February 2013

Hunger for gospel in NYC inspires, Embrace team prepares for Boston

February 28 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Although the team was briefed on Hinduism before entering the temple in Jackson Heights, Queens, Wendy Mitchell was surprised to see all the different gods lined up along the wall. Dressed in sequined outfits, she said the statues looked almost like giant dolls.
 
Mitchell visited the Hindu temple during a mission trip to New York City last year with Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Mitchell, whose husband pastors LaGrange Missionary Baptist Church, was one of eight women to participate.
 
“I can’t go back to the city and look at it the same way,” Mitchell said. “I learned so much and saw so many different cultures. The people are hungry for the gospel.”
 
The women met people from all over the world who represented different religions.
 
In Jackson Heights alone more than 130 languages are spoken and, in addition to Hindus, live Sikhs, Roman Catholics, Buddhists and Greek Orthodox.
 
The women served throughout the city, from Manhattan and Brooklyn to different neighborhoods in Queens, and worked alongside pastors, church planters and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.
 
They helped with prayerwalking, English as a Second Language classes and women’s conferences.
They also hosted a henna party for Indian, Bangledeshi, Nepalese and Pakistani women.
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Team members had the Creation to Christ gospel story designed on their hands and forearms using henna, which is temporary body art unique to South Asia.
 
After the henna party the team still experienced opportunities to share the gospel on subway trains, on the street and while waiting in store lines.
 
Embrace, under the leadership of director Ashley Allen, has sponsored two mission trips to New York City and two international mission trips – one to Moldova and one to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
 
“Any mission trip allows a woman to see God at work – both in those with whom she is sharing and herself,” Allen said. “Jesus calls all believers – not just a select few – to be a part of taking the gospel to the nations. Obedience is necessary for any follower of Christ.”
 

Headed to Boston

In September Allen will lead a team of women to serve throughout Boston, an area with a population of more than 4.5 million people, but an evangelical population of less than three percent. More than 1,000 towns in New England are without any evangelical witness. 
 
“The time to reach Boston is now,” Allen said. “There are many church buildings in Boston that have been converted to high rises and businesses because the churches that once occupied the buildings shut their doors and had to sell their buildings. Yet, the population of the greater metro Boston area is growing rapidly.” 
 
Mitchell is already preparing her application for the Boston mission trip. New York was her first mission trip, and she is ready to go and serve again.
 
“The mission trip was an eye-opening and amazing experience,” Mitchell said. “You just don’t know until you go. I had never shared my testimony before, and I have a fear of speaking in groups. I had to face that. It was a big step out of my comfort zone. But I’m so glad I did,” she said.
 
Since returning from New York, Mitchell has committed to learning more about other cultures and is already on her way to learning Spanish. 
 
Shirley Sells, executive leader assistant for the Church Planting and Missions Development Group at the BSC, also experienced life change as a result of participating in Embrace mission trips. Sells joined both the 2012 and 2011 New York mission teams.
 
The 2011 trip compelled her to return with Embrace last year, and to also join a New York City vision tour with the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships.
 
“Ministry is not a one-time trip; it’s a lifestyle,” Sells said. “God spoke to me clearly that this needs to be a lifestyle. There is so much work to be done and so many needs, but so few laborers.”
 
With about 3.5 million people from unreached people groups, Sells saw firsthand the great need for the gospel to penetrate New York City.
 
“No matter where you are in New York – Starbucks, subways, cabs or McDonald’s – there are opportunities to tell others about Christ,” she said.
 
Sells and her husband are going to New York this summer to help lead a Vacation Bible School for First Haitian Baptist Church in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where Embrace served the past two years.
 
Sells’ husband serves as director of missions for the Randolph Baptist Association, and churches from the association are joining them this summer for the VBS. 
 
“The children there haven’t had a VBS in several years and they keep asking the pastor when they are going to be able to have VBS,” Sells said.
 
“We are praying about how our association can partner long-term with ministries in New York City,” she said.
 
“These mission trips changed me forever.”
 
The Boston mission trip is Sept. 19-22. Cost is $650 and includes airfare, missionary insurance, lodging, ministry expenses and ground transportation.
 
Deadline to apply is April 19. For an application and other trip details, visit embracenc.org, email aallen@ncbaptist.org or call (800) 395-5102 ext. 5561.
2/28/2013 3:34:10 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



New perspectives motivate Epic church to ministry

February 28 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

There are more affluent places in the United States than San Francisco, but not many. Living in that environment can numb people to need. Ben Pilgreen knows God is in the perspective-changing business.
 
Pilgreen and his team, including wife, Shauna, launched Epic Church in the fine arts district of San Francisco two years ago. He led Epic’s first international missions experience in summer 2012, to Uganda.
 
“Our trip to Uganda was incredible,” says Pilgreen, pastor of Epic in the Bay City. “People throw the term ‘life-changing’ around, but it truly was life changing for some of our people. The team of 14 was so impressed we are already scheduled to return next year.” Pilgreen is a North American Mission Board church planter, and a 2013 Week of Prayer missionary.
 
“We have several members who have been sponsoring children through our partner church there, and we were able to visit in their homes,” says Pilgreen. “That truly brought it to reality for our people. It was eye opening to see the conditions the children live in, particularly compared to San Francisco. Then to see those people, living in what we would consider tough, even impossible, situations, exhibiting true joy. Amazing.”
 
Epic works in partnership with United Christian Centre in Kampala, Uganda, a 20-year-old congregation that supports an orphanage, among other ministries. Pilgreen says the integrity of the church leadership giving guidance to 2,000 members and multiple ministries spoke to his members.
 
“Spending time with the kids and their families was the best. We were able to take the kids to an amusement park one day. That was a great day,” says Pilgreen.
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NAMB photo by Susan Whitley

Ben and Shauna Pilgreen lead the team that planted Epic Church in San Francisco’s fine arts district two years ago. Pilgreen is a North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionary. View video.

 
Recognizing Acts 1:8 as a comprehensive command, Epic simultaneously engages, not only around the world, but also across the street. One of their longest-standing relationships is with “A Woman’s Place.” The transitional residence takes in battered women. Recently, six partner churches brought 70 volunteers for Epic’s “Hope for the City.”
 
“Teams went in and totally redesigned rooms to make them brighter and give them a happier feel,” says Pilgreen. “Then the teams hit the neighborhoods and local parks cleaning and doing whatever was needed. The Department of Public Works was incredibly appreciative. They see us as good neighbors and that helps us in the community.
 
“Our volunteers also helped us host ‘City Impact,’ events for children with games and interaction. That was a meaningful time for us and another great opportunity where people recognized us as contributing to the community.”
 
Another challenging aspect of doing church in a place like San Francisco is that you encounter issues most churches don’t have to consider. Pilgreen relies on God’s wisdom and the counsel of godly Christians to help him navigate.
 
From the complex to the simple, Pilgreen points to one family in the church who came to Epic after receiving an invitation flier handed out by volunteers. It was for Epic’s inaugural preview service.
 
“Volunteers handed out invitations,” says Pilgreen. “Anna picked one up and came. Eventually she came to faith and brought her family to Epic. Her husband came to faith, too. She told us Epic helped save her life and her marriage.
 
“You don’t know how a simple act, as simple as handing someone a piece of paper, can affect someone’s life. Our partners and volunteers are vital to us. You have to sow a lot of seeds.”
 
Looking to the future, Epic will hire its first Epic Kids director in 2013. The leadership continues to write the church’s entire small-group curriculum.
 
“We publish it in book form,” says Pilgreen. “We realized early on that our members trust us, but they don’t know any ‘names’ in Christian publishing.
 
“We are at three services and about 260 on Sunday. We have 13 Epic Groups now. We are looking to expand into the north, east and south parts of the city,” says Pilgreen of Epic’s small-group strategy.
 
The Pilgreens, parents to Elijah, 9, Sam, 7, and Asher, 5, are adopting a daughter from India. “It’s another adventure – why not?” asked Pilgreen.
 
And if helping a thriving church plant and raising four children wasn’t enough, Shauna released her first book last year—The Same Page, co-authored with Courtney Bullard—and began writing for NAMB pastors’ wives blog, flourish.me.
 
The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, 2013, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, provide support for Pilgreen and other missionaries like him who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes – Reaching the One.”
 
“This offering allows us to move forward with the ministry initiatives we believe God is calling us to engage in on a weekly basis,” says Pilgreen. “It allows us to pursue opportunities we believe will make a real difference in our church and in our city.”
 
Learn more about Ben Pilgreen at anniearmstrong.com/benpilgreen. To learn more about Epic Church, visit epicsf.com. For more information about how you can get involved in reaching San Francisco with the gospel, visit namb.net/SanFrancisco. The Biblical Recorder compiled a page about the Week of Prayer missionaries. Visit here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/28/2013 3:23:52 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mass. schools to allow boys in girls' restrooms

February 28 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

Under a sweeping directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education, boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex now are allowed to use whichever school bathroom and locker room they feel most comfortable in, and schools are discouraged from using gender-based clothes and from conducting gender-based practices – even from lining up elementary-aged children based on their sex.
 
The 11-page directive to the state’s public schools was issued Feb. 15 and supposedly was released in light of a new state law – passed by the legislature and signed by the governor – that adds “gender identity” to the state’s non-discrimination code. Traditional groups argued that the new law did not require such a wide-sweeping directive from the education department. Nevertheless, those groups said, the chain of events in Massachusetts demonstrates the repercussions of passing any law that adds gender identity to state non-discrimination policies.
 
The directive explicitly states it is aimed at children of all ages, including those in elementary school.
 
"In all cases," the directive states in laying out the new policy, "the principal should be clear with the student (and parent) that the student may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student’s gender identity."
 
School officials are only allowed to question the student if they believe the "student's gender-related identity is being asserted for some improper purpose." But in all cases, it is the student who decides his or her identity, and any uncomfortable feelings of other students are secondary, the document states.
 
"The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student or, in the case of young students not yet able to advocate for themselves, with the parent,” it states. “... Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”
 
Gender-neutral restrooms and changing facilities are encouraged, but a transgender student is not required to use them, the document states.
 
The document quotes state law in defining gender identity as “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior” is “associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.”
 
Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of family formation studies, said the debate over gender identity and transgenderism is tied to the debate over gay marriage.
 
“Transgenderism is only part of what same-sex marriage is plowing the way for,” Stanton told Baptist Press. “When gender ‘doesn’t matter’ for marriage or parenting, it ironically becomes a much bigger issue in the agenda to rewrite the social script on what it means to be male and female. In saying it doesn’t matter, we end up talking about it at every turn. And this is where we find ourselves, and will, increasingly so. It is important for Christians to understand how and why this matters. Both male and female, in their sex-distinction and uniqueness, are what singly image the nature and likeness of God in the world. Is there any wonder it is being attacked so viciously?”
 
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said the new policy puts students – particularly girls – in harm’s way.
 
“The School Commissioner’s first duty is to protect all students, from kindergarten to grade 12, not endanger them,” Mineau said in a statement. “The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls’ bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students’ safety.”
 
Many traditional practices will be impacted, such as requiring gender-based clothing for schools, proms and graduations, the document states. 
 
"Schools should eliminate gendered policies and practices such as these. For example, one school that previously had blue graduation gowns for boys and white ones for girls switched to blue gowns for all graduates," it states. "The school also changed its gender-based dress code for the National Honor Society ceremony, which had required girls to wear dresses."
 
Sports teams, too, will see the effect. The directive specifically states that “where there are sex-segregated classes or athletic activities, including intramural and interscholastic athletics, all students must be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”
 
The document gives two examples of elementary schoolchildren who identified as transgender. In one Massachusetts town, it says, “the parents of a pre-school-age biologically female child noted throughout the child's early years that their child identified as a boy. ... When it was time for the child to enter kindergarten, the child said to his parents, ‘You have to tell them when I go to kindergarten that I'm a boy.'"
 
In another school, “a transgender second-grader socially transitioned from female to male. The principal informed the staff: For the remainder of this year, he will use Nurse Margaret’s restroom, and toward the end of the year we will make future determinations of restroom use in consultation with his family.”
 
Teachers who have their children line up for lunch or recess based on gender should reconsider, the document says. These teachers “may never have considered the educational value of non-gendered alternatives, such as having students line up in the order of their birthdays, or alphabetically by name, or in the order in which they are sitting.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
 
 
2/28/2013 3:05:04 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Dudley Shoals ready to partner, reach Queens with gospel

February 27 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Receptivity to the gospel is low in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., where many people are disinterested or really do not want to talk at all about the gospel.
 
In Forest Hills, where Nathan Creitz is planning to start a church this year, the population is 110,000 for an area that is only about four square miles with few evangelical churches.
 
Creitz’s vision extends beyond Forest Hills, as he prays that the new church plant will help start other churches throughout New York’s most ethnically diverse borough. Queens residents represent dozens of people groups unreached with the gospel. People from all over the world call Queens home, with about 125 different languages spoken in the area. Nearly half the population was born outside the United States. 
 
“Jesus Christ told us to make disciples of all nations. My heart is for the nations, and I can’t think of a better place than Queens to pursue that mission,” Creitz said. “The goal is to not only reach Queens, but for some of the people here to take the gospel back to wherever they are from.”
 
Although receptivity is generally low, Creitz has met people open to the gospel, and that gives him hope.
 
“We want to spread the gospel as broadly as possible, and saturate the area with the good news,” he said. “It takes an act of God to start churches. If anyone is going to break through, it will be God.”
 
In 2004, after graduating from the University of Mobile in Alabama, Creitz moved to Boston to help a friend who was starting a new church.
 
After four years in Boston, Creitz began seminary at Gordon-Conwell. After graduation he served as interim pastor for a church in New England.
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Creitz, his wife Kim and their two children live in east Queens and are preparing to move to Forest Hills early this year, with a goal of launching the church this summer.  
 
Creitz is using the months leading up to the launch to begin laying the foundation for the church plant. He is making the two and a half hour round trip to Forest Hills several times a week to try and meet people and begin building relationships. He is also working to raise financial support and prayer support, and is forming new partnerships with churches such as Dudley Shoals Baptist Church.
 
Dudley Shoals, in Granite Falls near Hickory, N.C., is committed to a long-term partnership with Creitz.
“We wanted to partner with someone who is just getting started, so that our church could walk through the entire church planting process with them,” said Randy Smith, ministries director at Dudley Shoals.
 
“We made an immediate connection with Nathan and Kim. They have spent quite a bit of time trying to understand where they want to go with this new church.”

Smith, having served as an International Mission Board missionary for 18 years, has been on the receiving end of mission teams and appreciates ongoing partnerships.
 
“Over time you become so much more effective. You don’t have to take as much time learning the ropes or learning logistics. You are able to understand the target group and build relationships,” he said.
“Church planting can be a long, hard struggle. You don’t get that sense of how difficult it is when you pop in for a week and you don’t see them again.”
 
Volunteers from Dudley Shoals are already involved in New York, as they spent several weeks last summer remodeling office space for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA). Through the Baptist State Convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, North Carolina Baptist churches across the state are forming partnerships with MNYBA churches and church planters.
 
Smith and Creitz expect their partnership to include opportunities for servant evangelism, such as cleaning up local parks and hosting cookouts, for the purpose of building relationships, making connections and sharing the gospel. “My wife and I can go deep in our relationships with our neighbors, but with 110,000 people in one neighborhood, we can’t go wide. Mission teams can’t go deep, but they can go wide. They will have the opportunity to meet people, pray for people and get the word out that there is a church that loves them,” Creitz said. “Together, we can go wide and deep. Just because I am the church planter doesn’t mean I’m the most important person in the process. We need each other.”
 
Smith looks forward to Dudley Shoals becoming involved in missions in a context different than their familiar rural setting. From the much higher cost of living to ethnic and religious diversity, “New York is really different,” he said. “Especially working with someone starting at the ground level. You don’t have a single believer.”
 
Creitz encouraged churches to not let New York’s urban context or great spiritual needs overwhelm or intimidate and hinder them from developing partnerships. 
 
“Anyone can show love to people,” he said.

Whenever Creitz experiences times of frustration he thinks back to how God called him to serve for Kingdom purposes.
 
“When the tough times come, we look back to our call and our burden and that has sustained us,” he said. “From the beginning our calling was so clear. We’ve never doubted our calling to Queens.”
 
To learn how to get involved with partnerships in New York City visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.
 

About the New York Partnership

With 8.5 million inhabitants who speak nearly 500 languages, New York City is one of the most diverse and influential cities in the word. 
 
Metropolitan New York is larger than Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Miami and Las Vegas combined. One out of every 16 people in the United States lives within a 75-mile radius of Times Square. All the nations of the world live in the neighborhoods of New York.
 
Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) is about connecting local churches for global impact. MNYBA helps churches plant new churches, serve in their communities and advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world.
 
The churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) are partnering with MNYBA to help advance the gospel in an area where only 3 percent of the population has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  
 

How to connect your church

• Church Planting – Existing churches are a vital resource in the strategic church planting efforts in New York City. The BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships can help your church or association work with the MNYBA church planting team to help plant an effective New Testament church in New York City.
• Kingdom Prayer – Kingdom-focused prayer is the heartbeat of Great Commission Partnerships. They ask that your congregation consider adopting a church in prayer.
• Assisting Churches – MNYBA can help connect your church with an existing church in New York to assist the church with a mission project.   
Contact the Office of Great Commission Partnerships to get connected today. Visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.
 
2/27/2013 3:57:12 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



A heart for church planting brings life change in Philly

February 27 2013 by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

If anyone understands the impact church planting and evangelism can have on someone, it’s Peter Yanes. Together, the two changed his life.
 
Born and raised in the islands of the Philippines, Yanes grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic nation with a family deeply devoted to the church. Yanes himself spent much of his youth serving as an altar boy with aspirations of one day becoming a priest.
 
All that changed with an invitation.
 
“I was in high school and a friend invited me to a Bible study,” Yanes recalls. “That’s where I came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. Since then, there’s been no turning back.”
 
The church that hosted this Bible study was a church plant started by a Filipino planter.
 
“Church planting is very special and important to me because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Yanes explains.
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NAMB photo by Ted Wilcox

Peter Yanes and his wife, Irene, serve the diverse ethnic community of Philadelphia providing church planting and mobilization strategy and leadership. Yanes is a North American Mission Board missionary. See video.

 
This heart for church planting makes Yanes the perfect fit for his role as a mobilization missionary for the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Based in Philadelphia, Yanes’ work as a mobilizer for the area allows him to identify and support planters and partners as they start and grow new churches. With only 400 SBC congregations serving a population of more than 15 million in the convention, the area needs new churches. For his part, Yanes is working specifically to catalyze ethnic church planters to reach the growing number of people groups in the area.
 
“My ministry allows me to build great relationships with our ethnic pastors,” Yanes says. “Having relationships and support can be such an asset because their position can be very lonely and very tough at times.”
 
This is a feeling Yanes knows firsthand. After pastoring a church in the Philippines, he and his wife, Irene, made the move to the United States in 1998 and began the work of church planting in Philadelphia. He has spent the better part of the last 14 years serving the growing ethnic population in Philadelphia. He supported the now thriving Philadelphia Bible Church International in its early years in an effort to provide a place of worship for Filipino transplants living in the city. By taking on his current role, Yanes can share his experiences in ethnic church planting with others like him looking to reach their own diverse communities.
 
“Philadelphia is a very diverse city with many ethnicities and nationalities,” Yanes explains. “Anything that I can do to help planters build relationships with their people groups and eventually share the message of the gospel in cities like Philly is important. It takes a great relationship with all of our ethnic pastors around the area to see this happen.”
 
One such person he is pouring his leadership into and building a relationship with is fellow Filipino church planter Noel Geniza. While serving as both worship leader and deacon at Philadelphia Bible Church International, Geniza’s heart for ministry caught Yanes’ eye.
 
“Noel has been a faithful member of our church for so long,” Yanes says. “Back home in the Philippines, he was a pastor and it’s clear this is his calling. It was just a matter of time before he stepped back into it here.”
 
Having settled in Pottstown, a suburb some 50 miles north of Philadelphia, Geniza and his family were traveling every Sunday to attend Philadelphia Bible Church International and worship with a Filipino community. However, the continuous commute proved taxing on the Geniza family and Noel began to see the need for a church like this closer to home.
 
“I thought Pastor Pete would probably work to start a church in our area and I would just support him as a worship leader,” Geniza explains. “Instead, he prayed for me and said, ‘Why don’t you start the church?’ Church planting has always been on my heart so when he said this I thought, ‘Yeah, why don’t I?’”
 
Yanes has quickly come alongside Geniza to begin the process of planting a church to reach the Filipino community of Pottstown. This support has made all the difference for Geniza as he walks the long, sometimes lonely road of church planting.
 
“I know that on this path, God is with me,” Geniza says, “but I also know Pastor Pete is with me. He says, ‘I’ll be there. I’ll support you,’ and that is a big encouragement to keep going.”
 
This heart to mobilize and encourage planters as they seek to save the lost through church planting and evangelism is the driving force behind the work Yanes does.
 
“What I like most about what I do is seeing souls come to know Christ in a personal way,” Yanes says. “Because of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, I can partner with local churches, pray for and encourage their pastors and mobilize them to reach the lost in their communities. I am so grateful to do the work I love, the work the Lord has called me to do.”
 
The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, 2013, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, provide support for Yanes and other missionaries like him who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes – Reaching the One.”
 
For more information on Peter Yanes, visit anniearmstrong.com/peteryanes. For more information about how you can get involved in reaching Philadelphia with the gospel, visit namb.net/Philadelphia. The Biblical Recorder compiled a page about the Week of Prayer missionaries. Visit here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 
2/27/2013 3:41:59 PM by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Movement seeks ‘1 Million Men’ to fight pornography addiction

February 27 2013 by James A. Smith Sr., Baptist Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – Pornography is the “pink elephant in the pew” – the embarrassing, big subject no one wants to talk about – and that silence is feeding a “bubonic plague” harming churches, pastor Jay Dennis told state Baptist convention executive directors and editors gathered in Oklahoma City.

“Our enemy has found the perfect tool to deliver temptation to men – men who love God, men who love their wives, love their children and love their churches,” Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., said Feb. 14. “Yet their involvement in looking at pornography has virtually duct-taped their mouths closed and taken them out of spiritual leadership in the home and in the church.”

Dennis spoke to state executives and editors at the invitation of John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, surveying the effort he began at First Baptist Lakeland in 2009 that has become the “Join 1 Million Men” movement to be featured at the Southern Baptist Convention this year.

After his presentation, Dennis told the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal he was burdened to address the issue – even though he didn’t want to – when a growing number of women in his church sought pastoral counsel for husbands and sons who were struggling with pornography.

“I resisted ... because I knew that the spiritual warfare component of this would be immense – and it has been,” Dennis said, citing multiple health challenges he has faced in the last three years.
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Photo illustration by Laura Erlanson


Key scriptures for men’s moral purity, right, and a booklet, Our Hardcore Battle Plan A-Z, will be among the resources for Southern Baptists’ upcoming “Join 1 Million Men” anti-pornography campaign.


Unable to find resources written from the perspective of a senior pastor that were sensitive and “grace oriented,” Dennis decided to research the issue and write his own materials for First Baptist Lakeland.

Dennis told the state executives and editors that too many pastors are “out of touch,” believing that pornography affects only a small percentage in their congregations. He cited a 2011 LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 pastors that found 62 percent of pastors believe less than 10 percent of men in their churches viewed pornography on a weekly basis. Dennis believes the figure is more like 80 percent.

Most churches, he said, respond to the problem of pornography by denying its reality, while others are aware of the problem but are not specifically dealing with it.

Instead, pastors must “admit there is a problem and urgently address” pornography by helping men overcome it.

Dennis said pornography is the “pink elephant in the pew” because “we have a huge problem that is primarily directed at men’s attitudes toward women.”

He cited six characteristics that make pornography “so dangerous”: it is accessible; affordable – in many cases free; anonymous; addictive; altering – changing how men view women; and creates amnesia.

“This is a winnable war, but we must act very quickly,” he said.

Dennis said the “God-sized project” of creating a campaign for churches of all sizes and denominations seeks to involve at least 1 million men to take a public stand against pornography – and 1 million women praying for men. The campaign is geared to Christian men, he said, because only through the power of the Holy Spirit can men overcome struggles with pornography.

Convinced he needed to address the problem in his church, Dennis said he attended the Institute for Sexual Wholeness in Atlanta where he earned a certification in sexual addictions. He wrote the initial materials and taught them to his men in the spring of 2010 during six Wednesday evening sessions.

“The response, honestly, surprised me,” Dennis said, noting that after the third session he asked those who were struggling with pornography to stand while no one was looking. The noise of “theater seats flapping” constituted the “far majority” by his estimation while not looking.

“I thought to myself, ‘This sounds like the beginning of freedom in our church,’“ he said. “There was a spirit of revival that broke out among our men and this was the beginning of a journey that continues to affect positively the men, marriages and families of our church.”

To date, 1,300 men have signed commitment cards that have been posted to a wall and tower prominently displayed at the church. The porn-free commitment includes 14 statements the men affirm. (The statements are included below the text of this article.)

Dennis said he has urged even men who say they do not struggle with pornography to make the commitment as encouragement to those who do and to “draw a line in the sand ... to never go there.”

“The wall [at First Baptist Lakeland] has become an opportunity for our church to discuss this very sensitive issue,” he said. “The door has been opened to publicly demonstrate our men’s passion for purity.”

Dennis outlined 10 “action steps” to “win the battle of pornography in the pew,” including educating pastors; having churches of all sizes participate in “Join 1 Million Men,” educate women and involve them in prayer; provide “man-friendly” resources; involve men who don’t currently struggle with pornography; have the Southern Baptist Convention “lead the way” as it has on other moral concerns; and train the next generation of church pastors.

Asked by the Florida Baptist Witness what success in the campaign will look like, Dennis responded, “When men are more passionate about purity than they are about pleasure, when churches can openly discuss this, instead of sweeping it under the rug.”

He added, “Success will look like every pastor getting up and saying, ‘OK, here is the pink elephant in the room.’“

The national campaign will be unveiled in June during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston, with Woman’s Missionary Union and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission collaborating to provide exhibit space and other promotion.

New Hope Publishers, WMU’s publishing arm, will publish in April two books along with other resources by Dennis. A chapter of one of the books, “Our Hardcore Battle Plan A-Z,” is available as a pamphlet now exclusively through Christian Book Distributors until June.

Dennis praised the assistance offered by Richard Land, president of the ERLC, and Wanda Lee, WMU’s executive director.

Land told the Witness that Dennis’ effort is an “answer to prayer.”

The campaign is a “church-tested strategy on how the local church can help insulate their people from the ravages of pornography,” Land said. “I cannot imagine there is a church in North America that would not benefit from implementing the Join 1 Million Men program.

“It will help to avoid tens of thousands of human tragedies,” Land said. “We at the ERLC will do everything we can to promote this in the days and months to come.”


(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.)


Join 1 Million Men: The Porn-Free Commitment


I am making a lifetime commitment to being porn free knowing this commitment is kept one day at a time;

I am acknowledging that I have the capacity to be tempted by pornography and could give into that temptation at any time;

I am placing my relationship with God as the number one priority of my life and admit that God cannot be number one if I am viewing pornography;

I am placing my relationship with my wife (if married) as my number two priority and admit that she cannot be that priority in my life and I cannot love her like I need to love her if I am viewing pornography;

I am placing my relationship with my children (if you have children) as the number three priority in my life and admit they cannot be that priority in my life and I cannot love them like I need to love them if I am viewing pornography;

I understand the only power I have over pornography is the power given by the Holy Spirit as I am surrendered to Him;

I will have at least three other men I can call at any hour of the day or night when the thought enters my mind to look at pornography;

I will consider the consequences to my walk with God, my relationship with my wife (if married) and children (if you have children), my other family members, my job, and everything that is important to me when the thought enters my mind to look at pornography;

I will do everything possible to create a porn-free environment (screensaver of my wife, if married) and children (if you have children); pictures of wife and children around the computer; using the computer in an open place where anyone can see; download accountability software on my computer; install a filtering software on my computer; share my computer password with my wife or friend; put Scriptures on screensaver; post-it notes with Scriptures on computer; taking a different route to work to avoid temptation; when staying in a hotel asking the front desk to turn off pay-per-view on the cable; if necessary avoid traveling with my laptop and use computer in hotel lobby; and eliminate the premium cable channels on my television;

I will develop the spiritual disciplines of daily Bible reading, prayer, personal worship, small-group Bible study, church attendance, fasting, meditating, and journaling (recording what God is saying to you through His Word, the Holy Spirit, your experiences, and your circumstances along with personal victories and failures);

I will recognize those times and places when I am most likely to look at pornography and interrupt those times and places by taking specific steps to guard my mind and heart;

I will immediately remove [pornography] from my life by destroying any pornography of any kind;

Because I know I am not alone in my struggle I will be mindful of praying for and seeking to help my brothers in Christ to stay pure;

I will review and renew this commitment daily.
 
2/27/2013 3:23:25 PM by James A. Smith Sr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center launches FaithHealthNC

February 26 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Gary Gunderson believes strongly in the power of the local church to affect the health of the individual. “Medical science has noticed that over a life span, people who have a faith community – not just a faith, but a faith community, a local congregation – it is as healthy for that person as smoking is unhealthy,” he said.
 
The leading cause of death in the U.S. is almost a tie between an unhealthy diet and smoking. But according to Gunderson, if you ask the opposite question, “What is the leading cause of life?’ the data says the answer is “participation in a community of faith.”
 
Last July he became the head of the Division of Faith and Health Ministries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, overseeing the division’s four departments: CareNet Counseling, the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education, the Center for Congregational Health and the Department of Church and Community Relations. In this role he leads the spiritual care services to patients, families and medical center employees as well as the public relations services to more than 4,200 N.C. Baptist congregations.
 
“Gary’s work, particularly his ability to understand and meet the needs of patients in the community, has been recognized nationally and internationally,” said John D. McConnell, M.D., chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “His natural ability to engage patients and community partners offers a new way of thinking about what it is to provide health care.”
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Contributed photo

Dr. Gary Gunderson is vice president of Faith and Health Ministries for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

 
Gunderson’s top priority is to develop a system of health care that connects the hospital with the local church congregation. He said, “My real heart has been for the relationship – not just between faith and health and not just between prayer and healing – but between a faith-based hospital and the true faith-based health systems, which are the congregations in the community.
 
“This really isn’t just a strategy where we talk about faith sort of like it is another kind of pill, where you take a medical problem and say ‘let’s put a little bit of spirituality on that.’ There’s a lot of research right now that thinks of spirituality sort of like something that you would add. That’s the opposite of the way I think.”
 
The facts show that most patients don’t come to the hospital just to get treatment for a disease or fixed because of an accident. “Most of what we see in a hospital today is some condition that has developed over a long period of time ... chronic diseases.”  Since people come back to the hospital more often, the relationship between the hospital and the patient’s congregation is a long-term relationship.
 
Before accepting his present position at the Baptist hospital, Gunderson served in a similar role at the Methodist hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where he developed the model for a vital connection between the hospital and local churches. The Memphis model has been highly visible, leading to a White House conference last year and another one scheduled this year.
 
It centered around the development of a covenantal relationship with about 500 congregations in the Memphis area. About 90 percent of those were African-American fellowships. “These church leaders drafted a covenant, the pastors signed it, and church leaders were assigned to keep the ministry functional.” They trained 3,000 church members to provide spiritual guidance, or “accompaniment” for hospital patients.
 
In Memphis, over a period of 5 years he learned that, “... people who were connected to one of our covenantal congregations stayed out of the hospital 39 percent longer than people from other congregations.”
 
There was something about this connection that improved the health of the patient. Governments and insurance companies do not collect this information. “No one has been asking about this aspect of health,” according to Gunderson. “That’s a stunning statistic.”

In Memphis, at the admission desk you are asked, “Are you a member of one of our covenant congregations?”  If the answer is yes, you will be asked, “Do you want your congregation to be part of your care?” Most say yes. That sends an alert to connect with that congregation. This is beyond “chaplaincy.”
 
The Baptist hospital almost invented the chaplaincy program. It was the first faith-based hospital in the southern United States to developed chaplaincy training. That was radical, according to Gunderson. Now almost every hospital has chaplains.
 
“We don’t want a patient handed off to us by their congregation. We want them to feel like they have never left their congregation. This requires us to build a whole different relationship with the congregation,” he explained.
 
“We are working with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), with associational missionaries, and with local churches to draft the covenant.”
 
The first network will be across the BSC. Then Gunderson will find ways to connect with congregations other than Baptists. He said, “We have reorganized the division with congregations at the center instead of adding on a new division in the hospital. We are renaming everything – the division is now called Faith and Health. We’ll have the new field network which is called FaithHealthNC.”
 
The new model draws on the strength of the 21 CareNet Counseling centers across the state, which is an existing network of a faith-health strategy; providing spiritually sensitive, Christian counseling, according to Gunderson.
 
While some hospitals are imposing greater restrictions on pastors and reducing the hospital chaplaincy ministry, the Baptist hospital is going in the opposite direction. Gunderson believes the restrictions imposed by some hospitals is the “... radical, unintended consequences of the focus on the privacy of the patient.
 
“We think the privacy of the patient is a really good thing, but it is not the only thing. Hospitals have drawn these lines to make the normal practice of spiritual accompaniment extremely difficult.”
 
Gunderson has worked with lawyers to insure that privacy laws are honored, while recognizing that scientific evidence shows the health of the patient is directly related to the pastoral care provide by local congregations.
 
A significant portion of patients come from those Baptist congregations. “We want them to experience that when you’re in the Baptist hospital, you’re still part of the Baptist congregation.”
 
Baptist hospital already has connections with the BSC.
 
There is a governance relationship, a financial relationship, and a fellowship connection. “But up until now, we have not organizationally thought of ourselves as connected clinically to the congregations. Congregations are not just something that sends us money from time to time ...”
 
Speaking of the financial support Baptist hospital receives from N.C. Baptists, Gunderson said, “I don’t know of another faith-based hospital that receives a greater level of support from its birth mother congregations ... The N.C. convention’s relationship with Baptist Hospital is very unusual among faith-based hospitals. That money makes a huge difference.”
 
Gunderson added, “But I suspect that the money ... is dwarfed by the actual significance of what it already means in terms of providing a better journey for patients who come from our Baptist congregations to Baptist Hospital.”
2/26/2013 3:19:03 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments



Hobby Lobby: resolute in court, visionary for Bible’s relevance

February 26 2013 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – Hobby Lobby has been pushed to the front lines of a monumental battle over religious liberty just when the arts and crafts chain is aiming to open a Bible museum near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
 
“God’s up to something,” Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, often says.
 
“We're just along for the ride.”
 
Hobby Lobby’s founder – Green’s father, David – has publicly stated the company will not obey a federal mandate to provide employee health insurance that covers abortion-causing drugs. The 530-store chain could face government fines amounting to $1.3 million a day if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) forces its will on Hobby Lobby and numerous other privately owned businesses led by Christians who regard abortion as the taking of innocent life.

Steve Green, meanwhile, is leading Hobby Lobby’s plan to open a museum showcasing many of the 40,000 Bible artifacts in The Green Collection that have been secured by the family’s company over the past three years. The museum and accompanying research center will be housed in 400,000-500,000 square feet renovated from two office buildings two blocks from the Air and Space Museum and a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The yet-unnamed museum could open as early as the fall of 2016.

Green spoke about the court battle and the museum to editors who visited Hobby Lobby’s headquarters, its sprawling manufacturing plant and four distribution centers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City during the Association of State Baptist Publications’ Feb. 11-14 annual meeting.
 
Asked if the HHS mandate, if ultimately enforced by the courts, could cost Hobby Lobby its solvency and its vision for a Bible museum, Green said, “I don’t have the answer to that. All I know is that we’re in good hands. I anticipate that it’s going to be a long battle.
 
“And what and where God directs this, I don’t know.”
 
Hobby Lobby, in its suit against the HHS mandate, remains in federal appeals court among dozens of companies objecting to the abortion insurance requirement.
02-26-13hobbylobby.jpg

BP photo by Art Toalston

Under the U.S. and Oklahoma flags, Hobby Lobby flies its logo at its sprawling headquarters, manufacturing plant and four distribution centers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.

 
“We haven’t gotten to the merits of the case,” Green said of the Hobby Lobby suit. “This is just asking for the injunction. ...
 
“Even if we get a no” on the merits of the case – if “two appeals courts issue two different rulings – and there have been on the injunction – then it’s more likely that the Supreme Court would make a ruling on it. That’s probably, at earliest, a couple of years down the road,” Green said.
 
Asked how Hobby Lobby’s supporters can pray for the company, Green requested prayer “for the wisdom to say the right things and not say what we shouldn’t be saying. I think that we’re pretty clear. We know what our answer is.
 
“Pray for our government leaders,” Green added, “and the judges who are going to make the decisions, that exactly what God wants, happens.”
 
Green said it is difficult to tell whether Hobby Lobby’s customers have been affected by the company’s stance against the HHS mandate.
 
“We get a lot of support ... people that are very supportive and then there are some that are very angry,” Green said. “It’s a very volatile issue and we hear from the two extremes. On average, I would guess that our customers are more supportive.”
 
In sales, “last year was a great year” for Hobby Lobby, Green said, acknowledging,” ... We’re in the news a lot. People are thinking about us and they’re wanting to be supportive and they come out. That could be a part of it.”
 

Bible museum

The Green Collection, which will be showcased at the museum in Washington, has become the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts since Green’s first purchase in November 2009.
 
“We didn’t buy them because we’re collectors; we bought them because we wanted to tell the Bible story,” Green said, reflecting a sense of ministry from more than 25 years of placing God first in the family business.
 
“The material we have to make a museum with trumps any museum that’s there [in D.C.],” Green said. “Our story is the most incredible story to be told.”
 
The Green Collection includes:
  • the world’s second-largest private collection from the Dead Sea Scrolls (10 fragments) and the largest private collection of Jewish scrolls, spanning more than 700 years, including Torahs that survived the Spanish Inquisition and Torahs confiscated by the Nazis that were recovered in various concentration camps.
  • the largest portion of Scripture in the closest form of the Aramaic that Jesus would have spoken, along with the first Gospels in Arabic.
  • a third-century fragment from the oldest text of the Book of Romans and a fragment that scholars are examining to determine if it contains the earliest reference to Romans 4:23-5:3 and 5:8-13.
  • the earliest known near-complete translation of the Psalms from Hebrew to Middle English.
  • a copy of Wycliffe’s New Testament, a large portion of a Gutenberg Bible, a large fragment of a Tyndale New Testament and a sizeable collection from the original printing of the 1611 King James Bible.
  • early tracts and Bibles of Martin Luther, including a little-known letter Luther wrote the night before his excommunication from the Catholic Church.
Currently, part of the collection, a 20,000-square-foot traveling exhibit called “Passages,” is in Charlotte, N.C., and will go next to Colorado Springs, Colo.
 
Green said the museum in Washington will have three sections with state-of-the-art museum technology – the history, the impact and the message of Bible.
 
The goal of the history section, Green said, is “to show that the Bible we have is true.” With each new archaeological discovery, “it supports what the biblical narrative tells us.” Critics claimed, for example, that people called Hittites in the Bible never existed – until archaeological evidence proved otherwise, Green said.
 
“While we can’t prove everything in the Bible is true, archaeological evidence points that what we do have is true,” he said.
 
The Bible’s impact, meanwhile, has been “an impact for good” throughout history, “from science, education, government, family, music, art, literature, on and on and on,” Green said.
 
“... There will be those who argue that religion has caused all the problems in our world,” Green acknowledged. “‘If we could just get rid of religion’ is what an atheist would say. There are plenty of examples where men have taken this book and misinterpreted it and used it for their own ill intent.
 
“But don’t blame the book for man’s wrong use of the book,” Green said. “... [W]hen we read this book and we apply this book to our lives, it will be good for us individually and for us as a society – for mankind in general.”
 
The Bible’s message, as the museum will express it, involves the “story line that this book tells ... that God did create man, He gave us choice, we walked away from Him and were in need of a Savior, and He sent His own Son to pay the price for our sin.
 
“You don’t have to believe it,” Green said, “but that’s its story.”
 
It’s especially a story for people “who have never understood, read, known what the Bible says. They may have it on their shelf but they’ve never read it. We want them to go away from this section saying, ‘Oh, so that’s what the Bible is all about.’”
 

Family gives business to God

Green said it became clear to his father in 1985 that Hobby Lobby ultimately is not his company.
 
“That was the year that he got the family together and said, 'I don't know how we're going to make it.’”
 
Whenever the business faced financial difficulty, Green’s father David “always had a way of figuring it out,” as Hobby Lobby expanded beyond its fledgling beginning in 1972 as a 300-square-foot art supplies store in Oklahoma City. “But he got to a point where he couldn't figure it out. He said, ‘God, if You want us to survive, You’re going to have to do it.
 
“It became very real to him this was God’s company,” Steve Green recounted.
 
“The next year we had double profits – almost double our [previous] best year.”
 
Ever since, the elder Green often has said, “This is not our company, we’re just stewards of it. So, literally, we’re along for the ride.” As the company grew, Steve Green said, “I can remember thinking to myself … ‘Oh, this is not just my job, this is my ministry.’”
 
The company now has 22,000 employees nationwide, 13,000 of them full-time earning a minimum of $13 an hour, well above federal minimum wage. Some 3,500 employees work at Hobby Lobby’s 5 million square feet of company offices and manufacturing/distribution space in Oklahoma City.
 
In family discussions, Steve Green said, they've talked about three options, or “opportunities,” for whenever a trial arises.
 
"It could be 'averted,'" Green said, citing the experience of Daniel in the Old Testament when he was asked to violate his faith by eating the king's meat. "He appealed and the problem was averted."
 
"It could be 'delivered,'" Green said. "Daniel, at a later time in his life, had to go to the lions’ den, and he was delivered.
 
“The third option is that it can be ‘suffered,’” Green said. “Christ went to the cross. All the disciples were martyred but one. We have an original ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ that has story after story after story of those who gave their lives.
 
“Sometimes it's to suffer,” Green said, noting yet again, “We’re along for the ride.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
2/26/2013 3:12:59 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey: Spiritual maturity entails intentionality

February 26 2013 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Christians on the path to spiritual maturity have a habit of seeking God through prayer and worship – not just in church but also as a part of their daily life as a way to please and honor God, according to a survey released by LifeWay Research.
 
The survey of Protestant churchgoers identifies “Seeking God” as one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of maturing Christians. Seeking God invokes the intentional steps a Christian takes to follow Christ for the purpose of becoming like Him.
 
LifeWay Research found 73 percent of Protestant churchgoers set aside time for prayer every day to a few times a week. To examine how churchgoers are seeking God at times beyond worship services, the survey asked participants to “not include any times you do these things as part of a church worship service.” Nineteen percent say they set aside time for prayer of any kind between once a week and once a month, and 8 percent of churchgoers say “rarely/never.”
 
Female churchgoers are more likely than men (77 percent vs. 70 percent) to set aside time for prayer every day to a few times a week.
 
“Assessing a Christian’s spiritual growth without measures of seeking God would be like picking a flight with the right distance without confirming the destination,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “Spiritual maturity is not an accident; seeking God speaks of intentionality – the believer who desires to know God in a deeper way and strives toward that goal.”
 
Seventy-eight percent of churchgoers indicate “one of the main reasons I live my life the way I do is to please and honor God.” Six percent disagree with the statement and 16 percent neither agree nor disagree.
 
Besides prayer, 54 percent of churchgoers say they set aside time daily to a few times a week for private worship, praise or thanksgiving to God. Nearly a third (30 percent) say they do so between once a week and once a month. Seventeen percent indicate they rarely/never set aside time for private worship, praise or thanksgiving to God.
 
According to the survey, women are more likely than men (58 percent vs. 49 percent) to set aside time daily to a few times a week for private worship, praise or thanksgiving to God.
 
“When Jesus invited disciples to follow Him, it was a call to intentionally seek Him, to know Him, and to live for Him. This involves spending regular time with Him,” Stetzer said.
 
In addition to intentional times set aside for personal prayer and worship, churchgoers indicate a propensity for prayerfulness. Three quarters (75 percent) agree (strongly or somewhat) with the statement: “I find myself praying at the spur of the moment throughout the day.” Thirteen percent of churchgoers disagree with the statement. Eighty-four percent of female churchgoers and 66 percent of male churchgoers surveyed agree with the statement.
 
“The point of seeking God is not that He is hard to find,” Stetzer said. “Rather He desires we constantly invest in this relationship and seek to follow Him in every area of life. This requires intentionality and ultimate priority in a disciple's life.”
 
To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.
 
To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit LifeWayResearch.com. The assessment is available at TDA.LifeWay.com. The survey of 2,930 American adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more was conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011 via a demographically balanced online panel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin is a writer for the communications office of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

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2/26/2013 3:09:38 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Childhood memory reawakens call to LoveLoud ministry

February 26 2013 by Joe Conway, NAMB

A new home, new position, new ministry and new outlook came to Lorna Bius in the summer of 2012. But there was something oddly familiar about it all. Something in a childhood memory – forgotten for years – brought back the realization that Bius had seen this before.
 
“I’m discovering that sometimes people need to experience LoveLoud ministry for a while before they recognize it,” says Bius, 2013 North American Mission Board (NAMB) Week of Prayer missionary. “It was true in my life.”

Bius, the first LoveLoud catalyst appointed by the NAMB, moved from Nevada to Colorado to give leadership for the effort in the West Region for NAMB. LoveLoud is a movement of churches demonstrating God’s love by meeting significant human need while sharing Christ.
 
“I only realized a couple of years ago that I first witnessed LoveLoud when I was a child,” says Bius. “It started with my dad. When I was young, in early grade school, my dad took me with him on an errand. We drove into a neighborhood that I was unfamiliar with. He stopped in front of an old dilapidated house.” The memory of what happed next reawakened Bius’ understanding of LoveLoud.
 
“My dad went to the trunk and took out two grocery bags, one in each arm,” said Bius. “He went to the door – it only had steps, no porch. When he knocked an older woman answered. She pulled back the screen door and my dad disappeared inside. A few moments later he came back out without the bags. He never said a thing about what he did. He showed me. I had forgotten about that day until the memory came back to me a couple of years ago. I realize now that was the first time I saw LoveLoud in action.”
 
Now Bius hopes to multiply LoveLoud across the region. She will help discover churches that are already engaging in similar ministries, with the goal of replicated them contextually for other churches. Bius began networking almost immediately after her move.
 
“I’ve been able to follow up with people I met at the Send North America Conference and the Colorado convention annual meeting,” says Bius. The Send North America Conference is NAMB’s gathering for church planting and mobilization. “I’ve also connected with people whose churches have been featured in state newspapers. I tell them I saw them in the paper and am interested in how their strategies are working.
 
In addition to her new church family, Bius also has interaction with the Send North America: Denver team. Denver city coordinator Dave Howeth connected Bius with the group quickly. Denver is one of nine Send North America cities in the West region.
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NAMB photo by Greg Schneider

North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionary Lorna Bius serves the West Region as the board’s first LoveLoud catalytic missionary. See video.

 
“Dave has been great,” says Bius. “I’m so thankful that he brought me on board and helped me get established. I’ve made some good initial connections. Being in Denver is great. Twitter has been helpful, and I’m engaged in informal field research.”
 
Bius isn’t the only newbie with the LoveLoud team. She was on a conference call recently with new LoveLoud team leader Jerry Daniel and the newest LoveLoud catalyst, Taylor Field.
 
“It was a brief conversation, but I’m excited about what Jerry and Taylor bring to LoveLoud,” says Bius. “Taylor will help church planters visualize a day-to-day strategy that not only connects with their communities, but will help them discover how they can transform their neighborhoods and reach into peoples’ lives.
 
“Taylor said one thing that resonated with me, and I will be using it everywhere I have the opportunity to speak. He said we need to, ‘Teach our people to be light, not lightning.’ We need to be there, not with just the quick strike, but for the long term. As Jerry and Al [Gilbert] say, we are called to be a faithful presence of ministry so we can tell people about Christ when they ask why we care.” Field is founding pastor of Graffiti Church in New York. Gilbert is NAMB’s interim vice president for evangelism.
 
The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, 2013, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, provide support for Bius and other missionaries like her who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes – Reaching the One.”

The heart of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is to support missions, says Bius. If there is anything she has more passion for than sharing her faith, it just may be Annie.

“It is amazing to me that I am able to see when people give in Mississippi or New York and then see it used to reach someone for Christ in Phoenix,” says Bius. “I get to see the other side of the offering plate, the effects of not just the funds, but the heart behind the giving. It is incredibly potent with every offering and every voice.
 
“And not only giving, but in what the giving provides. It is phenomenal to be able to tell people that someone provided a resource because they wanted to help reach someone else for Christ. People are amazed, particularly in the West, that someone they don’t know would give to help them.”
 
Bius also sees LoveLoud as an avenue to develop future missionaries and leaders. She says LoveLoud gives people the opportunity to participate in serving others, helps them develop interests and skills, and shows them how to take those interests and skills and engage people with the gospel.
 
“When people walk away from LoveLoud they haven’t just done something, they are becoming something,” says Bius. “LoveLoud has a real opportunity to lead to church planting.
 
“My parents were great influences on me. That golden thread of God’s heart runs through my family and my life over the years. I have been the beneficiary, and now I get to be a cheerleader for it. I never would have dreamed it.”
 
For more information about Lorna Bius, visit anniearmstrong.com/lornabius. For more information about LoveLoud, visit namb.net/loveloud. The Biblical Recorder compiled a page about the Week of Prayer missionaries. Visit here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/26/2013 2:55:03 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments



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