February 2010

OLYMPICS: 'Wild guy' speed skater finds light

February 14 2010 by Tim Ellsworth

VANCOUVER (BP)--Olympic gold medalist Chad Hedrick certainly thinks he has the ability to contend for more hardware at this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

But more important than medals to Hedrick is the opportunity this year's Olympics will give him to talk about his newfound faith in Jesus Christ, and to show the world the way in which the Lord has changed him.

"I want people to see God in my life," Hedrick said.

Yes, the 2010 version of Hedrick is a long way from the Hedrick of old, the Hedrick who, according to his Wikipedia page, earned the nickname "the Paris Hilton of speedskating" for his active nightlife. He grew up in Houston, which he says is probably the last place that an ice speedskater would be raised. Hedrick's dad owned a roller rink, so Hedrick was a self-described "rink rat" as a kid. He started roller skating at age 2 and spent several hours a day on wheels until age 12.

By then, inline skates were the rage, so Hedrick switched and began competing on an international level as an inline skater. He was a world champion for nine straight years and began to have aspirations of competing in the Olympics -- so he switched again to the ice to pursue that dream. Within 18 months, he won the world championship in 2004.

Olympic glory soon followed, as Hedrick won three medals at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy -- gold in the 5,000 meters, silver in the 10,000 meters and bronze in the 1,500 meters. But all the success did little to provide purpose for Hedrick's life.

"You grow up, and when people ask you if you're a Christian, the proper thing to say is, 'Yeah, I'm a Christian,'" Hedrick said. "But saying you're a Christian and living like a Christian are two completely different things."

Hedrick in recent months began noticing how people around him were living, including the quality of the lives of those who professed to be Christians. He was intrigued by what he saw. He began asking questions of those people and investigating Christianity, ultimately choosing to place his faith in Christ and be baptized at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, in November. His wife Lynsey was baptized with him.

Olympic speedskater Chad Hedrick

"Now I don't just say I'm a Christian," Hedrick said. "Now I live like one."

The transformation in Hedrick's life was speedy and significant. Whereas before, Hedrick was abrasive and rough, especially when he lost, now he's a better sport. Before, he had a "me against the world" mentality, in which he felt a strong compulsion to prove that he was the best. Now he says his values and his perspective are different. His personality, he says, has been polished by God.

"I realize that whatever happens, if I go and give 100 percent, God has avenues that He wants me to follow," Hedrick said. "With every experience I have in life He's trying to teach me something and point me in the direction that He thinks I should go."

For now, that direction is Vancouver, where Hedrick will compete in four events -- the 5,000 meters (Feb. 13), 1000 meters (Feb. 17), 1500 meters (Feb. 20) and team pursuit (Feb. 26-27). And no matter the outcome of those races, Hedrick says he will be content, especially if his story causes others to note the way that his life has changed.

"I feel like I'm -- I don't want to be conceited and say a role model -- but I'm proof that somebody who had an active nightlife as the wild guy in his sport could even see the light and made the best of the situation," Hedrick said. "When people see that I'm a Christian, there's proof that even the wild guy can find the light."

Tim Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.


2/14/2010 11:00:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth | with 0 comments

Baptist volunteers endure squalid prisons

February 14 2010 by BP Staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--As Haitians mark the one-month anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed their capital, Port-au-Prince, 10 American missions volunteers sit in Haitian prisons, waiting to learn their fate for trying to take 33 children out of the country allegedly without proper documentation.

The 10 Baptists, most of them from two Idaho churches, received good news Feb. 11, but not as good of news as they had hoped. Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil recommended that they be released while the investigation continues, but they apparently won't be freed until this week at the earliest because the judge's recommendation must first be reviewed by the prosecutor, Josephe Mannes Louis, who can agree or object to the recommendation and was quoted as saying his own recommendation won't come until next week. The judge, though, still will have the final word.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper visited the Haiti prison, seen here in a screen capture, where the five jailed Baptist volunteers are being held. One American held there for three days said two five-gallon buckets served as the bathroom facilities.

It remains unclear whether the 10 will be able to return to the U.S. or must remain in Haiti while the investigation continues. Saint-Vil was quoted during a television interview as saying, "If the release of the Americans is granted, they will be able to leave the country, as long as their attorney provides guarantees for them." Other reports, though, have said Saint-Vil might require them to remain in Haiti.

The conflicting and ever-changing reports have tested the patience of the families back home, who remain prayerful and hopeful that their loved ones will return soon.

The families released a statement Feb. 11 through one of the churches -- Central Valley Baptist of Meridian, Idaho -- thanking people for their "continued thoughts and prayers."

"Our confidence continues to remain both in our faith and in the attorneys that represent our people," the statement read. "We understand that judicial proceedings take time, and even though we wanted them home yesterday ... we will be just as glad to have them home tomorrow. This week family members have met together to pray ... to consult legal counsel ... and to consider how best to bring our people home. We know they will have challenges when we see them again.

"Their experience has been both physical and emotional. They will need time to rest and reflect. Time to embrace one another and enjoy their freedom. Time to prepare themselves for the day when they will want to face the media."

The conditions in which the 10 are being held are certainly substandard, perhaps even inhumane.

The five female volunteers are being held in a prison located in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville. A New York Times reporter, Ian Urbina, interviewed two of the women for a Feb. 8 news article that described "a scorching jail cell about 8 feet by 5 feet" with "a dirty concrete floor."

No other details about the women's quarters were relayed in the article, but it did say that one volunteer's feet were bandaged "from infected mosquito bites." While the detainees said guards and other prisoners were treating them well, one of the women who is a diabetic went without insulin for a week before receiving help from an unidentified missionary. The group's leader, Laura Silsby, told Urbina, "It has mostly been missionaries not the government that has been providing us with food and medicine."

The men, by contrast, are imprisoned in Haiti's notorious National Penitentiary, a facility located just a few blocks from the country's National Palace in central Port-au-Prince that was known for squalid conditions before it was largely destroyed by the Jan. 12 quake.

The prison, which played a key role in Haiti President Rene Preval's campaign to establish order in the country's gang-infested slums, was the focus of a May 2008 report by the Pulitzer Center that revealed horrific conditions: up to 67 men in a single cell, human waste covering the floors, rampant abuse and high rates of tuberculosis and HIV.

That, of course, was before the Jan. 12 earthquake collapsed much of the building, allowing as many as 5,000 prisoners to escape back into the slums.

A week ago, however, Tim Morris -- a former FBI agent providing security for a medical team in Haiti -- spent three days in the National Penitentiary. Morris was detained at the airport in Cap Haitien when police opened his gun case to inspect a shotgun and a pistol, according to the Seattle Times. Morris said he had disclosed the weapons both before departure from the United States and upon entering Haiti. Police nonetheless handcuffed Morris and took him to a prison cell that held 46 other men.

The Redmond, Wash., resident told The Seattle Times the stifling, 18-by-18-foot cell had "no bathroom facilities except two five-gallon buckets, and, oh my ... did it reek. They were absolutely inhumane conditions." Morris said he at first was afraid the other prisoners might assault him but was relieved when the other prisoners insisted he sleep on one of the cell's three beds because he had been arrested while trying to help the Haitian people."

Nine of the 10 Baptists are members of Southern Baptist churches. Silsby is a member of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, as are group members Charisa Coulter, Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford. Three detainees are from Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho: pastor Paul Thompson, his son Silas and church member Steve McMullen. The other detainees are Jim Allen of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, and Drew Culbert, an assistant youth pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Bethel Baptist is the only church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editors Michael Foust and Mark Kelly and editor Art Toalston.


2/14/2010 10:52:00 AM by BP Staff | with 1 comments

Safe haven after the earthquake

February 12 2010 by Tristan Taylor, International Mission Board

He couldn’t find the words to pray. He could only sing.

Concord Baptist Church pastor Ronel Mesidor had left his Port-au-Prince office at Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry, at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 12 to drive to his home in nearby Carrefour. Before he was halfway there, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people shook Haiti.

Dusk soon settled over the chaotic city. Shocked and grief-stricken people, crumbled buildings, crushed cars and dead bodies made streets impassable, so Mesidor continued home on foot.

Feeling his way through the darkness and devastation, the Haitian Baptist pastor sang every song that came to mind as he walked throughout the night. It was the longest night of his life, he said.

Unable to reach anyone
“First, I tried to call my family on my cell phone,” Mesidor said in Creole through a translator. “

It was difficult because communication was down. I also tried to call the church, but I couldn’t reach anyone.” It was the next morning before Mesidor arrived at his church in Carrefour, a Port-au-Prince suburb about 12 miles south of the capital. He heaved a sigh of relief when he found his wife, Manise, there and unhurt. He soon learned his five children were OK as well. Miraculously, the church and his house, located on the same block, were intact.

But the earthquake has taken its toll on the 250-member Concord congregation. Eight church members died as a result of the disaster, leaving four children as orphans. In addition, 100 members suffered broken bones, 130 homes were destroyed and 45 damaged.

People who had lost their homes soon began arriving at the church — they had nowhere else to go. Manise, a nurse, turned the Mesidor home into a clinic to care for the injured. When space ran out, the pastor opened the church.

Alive for a reason
“I think God left us alive for a special reason,” Mesidor said. “Because these people need someone to take care of them.”

Carrefour is known as a dangerous place to live because of gang violence and other crime. Plus, nearly 4,000 inmates escaped from a nearby prison damaged in the earthquake. But Mesidor has noticed a change in the community since Jan. 12 — people are more subdued. Regardless, these are the people the pastor is dedicated to serving.

“I still believe we should show them the love of Christ,” he says. “Once they understand who God is, they will know how to love others. This is why the church is here.”

IMB photo

Since the earthquake, makeshift camps have cropped up in and around Port-au-Prince. Mothers cook and care for their children. Everyone tries to hold out hope for relief and somewhere else to go.

Haitians helping each other
People continue flocking to the church in search of medical care, food and a word of encouragement. It has become a hub of grass-roots relief activity. One of the pastor’s friends with medical experience is treating people in the makeshift clinic set up in the sanctuary. Manise helps prepare food for all the workers. And church members help clear rubble around the building.

Relief has started to arrive from other sources, too. Dominican Baptist and Southern Baptist assessment teams have visited the church and delivered supplies.

International Mission Board missionary Dawn Goodwin, who has worked with Mesidor, says the church is being used as a distribution center for supplies sent by Dominican Baptists. It is one of several churches the Dominican Baptist Convention is assisting following the quake.

Rising leader
“He’s extremely organized,” says Goodwin of Mesidor. “On his own, he sent people out to seek information from all these other churches” in and beyond the epicenter — such as damage to churches, church members’ homes, injuries and deaths.

“He’s a young, up-and-coming leader in the convention (Baptist Convention of Haiti),” Goodwin continues. “He goes out of his way (to help), not just for his own church. … He’s very self-sacrificing.”

The Mesidors have 12 additional people living in their home now, including four children they’ve taken in. Three are orphans of deceased church members. And 20 people are sleeping inside the church, 40 on the church grounds and others in the Mesidors’ car or on their porch.

But they all have a place to call home. Each night, Mesidor leads a small worship service.

“Every night we meet together and tell jokes,” Mesidor says, to find comfort and relieve stress. “And after that, we pray and sing together.”

Mesidor believes good can come from this tragic earthquake. More than anything, he prays that Haitians will find hope in God.  
2/12/2010 8:33:00 AM by Tristan Taylor, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

Pray for Haiti

February 12 2010 by Baptist Press

IMB photo

In the midst of an area occupied by a throng of others who’ve fled their homes following the earthquake, this young women finds a spot to read her Bible.

Feb. 14 has been chosen as a day to specifically pray for the needs in Haiti.

The points of the Haiti intercessory prayer list are:
  • Pray that the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the Haitian people will be met in a timely way by all appropriate means.
  • Pray for the government of Haiti as it works with international relief organizations to restore basic services to its people.
  • Pray for the thousands of volunteers who are serving in Haiti as the hands and feet of Christ.
  • Pray that their stamina will be unflagging, and that their compassionate service will point to the saving power and presence of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of the Baptist detainees in Haiti.
  • Pray that the Lord will surround the families and churches of the Haiti detainees with His tender mercies and sustain them with His arms of compassion.
  • Pray that the U. S. Department of State will use all diplomatic means available to advocate for the humane treatment of its citizens and will work tirelessly to secure a timely resolution to this unfortunate situation.
  • Pray that donors will not be discouraged from contributing to the ongoing relief needs of this devastated country.
  • Pray that the situation in Haiti will heighten the awareness of all volunteer groups of the need for adequate training, orientation, and preparation prior to embarking on ministry trips at home or abroad.
  • Pray that doors of opportunity remain open for our trained Disaster Relief volunteers to assist those placed in need whenever and wherever a natural disaster may occur.
  • Pray that the disaster in Haiti will serve as a catalyst for a new generation of volunteers to enlist for training through SBC Disaster Relief for effective deployment and service for both present and future needs.
2/12/2010 8:31:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay to be digital leader, Rainer says

February 12 2010 by Micah Carter and Rob Phillips, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LifeWay Christian Resources will maintain its biblical fidelity, but its delivery systems are changing to keep pace with the digital church, President Thom S. Rainer told trustees at their Feb. 8-9 semiannual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Casting a vision for the next decade, Rainer said LifeWay will be “the ministry leader in the digital world,” such that “when people think about digital Christian resources, they will look to us. A digital strategy is critical to our future.”

The type of organization that LifeWay is today must change in view of the technological advances of the global market, Rainer said. The ministry identity and biblical commitments will remain the same, he said, but business will look different as LifeWay moves forward into the digital age.

Rainer told trustees that “LifeWay’s digital strategy is to provide the right information to the right customer at the right time through the right medium at the right price.”

Technology, especially mobile devices, provides incredible opportunities and challenges for LifeWay to deliver its resources to customers in new, relevant and innovative ways, Rainer said.

More people are coming to LifeWay for digital content, he said, noting that church and ministry leaders are going online to download resources from multiple areas of LifeWay.com, such LifeWay Kids, LifeWay Women and others.

“We want to provide the best content and delivery that makes a ministry difference to our constituents and customers,” Rainer said. “With cutting-edge ministry resources and a tech-savvy business strategy, we are better positioned and aware of the opportunities that lay before us.”

LifeWay’s digital publishing and delivery has seen rapid growth in recent months, particularly through steep gains in B&H Publishing Group eBook sales as well as LifeWay-produced iPhone apps, some of which appear in the top 25 lists for their respective categories.

Rainer said LifeWay is “prayerful about what God intends to do through us as the digital age advances. We have entered this climate with aggressiveness and the sense that God is leading us here.”

Chief Financial Officer Jerry Rhyne, in his report to trustees, discussed how LifeWay is “navigating the new normal” as the economy is now in the 26th month of the recession and one-third of the nation’s chief financial officers do not expect the economy to begin recovery until at least 2011.

Citing recent survey results from LifeWay Research, Rhyne pointed out that many churches are coping with declining tithes and offerings by paring expenses, cutting staffs and delaying or cancelling construction projects — all of which affect LifeWay.

Despite these challenges, Rhyne said LifeWay is adjusting well with a dedicated workforce, a strong balance sheet, a diverse customer base and other key factors. “It’s important to remember that LifeWay is a ministry funded by a business model,” he said, “but that model needs to be adjusted from time to time.”

LifeWay’s executive leaders updated trustees on the following ministries:

Church resources
LifeWay Church Resources continues its strategic focus on churches, Vice President John Kramp said. “These are times of great change in churches,” he said. “Our teams meet with thousands of pastors and church leaders each year. We hear their hearts and work hard to provide resources to meet their needs.”

Kramp highlighted initiatives the division has launched in the last five years, including Worship KidStyle; the KNOWN resources for student ministry; Threads, to help churches minister to young adults; and The Worship Project, which includes new print hymnals and LifeWayWorship.com. In addition, the division is increasingly engaging black churches and Hispanic churches and is offering two free resources in multiple languages: “Share Jesus Without Fear” and “The Call to Follow Christ.”

BP photo by Kent Harville

David Francis, left, LifeWay’s director of Sunday School, and a panel address trustees on the church resources committee on the theme, “The work of church consulting.” LifeWay’s trustees met Feb. 8-9 in Nashville.

Kramp said the church resources division has expanded its small-group ministry with Serendipity resources and the new Small Group Life resources and launched a new women’s ministry event, Deeper Still, with Beth Moore, Kay Arthur and Priscilla Shirer. At the same time, the division has released additional resources for Sunday School built on the LifeSpan Spiritual Development strategy.

“Our ministry focus is simple,” Kramp said. “We want to know the church, love the church by being advocates for the church and to help people through churches.”

LifeWay Christian Stores
Vice President Mark Scott reported solid ministry results in the first quarter of the fiscal year in spite of a challenging economic environment in which customers continue to spend cautiously. Sales of music, Bibles and books continued to grow, and the stores are testing a number of digital initiatives that make it easy and affordable to purchase and download books and other resources. “We have solid strategies and sound operating plans,” Scott said. “We are executing well, and we have strong relationships with our customers. We are extremely grateful for each one.”

Scott reported that the stores collected more than $16,000 at the check-out counters in recent weeks to assist in relief efforts in Haiti.

The number of LifeWay Christian Stores now stands at 154, and the number of store customers continues to grow, Scott said.

B&H Publishing
Vice President Brad Waggoner reported a strong first quarter due in part to the continued popularity of “The Love Dare,” the trade book featured in the movie “Fireproof”; “The Love Dare Day by Day” devotional, which provides 365 days of fresh content and deeper studies; improved cost controls; and strength in all product lines. To date, “The Love Dare” has been translated into 23 languages.

Waggoner said B&H has followed up the success of The Apologetics Study Bible with the just-released Student Apologetics Study Bible. He also highlighted the growing popularity of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, distinguished for its accuracy and readability. This fall, B&H will release its HCSB Study Bible.

CrossBooks, the new imprint that combines the best of traditional and self-publishing, already has released 100 titles, and 100 more are in the works. Looking ahead, Waggoner previewed the release of the trade book “Transformational Church” by Rainer and LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer, along with several other resources.

Waggoner also said he is encouraged by new resources being developed from the imprints B&H Academic, B&H Women and Fidelis.

Executive Communications and Relations
Vice President Tom Hellams highlighted several ways his division carries the story of LifeWay ministries further through community relations, ministry ventures, Holman Bible Outreach International and news and information services. As an example, he traced the development of “Bible Navigator X” for Xbox 360 -– the first complete Bible available on a video game console — developed by B&H Publishing Group. The product’s wide exposure in Christian and secular media was due to careful planning and detailed execution that included traditional media, web outlets, multimedia and social networking.

“We no longer search for the news; the news finds us,” Hellams said. “The whole world of communications has changed, and we are changing with it.”

Vice President Tim Vineyard reported that the technology division is embracing change to lead LifeWay into new areas of ministry. This involves more efficient operations and more environmentally responsible management of technology assets. He said his division has upgraded LifeWay’s warehouse management system, human resources and billing systems and e-mail and office software to increase productivity and efficiency.

Leading technology providers like Google, Apple and Microsoft are changing the process by which published goods reach their audiences, Vineyard noted. In response, LifeWay is pursuing an ePublishing strategy that delivers content in virtually any format users demand — from iPhone apps to books on Kindle to digital curriculum downloads.

Vineyard introduced the LifeWay Digital Church in which LifeWay is bringing the best digital solutions together in one place for individuals and churches. These solutions include website hosting through LifeWayLINK, music and worship planning from LifeWayWorship.com, church management systems from Fellowship Technologies, and online giving from Service U.

“We are making significant investments with new technology that will enable LifeWay to better serve our customers,” Vineyard said. “Customer behavior is changing and incorporating a variety of computer-based and hand-held devices. LifeWay is making it easy to search for, find, select and purchase LifeWay resources.”

Finance and business services
Vice President Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay’s chief operating officer, reported that the finance and business services division experienced a strong year with continued cost saving initiatives that will benefit LifeWay in 2010 and beyond. Rhyne said LifeWay’s conference centers continue to feel the impact of a sluggish economy yet continue to attract guests with new and renovated facilities.

At Ridgecrest, the Johnson Spring Convention Center is well into its first year of operation, while Spillman Auditorium is undergoing renovations. Ridgecrest also is accommodating new groups, such as older adults, to offset an economy-driven softening of bookings by other groups and individuals. At Glorieta, the new operational model featuring reduced winter operations is complete. Renovations continue on the Chuck Wagon restaurant and New Mexico Hall conference rooms.

Rhyne also reported that LifeWay camps at Ridgecrest and Glorieta remain popular, with some sold out well in advance. “I am pleased and thankful for what we are seeing in the camps,” Rhyne said, noting that updates to camp facilities continue to attract attendees.

LifeWay Research
Director Ed Stetzer highlighted the growing number of media through which LifeWay Research is sharing information, reaching consumers and adding value to the LifeWay brand. The digital media marketplace enables users to “go straight to the content they need” and “use our content in ways we would never imagine.” He cited recent stories on LifeWay Research that appeared in USA Today and other secular media, as well as Christian magazines and news services, local news outlets and a variety of social media.

The ever-changing media landscape has facilitated LifeWay Research’s ability to disseminate its message to broad audiences via “new media” such as blogs and Twitter as well as traditional media. In a media environment where numerous Christian research organizations are quoted, Stetzer said LifeWay Research “wants to be in the story, and sometimes be the story” in order to inform and equip local churches in ministry.

Other business
During their business sessions, trustees:
  • elected as chairman Montia Setzler, senior pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif.; vice chairman, Michael Deahl, a Dallas attorney; and recording secretary, Mark Dance, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Conway, Ark.
  • approved LifeWay’s response to motions referred to LifeWay at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention. The responses will be submitted to the SBC for inclusion in the convention’s 2010 Book of Reports.
  • approved the allocation of reserve funds for unbudgeted store acquisitions during the current fiscal year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Carter is associate to the vice president of the executive communications and relations division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Phillips is LifeWay’s director of communications.)
2/12/2010 5:19:00 AM by Micah Carter and Rob Phillips, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bars, not church, best place to meet friends

February 12 2010 by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service

Americans say Starbucks, Chili’s and bars are better places than church to meet new friends, according to a new survey.

Restaurants, bars or pubs attract 18 percent of Americans as a place to meet people, while churches draw 16 percent and online venues like Facebook pull 11 percent, said the survey released in late January by Group Publishing, a nondenominational Protestant publishing house in Colorado.

The online survey polled nearly 800 respondents, more than three-quarters of whom identified themselves as Christians, and has a plus or minus error rate of 4 percentage points. Group Publishing commissioned the survey in order to “determine where the church ranks as compared to other around-town’ venues when measuring the places, people and attributes that define friendly to Americans today.”

Photo by pop catalin/stock.xchng

Bars, coffee shops and restaurants topped a recent survey of places to meet new friends. Churches lagged behind these hot spots but edged out Facebook in the survey.

Why would people choose a restaurant or bar over church? Chris Howley, director of research of Group Publishing, said many people feel “compelled” to be in church. They go as a sense of obligation and therefore have no spiritual motivation for attending. The social atmosphere of a pub or restaurant draws people in without the feeling of obligation, he said.

The church may not be America’s favorite spot to meet new people, but it is one of the friendliest. Americans said church is the second-friendliest place in town, behind, unsurprisingly, home. Restaurants and bars came in third, followed by grocery stores and coffee shops.

While the results did not conclude churches are unfriendly, Howley said the results could have been better. In particular, pastors could be friendlier. A list of the friendliest people in town revealed a close friend at the top, followed by a family member, neighbor, co-worker, minister or religious leader.

The ‘friendly index’ of pastors was not much higher than hairstylists and store clerks, said Jon Vaughan, Group Publishing’s corporate marketing director.

Social media, the third favorite place to meet new people, may a new way to boost the friendly quotient.

“We don’t think the church should see (social media) as a threat at all, but they should embrace the Internet. It’s a way to engage people and bring people in,” Howley said.

Vaughan concurs. “Since the Internet has become an integral element of our daily lives, pastors and church leaders must be more creative in facilitating social networking — both face-to-face and through the Web,” Vaughan said.

Once the data came in, Group Publishing examined the factors making a place “friendly” and offered insight to churches on how to create a more welcoming atmosphere. Among top factors constituting a friendly place were “making me feel like I belong” and “making me feel comfortable,” said the survey.
2/12/2010 5:16:00 AM by Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Caner calls IMB Camel strategy 'heresy'

February 11 2010 by Bob Allen, ABP News

Lynchburg, Va. (ABP) -- The president of Liberty Theological Seminary has labeled a method used by Southern Baptist missionaries to spread the gospel in Muslim lands deceptive and heretical.

In a podcast interview on the SBC Today
blog, Ergun Caner blasted the "Camel Method," developed by longtime International Mission Board strategist Kevin Greeson to engage Muslims into talking about Jesus using a familiar legend from Islam. The story goes that every good Muslim knows 99 names for Allah, but there is a 100th name that was revealed only to the camel. 

According to the
Camel Method, the 100th name is Jesus, or "Isa," as the name is rendered in Arabic. Using selected verses from the Quran, the method establishes three points: that Isa -- honored in Islam as a prophet but not as divine -- is holy, has power over death and knows the way to heaven. From there it goes on to present the plan of salvation by relating it to Eid al-Adha, the Islamic feast of sacrifice.

Through reportedly very effective in working with Muslims, the method has detractors who say it crosses a line between "contextualization" -- embracing Christianity in ways that are culturally relevant in a given society -- and "syncretism" -- a fusion of two different belief systems that cannot be reconciled with biblical Christianity.

For Caner -- himself a Southern Baptist and a former Muslim who has written books labeling Islam a false religion -- that line is clear. "The IMB is teaching heresy," he said matter-of-factly.

Caner said Allah as described in the Quran and the God revealed in the Bible have nothing in common. To suggest otherwise, he said, is "absolute, fundamental deception."

"You can't start an evangelistic enterprise based on deception," Caner said. "I just can't imagine that type of lying, and that's exactly what I call it.

"So you're saying [IMB President] Jerry Rankin lies?" he continued. "That's exactly what I'm saying."

Greeson, who has served with the International Mission Board since 1993,
says he had little success during his first two years of working with Muslims in South Asia. They didn't believe Jesus was the Son of God or in his resurrection. They did not acknowledge the authority of the Bible, so quoting Scripture was useless.

After discovering a Christian movement in a village where many people were converting from Islam, Greeson asked about the catalyst. From there he developed the Camel Method as a way to treat Muslims with respect while challenging them to confront their own sacred writings as a bridge to the gospel.

The method is not intended primarily for one-on-one witnessing, but for planting of reproducing indigenous churches called "Jesus Groups." Greeson says there are thousands of such congregations in what he calls the largest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.

Caner said the issue is not whether the method works, but rather if it represents biblical Christianity.

"There's a huge difference between building a church and building a crowd," he said. "There's a huge difference between having a movement with results and having a movement with eternal results."

Caner said he has no problem using the name "Allah" for God when speaking in Arabic -- that is the name Arab Christians have used for the deity since before Islam began -- but telling a Muslim that Allah in the Quran refers to the Christian God is dishonest.

Proponents of the Camel Method say it isn't intended to be a full presentation of the gospel message but a point of connection with a goal of leading Muslims to accept Christ as revealed in the Bible while retaining their ethnic identity in an Islamic culture.

John Travis, a pseudonym for a Christian who has worked with Muslims in Asia for many years,
said that for the majority of the world's 1 billion Muslims, changing religions is something that is never seriously contemplated.

Yet, Travis said he personally knows many Muslims who have put their faith in Jesus. Some formally convert to Christianity and worship at local churches identified with Western denominations or in small home fellowships with other Muslim-background believers. Fearing persecution, others worship underground. Still others, sometimes called "Messianic Muslims," reject teachings of Islam that directly contradict the Bible -- like the teaching that Jesus did not die on the cross -- but do not view or describe themselves as Christians.

IMB trustees adopted
guidelines in 2007 regarding "contextualization" of church-planting methods among unreached people groups.

The IMB supports, for instance, using "Allah" when describing the God of the Bible but not the theological construct represented by the name as used in the Quran. While condoning the use of a culture's sacred text for "bridge building," the guidelines caution missionaries to take care not to imply wholesale acceptance of those teachings. The policy affirms the need to be "ethically sound" in church-planting efforts.

"Integrity requires, for example, that we not imply that a false prophet or a body of religious writings other than the Bible are inspired," the policy says in a footnote. "There is a level of contextualization that crosses the line of integrity. Our board has dismissed personnel who have refused counsel and deliberately positioned themselves beyond that line."

Caner said he does not believe IMB personnel who use the Camel Method are "heretics," just "Christians who are teaching heresy.”

2/11/2010 2:40:00 PM by Bob Allen, ABP News | with 14 comments

Haiti judge recommends 10 Baptists be freed

February 11 2010 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The Haitian judge overseeing the case of 10 detained U.S. Baptist volunteers accused of kidnapping 33 children says he will recommend that they be released, although the investigation apparently could continue even after the 10 are set free. $0$0 $0 $0The Associated Press reported Thursday that Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil will recommend to the prosecutor that the detainees be "released provisionally while the investigation continues." $0 $0$0 $0 $0The prosecutor can then agree or object to the decision, although in Haiti's judicial system the judge still makes the final ruling. It was not immediately clear whether the 10 would be allowed to go back to the U.S. Gary Lassade, an attorney for the Americans, told AP he believes the judge will recommend the charges be dropped. $0 $0$0 $0 $0The 10 volunteers are members of five Baptist churches, including Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, which dedicated its Sunday morning service to praying for the release of member Jim Allen. Paramount Baptist church members were given red, white and blue ribbons Sunday to wear in remembrance of Allen. $0 $0$0 $0 $0"The service definitely was emotional," Paramount executive pastor Dave Anderson told Baptist Press. "Our senior pastor led us in a specific time of prayer at the beginning of the service. I think it is something that has touched everybody in some way, even for those who don't really know Jim."$0 $0$0 $0 $0The five men and five women were arrested Jan. 29 and accused of trying to kidnap the children across the border, although the volunteers said they were simply taking the kids to safety in the Dominican Republican and that the children, ages 2 to 12, either were orphans or the parents had granted permission. $0 $0$0 $0 $0The volunteers denied there was any wrongdoing, and, in fact, some parents told the judge that they indeed had agreed to allow their children be taken to the Dominican Republic.The controversy surrounded whether the volunteers had the proper paperwork to cross the border with the children. $0 $0$0 $0 $0Allen's wife, Lisa, recorded a video message that was shown to the church Sunday and since has been posted on the Web. She said her husband didn't decide to go on the trip until 48 hours prior to the airplanes leaving and that they had to rush around town to get his shots. He was invited to be part of the trip by his cousin, Idaho pastor Paul Thompson, another group member. $0 $0$0 $0 $0The trip was such a last-minute decision that most of the staff at Paramount Baptist, which has between 1,200 to 1,300 people in attendance on Sunday mornings, did not know Allen was even in Haiti until he and the others were arrested. Anderson said he has been praying for not only the safety of Allen and the others but "that God would show Himself through this situation" and that God would "use Jim to show His love to some people that may not have ever experienced that."$0 $0$0 $0 $0A source told Reuters Wednesday that the judge would recommend the volunteers be released because "one thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans.”$0 $0$0 $0 $0Nine of the 10 are members of Southern Baptist churches. Group leader Laura Silsby is a member of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, as are group members Charisa Coulter, Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford. Three detainees are from Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho: Thompson, his son Silas and church member Steve McMullen. The other detainees are Allen and Drew Culbert, an assistant youth pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Bethel Baptist is the only church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. $0
2/11/2010 8:23:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Wounded warriors focus of new ministry

February 11 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

FORT BRAGG — When Chris Carson served as an infantry battalion chaplain in Iraq he was familiar with less than ideal conditions. He went days without a shower and re-used paper plates. Carson jumped out of airplanes just like the other soldiers. 

So, just over a year ago when Carson came to work with the Warrior Transition Battalion, a nondeployable unit in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, he expected life as a chaplain to settle down.

“Boy, was I wrong,” Carson said during an interview at his Fort Bragg office. The job is definitely not 9-5 and the reality of death and incredibly tough circumstances is as real here as it is overseas.

As one of two chaplains assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, Carson works with about 500 sick and wounded soldiers. Some will heal and return to active duty, but most will be medically discharged. Some soldiers are from the Fort Bragg area but many are not.

BSC photo

Chris Carson serves with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg. The Wounded Warriors Ministry is a way N.C. Baptists can help Carson minister to the lives of soldiers who have been injured and their families.

Because injured soldiers are assigned to a hospital best suited to meet their needs, many with brain/head injuries come to Womack Army Medical Center in Fayetteville. For some that means they are nowhere close to home, family or friends.

A new outreach is underway that will give North Carolina Baptists the chance to join Carson in ministering to the soldiers of the Warrior Transition Battalion. The vision for the Wounded Warriors Ministry is to help match individuals, as well as local churches, with specific needs of soldiers.

The ministry is an outreach of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Office of Military and Chaplaincy Ministries, led by Col. Larry Jones, BSC senior consultant for military and chaplaincy ministry. Jones has been a military chaplain for 29 years. As state chaplain for the North Carolina National Guard he manages chaplains, chaplain candidates and chaplain assistants in the North Carolina Army and Air National Guard.

Volunteers can contribute in various ways: sitting in a hospital waiting room with a soldier’s family or visiting the soldier in the hospital. They could bring meals to family waiting at the hospital, help with childcare or even visit at home the spouse of a hospitalized solider. Sometimes a spouse needs help with chores around the house while the injured soldier recovers.

“Anything we can do to help them opens up a door for us to witness,” Jones said.

Last year Carson started an adopt-a-wounded-soldier ministry.

Jones is hopeful that churches will consider making Fayetteville a unique kind of mission trip. Church groups would come and spend the week “on call” for the chaplains, ready to serve however needed. Since this may not be the type of mission trip churches are accustomed to, Jones will even help churches with training, such as how to do a hospital visit. A low-cost lodging option is the N.C. Baptist Men Missions Camp facility at Red Springs. 

Although the Wounded Warriors Ministry is still in the infant stage, several soldiers already have been helped. Carson and Jones are working together to match up the gifts and skills of volunteers with the needs of soldiers.

“The needs are so complex,” Carson said.

In addition to ministering to the wounded, Carson preaches every Sunday, leads a weekly Bible study, holds counseling sessions and plans retreats. The chaplains can’t do everything, and more people will be ministered to as a result of the Wounded Warrior Ministry. Carson has no doubt that volunteers will be greatly rewarded through involvement in this ministry.

Just seeing the look on someone’s face when he comes to visit them in the hospital can be enough to remind him of the importance of this outreach. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. “You can just listen,” he said. “Just be with the soldiers.”

To learn how your church can get involved in ministering to wounded warriors, or for more information about the Office of Military and Chaplaincy Ministries, e-mail Jones at ljones@ncbaptist.org.   
2/11/2010 3:08:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 3 comments

Are you ready for Operation Inasmuch?

February 11 2010 by David Crocker, Ex. Dir., Operation Inasmuch, Inc.

North Carolina Baptist Men and Operation Inasmuch, Inc. are again collaborating to conduct an Operation Inasmuch event all across North Carolina on April 24 and May 1, 2010. The Biblical Recorder will be providing articles leading up to the event to help with planning, project ideas and other helpful information.
Where you should be in your planning as of Feb 13
  • Planning Team set and working
  • Goals set (number of volunteers, projects, impact on community)
  • Half of projects and project leaders identified/recruited
  • Announce to congregation: Save the date
  • Team to promote your Inasmuch event to congregation and community in place
Project Idea — We’ll Flip for You: flipping mattresses of residents of independent living facility
  • Obtain approval ahead of time from management; have residents sign up
  • During project offer to clean windows or move furniture as requested
  • Pray with resident(s)
Register your church’s participation — Go to: www.ncoperationinasmuch.org; click “Registration.” Official NCOIAM T-shirts available — Go to www.operationinasmuch.com; click “Resources;” download Order Form.

If you have photos or information about your event to share, send to Dianna Cagle at dianna@biblicalrecorder.org. Call (919) 847-2127 if you have questions.  
2/11/2010 3:03:00 AM by David Crocker, Ex. Dir., Operation Inasmuch, Inc. | with 0 comments

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