February 2009

Week of prayer for Annie Armstrong offering

February 27 2009 by NAMB

The Week of Prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) is March 1-8. The Biblical Recorder will have full stories online about these missionaries, as well as links to videos and a photo gallery. This year’s offering goal is $65 million.

Day One (March 1)
Gary and Sue Smith, Canada

National Church Planting Missionary
Canadian National Baptist Convention
100 Convention Way
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada T4C 2G2
Prayer Concerns: Pray for Gary’s effectiveness as he sows together with others to start churches. Pray for God to open doors among the different people groups who need an evangelical witness and church. Pray for a great awakening to spread across Canada through Gary’s ministry.


Live With Urgency is the theme for this year's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. View photo gallery of all the Week of Prayer missionaries.

Day Two (March 2)
Al and Noemi Fernandez, Florida

Church Planting
140 East 7th Street
Hialeah, FL 33010
Prayer Concerns: Pray for churches and leaders Al works with to understand the importance of, and become active in, spreading the gospel beyond their neighborhoods to the many unbelievers living in South Florida.

Day Three (March 3)
Daniel and Kimberly Goombi, Kansas

Church Planting, Mission Service Corps
1617 W 26th Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Prayer Concerns: Pray for more churches to become aware of the need to reach sovereign nations of indigenous people within their own state. Pray for Native Americans to be receptive to the gospel and the Lord as the God of all people.

Day Four (March 4)
Brenda Crim, Alaska

Collegiate Evangelism
8310 Summerset Drive
Anchorage, AK 99518
Prayer Concerns: Pray for God to call out more Native Alaskan students who can open doors in villages where there is no gospel witness. Pray for more missions teams to be willing to come serve, especially during the winter, and share Christ in remote areas of Alaska.

Day Five (March 5)
Song Sik and Fanny Kim, California

Church Planting
1324 Carleton Way
Fullerton, CA 92833-2011
Prayer Concerns: Pray for Song and Fanny’s safety as they travel California visiting church planters and seeking new areas in need of a Korean church. Pray for ten new churches to be started in 2009.

Day Six (March 6)
Lamar and Dolly Duke, Pennsylvania

Associational Missions
6538 Baptist Way
East Syracuse, NY 13057
Prayer Concerns: Pray for Lamar to be open to where God is working and for him to see past his own personal desires to what God wants him to do. Pray for more volunteers to assist existing churches in ministries designed to reach the unchurched population.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Duke has accepted a new missionary position as state director of missions for the Baptist Convention of New York.)

Day Seven (March 7)
Paul and Elizabeth Biswas, Massachusetts

Church Planting
129A Brown Street
Waltham, MA 02453
Prayer Concerns: Pray for Paul and Elizabeth as they share the gospel among Muslims and Bengali people. Pray for two new churches and leaders to begin in 2009.

Day Eight (March 8)
Willie and Ozzie Jacobs, Tennessee

National Church Planting Missionaries
3577 Beaver Run Drive
Collierville, TN 38017
Prayer Concerns: Pray for churches to become more missions minded and see the need to share the gospel in their own communities. Pray for believers to be actively involved in sharing God’s love as committed churches work together to reach their state for Christ.

2/27/2009 7:45:00 AM by NAMB | with 0 comments

NAMB commissions largest group ever

February 27 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

RINCON, Ga. — The North American Mission Board (NAMB) conducted the largest commissioning service in its history when 144 missionaries and chaplains were sent forth Feb. 22 at First Baptist Church in Rincon, Ga., about 20 miles north of Savannah.

The 136 missionaries and eight chaplains filed into the sanctuary to the tune of “Victory in Jesus” amid bright-colored flags representing the places they will serve. Most were husband-and-wife teams from 29 state Southern Baptist Conventions, the Canadian National Baptist Convention and the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Photo by John Swain

Phillip Knight awaits his entry as a flag bearer at the Feb. 22 North American Mission Board commissioning service hosted by First Baptist Church in Rincon, Ga. Knight, a Royal Ambassador who attends First Baptist Church in Garden City, Ga., was one of several young people who accompanied the missionaries as they entered the Sunday evening service. View Annie Armstrong Easter Offering photo gallery.

With nine being commissioned, the Kentucky Baptist Convention led the way in the number of new Kentucky-based chaplains and missionaries. The Georgia Baptist Convention was second with eight, followed by the Alabama Baptist State Convention with six and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia with five.

Among the Kentucky contingent: Charlie Edmonds, who serves as pastor of Consolidated Baptist Church in Hazard and is the first African American pastor to plant a Hispanic church east of the Mississippi River.

Another missionary commissioned was Lon Vining, who, with his wife Amanda and four children, serves in Montreal as a church planter and student ministry advocate.

“Montreal is the most spiritually lost city in North America,” said Vining, an Arkansas native. “With a population of 3.5 million, only 0.5 percent of the people there are evangelical Christians.”

Ashley Emmert, a single 22-year-old fresh out of Baylor University and a native of Georgetown, Texas, has just moved to the Bronx where she is part of Graffiti 2, a ministry in which she conducts afterschool programs for first- through third-graders, a program for women in nearby Bronx apartments and a ministry for teens.

Some have wondered if Emmert is scared to live in the Bronx.

“It doesn’t faze me a lot,” she said. “I do get strange looks from people, but I love New York and I plan on staying here for a long time.”

Then there was Carlos Whitley, who is serving in the U.S. Army as a chaplain to the 92D Engineering Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga. Whitley, who expects to be deployed to the Middle East next year, and his wife Pilar have a 3-year-old son, Carlos Jr.

“When you’re a pastor, you have to work extra hard to go visit your people,” Whitley said. “But when you’re a chaplain, the commander says go and you get your boots on the ground and go be with your soldiers. It’s a great ministry.”

Whitley added that the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are having a tough impact on families. Suicides in the military are up along with the number of broken marriages among soldiers, he said.

Before an audience of about 1,000 people at First Baptist Rincon, Geoff Hammond, the mission board’s president, told the missionaries that it is with “a tear in my eye that I know we are sending you out into the most difficult economic situation we’ve ever sent missionaries to in the last 60 years. I know how hard you have worked, the sacrifices you and your families have made.”

Hammond said missionaries are just as affected by economic hardships as other Americans.

“One in nine homes in the United States is vacant,” Hammond said. “Housing prices have dropped. Many of these missionaries need to sell homes since they’re moving to new assignments. Five million people are unemployed. Many of these are Baptists, and we pray for them.

“But ironically, it’s in these tough times that people become the most desperate for God and when our missionaries will have the most opportunities to share Christ,” he said.

Using Matthew 6:25-33 as his text, Hammond advised the missionaries not to worry about “all these things” Jesus mentioned in the Scripture — what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, etc.

“I know your 401Ks are not what they used to be. Maybe you’ve lost 40 percent of your investments. But if Jesus were here tonight, He would say, ‘Don’t worry about all these things.’ To worry about all these things is to be unworthy of the Savior you follow.

“Remember what Jesus said in verse 33: ‘But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you,’” Hammond said. “If you don’t believe that, you might as well just put your Bible away.”

Bob Rogers, pastor of First Baptist Rincon for 10 years and a former NAMB trustee, said his church has been missions-minded for a while.

“But for us, the commissioning service has ramped it up another notch,” Rogers said. “People are going to be even more excited because now it’s personal. They know a missionary personally. It puts flesh and blood on the missionaries they’ve been praying for. It also encourages our people to realize that ‘Hey, the missionaries are just like me. If they can go, I can go serve and be on mission for God.’“

J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, attended the service in Rincon.

“Every commissioning service is electric, but this was one of the greatest worship services I’ve ever been part of,” White said. “The church was packed, the house was excited in the Lord, the music was great and the missionary testimonies are always a highlight. I am so thankful for Bob Rogers and this great missionary church.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/27/2009 7:41:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Montana S. Baptist church wins free speech case

February 27 2009 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

EAST HELENA, Mont. — A Montana Southern Baptist church won a significant legal free speech victory Feb. 25 that could pave the way for other churches to take a stand on ballot initiatives during election years.

At issue was Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena and its urging of church members to support a proposed state constitutional marriage amendment in 2004. A Montana state commission ruled that the congregation had violated state campaign finance laws by backing the amendment without reporting itself as an “incidental political committee” and detailing its financial support, which was minimal.

But a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Feb. 25 that the state commission had violated the congregation’s First Amendment rights and had unconstitutionally applied the law to the church. The decision overturned a lower court decision that had sided with the state.

Montana’s campaign finance laws are some of the most strict in the nation in governing what churches can and cannot do during election cycles. The ruling applies only to Montana and the eight other states in the Ninth Circuit but could be used by courts in other circuits when looking for guidance on the issue.

“I think it’s a huge victory,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Dale Schowengerdt, who helped represent the church. “I think this is going to have far-ranging impact for churches across the country. Confusing and burdensome election laws are being used in battles on marriage and other important issues to silence churches. This validates that churches can play a fundamental role in shaping our democracies and speaking out on important social issues like marriage, and they can’t be silenced by laws that have marginal, if any, connections to a state interest.”

The church could have faced a fine if the state commission’s finding had stood.

With about 100 resident members, Canyon Ferry Road and its pastor, B.G. Stumberg III, began promoting Montana’s proposed marriage amendment in May 2004 when a church member used her own paper to make copies on the church copying machine and placed the copies in the foyer for people to sign. That same month, the church viewed a Sunday evening “Battle for Marriage” nationwide simulcast featuring pro-family leaders such as James Dobson, and Stumberg urged church members to sign the petition to place the issue on the Montana ballot. The proposed amendment defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

The church turned in 98 signatures, and the amendment eventually passed, but Canyon Ferry found itself in hot water because a group opposing the amendment had filed a complaint with the state against the church, saying the congregation had failed to report itself as an “incidental political committee.” The church, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, then filed suit against the state, saying its constitutional rights were violated. Two years later in 2006 the state Commission on Political Practices released its report that said “it is clear” the church became an incidental political committee, “with corresponding reporting obligations.”

But the Ninth Circuit panel found that “the Commission violated the Church’s First Amendment rights.” The panel criticized the fact that any amount of money — even several dollars — would have triggered the state’s reporting requirement. Election laws, it noted, typically are used to let the public know who is contributing substantial amounts to campaigns.

“As a matter of common sense, the value of this financial information to the voters declines drastically as the value of the expenditure or contribution sinks to a negligible level,” Judge William C. Canby Jr. wrote for the court. “... In the present case, the voters could learn little about the financial backing of the ballot proposition by gaining access to information about the Church’s activities of minimal economic effect.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

2/27/2009 7:31:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

More Baptists observing Lent

February 27 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Though traditionally viewed as a Catholic rite, increasing numbers of Baptists are discovering the discipline of Lent.

Belmont University, until recently affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, marked Feb. 25 with an Ash Wednesday service co-officiated by a Catholic bishop.

“As a Christian university, we are strengthened by marking the seasons of the Christian calendar,” said Todd Lake, Belmont’s vice president for spiritual development. “It is thanks to our sisters and brothers in the liturgical churches that we add these practices to our rich Baptist heritage at Belmont.”

ABP photo

For Ash Wednesday, church leaders make the mark of the cross on people's foreheads with ashes.

Growing from the free-church branch of Protestantism, Baptists traditionally have been highly suspicious of virtually all of the rituals associated with the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. That began to break down in recent decades as more Baptist (and other Protestant) churches began observing the season of Advent, the four Sundays immediately before Christmas. Some of those congregations also began to incorporate other parts of the liturgical calendar into their worship planning, including the 40-day period of fasting and prayer before Easter known as Lent.

It begins with Ash Wednesday, in which Christians are reminded of their mortality and their share in Jesus’ death on the Cross.

As Advent is intended to prepare Christians by identifying with ancient Israel in its long anticipation of Christ’s birth, so Lent is intended to prepare Christians by identify with his sufferings in preparation for the Resurrection. For hundreds of years, believers have practiced small acts of self-denial during Lent, such as giving up favorite foods or other habits they enjoy.

Bo Prosser, coordinator for congregational life with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said he sees interest in Lent growing in Baptist churches every year.

“It’s not a program,” he said. “It’s an appreciation of liturgy.”

Prosser incorporated an Ash Wednesday service into the ninth annual True Survivors conference for Christian educators held Feb. 23-25 in Orlando, Fla.

“I think it’s the receiving of a blessing as you move into Lent that really has meaning for people,” Prosser said.

“We’re in the doldrums after Christmas, and now the economy is taking a hit, and I need somebody to say to me, ‘This is going to be OK.’ My pastor touches me and makes a sign of the cross and reminds me that God is with me,” Prosser said. “I think it satisfies a need for a spiritual sign from God that God is still with us.”

Not all Baptists are jumping on the bandwagon. Jim West, pastor of Petros Baptist Church in Petros, Tenn., said real Baptists don’t observe Lent “because for Baptists repentance can’t be confined to a mere 40-day period preceded by the most intense gluttony and occupied with the setting aside of trivial pleasantries and followed by a return to the same-old, same-old,” he said.

“True repentance, real repentance, authentic repentance is a 365-and-1/4-day-a-year occupation which, if pretentiously or lightly observed, becomes nothing more than a joke and a charade and a mockery,” West wrote in a blog. “That’s who Baptists are.”
Randel Everett, who recently took over as executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, reported receiving a mild rebuke when he suggested a season of prayer, fasting and repentance for Texas Baptists during Lent.

“After I had mentioned this idea at a pastors’ conference, one of the pastors helpfully reminded me that I was no longer in Virginia but back in Texas, and our Baptist churches don’t celebrate Lent,” Everett wrote in a column for the Baptist Standard. ”He is right. Some of our churches emphasize Advent, but not many mention Lent. So, I began to say, let’s celebrate 40 days of prayer between the first day of deer season and Super Bowl Sunday. Use whatever calendar works for each church.”
Seasons of prayer and self-denial are nothing new in the Baptist tradition. Southern Baptist churches observe a “Week of Prayer” leading up to annual offerings for both home missions and foreign missions that are promoted — like Lent and Advent — during the seasons leading up to Easter and Christmas.

The notion of a 40-day focus on renewal gained traction in evangelical circles with the runaway success of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, written in 2002.

Warren, a Southern Baptist pastor, explained in a 2006 newspaper interview why he chose to spread his devotional readings over 40 days.
“You don’t feel comfortable in something till you’ve done it for six weeks,” he said. “In 40 Days of Purpose, I was trying to get people to feel comfortable with daily reading, a weekly small group. Some things like these become habits. And, in the Bible, 40 days is used over and over and over in many examples.”

“Noah was on the ark for 40 days,” Warren said. “Jesus was in the desert for 40 days. When Jesus resurrected, he spent 40 days with his disciples. There are lots of 40 days in the Bible.
Today, it’s interesting, a lot of Catholic churches count 40 days during Lent and a lot of Pentecostal churches count 40 days of Pentecost, after Easter.”

Unbound by long traditions of Lent, some Baptist churches adapt the observation to custom-fit their particular congregational needs.

Steven Meriwether, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, recently moved to Tennessee from a church in New Orleans. He said he found it hard to observe Ash Wednesday without preceding revelry — the season New Orleans observes as Carnival or Mardi Gras — so he incorporated a Shrove Tuesday element into this year’s Ash Wednesday service. The church’s regular Wednesday-night meal featured a menu with hot pancakes. It was to be followed by a mini Mardi Gras parade with children before moving to the sanctuary for a service of hymns, prayer, confession and imposition of ashes for those who desire.

Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh offered members and neighbors a Mardi Gras celebration on the Tuesday before Lent begins, and then an Ash Wednesday service the following day.
First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has observed Ash Wednesday for several years, but does not use ashes. Instead the pastor invites worshipers to pick up a small square of sackcloth (the other dominant symbol for penitence in the Bible) and use it in private devotions during the 40 days until Easter.

2/27/2009 7:24:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Arkansas gun bill shot down in Senate

February 27 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A highly publicized bill that would have allowed worshipers to carry concealed weapons in Arkansas churches died Feb. 25 in the state Senate.

According to the Associated Press, the proposal to amend the state’s concealed-weapons law to remove “any church or other place of worship” from a list of places where firearms are banned failed by a voice vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, passed Feb. 11 by the Arkansas House of Representatives by a vote of 57-42, divided religious leaders, with pastors testifying both for and against the measure.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Beverly Pyle (R-Cedarville), said churches should have the option of deciding for themselves whether or not to allow firearms in their buildings. The Arkansas Concealed Carry Association said the issue was not whether weapons ought to be in church but rather the separation of church and state.
“The issue is that self-defense is a moral decision, and that decision should not be made for churches by the state,” opined a blog entry on the group’s web site. ”Churches have the freedom to make this decision free of government coercion.”

The Legal Community Against Violence says 48 states and the District of Columbia allow carrying of concealed weapons. Twelve states and D.C. are “may-issue” states, where officials have discretion about whether to grant or deny a concealed-weapon permit, while 34 are “shall-issue” states, meaning law-enforcement officials must issue a permit to anyone who meets statutory criteria.
Most states that allow concealed weapons place restrictions on where they can be carried. The majority prohibit weapons in schools, government buildings and places where liquor is served. Fourteen states prohibit concealed weapons in places of worship.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the carrying of concealed weapons was prohibited or severely limited in most states prior to the mid-1990s. Then Second Amendment advocates, stunned by losses in enactment of the Brady Background Check Bill and Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1993 and 1994, made overhauling state gun laws the National Rifle Association’s legislative priority.
In the United States about 30,000 people die each year from gun violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Legal Community Against Violence, a lawyer group formed after an assault weapon rampage that began at a law firm in San Francisco in 1993, says Americans own an estimated 270 million firearms -- about 90 guns for every 100 people.
Firearms are the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide, and firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans age 45 and younger.
About 5,000 people a year die from unintentional shootings, and 43 percent of suicides are committed with a firearm. Guns also increase the probability of death in incidents of domestic violence.
Firearm-related deaths and injuries cost $2.3 billion a year in medical bills, half of which are borne by taxpayers. Factoring in legal and societal costs, the legal center estimated the total annual cost of U.S. gun violence at $100 billion.
The sponsor of the failed Arkansas bill said she may try to submit the proposal again. On the same day the Senate killed the concealed-weapon bill, another Natural State lawmaker sought a measure making secret the list of people with concealed-handgun permits.
Rep. Randy Stewart (D-Kirby) filed legislation to make the names of license holders confidential and punish anyone who knowingly publishes them with up to $1,000 in fines and a year in prison.
The bill came in response to an online database to search for Arkansas handgun permits that has since been removed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)


2/27/2009 7:16:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor’s wife grateful for generosity

February 26 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor


Betty Tew said that prayer is the most precious gift she’s getting right now, along with hugs from people she’s known as well as complete strangers.

“There’s so many things you go through,” she said today in a phone interview.

Tew lost her husband last week, buried him Sunday and lost her home early Monday morning.

“We’re going to make it,” she said.

Tew praised the people of her congregation as well as the New South River Baptist Association for stepping up during this trying time for her and her family.

“You couldn’t ask them to have been any better,” she said of their generosity. “People have been just amazing. People I don’t even know.”

Yesterday, Tew had a church friend bring clothes and take her to get glasses. The outpouring of offers started coming in early, according to Lisa King, secretary of Second Baptist Church in Fayetteville, where Tew’s husband was pastor the last couple of years.

“God is really working,” King said. “Through all this (Betty Tew has been) a very strong person. That’s an inspiration to see.”

Tew’s husband, Lawrence, died Feb. 19, and the family buried him Feb. 22. Early the next morning, smoke woke Tew who escaped the house fire in her nightgown and more importantly, with her daughter and son-in-law.

Her cell phone, eyeglasses, credit cards and other important information and mementos were destroyed within a matter of hours. Some photos, edges singed, survived.

A column in the Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday said the couple had lived in the house 17 years. The same day, two checks arrived from people within the community.

Tew said she will stay with her parents until her apartment is furnished. She is planning to rebuild in the same spot.

“God is sustaining her,” King said.

Lawrence Edward Tew, 67, had been pastor at Second Baptist for a couple of years but had been sick for a while. He suffered a second heart attack in 2008 and had open heart surgery in August 2008 and had been in and out of the hospital since then.

Ordained in 1963 at Immanuel Baptist Church, Tew had also pastored Providence and Cumberland Baptist churches in Fayetteville and Wade Baptist Church in Wade.

A member of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s Friends of the Heart Center board of directors, Tew was also chairman of the Zipper Club of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and was on the evangelism committee of New South River Baptist Association.

He is survived by his wife, Betty J. Tew of Eastover; daughter, Vicki T. Vance of Corinth, Ky.; son, Kevin Dean Tew of Sanford; four sisters, Lois Croom of Fayetteville, Evelyn Lashley of Sunset Harbor, Bonnie Woods of Illinois and Barbara Hurley of Maryland; four brothers, John Tew, James Earl Tew and Clarence Tew, all of Fayetteville, and James N. Tew Jr. of Wilmington; and two grandsons.

Memorials to the Baptist Children’s Home, P.O. Box 338, Thomasville, NC 27361-0338.

To help Betty Tew, contact Second Baptist Church, 522 Person St., Fayetteville, NC 28301-5868, or (910) 483-6690.

2/26/2009 11:03:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Won’t you be Annie’s Facebook friend?

February 26 2009 by Jami Becher, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — “The future lies all before,” Southern Baptist missions champion Annie Armstrong said near the turn of the 20th century. “Shall it only be a slight advance upon what we usually do? Ought it not to be a bound, a leap forward, to altitudes of endeavor and success undreamed of before?”

Annie now is in a world she never dreamed of when the North American Mission Board (NAMB) established a page for her on the social networking web site Facebook.

NAMB photo

Missions champion Annie Armstrong was a prolific letter writer who lived at the turn of the 20th century who no doubt would have taken advantage of today’s media to tell the story of Southern Baptist missions. Now, her Facebook page is a new source for missions information and networking. 

Armstrong, one of Southern Baptists’ greatest advocates for missions, was the first corresponding secretary for Woman’s Missionary Union. Whether she was doing hands-on work in her home city of Baltimore or traveling to the mission field throughout the Southeast and West to see firsthand the work that needed to be accomplished, Armstrong was always networking for the gospel. She was passionate about making connections with missionaries and pastors, observing their needs and rallying Southern Baptist to meet them.

She is best known as a prolific letter writer who spent much of her time writing lengthy letters appealing to whoever would listen that more could and should be done for mission efforts at home and abroad. Miss Annie, as she was called, was a thoroughly modern woman using all means available to her to make sure the gospel reached the uttermost parts of the earth.

On May 24, 1900, she told a group of Southern Baptist women, “I believe we have left a century of small things and are on the outlook for larger things. Ways to work we never dreamed of before.” If only she could have known the advances the next century would bring — radio, telephone, television and, by the end of the 20th century, a computer in almost every home. Now in the 21st century a new age of social networking is emerging. Via cell phone and the Internet, people can stay connected at all times. It has never been so easy or so fast to make Southern Baptists aware of their missionaries’ needs.

Armstrong’s passion for missions and her habit of using any means possible to communicate missionary needs leave little doubt that she would have taken advantage of the technology available today to raise awareness of North America’s desperate need for the love of Christ. That’s the reason NAMB’s communications team recently established a Facebook page for her.

“We want to let people know she was a real person who had passion for missions and evangelism,” said Debbie Sills, promotions consultant for NAMB. “Her ‘friends’” — those who are part of her Facebook network — “are missions advocates who share that passion.”

You can find Annie’s page by searching for Annie Armstrong at www.facebook.com. There you will learn more about her life and connect with Southern Baptist missionaries, pastors and staff, and laypeople passionate about impacting their world for Christ. Friends of Annie also get updates about North American missionaries and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

“Annie’s Facebook page has been a great tool for missions education,” Sills said. “Through her page we are able to point people to the Facebook pages of our missionaries. We route them to news from the North American Mission Board at www.namb.net, we post things about the Week of Prayer for North American Missions,” which is March 1-8 this year and is on the web at www.anniearmstrong.com.

Armstrong has approximately, 1,700 friends and adds five to 15 new friends per day. Betty Jo Hudson became Annie’s 1,000th friend a couple of months ago. She discovered Annie’s page after becoming a friend of Lottie Moon. “(W)hen I saw that Annie was there also, of course I wanted to be a friend of Annie as well,” Hudson said. “I have been aware of Annie’s story since my days in Sunbeams and GAs (Girls in Action). My husband and family have contributed to the (offering) for a very long time.” One of Betty Jo’s daughters and her family were International Mission Board missionaries to Russia, so she knows from personal experience the importance of Southern Baptist cooperation through missions giving.

“It’s great to see people interacting with the page,” Sills said. “Some share their church offering goal for Annie, others give encouraging words about North American missions. A few even comment on her hairstyle. It’s one more way we hope to keep the mission cause in front of Southern Baptists.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Becher is editorial assistant for On Mission magazine at NAMB.)

2/26/2009 10:55:00 AM by Jami Becher, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor’s family loses him, home same week

February 25 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

“God is really working,” said Lisa King, secretary of Second Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
“Through all this (Betty Tew has been) a very strong person. That’s an inspiration to see.”

Tew’s husband, Lawrence, died Feb. 19, and the family buried him Feb. 22. Early the next morning, smoke woke Tew who escaped the house fire in her nightgown and more importantly, with her daughter and son-in-law.

Her cell phone, eyeglasses, credit cards and other important information and mementos were destroyed within a matter of hours. Some photos, edges singed, survived.

“People are trying to ask ‘what can we do’,” King said, but Tew responds, “Where would I put it?”

A column in the Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday said the couple had lived in the house 17 years. The same day, two checks arrived from people within the community. A larger church in Fayetteville offered funds to buy Tew a pair of replacement eyeglasses.

Tew doesn’t know it yet, but the church is taking up a love offering tonight at their weekly meeting.

Right now, Tew is staying in a hotel and looking for an apartment.

“God is sustaining her,” King said.

Tew is planning to rebuild in the same spot, King shared.

“She is handling it better than I thought she could,” said Troy Vance, Tew’s son-in-law, to the Fayetteville Observer.

Tew’s sister, Linda Letourneau, was interviewed also. She said they “just literally ran to Wal-Mart, brought two duffel bags and started filling them” with essentials. Out-of-town family, who were on hand for the funeral, lended support. Neighbors also pitched in, bringing blankets to them as they escaped and offering food and a place to stay.

A Cumberland County official said “no foul play” was suspected in the fire.

The fire started around 3:30 a.m. Monday. The family examined the ruins Monday afternoon. The newspaper said the roof had collapsed.

Lawrence Edward Tew, 67, had been pastor at Second Baptist for a couple of years but had been sick for a while. He suffered a second heart attack in 2008 and had open heart surgery in August 2008.

“He’s been trying to bounce back since then,” King said. “It never let up.”

Infections, lungs filling with fluid, it never seemed to end, King said.

“She’s been taking care of him for a long time,” King said, along with Tew’s parents.

He was ordained in 1963 at Immanuel Baptist Church. Prior to coming to Second Baptist, Tew was pastor at Providence and Cumberland Baptist churches in Fayetteville and Wade Baptist Church in Wade.

A member of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s Friends of the Heart Center board of directors, Tew was also chairman of the Zipper Club of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and was on the evangelism committee of New South River Baptist Association.

He is survived by his wife, Betty J. Tew of Eastover; daughter, Vicki T. Vance of Corinth, Ky.; son, Kevin Dean Tew of Sanford; four sisters, Lois Croom of Fayetteville, Evelyn Lashley of Sunset Harbor, Bonnie Woods of Illinois and Barbara Hurley of Maryland; four brothers, John Tew, James Earl Tew and Clarence Tew, all of Fayetteville, and James N. Tew Jr. of Wilmington; and two grandsons.

Memorials to the Baptist Children’s Home, P.O. Box 338, Thomasville, NC 27361-0338.

To help Betty Tew, contact Second Baptist Church, 522 Person St., Fayetteville, NC 28301-5868, or (910) 483-6690.

2/25/2009 9:56:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Hunt: Messengers should ‘LoveLoud’

February 25 2009 by Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Registration for messengers and local hotels is open for the June 23-24 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

SBC President Johnny Hunt has selected “LoveLoud — Actions Speak Louder Than Words” (Matthew 5:16) as the theme for this year’s sessions.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, encourages churches to "penetrate the darkness that is increasing in our world."

Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, told Baptist Press he hopes the LoveLoud emphasis will “challenge our denomination to demonstrate to our communities, our country and around the world the difference Jesus Christ makes in our lives and in our churches.”

“This world has HEARD much from the church about who we are and what we believe. Too often they don’t SEE the church as being a different entity than others in their communities.

“The church simply has to become more of a force to penetrate the darkness that is increasing in our world,” Hunt said.

The annual meeting is being held in Louisville in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the founding of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Churches can register their messengers online at www.sbc.net to avoid waiting at the counter upon arrival at the convention. By registering online, the SBC web site gives a church a messenger reference number form to be printed out and presented by each messenger at the SBC registration booth in exchange for a nametag and a set of ballots. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registrations.

The traditional registration method also is available for those churches that are unable or may not opt to access the online registration. Registration cards are available from state convention offices.

Each year’s SBC annual meeting includes a Crossover evangelistic outreach across the local community (June 20 in Louisville); the Pastors’ Conference, Woman’s Missionary Union celebration and numerous other meetings of SBC-related organizations; child care and age-appropriate programs for children and youth. Details will be appear in April in SBC Life, journal of the SBC Executive Committee, and in Baptist Press.

2/25/2009 4:17:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Yearbook notes SBC, Catholic declines

February 25 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NEW YORK — The nation’s two largest Christian denominations are experiencing slight but statistically significant membership declines, according to the latest edition of the National Council of Churches’ Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Released Feb. 23, the 77th annual compilation of church statistics reports membership in the Roman Catholic Church declined 0.59 percent last year. It also reported a 0.24 percent drop in the Southern Baptist Convention’s membership.

Roman Catholics are still America’s largest denomination, with 67 million members. Southern Baptists still rank second, with 16.2 million. Given the groups’ respective sizes, neither decline is earth-shattering, authors of the study said. But the report raises eyebrows because both groups have in the past grown steadily but now may be joining virtually every mainline church in experiencing persistent membership decline.
According to the 2009 Yearbook, just four of the 25 largest faith groups grew last year. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is up 1.63 percent, to 5.8 million members in North America. The Assemblies of God are up 0.96 percent, to 2.8 million members. Jehovah’s Witnesses grew 2.12 percent and now number 1.09 million. The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) is up 2.04 percent, to 1.05 million.

According to membership figures compiled by churches in 2007 and reported to the Yearbook in 2008, the Catholic Church lost 398,000 members in a year, while Southern Baptists lost nearly 40,000.

Churches with the highest rate of membership loss include the United Church of Christ (down 6 percent,) the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (down 3.1 percent) and the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 2.79 percent.

While still losing members, the American Baptist Churches USA cut its previous decline rate in half, from 1.82 percent to 0.94 percent.

Overall membership in the top 25 groups declined 0.49 percent, to about 146 million.

Eileen Lindner, editor of the 2009 Yearbook, said the annual ranking is often viewed as a gauge for relative vitality of communions reporting either increases or declines in membership, but in reality counting those numbers “is a rather imprecise art.”

Some churches, Lindner said in a title essay published in the new Yearbook, count children who are baptized as infants as members, while others wait until they are confirmed. Still others rely on a “born-again” experience or “believer’s baptism” for counting members.

Some churches, particularly Orthodox and African-American communions, estimate their membership based on numbers of their constituents living in a community. The National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., sixth-largest faith group with 5 million members; National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., with 3.5 million members and ranked No. 8; and Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., ranked 11th with 2.5 million members, all fall under that category.

Further complicating the picture, Lindner said, many church members relocate, join other congregations or drop out of church without removing their names from the rolls. Some traditions, by assessing dues based on the number of parishioners, encourage local churches to cull their membership rolls regularly. But others, like those that reward numerical growth, encourage padding.

Non-denominational and megachurch congregations often permit or encourage people to attend but not join. Emergent-church fellowships don’t always place emphasis on formal membership, but may instead measure church effectiveness by the number of meals served or other forms of ministry.

Studies show younger generations are either mistrustful of institutions or find them irrelevant, making them less likely to join a church.

Lindner said all this calls for rethinking church membership as a measure of congregational health.

In the 1960s, for example, growth of evangelical churches while mainline churches declined prompted some to believe that conservative churches grow because they maintain traditional teaching and place high expectations on members while liberal churches, by nature, become secularized and tepid.

Later studies attributed those patterns to demographics, suggesting that higher birth rates and younger memberships explain growth and decline better than theology.

Still others said declining numbers forecast a gradual secularization of American culture similar to what happened in Europe following World War II.

“Today it appears that another dimension of this discussion has been opened,” Lindner wrote. “Now a variety of expressions of church has become a part of the American religious landscape, and these expressions have begun to alter, once again, the place of numerical assessment of patterns of religious affiliations.”

“Whether or not church membership counts remain the most common measure of church vitality in the long term may be open to question,” she wrote. “There is little doubt that the topic of church membership and its meaning are undergoing a review in the life and organization of many church bodies.”

She said Rick Warren, for example, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life, has reasserted the importance of membership by developing an elaborate “Covenant of Membership” for those who would affiliate with his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

The 2009 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches is available for order at http://www.electronicchurch.org/.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)


2/25/2009 4:11:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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