camping, dies at 92

December 18 2013 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Harold Camping, the radio preacher who convinced thousands of followers that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011, to usher in the end of the world, has died, according to a statement released late Monday (Dec. 16) by his Family Radio network. He was 92.
 
Camping died Sunday evening, an employee at Family Radio confirmed. He had fallen at his home on Nov. 30 and had been in weak health due to a stroke since 2011.
 
Camping first predicted Jesus’ return in 1994, but his most recent forecasts gained national attention through advertisements and the Family Radio network of stations he founded. He warned that “judgment day” would occur in May 2011 and said the world would end in October 2011.
 
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RNS file photo by Kimberly Winston
California radio evangelist Harold Camping said the world would end on May 21, 2011, a date he based, in part, on when he believes Noah entered the ark.

When his prophecies turned out to be false, he declared in March 2012 that his May 21 prediction had been incorrect and sinful and said his ministry would get out of the predictions business.
 
The ministry sold its prominent stations and laid off staffers, with assets dropping from $135 million in 2007 to $29.2 million in 2011.
 
Pressed by reporters after his May 21 prediction failed to materialize, Camping said he had miscalculated – it must be Oct. 21, he said. “I’m not a genius,” he said. “I pray all the time for wisdom.”
 
Starting in the 1950s, Camping broadcast his views via Family Radio, a global network of Christian stations for which he served as unpaid president and primary on-air talent. His teachings aired worldwide five nights a week via “Open Forum,” a call-in show that draws listeners as far away as China and Ghana.
 
“Thank you for calling ‘Open Forum,’ ” Camping said countless times in his trademark baritone, “and shall we take our next call, please?”
 
Camping was once well-regarded in among evangelicals, both for his encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and his radio network. But in the late 1980s, when he began teaching that churches had strayed from the Bible embracing a false doctrine, he lost much previous support.
 
He also discouraged his listeners from joining a church, saying modern churches were heretical and that the “church age” had ended as the end of the world was near. He had no formal religious training beyond his tattered copies of the King James Version of the Bible and couldn’t read or speak Greek, Hebrew or Jesus’ native Aramaic.
 
His 2011 prophecy got widespread attention, including “Rapture Parties” hosted by atheists who wanted to “ridicule and poke fun at the fools.” It gave one man the opportunity to create a fake business that offered to care for the pets of believers swept up by the Rapture.
 
His March 2012 statement, which in many ways amounted to the final time many people heard from Camping, expressed regret for the predictions, which had led many followers to sell all their possessions in anticipation of the end of the world.
 
Camping said people continued to wish for another prediction, but he had become convinced that critics were correct about the biblical admonition that “of that day and hour knoweth no man.”
 
“We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world,” he wrote at the time. “Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date.”
 
Camping is survived by his wife of 71 years, the statement says.
12/18/2013 12:26:38 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



A Lottie Moon success story

December 17 2013 by Jessie Yates, Special to the Recorder

I can’t recall the first time that I heard the name Lottie Moon, or the first time that I realized how it impacted me and my family. Instead, it seems that as a missionary kid (MK) I was programmed with the knowledge of who Lottie Moon was, how the offering came to be and how important the offering is to the work of International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.
 
In the most cliché way possible, I am a Lottie success story. I was born on the international mission field, in the middle of a sprawling but crowded African city.
 
That was only made possible because Lottie Moon paid for my parents and my family to live in Kenya. It is Lottie Moon that paid for the malaria medication when I was sick and the X-rays when I hurt my wrist. It is Lottie Moon that made it possible for me to go to a school where [more than] 40 nations were represented. It is Lottie Moon that then paid for my books in college when my scholarships and grants didn’t cover that exorbitant fee.
 
It was Lottie Moon that gave me the ability to say that I had pet a rhino and a cheetah, ridden a camel, watched a zebra give birth and kept hedgehogs as pets.
JessieYates12-17-13.jpg

Contributed photo
Jessie Yates, seen here in Kenya, believes her life is a Lottie Moon success story. Her upbringing as a missionary kid in Nairobi has spurred a love for missions.

 
It is Lottie Moon that gave me an extended family within my mission; a family that is so widespread now that on my birthday I receive well-wishes and birthday blessings for a global day, starting in the morning in Australia and ending at night in Hawaii. It is Lottie Moon that made it imperative that if a boy ever wants to marry me he has to ask not only my father but my Luo uncle and his brothers first.
 
It is Lottie Moon that blessed me with a family – by blood and by faith – so strong in the Spirit that I have no doubt what Jesus and Paul intended when they called for the Body of Christ to be one. I am a Lottie success story.
 
But none of that comes close to comparing with the real Lottie Moon story. Because there is nothing else that I have experienced in this world that is similar to the feeling you get when a woman’s face completely changes and the invisible weight is lifted off of her shoulders when she accepts Christ.
 
There is nothing like holding an orphaned toddler, who until recently tested as HIV positive but is now healthy because of proper nutrition, medication and the undying love of his new family.
 
There is nothing like giving a New Testament to an illiterate elderly woman whose children have all died from AIDS and watching as her granddaughter – one of many that she is raising in her old age – opens the silken pages to read John 3:16 to her family. There is nothing like watching the tears of pain change to tears of joy because a young high school girl believes whole-heartedly that your prayer for her just reached the ears of God.
 
There’s nothing like sitting under the shade of a Baobab and listening to a trifecta of local languages praising God for the new church plant.
 
There’s nothing like sharing a warm Coca-Cola with a young man and realizing he was discipled by a missionary who you fondly remember as a grandfather figure ... or holding the hand of a child suffering from malaria, ringworm and malnutrition as he falls asleep in your lap because he’s finally comfortable and feels safe.
 
There is nothing like watching a group of 14-year-old Muslim girls ask your best friend to pray for their examinations. And there is nothing like seeing a young girl run around the church like she owns it and realize that she was born in the midst of a bloody and violent post-election period.
 
Because all of that, just in case you were wondering, all those people, they are Lottie Moon. Their hope, their tears, their laughter – all of it is the real Lottie success story.
 
So I challenge you, if you give to Lottie Moon or, if you have no idea what Lottie Moon is and instead individually-sponsor missions, remember this: God does not deal in numbers and statistics. He deals with people. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering isn’t about money. It is about people.
 
It is not about the missionary that you remember speaking at your church when you were little, it is about the work that they did and their dedication to the Great Commission.
 
That’s my challenge to you. Realize that you are touching and impacting the lives of real people, real women, men and children who deserve every opportunity to experience hope.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jessie Yates, an MK from Kenya, is a high school teacher in the Piedmont area.)
12/17/2013 1:19:48 PM by Jessie Yates, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



Asian churches take Thanksgiving to Charlotte refugees

December 17 2013 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Fourteen Asian Baptist churches teamed up to deliver 500 meals to Asian refugees in an apartment complex near downtown Charlotte on Nov. 23 in a pre-Thanksgiving blitz to both provide food and get acquainted with the newcomers.
 
Ralph Garay, Asian church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, helped organize the project, with help from the participating pastors. Metrolina Baptist Association also gave support; Bob Lowman, director of missions, took part.
 
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Members of 14 Asian Baptist churches distribute meals Nov. 23 to Asian refugees near downtown Charlotte.

Lunchboxes including baked chicken, noodles and bread were prepared at West Cabarrus Baptist Church in Concord, then delivered by church teams in trucks, vans and cars to the apartment complex located just east of downtown Charlotte within sight of the city skyline.
 
Scores of Asian children played on the apartment grounds and on one porch an elderly woman stirred a pot of rice. Women carried babies on their backs with cloth wraps. Garay said most Asians living here are from Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam and a handful of other countries.
 
Volunteers went door to door to offer food, which was readily received. As word spread about the arrival of food, residents gathered around vehicles where Baptists handed out the lunchboxes and bottles of water.
 
One girl grabbed a box and immediately started eating.
 
Garay said most Asian immigrants struggle with learning English, dealing with the culture and getting work to sustain themselves. Many struggle financially at first. “That’s why giving out food is helpful,” he said.
 
Garay, his wife and two boys came from the Philippines to the United States years ago. Garay was a pastor in California before working with the Baptist State Convention to start new Asian churches. He currently works with some 60 Asian language groups/nationalities in planting new churches.
 
“Take time to visit with folks and get to know them. Share the gospel if the opportunity presents itself,” Garay told the pastors and lay members who participated.
 
Lowman visited with Baptist layman Paul Subba, who is from Bhutan but came to the United States after spending time in Nepal, including time in a refugee camp. Subba is an active member of a Charlotte Nepali church.
 
They drank Nepali tea, which includes spices, salt, pepper and butter along with the tea. The two men discussed the differences in the mountains of Bhutan and Nepal, the world’s highest, with the more gentle, forested ones of western North Carolina.
 
Metrolina Association workers have counted 180 language/people groups in the Charlotte area, Lowman said, but estimate a more accurate figure would be between 200 and 250. “We’re still finding new ones,” he said.
 
It’s doubtful many of these immigrants have grasped the idea of Thanksgiving as celebrated by Americans. But as newcomers adapting to a strange land and thankfully enjoying an unexpected meal, the day surely captured the essence of that first celebration back in 1621.
12/17/2013 1:13:45 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Ministry in 'new marriage culture' examined

December 17 2013 by Phyllis Evans & Dale Geno Robinson, Baptist Press

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – Baptist leaders focused on the legal, political, biblical and practical issues related to the country's changing definition of marriage during the "Ministering in the New Marriage Culture" conference at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
The one-day event, hosted by the seminary on its Northern California campus in Mill Valley, drew more than 300 seminary students, graduates, pastors and other church leaders from across the country. While conference speakers held firm to the Bible's perspective against same-sex marriage, they challenged ministry leaders to react toward others in a compassionate and loving manner when presented with opposing views.
 
"With humility, accept messiness as a part of future ministry decisions," Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary, said. "And with courage and maturity, make your best decisions and accept the consequences as you move forward."
 
Other speakers included Brad Dacus, founder and president of the Pacific Justice Institute; Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC); and Rick Melick, distinguished professor of New Testament studies and director of the academic graduate studies program (ThM./Ph.D.) at Golden Gate.
 
During the Oct. 3 conference speakers tackled a variety of questions: What are the ministry implications while the political and legal fight plays out? What are a church's legal rights? How does this issue impact religious liberty? How does a church leader guide his congregation? How does a Christian demonstrate passionate convictions without showing anger or compromise?
 
Weeks before the conference, Iorg sounded the alarm that "the battle for gay marriage is over."
 
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Photo by Harry Weaver
Brad Dacus, founder and president of the Pacific Justice Institute, speaks with attendees at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary's Oct. 3 conference "Ministering in the New Marriage Culture." Dacus was one of four speakers during the day-long conference that was held in response to the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage.

"Events of this past summer mandate a response to the most significant change in American society since abortion on demand was legalized in 1973," Iorg said during the seminary's fall convocation in August.
 
"The United States Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage. Nothing can be legally proper or politically correct when it is morally and biblically wrong, but now it's time to accept the reality of the legality of same-sex marriage and move on to discussing how to minister in this new milieu."
 
Dacus said a loving but firm encounter, not confrontation or hateful rejection, is the best approach believers can take in handling society's evolving views on marriage and other social issues.
"We need to see negative outcomes as true opportunities for ministry and witness," he said during the conference. "To address this issue, churches must pre-think their strategies, and protect themselves in a legal manner. Churches have the right and responsibility to set the parameters for church membership, volunteer participation and specific church events. Churches have the right to ask a disruptive person to leave their premises."
 
Dacus concluded by pointing out the example of Paul claiming his legal rights under the law (Acts 22:25). "Churches must claim that right for themselves, remember their commitment to God, and not forget to reach out to people for Jesus' sake."
 
Moore, ERLC's president, preached from 1 Timothy 2:22-26 and addressed how the church must handle the issues of human sexuality.
 
Specifically referring to the issue of gender reassignment surgery, but including all forms of sexuality, Moore reminded his listeners that the issue was not an individual's situation, but that all people are worthy recipients of the gospel.  "The message is the main focus, not their 'sin' or situation," he said. "The person who sins does so because he or she is a sinner. That is the bottom line."
 
Moore described the two temptations evangelical Christians face on the marriage issue. The first is the "majoritarian temptation," the broadly-held idea among evangelicals that most Americans hold the same basic values as they do. "We tend to believe that those who do not hold a biblically-based value system are in the minority and only belong to a special, small interest group. Unfortunately this is not the case," he said.
 
The second temptation Moore described is the "libertarian temptation." He said this is "the temptation to rebel against a legalism that sees marriage as merely a public good engaged in the preservation of humanity. While this is of utmost importance for the order of society, this attitude ignores the fact that marriage is also a moral and spiritual value established by God from the very beginning."
 
Neither of these temptations adequately provides the basis for ministering in this new culture, Moore explained. "The best way to engage a society and culture whose values are farther and farther from our own is to speak to issues and concerns with a 'convictional kindness' that is not quarrelsome, unkind, or angry," he said, noting the goal is to speak with the mind and mission of Christ. 
 
"We must stand firm for the truth of religious liberty and freedom of conscience," Moore said. "We must hold this belief not just for us and those who agree with us, but for everyone, even those with views we believe are wrong or offensive. Everyone has a right to hold and express their beliefs. And the church must hold firm to its right to proclaim boldly the gospel, and a gospel-driven vision of marriage."

That vision of marriage means that the church must first maintain and proclaim a high view of sin and grace, he explained.
 
"We should not be mean, scared, or angry, but be shaped by a love-conviction, and by an open, bright and life-changing focus," he said.
 
Melick, a professor and director of academic graduate studies program at Golden Gate, lectured on "Roman Corinth: A Case Study."
 
Using Paul's letter to the early Corinthian church, Melick delineated principles and practices for believers in today's new marriage culture.
 
Corinth was a Roman colonial city strategically situated at an international crossroads which can best be described as "central, cosmopolitan, cultural and corrupt." Melick explained that the Apostle Paul dealt with the immorality that had seeped into the Corinthian church from its surrounding society. Paul taught Christian principles that could be applied to those problems. 
 
Melick presented two foundational principles from this study. "The first is that the Christian worldview best meets society's needs, and second, a properly functioning church satisfies the longings of the heart."
 
Melick explained that from those two principles and an understanding of Scripture, four theological guidelines emerged which Christians can implement today:
  • Remember God's love is expressed through grace.
  • Affirm a biblical worldview (especially as to the role of marriage and sexuality in marriage).
  • Exalt the biblical view of mercy (in dealing with those who have fallen into sin).
  • Appreciate the power of the church (especially as it exercises forgiveness, comfort and love in its desire to restore a fallen brother).
Melick's conclusion summarized Paul's admonition to both the Corinthian Christians and to us all: "The church is called on to minister to all people in whatever their life-situation."
 
Iorg presented the final lecture entitled, "Touchstones for Ministry in the New Marriage Culture."
 
The first touchstone Iorg listed is to have a sound doctrine of the church. It is important, Iorg said, "to have a biblically-centered theology and practically applied theology of the church." This applied theology involves the church being a local autonomous congregation with clearly defined membership qualifications.
 
"Church members must be regenerated, baptized and covenanted," he said. "This implies that the church has control over its membership and the actions of those members who have agreed to abide by their covenant of membership." 
 
Iorg also included three benefits given to a church with defined membership. First, it allows a church to welcome everyone to participate in the church's public life, but it limits leadership and decision-making to members. Second, it frees the church to welcome all people to hear the gospel, but it limits membership only to those changed by the gospel. Third, it gives the church the freedom to welcome all people to study God's Word and have the opportunity to be changed by it.
 
The second touchtone for ministry is that the church must remember the power of the gospel to create new beings in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The implication from this statement is that "the gospel must be in the center of the life of the church."
 
"No issue such as same-sex marriage should occupy the center of the church's focus, only the gospel," Iorg said. "To do that the church must reassert its evangelism strategies to reach all people with the gospel."
 
The third ministry touchstone is that Christian leaders need to reaffirm and remember their security as leaders in Christ. "This truth springs from the doctrine of the priesthood of believers," Iorg said.
 
"A secure leader is best equipped to reach out and lead in the new marriage culture. Leaders need to be secure in Jesus Christ to be able to stand in the face of the challenges to Christian values and morals that inevitably will come."
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Dale "Geno" Robinson is the director of adult discipleship at First Baptist Church of Fair Oaks, Calif.)
12/17/2013 1:05:16 PM by Phyllis Evans & Dale Geno Robinson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



'Resilient' Cuban churches surprise IMB leader

December 17 2013 by Will Stuart, Baptist Press

HAVANA, Cuba – The recent storm took everyone by surprise. It turned streets in Havana, Cuba, into rivers, lifting manhole covers on water bubbling from drainage pipes unable to contain the surge racing to the sea. In Vueltas, 180 miles to the east, rural roads turned to mush, making it impossible to travel from surrounding villages into the city for the constitution of nine new churches.
 
“But the Cuban church is resilient,” Tom Elliff, IMB's president, said during his first visit to the island nation this December. “It is like the Royal Palm (a symbol of the island), which jettisons its fronds when a major storm rakes the land and can bend horizontal to the ground and still survive.”
 
The new churches are a reality whether Elliff, IMB representatives and Cuban Baptist leaders could participate in their constitution or not.
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IMB photo by Wilson Hunter
International Mission Board president Tom Elliff, center, shares his testimony during a house church meeting in Havana, Cuba. The group meets in the home of Daniel González, pastor of McCall Baptist Church. It is one of 60 house churches established by the McCall church. For 10 years, González was a missionary on the Isle of Youth off the southern coast of Cuba. During that time he planted hundreds of churches on the island where previously there had been no evangelical work. 

 

Persevering faith

Revolution in 1959 moved Cuba from a dictatorship to socialism. Its economy faltered during the transition. There were hard times. People struggled. Churches were closed and pastors imprisoned.
 
There was a time “it looked like everything was over,” said Hermes Soto, rector of the Baptist Seminary in Havana. In 1965 the majority of the pastors were imprisoned. A large number of seminary students and young church leaders were put in reeducation camps. Soto, too, spent five years in a labor camp. Despite the crisis, the churches remained open under lay leadership.
 
Yet even in these hard times, Cuban Baptist commitment to international missions remained strong, and they continued to participate in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
In 1991 the Cuban constitution was changed, making discrimination based on religious belief unlawful. The government was still reticent to allow construction of new church buildings. Officials said: Open your homes.
 
“But then the churches woke up,” Soto said. “We had to discover how to react in response to this miracle.”
 
From 1960-1990, Cuban Baptists started 28 churches. From 1990-93, they started 28 more. After 1993, the number exploded in a church planting movement seen in few other parts in the world. Today, an estimated 900 churches and 6,500-plus missions and house churches can be found across the island. And Cuban Baptists are sending missionaries to other parts of the world.
 
“I found it surprising, almost shocking,” Elliff said, “to find some of the greatest expressions of faith within 100 miles of the United States.”
 
He proposes an expanded relationship between Cuban and Southern Baptists. “The thing that astonished me is how much they have to teach us,” he said, “not how much we have to teach them.
 
“We can benefit from the example of their undying faith ... the strength of their faith,” Elliff continued. “They can benefit from our resources ... our years of history in missions. Together, we could be a powerful influence for Christ throughout the entire world.”
 
Sitting with men who God rescued from the most difficult of situations and seeing how they have moved on from there had a profound effect on Elliff.
 
“It has changed my life,” he said. “I will not view the Christian faith the same ... ever again.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Stuart writes for IMB.)
12/17/2013 12:58:06 PM by Will Stuart, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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