December 2017

Spurgeon Study Bible called first of its kind

December 4 2017 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

The Spurgeon Study Bible, which features sermon outlines and notes from revered 19th-century theologian, preacher and writer Charles Spurgeon, is considered the first of its kind.

Readers will glean relevant truths from Spurgeon’s notes, even though they were penned long ago, said Alistair Begg, general editor of the project. Begg is senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and head of Bible-teaching ministry Truth for Life. LifeWay Christian Resources’ Holman Bibles released the special study Bible.
“Charles Spurgeon was tackling issues in his day, not because he was pugilistic, but because he wanted to hold firmly to the truth delivered to the saints,” Begg said. “He wanted to be in the line of Timothy, when Paul said, ‘I want you to continue in the things you’ve become convinced of.’ ... He was prepared to stand firmly for doctrine.”
The Spurgeon Study Bible, available exclusively in the Christian Standard Bible version, includes an introductory biography of Charles Spurgeon, more than 300 quotes from Spurgeon, 20 Spurgeon sermons, 58 extracted sermon illustrations that appear alongside associated biblical text, study notes crafted from Spurgeon’s sermons, handwritten notes and never-before-published works.
“Given Spurgeon’s passion for preaching the gospel and commitment to meeting the needs of a hurting world, ‘The Spurgeon Study Bible’ will inspire Christians to root themselves in the gospel and then extend their arms out to people in need,” said B&H Bible publisher Trevin Wax.
“It’s fitting too that Alistair Begg would lead the editorial charge. For many years now, Alistair has demonstrated a strong commitment to biblical preaching and has sought to share Spurgeon’s insights with people in our time.”

Another Spurgeon resource available from B&H Publishing Group is The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, a multivolume series. The first two volumes, released in 2017, include more than 130 never-before-published sermons from Spurgeon’s earliest years in ministry, dating back to his teenage years, along with full-color facsimiles of his notes and extensive editorial notes by Spurgeon scholar Christian T. George, a historical theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The full nine-volume set will be completed in 2021.
Nicknamed the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon preached to more than 10 million people during his lifetime.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

12/4/2017 9:07:41 AM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Southeastern conference football referee draws from faith

December 4 2017 by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist

It was a simple “yes” in 1987 that changed the next 30 years of Marc Curles’ life – yes, he did want that extra ticket to a University of Georgia football game.

Photo courtesy of Marc Curles
SEC official Marc Curles calls a field goal good during the 2011 football season. Curles has been with the SEC since 2006.

“When I was in college, my sister was a year behind me, and her roommate’s father was an official in the [Southeastern conference],” Curles said. “He sent tickets to his daughter, and they had a spare ticket to the game he was calling that weekend.”
Curles took it – he loved football. And he watched the Bulldogs, sure – but for the first time, he was watching the guys in the black and white stripes just as much.
“I watched her dad all during the game, and it looked like it was a lot of fun,” Curles said.

‘Gratifying to not be noticed’

He remembers leaning over the fence that night and asking her dad how he could become a referee too.
“He encouraged me and connected me with a high school officials’ association in Atlanta,” Curles said.
In the years that followed, Curles would make hundreds and hundreds of official calls. He would work his way up from high school through the college divisions and into the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2006.
“It’s the most gratifying feeling when you walk off the field and feel like you officiated a really good game and no one even noticed you were there,” he said.
One such game was the 2016 Alamo Bowl, where [Texas Christian University] came back from trailing 31-0 at halftime to beat Oregon 47-41 in triple overtime. They tied the record for the biggest comeback in bowl history.
And the referees just faded into the background, Curles said.
“It was an exciting atmosphere and we had a well-officiated game,” he said of his eight-person crew. “There were tight, difficult calls, and on review of the game, we got them all correct.”
But he would never forget the power of a small decision. In addition to taking the Georgia ticket, there’s another call that would be seared in his mind forever. It happened in 2009 when the Arkansas Razorbacks played the No. 1 team, the Florida Gators.
To Curles, it felt like the call heard round the world.
The Gators were trailing in the fourth quarter, and out of the corner of his eye, Curles saw what looked like a vicious blow that knocked a Florida player completely out of the play.
He threw a flag – unsportsmanlike conduct on the defense.
But several hours later when he watched the tape, he saw that he’d been wrong.
“Where I made the mistake is I didn’t see the whole thing,” he told ESPN in an interview later. “I didn’t see how it developed. I saw out of the corner of my eye what I thought was a foul. I can’t think something is a foul. I (must) know it. ... And that was my mistake.”
Curles said he was sick at himself.
And so was the entire Arkansas fan base. Whether his call had made the difference or not, Florida had come back and won. His home and work voicemail filled up with messages, as did his email.
It was a rough season, he said. His crew had been under fire for a few controversial calls or no calls, and people weren’t holding back their feelings. Referees don’t normally talk to reporters, but in the midst of the storm, Curles bared his soul to ESPN. He didn’t make excuses – he simply said that he was human and no one was harder on him than he was.
It was then the tide turned, he said.
“I got overwhelmed with emails of support from literally around the world,” he said. “That was amazing. I’m hoping that the way I withstood all of that was kind of an example of how to handle things.”
His faith was key in that season, he said. It still is now.

Praying for critics

“I got an email a few weeks ago before an Arkansas game from a lady who hadn’t forgotten that call from 2009,” Curles said. “She said she was battling cancer but was going to work until the day she died to see that I got fired.”
Curles said he doesn’t respond to those kinds of emails, but he prayed that she would find faith and perspective in life.
That’s what grounds him and that’s what he wants for others. As he travels with his crew – one of nine such crews in the SEC – he tries to be a spiritual leader for them. They live together, work together and build a lot of camaraderie, he said.

Working together

“When you watch a football game, there are really three teams on the field – the two football teams and the crew of officials,” Curles said.
“We’re functioning as a team and working together and trying to play our game perfectly as well.”
That type of relationship gives Curles a lot of opportunities to share his faith.
“Over the years, I’ve always closed the pre-game meeting with prayer, and we also do devotionals when we meet,” said Curles, a deacon at Birmingham-area Valleydale Church.
Curles said he made a decision for Christ at age 14 in the south Georgia church where his mother played the organ. But his faith didn’t become real to him until after college and after life took a few bumpy turns.
Along the way, he moved to Birmingham, got a full-time job and got involved in Valleydale Baptist. On the day he and his wife Toni got married, they were both baptized a few hours before the wedding. These days, he works full time as a financial adviser and then as a referee on the weekends. He and Toni have three children.
Patrick Sawyer, men’s ministry director at Valleydale, said Curles’ faith is evident in his life and work.
“Marc is an example of living out God’s Word in your daily lives,” Sawyer said. “Marc often shares his faith and love for Jesus during the SEC football season through leading Bible studies with his SEC official team members while on the road.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist,, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

12/4/2017 8:59:11 AM by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Transgender views follow religious divide, Pew says

December 4 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christians are just as likely to say that gender is determined solely at birth as are atheists and religious “nones” to say the opposite, according to newly released Pew Research Center findings.
Nearly two-thirds of Christians, 63 percent, told Pew that gender is determined at birth; while 62 percent of atheists/agnostics and “nones,” categorized as religiously unaffiliated, said individual gender can change from biological sex at birth.
Religious identification also affected a perception of whether the U.S. had gone too far in accepting transgender people, Pew said. White evangelicals, at 61 percent, were most likely to say the nation has gone too far, compared to 44 percent of all Protestants. Among other Christians, 33 percent of white mainline Protestants, 29 percent of black Protestants and 27 percent of Catholics agreed with the notion.
In the category combining atheists and agnostics, 65 percent said the nation has not gone far enough in accepting transgender people. About half of “nones,” 52 percent, agreed that the nation needs to do more to accept the transgender population.
The U.S. religious divide, which Pew announced Nov. 27, mirrors a partisan divide on transgender views Pew revealed Nov. 8 in concert with several state and local elections.
Politically, U.S. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to believe gender is determined at birth. Pew found both the religious and political divides in its American Trends survey conducted in August and September. About 80 percent of Republicans said gender is limited to the biological designation at birth, compared to only 34 percent of Democrats.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his Nov. 29 podcast “The Briefing,” said the religious divide evidences the lack of resiliency in the secular worldview. Perhaps as recently as a decade ago, he said, most of the secular population agreed with Christians that biological sex and gender are essentially the same thing.
“A moral worldview based in anything other than biblical Christianity doesn’t have much resilience,” Mohler deduced. “There’s very little moral resilience in terms of the secular worldview. It is almost by definition going to change and alter, not only generation by generation but as we’re watching now, almost day by day.”
The question, Mohler said, “is whether or not Christian faithfulness will be demonstrated in the resilience of the Christian worldview.”
Pew described the poll, conducted online Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28 among 4,573 people, as nonpartisan.
The poll included white evangelicals, white mainline, black protestant and Catholic subsets in the Christian category. White evangelicals presented the largest group (83 percent) of people who said whether a person grows up to be a man or woman is determined at birth. Black Protestants followed at 59 percent, and white mainline Protestants at 55 percent. Catholics were generally divided, with 51 percent following Protestant beliefs and 46 percent saying gender could change during one’s lifetime, Pew said. Four percent of Catholics registered as undecided.
Only 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated said gender is determined solely at birth. Subsets in the category showed a similar belief among 43 percent of “nones” and 29 percent of atheists.
Pew’s full narrative on the findings is available at in FactTank reports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

12/4/2017 8:51:56 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey seeks qualities of effective DOMs

December 1 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Opinions of leaders and servants in all areas of Southern Baptist life are solicited in an online survey studying the qualities of effective leadership by directors of missions (DOMs).
The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) appointed a study group to conduct the survey to help provide a uniform job title and description for the DOM position. The group will submit its report to the SBCAL in June 2018 in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas.
Richard Wheeler, lead missional strategist for the Jacksonville Baptist Association in Jacksonville, Fla., chairs the 12-member study group composed of associational, denominational and congregational leaders.
“We have a specific assignment from the SBCAL to bring recommendations on a proposed title and general qualities of an associational leader,” Wheeler told Baptist Press (BP) Nov. 30. “We are not seeking to mandate or prescribe anything, but merely to describe qualities of effective associational leadership where it has been identified around the country.”
DOM duties and titles vary across the nation, but there are sufficient commonalities among associational leaders to warrant the study group’s goals, Wheeler said.
“Realizing that local church networking in a city or region will look dramatically different depending on the context, we believe there are some common characteristics that will describe how the leader serves that [are] beneficial to the churches and their shared mission,” Wheeler told BP. “Our hope is that emphasizing healthy church partnerships at the local level will benefit all of the ways we seek to partner together within the SBC family.”
The study is part of the SBCAL’s effort to better serve missional leadership needs across the SBC, SBCAL Executive Director Ray Gentry said when the study group was formed in June.
“We feel like it’s time for a new name for the new century and the new demands upon us and the new opportunities before us,” Gentry said. “In addition, a profile of associational effectiveness with competencies ... is even a bigger enchilada than the title.
“There really is no commonly accepted job description for a DOM,” he said, “and so we want to come up with a profile with competencies for search committees and for purposes of coaching and helping new DOMs. We feel like that’s going to be very, very important and very helpful to raise the credibility, and the profile and the effectiveness of DOMs.”
Nearly 250 Southern Baptists have already responded to the SBCAL survey as of this week, and Wheeler said many more responses are needed.
“It is important that we not only hear from current associational leadership but also from pastors, staff and lay leaders of churches as their engagement and leadership in their local association is vital,” Wheeler told BP.
With the direction of state convention leaders and SBCAL regional consultants, the study group is also interviewing associations of various sizes around the country to determine best practices, qualities and characteristics of associational leaders, Wheeler said.
Wheeler addressed the scope and focus of the study team in the latest SBCAL newsletter, The Encourager.
“Our hope is that with this study we can describe what is already happening across the landscape and see effective associations serving their churches by equipping and engaging pastors and churches in significant Great Commission work,” Wheeler wrote. “We prayerfully anticipate painting a picture of what God is already doing among SBC associations that we can celebrate and consider as we all seek to serve our churches at the highest level possible.”
In The Encourager, Wheeler clarified misperceptions he has already encountered in conducting the study.
The group is not addressing the value of local associations, and is not evaluating relationships among local associations, state conventions and other SBC agencies, Wheeler wrote. Neither is the group “trying to criticize the current excellent work that so many are already doing among SBC associations,” Wheeler wrote. The group represents no one other than the SBCAL in the study, he pointed out.
Joining Wheeler and Gentry on the study group are Mike Carlisle, executive director, San Diego (Calif.) Southern Baptist Association; Paul Chitwood, executive director, Kentucky Baptist Convention; Josh Ellis, associate director, Union Baptist Association, Houston; Dale Fisher, executive director, Caldwell Baptist Association, Lenoir, N.C.; Steve Holt, state DOM, Tennessee Baptist Association; Jason Lowe, DOM, Pike Association of Southern Baptists, Pikeville, Ky.; Mark Millman, church planter strategist/DOM, Southern Wisconsin Baptist Association; Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations, SBC Executive Committee, Nashville; Ted Traylor, senior pastor, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.; and Port Wilburn, executive DOM, San Francisco (Calif.) Peninsula Baptist Association.
The survey, which Wheeler described as brief, is available here through Dec. 31.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

12/1/2017 9:52:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist view of theology to mark new B&H series

December 1 2017 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

A new series of theology resources conveying a distinctly Baptist perspective has been launched by B&H Academic.
The new series, A Treasury of Baptist Theology, is edited by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Jason G. Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“With plans for over two dozen volumes, this series will feature the work of Baptist theologians and church leaders on a wide range of topics written from a Baptist perspective,” Duesing said. “The vision for the series comes from Paige Patterson, and I count it an honor to join him as the ‘Treasury of Baptist Theology’ series editors.”
Patterson, who wrote the introduction to the series, noted that the resources represent a number of different Baptist institutions and churches.
“There is diversity among authors, including Asian, German and French theologians, as well as several Baptist women,” Patterson wrote. “Each author is writing from a distinctly Baptist perspective.”
The first volume in the series, Pastoral Ministry: The Ministry of a Shepherd, was released in November. The book is edited by Deron J. Biles, professor of pastoral ministries and preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Endorsements for the inaugural volume include Matt Carter, pastor of preaching and vision at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; David Platt, president of the International Mission Board; and Mark A. Howell, senior pastor of Hunters Glen Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. The second volume in the series, which will focus on evangelism, will be edited by Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and is slated for June 2018.
“Books in the Treasury of Baptist Theology series will be released over the course of the next few years,” said Chris Thompson, associate publisher for B&H Academic, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “So far, 25 volumes have been contracted.”
Thompson described the series as a resource appropriate for seminary and undergraduate classrooms but also for pastors and laypeople who simply want to know more about specific theological topics. With contributors chosen from multiple Southern Baptist institutions and churches, the series represents a diverse variety of voices in the Southern Baptist Convention while upholding core doctrines and values Baptists hold dear, Thompson said.
“What I love about the series is that it doesn’t focus on the things that divide us but the things that unite us,” Thompson said. “It’s one of those things that should bring us together as Southern Baptists.”
Patterson echoed this sentiment in his introduction to the series.
“As much as we look forward to the return of Christ and a true ecumenism, adjudicated by none other than the Lord from heaven, we must until then be faithful in the expression of the truth as we know it,” Patterson wrote. “’The Treasury of Baptist Theology’ represents an effort to do exactly that.”
Pastoral Ministry: The Ministry of a Shepherd will be 50 percent off at through Dec. 16.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/1/2017 9:47:07 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Ohio Baptists hold to 50-50 SBC distribution

December 1 2017 by SCBO & BP staff

With the sound of the “Ray Roberts Gavel” – honoring a former State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) executive director for whom the state missions offering is named – SCBO President David Starry called the convention’s 64th annual meeting to order Nov. 8.

Photo courtesy of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
The new slated of officers of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, elected during the Nov. 8 annual meeting, are, from left, Reginald Hayes, second vice president; Ryan Strother, first vice president; David Starry, president; Faye Rodgers, recording secretary; and Annette Dessecker, assistant recording secretary.

The meeting was hosted by Chillicothe Baptist Church whose pastor, Timothy Cline, welcomed the 260-plus participants.
Starry, pastor of Vandalia First Baptist Church, chose the theme “Mission Ohio: Moving Forward with Your Head Up” to guide the one-day meeting in historic Chillicothe, the first capital of Ohio.
During the morning session, messengers approved without opposition the proposed 2017 Mission Ohio budget which maintains the 2016 budget amount without an increase or decrease and the 50-50 distribution of Cooperative Program receipts between Mission Ohio and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) worldwide missions even though receipts are forecasted to be approximately 5 percent below the 2016 adopted budget.
The total Cooperative Mission Program giving required for the 2016 budget was $4,416,152.74. If the 2016 budget were to be subscribed, the 50-50 ratio would direct $2,208,076.37 to Mission Ohio causes and $2,208,076.37 to SBC worldwide missions, as would the 2017 budget.
The move to the 50-50 distribution in one year required a decrease of $78,059 in personnel costs and an increase of 16.65 percent, or $630,447, in contributions from SCBO churches. This latest decrease in SCBO staffing now reflects a 52 percent reduction over the past several years in order to continue supporting missions from Ohio to the ends of the earth.
Jack Kwok, SCBO executive director, noted to Baptist Press (BP) that the theme of Moving Forward with Your Head Up “captures the commitment of Ohio Southern Baptists to share the gospel from Ohio to the ends of the earth. Moving Forward requires sacrifice and involves challenges. Ohio Southern Baptists recognize this and desire to move forward with our heads up in faith and commitment to the Great Commission. Supporting missions from Ohio to the ends of the earth is the heartbeat of Ohio Southern Baptists. The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio exists to assist Southern Baptist churches and associations in Ohio in obeying the Great Commission.”
Messengers reelected Starry as president of the convention and Ryan Strother, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Marion, as first vice president. Strother served as second vice president during 2016. For second vice president, messengers cast ballots for nominees Reginald Hayes, pastor of United Faith International Baptist Church in Columbus, and Chad Keck, pastor of Kettering First Baptist Church in Beavercreek. Hayes received 131 votes and Keck received 80 votes. Messengers reelected Faye Rodgers, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Springfield, recording secretary and Annette Dessecker, a member of Lincoln Heights Baptist Church in Mansfield, assistant recording secretary.
The SCBO Mission Council recommended a three-year extension of the Tennessee-Ohio partnership, which messengers approved without any opposition, as did Tennessee Baptists during their annual meeting. Kwok told BP the partnership “has blessed Mission Ohio significantly for which Ohio Southern Baptists are very grateful.”
Messengers also heard reports from representatives of several SBC entities.

Photo courtesy of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
Jack Kwok, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, adds his signature during the SCBO annual meeting to a three-year partnership extension with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

In response to a motion from the 2016 annual meeting, the Mission Council presented a proposed revision to the SCBO constitution and bylaws, in which the term Mission Council replaces Executive Board and a number of related adjustments are made. The SCBO constitution requires the presentation of a written proposal of any revisions to the messengers at an annual meeting and a vote on the proposal at the following annual meeting.
The Resolutions Committee, chaired by Jeff Woolum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Perrysburg, presented five resolutions which were approved by messengers. Among several resolutions of appreciation, messengers honored the late Orville Griffin, SCBO executive director who died in September, and the late A.H. “Brother Sam” Sampley, a retired pastor who helped initiate the chaplaincy component of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Sampley, who died in May, was pastor of First Baptist Church in West Jefferson when he retired in the 1990s. The text of the resolutions can be accessed at
Appalachian Regional Ministries and the SCBO mission support and mobilization resource group coordinated the collection of backpacks of school supplies, clothing and hygiene items to be given to children in Appalachia. Messengers and guests brought 410 backpacks to the annual meeting, and many churches already have sent their backpacks directly.
Messengers approved the recommendation to hold the 65th SCBO annual meeting Nov. 7, 2018, at the Kalahari Convention Center in Sandusky and the nominations of David Frasure, pastor of First Baptist Church in South Lebanon, to preach the annual sermon and Paul Daulton, pastor of Parma Baptist Church in Parma, to be the alternate. The Carl Cartee Worship Band led this year’s music.
Starry, Kwok and Connie Hancock, pastor of Springboro Baptist Church in Springboro, preached emphasizing the theme Mission Ohio: Moving Forward with Our Heads Up.
Starry, preaching on “Living Life with Our Heads Up” from Luke 21:20-28, noted the need to face reality with the assurance that Jesus is coming again and to be ready at all times. With believers living in difficult and challenging days, Starry said Jesus is coming again and will defeat Satan and sin. The imminent return of Christ, he said, must motivate Ohio believers to reach the state for Jesus while being on guard watching for Jesus’ return.
Hancock, preaching from Exodus 25 in the annual sermon, targeted primarily pastors but also making applications for church staff and church members. He exhorted the attendees to be content in the ministry to which God has called them, acknowledging that ministry is hard. He encouraged leaders not only to avoid neglecting their families, but to protect them and include them as partners in ministry. Hancock emphasized protecting oneself as the leader by setting boundaries in time, responsibilities and interpersonal relationships and concluded by affirming that ministry is worth it all.
Kwok spoke from Acts 1:8, noting that Christ’s disciples must provide evidence of their witness to Jesus and His life-changing gospel message in faithful communication and conduct.
He also spoke from the context of Southern Baptists’ witness, later noting to BP, “Through the local witness/ministries of churches who cooperative with local associations and the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists can obey the Great Commission simultaneously rather than sequentially.
“Going to a 50-50 ratio for the distribution of Cooperative Program receipts from SCBO churches has severely impacted the resources and personnel of the Mission Ohio resource team,” Kwok said. “However, we are called to keep moving forward. Moving forward as a good witness to Jesus requires that we keep our heads up by looking to Jesus who is with us all the way. This is Mission Ohio: Moving Forward with Heads Up from Ohio to the ends of the earth.”
Starry gaveled the annual meeting to a close. Registered messengers numbered 231 from 108 churches which included all 15 associations. While Annual Church Profile numbers have become less dependable due to declines in reporting, the best reports available indicate that about 745 congregations with approximately 100,000 members cooperate with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
Auxiliary meetings included a Pastor’s Conference and Luncheon, New Beginnings Banquet for Church Planters and Sponsors, Mission Support and Mobilization Breakfast and Women in Ministry Luncheon. The SCBO Disaster Relief Child Care Unit provided nursery and child care for registered messengers.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by State Convention of Baptists in Ohio staff.)

12/1/2017 9:37:00 AM by SCBO & BP staff | with 0 comments

Amid RVers in the Arizona desert, church offers faith

December 1 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

At least 400 vendors for the nation’s largest RV show plus nine major rock/gem/mineral shows and 15 general swap meets gather each balmy winter in the Sonora Desert of southwestern Arizona.
The vendors see more than a million visitors between December and March who park recreational vehicles, campers, fifth-wheels, vans and sometimes just tents on the flat desert floor around the former mining town of Quartzsite and its 4,000 people.

Photo from, used by permission
Desert diehards and winter snowbirds – through a Baptist church launched by seniors – take their witness to the nation’s largest gathering of RVers in Quartzsite, Ariz.

The Arizona Bureau of Land Management permits camping on its lands in the desert for $180 for six months, according to its website. This makes for an economical – and pleasant, weather-wise – winter base for those seeking relief from the cold and snow in northern parts of the United States and Canada.
And it makes for an extraordinary mission field for Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church of mostly senior citizens.
To hear the story of seniors starting, nurturing and expanding a church when nearly everyone is on a meager retirement income, and establishing a ministry that could reach more than a million people a year, is to hear of a God who does amazing things with obedient and faithful Christians, said Lou Ella Ayers, the sole living original member of Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church.
“God has blessed our church,” said Ayers, whose husband Lloyd died in 2002. “It’s been one miracle after another.”
It’s also been one challenge after another, Ayers wrote in an unpublished history of the church. “Often we think we’re doing God’s will, and perhaps we are,” she wrote. “But God allows us to be caught in the web of the world perhaps to remind us that He is the only one in the church who isn’t expendable. We must look to Him for help rather than our assets.”
From its first exploratory meeting, Quartzsite Baptist has been the combined effort of local desert diehards and visiting winter snowbirds.
At the initiative of River Valley Baptist Association, locals Bud and Betty Botoroff met with visitors Ed and Edna Bond from Georgia in the spring of 1987 to consider starting a Southern Baptist mission. The first service took place that November. A month later, 11 people organized the mission with a commitment to give 10 percent of undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program and another 5 percent to the River Valley Baptist Association.
In 1994, the mission constituted as a church and, in 1999, began meeting year-round. Today, attendance retracts to 30 in the summer when temperatures can hover in the triple digits between June and September and expands to 300 in the winter when temperatures moderate to the mid-70s.

Photo courtesy of Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church
A yearly revival is part of Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church’s outreach among thousands who trek to the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show and adjacent Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama in Arizona’s Sonoma Desert each January.

Quartzsite Baptist’s ministry at two nationally prominent events during the third week of January – the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show and the adjacent Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama, which together are called “the largest gathering of RVers in the world” – started in 1996 as a weeklong series of revival meetings, which have become an ongoing outreach spanning 21 years.
In booths at both events, “Project Quartzsite” volunteers from the church, other churches in River Valley Baptist Association and Campers on Mission from Arizona and Colorado distribute cold water and warm smiles, plus evangelistic tracts and Bibles, while offering the use of chairs for weary shoppers and visitors.
Darla Farella, president of the Arizona chapter of Campers on Mission, a Southern Baptist fellowship, said, “We man the booth, hand out water, tell them about the gospel and about the revival [at Quartzsite Baptist].”
About 4,500 water bottles were distributed last January, each with the ABCs of salvation printed on the label, Farella said.
“We’re there to project the love of Jesus to the people we talk with,” Farella said. “We want to share the gospel with them and to invite them to a church that would mentor them.”
Retired pastor Dale Kronemeyer, a longtime volunteer from Mesa, Ariz., who is coordinating this year’s revival services, noted, “We’ll have a million or more people here that week who might need to hear about Jesus. When you have that many people, it behooves us to have a ministry to try to reach them with the message of the gospel.”
Larry Walker, president of the Colorado chapter of Campers on Mission, said the 12-person team he worked with for eight days last January talked with about 400 people, three of whom made professions of faith in Jesus.
“We’ll talk with people we’ve never seen before in our lives,” Walker said. “They’re all kind of happy because they’re on their own time. Most of them are retirement age. It’s not a youth festival.”

Photo courtesy of Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church
Bottles of water and gospel conversations make the “Prayer Stop” of Quartzsite Southern Baptist Church a friendly oasis during an RV show and swap meet that attract thousands to the former mining town of Quartzsite in the Arizona desert each January.

However, a contingent of nomadic “rainbow people” perhaps 40 or more years younger than senior adults often are seen at the Quartzsite venues, said Farella, a four-year event volunteer.
“They’re today’s hippies,” Farella said. “These kids are searching for answers to life. We have a lot of discussion at times with these young adults, who are 25 to 30 and sometimes younger.”
The acres of displays at the Quartzsite shows include parts for RVs as well as the newest gadgets and, for that matter, entire RVs of varying sizes and luxury levels. Booths display knickknacks aplenty, kitchen, garden, auto and motorcycle tools, handmade and imported jewelry, items related to health and wellness, a wide variety of clothing from head to toe, mining equipment and an unending variety of multi-colored rocks, gems and minerals, especially quartz, the second-most abundant mineral – a combination of silicon and oxygen – found on earth.
“A lot of us will walk around the shows and swap meets doing prayerwalking, asking God to guide us during that week of ministry to touch the lives of people while we’re there,” Kronemeyer said.
“One of the things I have found is that people who don’t want to talk to you about God would love to have you pray for them,” he added.
“Lots of time they’re at a turning point,” Farella said. “Maybe it’s health issues, losing a loved one or being far from their kids and grandkids. They’re open to pray, so you give them the gospel in the midst of the prayer.”
Jan. 18-27 are the dates for Project Quartzsite 2018. For the first time, the church will sponsor an antique and classic car show on Saturday, Jan. 20. This, like the revival services – to become known in 2018 as “Celebrations” – will take place on the church’s five-acre property at the west end of town, 100 N. Kofa Ave. This year’s revival speaker will be retired pastor Byron Banta, former acting executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
“Basically we become a huge outreach event and encouragement for the saints who are traveling and away from their home church,” Kronemeyer said. About $6,000 for Project Quartzsite comes from the church budget. Another $3,000 comes from Cooperative Program dollars distributed by the Arizona convention.
“This is a small church project with limited resources,” Kronemeyer said, “but in my six years serving as a volunteer, I have seen and heard of many wonderful blessings that have resulted from Project Quartzsite.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

12/1/2017 9:27:19 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Navajo DR volunteers reach out to Harvey victims

December 1 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

For generations the Navajo have often been on the receiving end of volunteer mission teams. Buddy Evans chaperoned one such trip in 1985. For two weeks his team led Vacation Bible School in the mornings, revival meetings in the evenings and, in between, explored the desert high country of New Mexico – a stark contrast to their home in Port Arthur, Texas.

Photo by Bonnie Pritchett
A volunteer with the Navajo Nation Christian Response Team (NNCRT) repairs drywall in the flooded coastal area.

Evans found the Navajo culture intriguing and the people’s openness to the gospel encouraging. Nearly a generation later Evans would again be encouraged when the Navajo Nation’s first disaster relief team arrived at his flood-ravaged home and offered aid in the name of Christ.
“I was just amazed how eager they were to come and help me,” said Evans, his voice faltering momentarily with emotion.
News of Navajo families living in Hurricane Harvey’s devastated regions concerned Navajo Christian leaders including tribal President Russell Begaye, a former North American Mission Board missionary, and Vice President Jonathan Nez. But their inability to respond quickly to needs outside the reservation demonstrated a weakness in Navajo churches – they had always been receiving missionaries, not sending them.
That changed in the wake of the storm.
Church and ministry leadership pooled their experience and resources to recruit, train and deploy the first Navajo Nation Christian Response Team (NNCRT) Oct. 21, just eight weeks after Harvey rolled into southeast Texas.
Navajo-led church and parachurch ministries within the reservation have for decades provided material support, including building and repairing homes, for the needy in and outside the reservation. But the NNCRT is the first of its kind and draws exclusively from the Navajo Christian community across the reservation to deploy disaster response teams at a moment’s notice.
“We are the largest tribal nation in the U.S.,” Nez said during a break from floating drywall at Trinity Church in Port Arthur. “We need to emulate service. The world calls it volunteerism. As believers, we call it service.”
The first team deployed for a nine-day trip, clearing debris that remained in homes after the initial mud out, including Evans’ home. But another assessment determined the ceiling had to come out as well. The NNCRT made quick work of the job, a grateful Evans said.
What initially drew the NNCRT to the region was a Navajo family living in Port Arthur. Providing assistance for their own people was the impetus for the response teams’ development. But once in the region, Mike Liles, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief coordinator, facilitated additional work and arranged their stay at First Baptist Church, Groves.

Photo by Bonnie Pritchett
At left, on back row, wearing hat Pastor Mike Due of Trinity Church in Port Arthur, at left on back row, is pictured with members of the Navajo Nation Christian Response Team who served with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention disaster relief volunteers in the flooded coastal area.

Within a week of returning home from the first mission trip, the NNCRT deployed its second crew to Port Arthur Nov. 5 for a week of hanging drywall in the gutted Trinity Church. A disaster relief crew from Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., also assisted at the church and the surrounding community, having deployed fresh volunteers every week for months.
Each work day began with a morning devotional, which Nez led Nov. 7. Drawing from 1 Corinthians 12, he reminded the mixed-race work crew that the spiritually effective Body of Christ is made up of all kinds of people. The message could not have been more poignant, said Mike Due, Trinity Church pastor. Due, who is Caucasian, pastors a predominantly Hispanic, bilingual congregation.
“The humbling thing is it’s the grace of God,” Due said as he surveyed the repairs being made to his church building that had taken on 14 inches of water and held it for a week.
The multi-generational Navajo crew caught Liles’ attention. He’s used to seeing disaster relief teams composed of middle-age adults or retirees. But the dozen male team members hanging drywall and doing repairs were in their early-to-mid 20s through middle age.
It was the younger generation – tech savvy and with a heart for their people to know Christ – that got the NNCRT up and running. Once they had the go-ahead from Begaye, Nez and ministry leaders Seth Stevens, 25, Kyle Curley, 30, and Adam Dehiya, 23, all associated with Western Indian Ministries, created the non-profit organization. They solicited donations and pooled the human and material resources to launch the teams.
Crew members are hopeful the publicity back home about the NNCRT will open more opportunities to share the gospel. John Emerson, a Navajo who works with Cornerstone Ministries, a home repair and construction outreach, knows it is the biblical “man of peace” who may have an easier time getting a hearing for the gospel among the Navajo than someone from another culture.
“If I go to them and tell them about the gospel,” they might be more apt to listen, Emerson said.
The U.S. government’s historical treatment of the Navajo has been, and for some continues to be, a source of tension. Past injustices have left deep scars. That is the context into which Christians – Navajo and non-native American – must speak.
Nez did not dismiss those grievances. But he believes that even in difficult times, God has always had a plan for the Navajo people. And healing can be found among the Navajo, who generally value resilience, and in Christ, who requires forgiveness, he said.
“That’s the story of Christ – moving forward, forgiving,” he said. “That’s more relevant than ever.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

12/1/2017 9:17:49 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

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