December 2017

Fighting taxpayer-funded abortion in Illinois

December 6 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Opponents of an Illinois law that would allow state funding of abortion on demand for state employees and Medicaid recipients have filed suit.

Photo from Facebook, Illinois Right to Life

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law, known as HB 40, earlier this year, and the Thomas More Society filed suit last week on behalf of 10 pro-life organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and eight state legislators filing as taxpayers. The suit, a request to “restrain and enjoin” a misuse of tax dollars, points out Illinois cannot afford the abortions it has promised to cover.
Pro-life experts said they were watching the lawsuit closely because the outcome could have national implications.
Illinois has a balanced-budget requirement but already violated that this year by overspending $1.7 billion, Thomas More Society attorney Peter Breen said.
“Into that scenario, you add an additional mandate that is likely to cost the state tens of millions of dollars,” Breen said. “There’s no money available for these new services.” The Thomas More Society estimates state taxpayers could be on the hook for up to 30,000 abortions, which could cost close to $30 million.
The state legislature passed the bill after the year’s budget was already approved, so lawmakers did not allocate any funds to carry out the measure. The suit argues the law shouldn’t go into effect until June 1, 2018, rather than the planned Jan. 1. Then the legislature could revisit the issue in the next funding cycle.
“The large majority of people of the state of Illinois oppose taxpayer funding of abortions,” Breen said. “So this is something that needs to be squarely placed before the legislature.”
Pro-life advocates say 16 other states already allow Medicaid funds for abortion for any reason.
“What Illinois is doing is starting to gain steam,” Ingrid Duran of the National Right to Life Committee said. “I’m just afraid that this [type of bill] is another one of the bills that will be coming from the other side that will probably be introduced in 2018.”
Laws like HB 40 not only lead to the killing of babies but also don’t make financial sense.
“We know that limiting funding of abortion also has a positive impact of lowering the abortion rate,” Duran said. “In Illinois’ case, I know that they were already financially fragile, and making taxpayers pay for abortion for whatever reason, they will have sunk deeper into a hole.”
In addition to the financial burden on states, laws that force taxpayers to cover other people’s abortions pose major ethical challenges, Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council said.
“The double evils of forcing taxpayers to pay for other people’s elective abortions are, No. 1, that tax funding incentivizes the killing of innocent children,” she said. “It [also] coerces cooperation on the part of unwilling taxpayers. That affects all of us.”
Ruse noted that the late Henry Hyde, the leading sponsor of the Hyde Amendment – which since 1976 has blocked federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life – represented Illinois in Congress.
“Henry Hyde was just a lion in Congress in defense of protecting women and children from abortion, and here his own state, voluntarily through its legislature ... is reaching into taxpayers’ pockets and forcing people to pay for other people’s abortions,” Ruse said. “It’s a sad irony.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

12/6/2017 9:30:00 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments

‘Genesis: Paradise Lost’ docudrama back 1 final night

December 6 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A docudrama defending the Genesis 1 creation story is back in theaters one final night Dec. 11, producer Eric Hovind has announced.
“Genesis: Paradise Lost” will show creation unfold in 3-D animation that Hovind described as utilizing “cutting-edge cinematography, trusted creation science and biblical accuracy” in a Nov. 28 press release. A panel discussion including historians, researchers, scientists and Christian leaders is included in the production.

“Over the past 150 years, we have seen an increasing attack on the idea that God created the heavens and the earth,” said Hovind, president of the ministry Creation Today. “By focusing on creation and the science behind it, ‘Genesis: Paradise Lost’ will reinforce how the universe was intelligently designed by a divine Creator.”
Southern Baptist cultural apologist Voddie Baucham Jr., former preaching pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, narrates the film.
“I love the book of Genesis and I love the fact that it lays the foundation for all the theological themes we find in the Bible. This is the battleground,” said Baucham, who began in 2016 as dean of the newly organized African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. “When we are teaching apologetics, Genesis is the place we have to start!”
The movie refutes 150-year-old evolution science and promises to tell what exactly happened “in the beginning,” buoyed by the expertise of scientists and researchers. Divine design is evident in biology, geology, physics, microbiology and astronomy, the movie contends. It also addresses climate change and the Pangaea supercontinent supposed to have existed more than 200 million years ago.
Public demand after two successful showings in November are driving the movie’s return, Hovind said, with viewings in 3-D and 2-D already scheduled in more than 700 theaters.
“We’ve made something that lets people know God is real, that His Son, Jesus Christ, is real, and that He offers them the priceless opportunity to know Him as their Creator and Savior,” Hovind said. “The implications of accepting or rejecting God’s Word are far reaching. Ultimately, this is a question of what is true. That’s why we felt the need to present truth from its very beginning in ‘Genesis: Paradise Lost.’”
Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, is among panelists and endorsers.
“I am so excited that the message of God’s record of history at its beginning is now a 3D cinema event, and that it is already resonating with so many people,” Ham said in Creation Today’s Nov. 28 press release. “This high-tech feature for the big screen will reveal God’s historic account of creation. More importantly, it will offer an invitation to the viewer to enter into a relationship with Christ.”
Other leaders and experts interviewed and featured in the film include evangelist and author Ray Comfort, founder and CEO of Living Waters; creationist anatomist David Menton; cellular and molecular biologist Georgia Purdom; and Jeremy Lyons, founder of the Center for Creation Studies of Southern California Seminary.
Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick, noted for the top-grossing films “The War Room,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” said the film “will arm those in the faith with the biblical information and worldview needed to fight for truth.”
Fathom Events and Sevenfold Films join Creation Today in presenting the film that first aired in theaters Nov. 11 and 13. Tickets are available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

12/6/2017 9:28:49 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Prayers back home boost new Japan church

December 6 2017 by IMB staff

From the minute Tara Jones walked through the door of her new pediatrician’s office, she knew something was going on that was bigger than the fact she had a sick child.

IMB Photo
The spiritual soil in Japan is hard to till, but International Mission Board missionaries Jared and Tara Jones say the Japanese have a deep longing to know genuine love and purpose.

Tara and her husband, Jared, had been praying for years for God to start a fire in the hearts of the people of Japan, where the couple serves as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. They had been praying for God to open very specific doors – doors that many people had told them were sealed shut. And they had been praying for God to soften hearts in a country many consider hard, cold and closed.
“Jared and I had been praying about where God would want us to start a church,” Tara said. “The time had just never been quite right.” The Joneses weren’t the only ones praying – people back home were too, including Tara’s parents, Bill and Barbara Greene in Alabama.
“My parents are prayer warriors,” Tara said, “and my dad had been praying that God would give us a national partner that we would have to run to keep up with. He said, ‘I just feel like God is going to do something big.’” So that day when Tara met the pediatrician, she knew immediately that God was answering her father’s prayer for God to shake a nation where less than 1 percent of the population claims Christianity.
“Our pediatrician asked me out of the blue, ‘You guys are church planters, right?’ She said she had been praying about starting a church there at her office,” Tara said. “As she shared, I knew God had brought our paths together.”
Amazed, Tara went home and prayed with Jared, and they knew God was confirming this was exactly what He had in mind. The first week the new church opened its doors, more than 70 people came. “Jared and I were amazed – people showed up who we hadn’t seen in years, people we had tried to share the gospel with but thought nothing had taken root,” Tara said. “We just looked at each other and wept. It was a beautiful picture of what God had been preparing.”
The hearts they’ve seen change in the months that followed represent a harvest only God could bring about, Jared said.
“God was already at work,” he noted. “He can make doors where doors don’t exist.” Tara’s dad, Bill, said amazing is the only word he can think of to describe it.
“We’ve seen God’s faithfulness to answer prayer, and we pray that Japan will be the place where the next great spiritual awakening begins,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)

12/6/2017 8:35:46 AM by IMB staff | with 0 comments

Hark! Skipping Christmas carol verses discouraged

December 5 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As worship pastor Andrew Lucius selects songs for Christmas worship, he is considering specific needs in the Georgia congregation he serves. Among his conclusions: singing only the first verse of familiar carols could leave worshipers spiritually malnourished.
The widow “who’s going through the Christmas season the first time this year without her husband ... needs more than the first verse of ‘Joy to the World!’” said Lucius, associate pastor of music and worship at Bull Street Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga. “She needs to sing, ‘No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.’
“When she’s feeling the power of the curse and its application in death, I want her to be singing and believing that,” Lucius said.
This Christmas, Lucius and other worship leaders are urging churches not to neglect subsequent verses of favorite hymns like “Joy to the World!” “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Those verses shape worshipers’ souls, they say, and are rich in theological truth like:

  • “Son of God, love’s pure light”;
  • “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity”; and
  • “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”

Scott Aniol, associate professor of church music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press (BP) “a lot of Christmas hymns are narrative in nature and tell the whole incarnation story ... If you skip a stanza, you’re missing a chunk of the narrative.”
Generally, third stanzas of hymns, Aniol noted, tend to be the narrative’s climax, followed by fourth stanzas that conclude the author’s line of thinking. “It’s ironic that we often skip that third stanza,” he said.
One reason churches tend to eliminate theologically-rich verses from Christmas hymns may be that worshipers are used to brief, three-minute songs in the pop and country repertoire that constitutes their daily music exposure, Aniol said. Thus, hymns may be shortened to fit a similar time frame.
Lucius speculated that some middle verses may be skipped in Christmas carols – and other hymns – because they tend to mention sin and depravity, whereas first and last stanzas often major on happier topics. First and last stanzas also are easier for musicians to read because the words are nearer to the notes on sheet music, he said.
Yet singing only the first and last verses of Christmas songs, Lucius said, can cause churches to mimic a common error within secular American culture: focusing only on the sentimentality of baby Jesus in the manger without considering the salvation He came to win for humanity.
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, urged churches not only to sing neglected verses of carols, but also Christians hymns that tend to be neglected altogether – like “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” “Sing We Now of Christmas” and “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light.”
“Whoever is planning worship should understand they are a curator of an almost infinite amount of [musical] material,” Harland told BP, “and they need to be very informed. Any worship leader ... would be well served to find some old hymnals, do some research and find some of the rich, beautiful texts that come from some of these classic Christmas carols that, quite frankly, may be overlooked.”
Harland called neglected Christmas verses and songs tools to “take the truth of God’s Word and bury it in the souls of people” in “ways that few spoken [media] ever could.”
“The link between music and memory is significant,” Harland said, noting children are taught the alphabet through music and senior adults with severe memory loss can remember hymns at times when nearly all other memories have faded.
Practically, Harland, Aniol and Lucius offered several suggestions for working theologically-rich but neglected content into this year’s Christmas worship:

  • Sing fewer hymns but more verses.
  • Organize times of carol singing outside normal worship services.
  • Sing medleys of carols that include only lesser-known verses.
  • Don’t shy from singing musically challenging hymns like “O Holy Night” with the congregation. People’s “familiarity with it actually overcomes the difficulty of singing it,” Harland said.

Aniol concluded, “If we skip the [neglected] stanzas, we’re missing” an opportunity for “shaping and molding of the mind” with God’s truth.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/5/2017 9:30:34 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministry among Muslims in Moscow

December 5 2017 by IMB staff

Argun* is tough. He and his friend Carlos*, a businessman who moved to Russia to share Christ with Muslims, spend many nights at a martial arts club in Moscow.
And when they do, Argun doesn’t lose very often.

IMB photo
Thousands of Muslims gather for Friday prayers at Moscow’s Grand Mosque. The mosque, which holds more than 10,000 worshipers, was demolished and rebuilt on a larger scale to accommodate the city’s growing Muslim population. It reopened in 2015 and already is bursting at the seams.

When he first met Carlos, Argun was very closed to the gospel, even hostile. He associated Christians with the Russian army, the ones who bombed his childhood home in Chechnya. But ever since Argun moved to Moscow, his friendship with Carlos has softened his heart. He’s reading the Bible, asking questions about Jesus, and trying to make sense of how real Christianity stacks up to the Muslim faith he grew up with. And that, Carlos says, is huge.
Where Argun is from, Islam is part of the fabric of life. Muslim groups are indigenous to the North Caucasus region of Russia, a mountainous area between the Black and Caspian Seas. Chechens live there, but also Circassians, Ingush, Dargin, Avar and Lezghi and 45 to 50 subsets of people, all with their own dialects. It’s a modern-day Babel – geographers once labeled the region “the mountain of languages.”
To say the people there are hard to reach would be an understatement.
The plethora of languages and the lack of local believers have made scripture translation very difficult. Many of the Caucasus people live and work in virtual isolation in their villages. It’s a lifestyle that has preserved the unique and varied cultures for centuries, but it has also kept them from hearing the name of Jesus.
But the tide appears to be shifting. These days, many of them are moving into Russia’s megacities looking for work, reminding Russia of the historic presence of Islam within its borders. Moscow now has more Muslims than any other European city. Its newly reopened Grand Mosque can hold 10,000 worshipers.
It’s a miraculous move of God to shift them into the city and allow such unprecedented access, according to Elizabeth*, a Christian worker among Muslims in Moscow. “God says, ‘If you can’t go to them, I’ll bring them to you,’” she said. “There’s no better time to be in the former Soviet Union. God is moving Muslims right under our noses.”
And like Argun, many are open to friendships with Christians and, over time and through relationships, learning about who Jesus really is.
“I think he’s really questioning,” Carlos said of Argun. Those kinds of questions are what he, Elizabeth, and others serving in Russia hope and pray for daily.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)


12/5/2017 9:29:54 AM by IMB staff | with 0 comments

National CP 5.67% under projection

December 5 2017 by Baptist Press staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in November were 0.05 percent below the first two months of last year’s SBC fiscal year, and 5.67 percent below the projected budget for the first two months of the current fiscal year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page.
As of November 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $30,185,535.65, or $14,018.60 below the $30,199,554.25 received through November 2016. The two-month total is $1,814,464.35 below the $32,000,000 year-to-date allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
The CP is Southern Baptists channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single monthly or weekly contribution. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and cooperating state Baptist conventions for distribution according to the 2017-2018 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
Designated giving of $7,158,078.17 through November was 3.16 percent, or $219,477.10, above gifts of $6,938,601.07 received through November last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
CP allocation receipts for SBC work for the month of November totaled $15,070,894.57. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $3,532,322.24.
The convention-adopted budget for 2017-2018 is as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

12/5/2017 9:28:40 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Support of Israel wanes among younger evangelicals

December 5 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Older American evangelicals love Israel, but many younger evangelicals simply don’t care, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. graphic

Three-quarters (77 percent) of evangelicals 65 and older say they support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel. That drops to 58 percent among younger evangelicals, those 18 to 34.
Four in 10 younger evangelicals (41 percent) have no strong views about Israel.
Fewer younger evangelicals (58 percent) have an overall positive perception of Israel than older evangelicals (76 percent). And they are less sure Israel’s rebirth in 1948 was a good thing.
“For the most part, younger evangelicals are indifferent about Israel,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
LifeWay Research asked 2,002 Americans with evangelical beliefs about a wide range of issues involving Israel – from its place in the Bible to its treatment of Palestinians. The survey focused on Americans with evangelical beliefs rather than self-identified evangelicals.
Overall, this group was supportive of Israel.
Sixty-seven percent have a positive view of the nation. Nine percent have a negative view. Twenty-four percent are not sure.
One-fourth (24 percent) support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel no matter what Israel does. Forty-two percent support Israel but not everything Israel does. One percent do not support Israel. Thirty-two percent have no strong views about Israel.
Few (14 percent) agree when asked whether Israel’s rebirth was an injustice to Arabs in the Middle East. Fifty percent disagree. Thirty-six percent are not sure.

Modern Israel’s birth & policies graphic

About a quarter (22 percent) say modern Israel has been unfair to Palestinians. Forty-one percent disagree. Thirty-seven percent are not sure.
Younger evangelicals (19 percent) are more likely to see the rebirth of Israel as an injustice. Only 34 percent disagree. Forty-seven percent are not sure.
Among older evangelicals, 9 percent see the rebirth of Israel as an injustice, while 62 percent disagree. Twenty-eight percent are not certain.
Older evangelicals (49 percent) are more likely to disagree that Israel has been unfair to Palestinians. Young evangelicals (32 percent) are less likely.
Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, which helped underwrite the survey, said he was glad to see that most evangelicals support Israel.
Still, he found the decline of support among younger evangelical believers worrisome.
“I am concerned for the obvious decline in support for Israel among millennial followers of Jesus, who either do not know what they believe or do not seem to care,” Glaser said.
Darrell L. Bock, a board member for Chosen People Ministries and director of cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary, wonders if Israel is on the back burner for many younger evangelicals.
When they think about the Middle East, they’re more likely to think about Iraq or Iran or the impact of terrorism in the world, Bock said.
“The terror attacks on 9/11 changed the Middle East equation, and young people just aren’t sure where Israel is supposed to fit,” he said.

The Bible & Israel

Most evangelical believers surveyed by LifeWay Research say faith shapes their views on Israel.
Three-quarters (76 percent) say Christians should support the right of the Jewish people to live in the sovereign state of Israel. Five percent disagree. Twenty percent are not sure.
Sixty-nine percent say the Jewish people have a historic right to the land of Israel. Six percent disagree. Twenty-five percent are not sure.
Only 19 percent say Palestinians have a historic right to Israel. Forty-six percent disagree. Thirty-four percent are not sure.
Forty-one percent say Jewish people have a “biblical right” to Israel but have to share it. Twenty-eight percent disagree. Thirty-one percent are not sure.
African-Americans with evangelical beliefs are least likely (54 percent) to say Jewish people have a “biblical right” to the land of Israel. They are also least likely (50 percent) to have a positive view of Israel.
Among other findings:

  • Forty-five percent say the Bible has had the biggest influence on their views of Israel.
  • Sixty-three percent say they support Israel primarily because “God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people.”
  • Twenty-two percent are not sure if biblical promises about the land of Israel are still in force.
  • Eighty percent say God promised the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants for all time.
  • Eighty percent say the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Author Joel C. Rosenberg, who also helped underwrite the survey, said most evangelicals see a connection between the Bible and the modern nation of Israel. But he said he’s worried that’s not the case for younger evangelicals, which could cause evangelical support for Israel to drop in the future.
“Unless the church gives younger believers a healthy, balanced, solidly biblical understanding of God’s love and plan for Israel, overall evangelical support for the Jewish state could very well plummet over the next decade as millennials represent an ever-larger percentage of the overall church body,” Rosenberg said.

Israel & Palestinians

Evangelical believers are uncertain how to resolve differences between Israelis and Palestinians. A quarter (23 percent) say Israel should sign a treaty allowing Palestinians to have a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza. Thirty-one percent disagree. Forty-six percent are unsure.
Six in 10 (59 percent) say Christians should do more to love and care for Palestinians. Sixteen percent disagree. Twenty-five percent are not sure.
Among younger evangelicals, two-thirds say Christians need to do more to care for Palestinians. That drops to 54 percent among those 65 and older.
Most evangelical believers (73 percent) agree they are concerned for the safety of Christians in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Five percent disagree. Twenty-two percent are not certain.
Evangelicals are certain God wants the State of Israel to exist, McConnell noted, but they think Christian love should include Palestinian people.
“They believe God wants Israel to be there,” he said, “but they also think God cares how the nation of Israel acts.”


LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 20-28, 2017. The study was sponsored by Chosen People Ministries and author Joel C. Rosenberg. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. People in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender by age, ethnicity, region, education and household income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 2,002 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.7 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
Respondents were screened to include only adults with evangelical beliefs. Evangelical beliefs are defined using the NAE LifeWay Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition based on respondent beliefs. Respondents are asked their level of agreement with four separate statements using a four-point, forced-choice scale (strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree). Respondents are categorized as having evangelical beliefs if they strongly agree with all four statements:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches. Visit for more information or view the complete survey report PDF.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/5/2017 9:27:56 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Mountaineering family weathers Nepal challenge

December 5 2017 by IMB staff

Radford Bagby* has long heard mountaineering referred to as a “selfish” sport – it can be risky and expensive, and climbers tend to like to keep to themselves.
But Radford found the more he got into it, the more God put a passion for other people on his heart.

IMB Photo
International Mission Board short-term workers hike a Himalayan peak nearly 15,000 feet in elevation. It takes multiple weeks just to access many Tibetan villages from the capital city of Kathmandu.

“I got my bachelor’s in sports education, and we watched a lot of mountaineering documentaries,” he said. “The people interviewed in the films kept talking about how the mountains represented certain gods to them, and I kept thinking somebody needs to go and share truth with these guys.”
So Radford, his wife, Sarah*, and their children have planted their lives in Nepal to take the hope they have to the hard-to-reach people of the mountains.
Getting to the 28 people groups in their country – each group with its own language and culture and separated from the next group by a massive mountain – takes a journey of weeks. For the closest village, it’s a three- or four-day trip, partly by car and partly by trekking on foot.
For the farthest one away, best-case scenario, it’s a 14-day journey one way.
“If everything goes right, and you were to just go to their village, snap a picture, turn around and come right back, you’re still gone from home 28 days. Stay there for any length of time to establish relationships, and we’re talking a long, long trip,” Radford says.
It’s a long-term type of work, he said, slow and largely thankless. “I do think we will see a lot of progress in our lifetime; it’s just very slow. The fields are hard.”
But the Bagbys have watched God use two things to open hearts – a major earthquake and their children. The couple has trekked for days at a time uphill with toddlers, even while Sarah was pregnant. The children got dirty, played with yaks, met strangers and people warmed up to them.
“People see our kids, and they open up about their lives and about the children they lost in the earthquake,” Sarah said. “For them to see us cry with them is a big deal.”
In one particular village, a rockslide from the earthquake came roaring down the mountain, burying a whole group of people underneath. “It’s been more than a year since the earthquake, and people in that village would start crying like it had just happened. It’s still very fresh,” Radford said. “It means the world to them that we came to hear their stories.”
It’s in those moments that they get to share the hope that they have and pray God softens the rocky soil.

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)

12/5/2017 9:09:08 AM by IMB staff | with 0 comments

Time ticking to protect Dreamers, Baptists tell media

December 4 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Two Southern Baptist leaders urged Congress Nov. 29 to act soon to provide a long-term remedy for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Walter Strickland, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Travis Wussow, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist, in a telephone news conference called for a legislative solution as the deadline for action nears. The Trump administration announced Sept. 5 it would end a program that has given about 800,000 people relief from deportation but also instituted a six-month delay for Congress to act.
President Barack Obama established the program – known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – by executive order in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country before their 16th birthday. The order to protect Dreamers – a title that stems from the name of a bill introduced to protect this category of immigrants – came after Congress failed for more than a decade to pass proposals to address the issue.
Dreamers “find themselves in a place of uncertainty and insecurity as a result of action that is not their own,” Strickland told reporters. “Followers of Jesus are called to do justly and love mercy. This means that standing on the side of Dreamers is a job of Christians who are looking to do justice.”
Members of this group of undocumented immigrants “call America their home, and they’re people who by good faith willingly submitted themselves to criminal screening to remain those who are contributing to our society,” said Strickland, associate vice president for kingdom diversity and a theology professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the issue touches on all four categories of the Southern Baptist entity’s agenda: (1) Human dignity; (2) family and marriage; (3) religious liberty; and (4) justice.
It is about human dignity, Wussow told reporters, because every person “is an image bearer of God,” and it is a justice issue for the ERLC “because the Bible is clear we don’t hold children responsible for the actions of their parents.”
This is a family issue, Wussow said, since all of the Dreamers came to this country because of their families and many now have their own families. The ERLC believes “American policy should promote the flourishing of families,” he said.
It also raises religious freedom concerns because “many churches are uncertain about how they can lawfully care for their immigrant neighbors,” Wussow told reporters.
Wussow called on Congress and the White House “to finally serve our Dreamer neighbors well and not let this opportunity slip away.”
Members of Congress have introduced at least six bills to address the situation, according to the ERLC. Nearly half of the time provided by the administration for the Senate and House of Representatives to act has already passed, however.
Congress needs to act before the end of the year rather than wait until the March deadline, according to the National Immigration Forum – which sponsored the telephone news conference. It could take at least seven months to implement long-term relief for Dreamers once Congress approves a measure, the forum and the Niskanen Center reported. Beginning March 5, about 1,000 people a day will lose their protection from deportation, according to the report.
Legislators could defer deportation proceedings as part of the legislation they approve, according to the ERLC.
In early October, a coalition of evangelical leaders organized by ERLC President Russell Moore called for a congressional solution. Among the 51 original signers of a statement were four former SBC presidents.
Signers of the statement said they endorse “the underlying policy aim” of DACA “because we believe this is a special category of immigrants who are not legally culpable, who in most cases have no home other than the United States, and who are a blessing to their communities and to their churches.”
Those who have taken part in DACA have pursued education, worked and paid taxes, served in the military and refused to become involved in crime, according to the statement. “A solution for Dreamers rightly excludes those convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors,” the signers said.
Jose Campo, 22, a DACA recipient who attends a Southern Baptist church in Charlotte, N.C., said on the conference call he is “extremely grateful” for the program. “It has changed my life,” said Campo, who was brought to this country when he was two months old. “I’m extremely grateful for what this country has given me.
“Because of DACA, I’ve had the opportunity to get the feel of what it is to be a normal college student like any of my other friends,” said Campo, a student at Wingate University.
He attends a campus of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, which is aware of his status, Campo said. “I love my church,” he told reporters. “I love my community. They’ve been extremely supportive. And they’ve helped me out tremendously.”
In 2001, members of Congress proposed for the first time the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act – hence the name Dreamers for those in this category of undocumented immigrants. The measure gained reintroduction several times thereafter without passing before Obama acted.
Messengers to the 2011 SBC meeting approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and hold businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/4/2017 9:25:28 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rick Dunbar to succeed Hance Dilbeck as IMB chair

December 4 2017 by Baptist Press staff

International Mission Board (IMB) trustees have a new chairman, Rick Dunbar of Mississippi, replacing Hance Dilbeck, who has been nominated as the next executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).

Rick Dunbar

Dunbar is a member of First Baptist Church in Madison, Miss., and an emergency medicine physician. He has served as an IMB trustee since 2009 and was reelected as first vice president during the trustees’ June 2017 meeting in Phoenix.
Dilbeck, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, resigned as an IMB trustee in advance of a Dec. 11 vote by board members of the Oklahoma convention. If elected, Dilbeck would take office Jan. 15, succeeding Anthony Jordan, who is retiring after nearly 22 years of Oklahoma Baptist leadership.
Dunbar thanked Dilbeck “for his godly leadership” and said he is “humbled to follow his leadership and, together with the other trustees, wish him the best.” Dunbar asked Southern Baptists to pray “that God will be glorified” as he leads the IMB trustees.
IMB President David Platt said, “By God’s grace, Hance Dilbeck has led our trustees well, and I am completely confident in God’s grace in Rick Dunbar to continue the same. I am deeply thankful for a trustee board and trustee leaders who love God, who love the nations and who love missionaries who are spreading the glory of God among those nations.”
Dilbeck, in a letter to the trustees regarding his resignation Nov. 27, said that while he was aware of the possibility he might be asked to lead the BGCO, “the search committee surprised me with how rapidly they progressed. Thus, a transition that I was anticipating might come late spring is already upon us.”
Dilbeck said he had talked to Platt and Dunbar, noting, “As you would expect, both were very kind and gracious. I so appreciate Dr. Dunbar and have every confidence in his capacity to carry on as chairman.
“It has been my pleasure to serve with each one of you. ... Know that I will be doing all I can to continue and even increase support for the IMB coming from Oklahoma Baptists,” Dilbeck wrote.
Tim Simpson, pastor of Greenridge Baptist Church in Clarksburg, Md., will move from the role of second vice chair to first vice chair of the trustees, while Lisa Lovell, a member of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ark., continues to serve as recording secretary.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Julie McGowan of the International Mission Board.)

12/4/2017 9:13:32 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

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