December 2015

God ranks high in New Year’s resolutions

December 31 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

When Americans make New Year’s resolutions, a better relationship with God ranks almost as high as better health, according to a study by LifeWay Research.
And for many groups, faith actually outranks health. Older Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics and Christians are all more likely to say they’ve made resolutions about God than about health.

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Overall, 57 percent of Americans report making health-related New Year’s resolutions in the past while 52 percent say they’ve addressed their relationships with God. Those were the top two responses in a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 Americans.
 
“We don’t hear a lot of talk about it, but a relationship with God is still something people want,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. “They have time at the holidays to think, and they realize what they didn’t do last year – things they value but are not living out. So they start the year with an aspiration to change.”
 

Topics of resolve

While health and faith are the leading topics for New Year’s resolutions, Americans also report addressing their use of time (43 percent), relationships with family members (42 percent), finances (37 percent), work (33 percent) and relationships with friends (31 percent).
 
Many of the issues overlap as people aspire to improve themselves, McConnell said.
 
“Use of time is probably the best measure of priorities,” he said. “And investing in a relationship with God may encourage people to address other priorities as well, such as spending time with family or fixing their finances.”
 
More than one in five Americans (21 percent) say they haven’t made New Year’s resolutions on any topic mentioned in the survey.
 
Men appear less resolution-minded than women, according to the survey. A quarter of men report no resolutions, compared to 17 percent of women. Meanwhile, women are more likely than men to say they’ve made resolutions about their health (62 percent vs. 52 percent), relationship with God (58 percent vs. 47 percent) and use of time (47 percent vs. 39 percent).
 

Resolutions of faith

Americans with evangelical beliefs are among the most likely to make New Year’s resolutions about their relationships with God. Faith trumps health by a wide margin for them: 72 percent say they have made resolutions regarding God while 56 percent have addressed their health.
 
Most evangelical believers (51 percent) also report having made New Year’s resolutions about their use of time.
 
“For an evangelical, faith should be integrated into every area of life,” McConnell said. “Not every resolution will be about having a relationship with God, but their relationship with God should be affecting what they do in other areas.”
 
In contrast, only 43 percent of those who do not hold evangelical beliefs have made New Year’s resolutions about their relationships with God, and 39 percent have addressed their use of time.
 
Resolutions about a relationship with God are widespread among African Americans (73 percent) and Hispanics (63 percent). In addition, 61 percent of Christians, 59 percent of Southerners and 56 percent of Americans 55 and older say they have made resolutions regarding God.
 
“In January we always hear about health-related resolutions. We don’t hear as much about people’s concern for their relationship with God,” McConnell said. “But this research shows faith has a prominent place in New Year’s resolutions. Many people want to take steps to make God a greater part of their lives.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 14-28, 2015. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Evangelical beliefs are defined using the National Association of Evangelicals LifeWay Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition based on respondent beliefs.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, factsandtrends.net, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/31/2015 9:44:07 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Pre-teens raise more than $1,000 for missions

December 31 2015 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

When Jay and Elizabeth Terrill decided to forego Christmas gifts to each other and instead give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, it sparked an idea for their daughter Mollie and her cousin Lexi Cole: a Christmas craft fair to benefit the International Mission Board (IMB).
 
With the recent IMB financial/personnel cuts in mind, the 11-year-olds enlisted the help of their church – Gentilly Baptist Church in New Orleans – and set a goal of $1,000 for the Dec. 5 event. With donated crafts, baked goods, garden plants and other items, the fair netted $1,067.
 

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Photo by Marilyn Stewart
Mollie Terrill (left) and her cousin Lexi Cole, both 11, planned a Christmas craft fair that raised more than $1,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

“I was so excited,” said Pam Cole, grandmother of the two girls. “For them to have other people on their hearts at this time of the year was what was so special to me. They wanted to give and help the missionaries stay on the field.”
 
Staged less than a month after the girls approached pastor Ken Taylor with the idea, the craft fair drew nearly 80 in attendance, said Dennis Cole, associate pastor and the girls’ grandfather. Taylor and Cole are both professors at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).
 
Pre-teen girls at the church made ornaments and crocheted bracelets. Children age 4 to 10 contributed crafts such as jingle bell necklaces and nativity scenes made from tongue depressors.
 
One item sold at the craft fair was an acrylic painting by Hannah Scarbro, a college art major, NOBTS student and daughter of former IMB missionaries in the Philippines.
 
The event was publicized on social media and in the local newspaper. The girls put up flyers at the nearby NOBTS campus.
 
Mollie said she and her cousin thought of the idea in part because a longtime friend, Sandra*, now serving with the IMB, recently had returned to her home church.
 
“One of our missionaries who used to go to our church told us how it is important to give money to the missionaries,” Mollie said.
 
“When people stop giving, then less people get to know the Good News,” Lexi added.
 
Pam Cole said her family, along with church members, frequently wear the “Not On Our Watch – Support the International Mission Board” t-shirts designed and printed by an NOBTS student and others, with proceeds going to the IMB.
 
The t-shirts, sold on campus during the NOBTS Global Missions Week in early November, reflected a rhetorical answer of “Not on our watch” to whether Southern Baptists would allow personnel to come home in light of Jesus’ commission to send workers into the harvest field.
 
Elizabeth Terrill said her daughter came to her two weeks before the Christmas market and asked why missionaries are wanted on the field, but people are unwilling to support them financially.
 
“In that moment, I knew that she really grasped the issue at hand and that it was really weighing on her heart,” Elizabeth Terrill said. “Watching them has been affirmation that we as parents and as a church are having a lasting effect on these children and they in turn are having an effect on the Kingdom.”
 
With the NOBTS campus one mile from the church, Taylor said the girls grew up learning about missions and being exposed to missionaries.
 
“They spurred our church to action and we were all impacted,” Taylor said. “A small dream of these two girls encouraged many in the church to come up with things we could make or grow to sell. I think this will become a missions tradition in our church.”
 
The girls already are making plans for the next year’s market, Elizabeth Terrill said, adding, “I can’t wait to see how God will continue to use them.”
 
*Name changed for security purposes.

12/31/2015 9:38:04 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



January prayer focus: ‘In All Things Pray’

December 31 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

January is a distinctive month of prayer across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
It is a time when a readiness to pray can gain new traction in churches, large or small, urban or rural.
 
Listed as the “Call to Prayer” on the SBC Calendar, it gained momentum from the 2010 Great Commission Task Force report adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and was placed on the SBC calendar as an annual focus during the convention’s 2011 meeting in Phoenix.
 
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This year’s theme is “In All Things Pray,” drawn from the familiar 2 Chronicles 7:14 passage, the journal SBC LIFE of the Executive Committee noted in its Winter 2015 issue.
 
The theme and key emphases for this year’s Call to Prayer were developed with input from the PrayerLink network of state convention and SBC entity prayer leaders. The website inallthingspray.net provides numerous prayer resources developed in concert with PrayerLink partners, including downloadable artwork for this year’s emphasis.
 
Key points of prayer for January 2016, with accompanying suggestions listed in SBC LIFE and posted on the website, are:
  • My Family. Select a family member who is unchurched or without Christ and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.
  • My Community. Select a friend, neighbor or colleague and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.
  • My Church. Select a specific area of ministry in your church, such as a small group or age-graded ministry, and ask the Lord to use it to engage the lost with the gospel.
  • My Nation. Select an elected national leader or a Send North America city (see North American Mission Board webpage namb.net/cities) and pray for the salvation of the leader or the church planting efforts in that area.
  • My World. Select an unreached people group (see International Mission Board webpage public.imb.org/globalresearch/Pages/MapUUPGs.aspx) and pray that the gospel would be advanced among these people.

“My heart is thrilled that thousands upon thousands of Southern Baptists will begin 2016 in prayer,” said SBC President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
 
“Never in my lifetime have we needed to call out to God more than today,” Floyd said in a written statement. “In my own church, we are entering into a major 21-day journey in prayer and fasting. Therefore, we stand with you to pray for ourselves, our churches, our nation and world. Our greatest need is the next Great Spiritual Awakening in the United States.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, commented, “From time to time, I have wondered if it is a sign of health or weakness to have to remind people to pray. However, after reading scripture, I see constant reminders and calls to prayer, so I am convinced it is a healthy practice!”
 
One example cited by Page: “After encouraging believers to put on the full armor of God and explaining what that means, the apostle Paul encouraged us to ‘pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit’ (Ephesians 6:18).
 
“As we enter into this new year, I cannot think of a more appropriate thing to do than to pray more, and more passionately, than ever before,” Page said. “Our world is in need of prayer and we are in need of praying.”
 
For church-wide times of prayer, SBC LIFE listed a suggestion for each of the five Sundays in January:
 

January 3

Ask members of your congregation to write down the names of unchurched and lost family members on a notecard and bring them to the front of the worship center and place them before the Lord. As they bow in prayer, have a church member pray aloud for their salvation.
 
Alternatively, create a prayer list of first names and pray for them at a midweek prayer service for the lost.
 

January 10

Introduce the CrossRoads Prayer Evangelism ministry (see sample at inallthingspray.net). Encourage church members to list names of up to five friends and begin tracking their prayer, care and sharing with those friends.
 
Use the facing page on the CrossRoads form to solicit names mentioned in Sunday School or small group. Covenant to pray as a group for their salvation.
 

January 17

In the church bulletin or worship guide, print the names and dates of the church’s planned evangelistic emphases for the next six months -- things like VBS, revival services or special music programs.
 
Lead the church to pray for these planned events by name during the pastoral prayer time on Sunday morning. Pray also for the continued health and unity of the church.
 

January 24

Read 1 Timothy 2:1û6 aloud during the morning worship service. Ask the congregation to intercede for the nation during this presidential election year. Mention the names of elected officials during the pastoral prayer.
 
Pray for the Lord to multiply your church’s reach by calling out of your congregation some who will serve as pastors and church planters.
 

January 31

During the pastoral prayer, pray for the International Mission Board during this time of organizational reset. Ask the Lord to give IMB trustees and leaders divine wisdom and guidance as they challenge Southern Baptists to be on mission with God.
 
Ask the Lord to give grace and mercy to missionaries who are transitioning from the field to new doors of ministry in the United States.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/31/2015 8:00:35 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Former missionary named WMU N.C. executive director-treasurer

December 30 2015 by Woman’s Missionary Union

Amy Pardue Boone, pastor’s wife and former church music minister and missionary, has been elected executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU NC). Most recently, Boone was Adult Ministry Consultant for National WMU in Birmingham, Ala., where she worked with churches to start WMU organizations, wrote curriculum materials, led conferences across the nation, and wrote two of the new online courses offered by WMU.
 
Boone, a graduate of Samford University with a bachelor of music education, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a master of arts in religious education, served with husband Mike as an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary to Mozambique and South Africa for 14 years.

 
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Facebook photo
Amy Pardue Boone

“We are elated to welcome Amy aboard during this exciting time for WMU NC,” says Barbara Hill, Chairperson of WMU NC’s Search Committee. “Our goal was to find the person whom God wanted for WMU NC and I believe we accomplished this goal. Amy has a passion for missions and an energy that is contagious.”
 
While in Mozambique, she led a weekly WMU group and a weekly English fellowship, taught literacy classes, organized a baseball evangelism ministry, and led a Bible correspondence course in the local prison. Amy became fluent in Portuguese and compiled and recorded local hymns which were distributed to new churches, which she and her husband helped start. Amy is the author of Stones from the Riverbed, Experiencing God’s Grace in Mozambique.
 
In South Africa, she worked in a special needs school, writing curriculum, training teachers and leading weekly Bible lessons. She was instrumental in raising funds and coordinating the construction of a school to move the handicapped children out of the tin shacks in which they were meeting. Amy worked among the amaXhosa people and studied isiXhosa for one year. Each school holiday, she led in many Vacation Bible Schools for which she wrote curriculum. She also worked in the local elementary schools teaching Life Skills classes and leading music in the weekly worship service in the public school. She trained Sunday School teachers and taught music and ministry at Cape Town Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, she was involved in many human needs programs for the poor in the townships.
 
Prior to her missionary service, Amy was minister of music at Ephesus Baptist Church, Raleigh, minister of youth at Salemburg Baptist Church, and music and Bible teacher at Harrells Christian Academy. 
 
Born in Louisiana, she spent many of her formative years in North Carolina, where her father, James Pardue, served as pastor at Lillington Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, Clinton. In addition, during the Boones’ last missionary furlough, they served as missionaries-in-residence at Gardner Webb University, Boiling Springs. Although not born in North Carolina, this is where Amy has spent a great deal of time. She claims N.C. as her ‘adopted’ state.
 
Upon resignation from the IMB due to family health issues, Boone served as an Indian education instructor for the Lawrence County (Ala.) Board of Education and ministered through her church, Mount Hope Baptist, as children’s ministry team leader, part-time minister of music, and served with her husband who has been pastor.
 
The Boones have two grown children, Timothy and Grace. Both are recent graduates of Carson-Newman University. Her son is on staff at First Baptist Church, Knoxville. He will begin seminary in the fall to pursue a degree in pastoral counseling with his wife, Miranda. Her daughter, Grace, is preparing to go to graduate school to study social work.
 
“WMU NC is blessed to have been God-led to an Executive Director-Treasurer whose array of missions experience aligns with our mission ‘to challenge, prepare, and equip Christian believers to be radically involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission,’” says WMU NC President Dee Dee Moody. Amy will begin her ministry with WMU NC in early January.

12/30/2015 11:13:07 AM by Woman’s Missionary Union | with 2 comments



Year in Review: Southern Baptist personalities in the news

December 30 2015 by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide

The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. The stories, chosen by BR staff, communicate the events that affected the lives of North Carolina Baptists and others around the world. A number of well-known Southern Baptists were in the news for a variety of reasons.
 

Billy Graham honored in N.C. museum exhibit

The day before native North Carolinian Billy Graham turned 97, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh opened a 5,000-square-foot exhibit honoring the life of the famed Baptist evangelist. The free, privately funded exhibit opened Nov. 6 and will be on display through July 10, 2016. Graham’s life story is featured in “North Carolina’s Favorite Son: Billy Graham and his Remarkable Journey of Faith.” The exhibit’s title is drawn from the 2013 resolution passed by the N.C. General Assembly naming Billy Graham “North Carolina’s Favorite Son.”
 

Rit Varriale, Elizabeth Church prioritize Christian flag

Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, launched a movement to elevate the Christian above the American flag when flown together. The statement provoked a viral response that landed Varriale on local and national television. Flag etiquette requires the American flag to be prioritized above any other flag. The church installed their first ever flagpole and raised the two flags in a special patriotic ceremony after the morning worship service on Sunday, July 5. As a statement of biblical values, the Christian flag flew in the higher position.
 

Franklin Graham announces 2016 Decision Tour

Franklin Graham announced April 14 that he would be traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to conduct prayer rallies. Called the Decision America Tour, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse said the only hope for the United States is “Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.” While not endorsing any political candidates specifically, Graham is encouraging Christians not only to vote but to run for office.
 

Ronnie Floyd calls for revival in SBC

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 28 years, began his second year as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2015. Floyd has focused on calling the convention to pray for spiritual awakening and for advancing the gospel globally, while also championing the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries internationally and in North America. This was demonstrated when he led Cross Church to give $1 million to the Cooperative Program. Floyd also spoke avidly on behalf of racial reconciliation.
 

Jacumin appointed NAMB’s N.C. ambassador

In an effort to thank every pastor and church in North Carolina for their sacrificial support of the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) asked Marty Jacumin to serve as the entity’s pastoral ambassador to the state. He is the pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. NAMB named pastors from each state convention in the South to serve in ambassador roles in an effort to promote a unity of purpose with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Russell Moore represents SBC in public square

In his third year as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Russell Moore has maintained a high-profile representation of Southern Baptists. During his time with ERLC, he has had five meetings with President Barack Obama. Moore writes prolifically on issues such as racial reconciliation, terrorism, abortion, adoption and a personal objection to displaying the Confederate battle flag. He released his book “Onward” Aug. 1st to help Christians articulate how the gospel informs every aspect of life, including politics and culture.
 

In memoriam

Kenneth Ridings, 78, the longtime Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) professor and then president, died March 5.
 
Retired Baptist pastor Coy C. Privette, 82, died March 23. Privette was a Republican candidate for governor of N.C. in 1976. He served four terms in the N.C. House, from 1985 to 1992.
 
Elisabeth Elliot Gren, missionary, missionary widow and widely influential author and speaker, died June 15. She was 88.
 
James Dunn, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs from 1981-99, died July 4. He was 83.
 
Jeannie Elliff, 69, wife of former International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff, died July 20 following a long struggle with cancer.
 
Danny Lotz, son-in-law of Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, died Aug. 19. Gov. Pat McCrory honored Lotz with The Order of The Long Leaf Pine in early 2015. The award recognizes outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of lifetime service to the state.
 
Missionary doctor Wana Ann Gibson Fort, 91, died Aug. 31 in Baton Rouge, La. Fort and her husband, the late Milton “Giles” Fort Jr., served with the then-called Foreign Mission Board as pioneer missionary doctors at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). At this hospital, Fort and her husband helped launch a spiritual awakening through medical missions.
 
Phillip M. Davis, founder and senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte, died Aug. 29 while he was cleaning his pistol when it accidentally fired into his chest. He was a former vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
 
The former pastor and town mayor, John Bunn, died June 25. He was the chairman of the department of religion and philosophy and professor of religious studies at Campbell University (1960-’75) and president of the General Board of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (1983-’87).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The “In memoriam” section is not a complete list but a synopsis of some of the people who had influence in North Carolina and beyond who died in 2015.)

12/30/2015 11:07:28 AM by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments



Year in Review: BRnow.org readers name top stories of 2015

December 30 2015 by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer

The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. Our readers chose many of the stories listed in our yearly review by sharing them on social media or viewing them at brnow.org.
 

Most viewed online

1. Skip ‘Fifty Shades,’ critics urge*
    Posted February 6 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
2. IMB personnel face hard decisions*
    Posted October 6 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
3. Charlotte pastor Phillip Davis dies while cleaning gun
    Posted August 30 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor
4. Seattle coach ponders wins, losses for Christ
    Posted January 31 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
5. Winston-Salem church cancels Easter services*
    Posted March 27 by Calvary Baptist Church
6. Jonathan Edwards’ works available free via Yale Divinity
    Posted February 4 by Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service
7. Ergun Caner steps down as Brewton-Parker president
    Posted January 20 by Brewton-Parker College
8. Baptists respond to Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage*
    Posted June 26 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press
9. Carson to withdraw as Pastor’s Conf. speaker*
    Posted April 24 by David Roach, Baptist Press
10. Lax policies leave churches open to lawsuits
    Posted June 11 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor
 
The five stories marked with an asterisk were also among the most viewed posts on the Biblical Recorder’s Facebook page, facebook.com/biblicalrecorder. Last year a total of 6.9 million visitors depended on BRnow.org for news and information with a biblical worldview.

 
Two opinion pieces were among the top viewed posts on our website:

1. Warren, Moore made good decision
    Posted January 13 by Marie Schumacher, Shelby, N.C.
2. Where did your donation go?
    Posted January 27 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
 

Most shared on Facebook and Twitter

1. Moore: U.S. should not exclude Christians in genocide label
    Posted November 18 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press
2. Book Review: ‘Moral revolution’ not over, says Mohler
    Posted October 15 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor
3. Gospel Project goes chronological this fall
    Posted May 1 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources
4. Why theology matters
    Posted October 16 by Matt Capps, Baptist Press
5. Gallaty: We must replicate disciples
    Posted February 24 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

12/30/2015 11:00:29 AM by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer | with 0 comments



Kelley to grads: ‘God with us’ changes everything

December 30 2015 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley pointed to Christ’s birth and the meaning of Emmanuel during the seminary’s Dec. 19 graduation ceremony. “‘God with us’ changes everything,” he told graduates.
 
Speaking to a class of 224 candidates, Kelley began his charge by noting that some members would soon be going into places too dangerous to name publicly.
 
“This is a day of great joy but also a day of sobering reality,” Kelley said. He noted the importance of the day “because of what we see in the world around us.”

 
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NOBTS President Chuck Kelley speaking to graduates

Kelley explained that the course of history is marked by pivotal, epic-making moments. Kelley pointed to the Battle of the Bulge in WWII where German forces broke through the Allied line but were held back by American paratroopers long enough to allow Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. to reposition his tanks, and ultimately secure victory.
 
“It was an epic moment,” Kelley said. “That’s what happened when Jesus came into the world.”
 
‘God with us’ matters because nothing can come against the believer committed to God, Kelley said. There are no dead ends where God leads, he explained.
 
“‘God with us’ changes everything,” Kelley said.
 
Shepherds on the hillside the night Jesus was born never knew how dark the night was until “heaven’s light” came bursting forth, Kelley said, and at that moment, the shepherds could truly see.
 
Kelley challenged graduates to carry the light of the gospel wherever they go.
 
‘You are bearers of that heavenly light … you are penetrators of that darkness. In the midst of the ordinary, you bring heaven’s light,” Kelley said.
 
Steve Lemke, NOBTS provost, presented the class for the conferral of degrees and noted, “This class alone will impact the lives of thousands of people around the world for Christ.”
 
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 105 master’s degrees and 30 doctoral degrees including eight doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, 15 doctor of ministry degrees, four doctor of educational ministry degrees, and three doctor of musical arts degrees.
 
The professional graduate certificate was awarded posthumously to Jeffrey Wayne Ingram, 58, who was studying in the doctor of ministry program at the time of his death. Ingram died Aug. 26 after a brief battle with cancer. He was associate pastor and senior adult minister at First Baptist Church, Fairhope, Ala., at the time of his death. In presenting the award, Kelley said to the family, “We celebrate your courage and your love.”
 
The biblical teaching certificate was awarded to 49 awardees, including a first of a father, mother and daughter receiving the certificate together.
 
Leavell College granted 35 bachelor degrees, including the bachelor of arts in Christian ministry degrees to two inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary and two inmates at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate and awardee with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is the office of public relations assistant director of news and information at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

12/30/2015 10:54:04 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Year in Review: SBC moves forward on mission in 2015

December 29 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. The stories, chosen by BR staff, communicate the events that affected the lives of North Carolina Baptists and others around the world. Stories from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are recounted, like the International Mission Board’s (IMB) decision to remedy budget deficits by reducing personnel numbers by 600-800. Coverage also included stories about the Send Network, an initiative of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to plant churches across the nation.
 

2015 Send Conference celebrates life on mission

A sold-out crowd of more than 13,500 from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces flooded into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to celebrate life on mission at the 2015 Send North America Conference Aug. 3-4. It was the largest gathering of Southern Baptists since 1996 when 13,706 messengers gathered for the annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
 
NAMB President Kevin Ezell and IMB President David Platt welcomed the assembly and challenged attendees to serve wherever God calls them.
 

IMB announces reset, personnel reduction

IMB leaders announced an organizational restructuring plan Aug. 27. that will reduce personnel expenses and balance their budget. IMB’s 2014 fiscal goals fell $21 million short. Deficits totaled more than $210 million in the last six years. The plan includes two personnel reduction phases. The first phase included a voluntary retirement incentive for qualifying employees through the end of 2015. The second phase will involve a voluntary resignation incentive for all employees along with a possible reduction of IMB personnel in 2016. IMB leaders said “It is expected that the 600-800 people who step aside from the IMB in the next six months will not be stepping ‘onto the sidelines of mission,’ but instead will be moving into a new phase of involvement in mission.” To remedy budget shortfalls, previous IMB leadership enacted a plan to slowly reduce the number of missionaries to 4,200. The number currently stands at 4,800.
 

NAMB announces new image, gives $4 million to IMB

NAMB introduced a new logo in September and presented messaging that reflects its goal to mobilize more churches and individuals to missional action in the effort to push back lostness and plant more churches in North America.
 
“Every Life On Mission” and “Every Church On Mission” are two phrases NAMB will use prominently to encourage individuals and churches to become more actively and personally involved in missional activity. Ezell said the move to a new look demonstrates NAMB’s emphasis on serving churches and pastors, and the continued streamlining of strategy. Every energy and all attention will be focused on fulfilling its mission as effectively as possible by the generosity of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
 
Trustees of NAMB approved the establishment of Send Relief – a new compassion ministry to offer Southern Baptists opportunities to meet physical needs and serve underprivileged communities. NAMB’s disaster relief team will be part of Send Relief and continue to have its own director. The mission board will continue to serve as coordinator of national disaster relief responses. Also during their Oct. 7 meeting, NAMB’s trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so the entity can send funds to assist IMB missionaries.
 

SBC messengers pray as one

Columbus, Ohio, hosted 5,406 messengers for the 2015 SBC annual meeting, June 15-17. Thousands of messengers knelt in prayer and raised their hands to heaven July 16 as they prayed for revival in the church and a great awakening across the United States. In the months leading up to the meeting, SBC president Ronnie Floyd called on Southern Baptists to pray for revival in America. The plea culminated in Columbus with an entire session devoted to prayer for the next Great Awakening in America and to reach the world for Christ. For more than 2.5 hours, Floyd and other leaders from across the SBC led in a time of guided worship and prayer.
 

LifeWay restructure & relocation

LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer outlined for trustees a vision for the entity’s future that includes an organizational restructuring, leadership changes and a probable relocation.
 
He announced the combining of two divisions – Church Resources and B&H Publishing – into LifeWay Resources Division led by current vice president Eric Geiger. Trustees approved two vice presidents. Selma Wilson, former vice president of B&H, was approved as vice president of a new organizational development division that will focus on LifeWay’s people strategies, culture development and change management. Cossy Pachares was elected as vice president of LifeWay’s retail division. Pachares fills the role vacated by Tim Vineyard who retired in January.
 
Trustees approved the sale of LifeWay’s 14.5 acre downtown Nashville property. A Nov. 24 announcement reported that the sale was completed.
 

Younger Southern Baptists more involved

Southern Baptists appear to be defying the prevalent notion that young adults are abandoning the American church, according to a February Baptist Press story. Attendance by younger generations reached a 10-year high at the 2014 SBC meeting in Baltimore, according to an annual survey of attendees. The survey, conducted by the SBC Executive Committee (EC), showed nearly one-fourth (24.68 percent) of attendees were younger than age 40. That surpassed by more than 4 percentage points the previous best for the age group, recorded in 2013.
 
The 2014 survey also showed 10-year highs for SBC attendees who are under 45 (33.44 percent, a gain of more than 3 percent over the previous high in 2013) and under 35 (15.93 percent, again an increase of more than 3 percent over the earlier high, which came in 2012).

12/29/2015 12:09:22 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Year in Review: N.C. Baptists emphasize discipleship in 2015

December 29 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

The Jan. 2 edition of the Biblical Recorder (BR) outlines news highlights that defined 2015. The stories, chosen by BR staff, communicate the events that affected the lives of North Carolina Baptists and others around the world. The list includes newsworthy items from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), such as the organization of a new team at the annual meeting to serve churches across the state that will be dedicated to church health and revitalization.
 
Just over 1,500 messengers to the BSC annual meeting in November approved a $29.5 million budget for 2016. This budget includes a 3 percent increase to the Cooperative Program (CP), moving the total allotment from 37 to 40 percent ($11.8 million).
 
For the past 10 years, N.C. Baptists had increased the money allocated to CP by a half-percent each year. Convention leaders announced a new church health and revitalization team as well as Peoples Next Door N.C. to help churches discover, engage and share Christ with internationals living in their communities. They also moved one of their staff members into a strategy coordinator position to address the rising Hispanic population in the state. The Pastors’ Conference prior to the annual meeting focused on dependence on God’s Word as did President Timmy Blair’s sermon during the meeting. Lee Pigg, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, delivered the convention sermon. “If we are not careful, we will focus more on building our churches than making disciples in His Kingdom,” he cautioned. “Jesus said in Matthew chapter 16 that it is His job to build the church, not yours.”
 
Pigg highlighted the need for leaders to make disciples within their church and beyond. Milton A. Hollifield Jr. also said making disciples was important. “The local church is the key for us as a convention of churches to be able to impact lostness through disciple-making,” he said.
 
In an effort to impact lostness across the state, N.C. Baptists have been mapping the eight largest population centers – Asheville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville, Charlotte-Metro, Greenville, and Wilmington. “The mapping project is an opportunity for us to find out how much the world has moved to North Carolina, where they live, and begin to accept responsibility that the Great Commission has always started in Jerusalem and Judea,” said Steve Hardy, a BSC contract worker in the church planting and missions partnerships group. The research is revealing unreached people groups (UPG) and points of interest – any kind of ethnic establishment, such as a fabric shop, a local business, a grocery store, a mosque or an apartment complex – where ministry can be planned to reach the UPG. A People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop offered in the spring helped attendees learn how to conduct research on PeopleGroups.info and engage individuals through culturally appropriate questions.
 
Numbers compiled from Annual Church Profile reports revealed more than a 10 percent drop in baptism numbers from 2013 to 2014 for N.C. Baptist churches. The total number of believers baptized in 2014 is 18,111. That number is down from the 20,324 reported the previous year. The top 10 churches account for 19.8 percent of all N.C. baptisms with a total of 3,585.
 
While not exclusive to 2015, the BSC’s One Story conference in February and a training event in May highlighted discipleship. “We have undoubtedly gained momentum in the areas of disciple-making and church strengthening over the last year,” Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said at May’s board meeting. “We are leading the way in an important conversation that is about more than growing the institution of the church, but about the people of the church growing to become disciples who will share the gospel with others and make disciples.”
 
In April Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men) hosted its annual meeting. The theme focused on brokenness and healing. “[Jesus] meets their momentary need, and the next day, they come looking for more,” said David Nasser, senior vice president for spiritual development at Liberty University. “That’s when they run into the undeniable, loving, honest gospel.” Nasser, along with two other plenary speakers, urged about 1,400 participants to reflect on the grace God has shown them despite their own brokenness, and then to consider how they might reach out to others with the gospel.
 
As part of the BSC collegiate partnerships, research revealed that more than 120 (out of 148) schools had no gospel presence on their campuses. The BSC is focusing on the top 20 campuses where a strategic focus needs to be. Around 70 percent of all college students in the state are on community college campuses. Collegiate Partnerships wants to help local churches reach all of the campuses for Christ.
 
For the May BSC board meeting, directors and guests celebrated the Hollifield Hall dedication at Caraway Conference Center. Named for Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield, the auditorium cost $1.3 million and is in front of Caraway’s main lodging and administration facility. There was also the completion in 2014 of two housing buildings (named the Jim and Nancy Neil Jacumin Retreat Lodges), a classroom building and a multi-purpose building in the Awesome Children’s Outdoor Recreation and Nature Study section, and in 2011, the completion of a pastor retreat. These additions are part of the New Beginnings capital campaign.
 
Fruitland Baptist Bible College dedicated its new family apartments in September. The four-unit building complex was built in memory of Nancy Nell Jacumin, who died in 2014. The school also announced the establishment of the H.E. Wyatt Scholarship Fund, designed to provide financial assistance to students preparing for ministry.

12/29/2015 12:03:08 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Christianity growing in North India amid Hindu hostility

December 29 2015 by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service

Missionaries in northern India say Hindu extremists are increasingly trying to entrap them with trumped-up accusations of forced conversions. But the rise in persecution isn’t dissuading true converts, who are turning to Christ in larger numbers, according to new census data.
 
People have the freedom to change their religion in India, but forced conversions are illegal.
 
“I received a call from this lady who said, ‘I have read about Christ, and I want to change my religion,’“ said missionary Kanak Chauhan*. “She was pushing me to say something like, ‘I will help you to change your religion,’ and once I say that, it can become a problem in India.”
 
Chauhan told Christian Aid Mission (CAM) people call about once a week trying to goad him into saying something that could get him in trouble with authorities in Chandigarh, where officials are especially hostile toward religious conversions. Chandigarh serves as the capital city of the states of Punjab and Haryana.
 
“We try to use wise words, so instead of ‘changing religion,’ we say it’s not about religion, it’s about the heart,” he said. “We have to be very careful. I will not say what they’re trying to get me to say. I will say, ‘Okay, we can talk about this, just come to meet us, and we can sit and we can talk.’ If they are genuine, they will come and meet me. They never show up. They try a lot of these techniques and tricks.”
 
Christians are allowed “to profess their faith,” but cannot “convert somebody, coerce somebody, or lure someone to convert,” said Raju Sharma, CAM’s South Asia director.
 
But Hindu extremists increasingly use the law to falsely accuse Christians. Electoral victories for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 emboldened hardline Hindus. One group attempted to raise funds to hold a reconversion ceremony for Christians and Muslims on Christmas Day last year. Some participants of similar ceremonies say they were pressured or coerced to return to Hinduism.
 
Christians in the north even face violent persecution in an attempt to limit the spread of the gospel. In mid-November, Hindu extremists attacked a Pentecostal congregation during a worship service, beating parishioners with sticks and demanding they return to Hinduism. Some were forced to sign statements renouncing Christianity, Vatican Radio reported.
 
“The atmosphere in the state is not very conducive for Christians anymore,” Father Abraham Kannampala, vicar general of Jagdalpur Diocese told Vatican Radio. “We feel threatened as we are a small minority.”
 
In spite of persecution, a recent census showed the very small Christian minority is growing in several north-eastern states, worrying those who want India to be entirely Hindu.
 
Extremist groups used the latest census data to agitate for Hindu nationalism, even though the overall population of Christians in the country shifted from 2.34 percent to 2.3 percent. They blame Christians and Muslims for the decline in the number of people who identify with a “traditionally Indian” faith like Hinduism, Sikhism, or Buddhism, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported.
 
Another Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, released a statement complaining about the “religious imbalance” of northern regions.
 
“All this fuss about census data is a precursor to social violence against [non-Indian] religions,” Christian activist John Dayal told WWM. “There is nothing new in this campaign. There is a clear strategy to create a demographic hysteria against Christians and Muslims as outsiders.”
 
In the 1960s, Christians made up nearly 25 percent of India’s population.
 
*names have been changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julia A. Seymour writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine at worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

12/29/2015 11:56:07 AM by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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