February 2015

Court limits Jack Phillips’ religious bias lawsuit

January 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian cake artist Jack Phillips can proceed with his latest lawsuit alleging Colorado harassed him based on his religious beliefs, but he may no longer seek damages from nine of the 10 defendants targeted.
 

Alliance Defending Freedom photo
A Colorado district court has limited the scope of Christian cake artist Jack Phillips’ latest lawsuit to defend his First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has legal standing to challenge Colorado’s discrimination law, the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled Jan. 4 regarding a motion to dismiss the 2018 case. But most defendants successfully blocked Phillips’ pursuit of compensatory, punitive and nominal damages against them as government officials and individual citizens.
 
Only Colorado Atty. Gen. Cynthia H. Coffman remains an individual defendant in the case, having lost her appeal to block Phillips from pursuing equitable relief against her in her official governmental capacity.
 
“Because the Attorney General represents the Commission in proceedings to enforce” Colorado’s statute, Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel wrote, “and Phillips claims this enforcement is currently violating his constitutional rights, Attorney General Coffman is a proper defendant.”
 
Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the entire seven-member Colorado Civil Rights Commission won their motion to have the case against them dismissed, proclaiming immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
 
In the district court ruling, Daniel acknowledges Phillips’ Christianity and the fact that the state law limits Phillips’ operation of his business. Because of the law, Phillips may not post on his business website a statement explaining that he refuses to bake items that violate his religious beliefs and free speech.
 
Phillips’ attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) praised the district court’s ruling to allow the case to continue, despite the limitations.
 
“We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a Jan. 7 press release. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack.”
 
The latest case, Phillips v. Elenis, is the cake baker’s second legal battle against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Phillips filed the lawsuit in August 2018 after the state said he discriminated against a citizen who wanted to celebrate her gender transition with a blue and pink cake.
 
The latest lawsuit follows a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Phillips’ favor regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs in finding him guilty of discrimination in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled.
 
The district court ruling acknowledges Phillips’ use of his Christianity in business practices.
 
“Phillips is not only a cake artist, but a Christian. His faith teaches him ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” Daniel wrote, referencing 1 Corinthians 10:31. “According to this teaching, and other instructions from the New Testament, Phillips operates Masterpiece as an extension of his religious convictions.... Phillips’ faith informs what he will and will not do.”
 
Because of the state law, Daniel said, Phillips is not able to clarify on his website that “Masterpiece Cakeshop serves all people – no matter who they are or what protected characteristics they have. ... But because our religious beliefs guide us in all parts of our lives, we cannot create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with our faith. For example, because of our belief in the teachings of the Bible and our reliance on those teachings as the only source of ultimate truth, we cannot create custom cakes that through words, designs, symbols, themes, or images express messages that ... celebrate gender transitions” and other events.
 
Maureen Collins, an ADF web writer, said the latest case hopefully will settle the issue for Phillips.
 
“Hopefully this lawsuit will mark the end of Colorado’s bullying of Jack,” Collins blogged Dec. 17. “He deserves to see a day when he can freely live out his faith without fear of government punishment. After all, that is the God-given right of every person, no matter who they are or what they believe.”

1/11/2019 11:03:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New SBC efforts focus on evangelism

January 10 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Southern Baptists can expect to hear a lot about evangelism in 2019, according to Jim Law, executive director of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “We’re looking for every opportunity to talk evangelism,” he told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview about the recently announcedWho’s Your One?” initiative.
 



NAMB photo
NAMB President Kevin Ezell, left, and Jim Law, NAMB executive director of evangelism and leadership, right.

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., plans to give Southern Baptist associational leaders an advance look at the evangelism campaign during a simulcast event Jan. 31. “Who’s Your One?” will formally launch Feb. 20.
 
The rollout will include a ministry leadership toolbox created by NAMB to help pastors lead their churches to be more active in sharing their faith.
 
Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, will unveil the “evangelism kit” that includes educational materials, sermon outlines, prayer cards and NAMB contact information for pastors that want further guidance.
 
Hunt told the Recorder that he “could not be more excited” about the effort.
 
“Everyone can be involved and intentional,” he said. “We can all pray, invite, share our testimony, share the gospel and trust Jesus with the results. … If our over five million Sunday morning worshippers were to pray about their ‘one,’ I can only imagine what could happen. Let’s just do it. Thousands will come to Christ.”
 
Two weeks after the briefing for associational leaders, Hunt will preview the material with Southern Baptist state executives at their annual meeting in February, before promotion to churches begins.
 
Law expressed confidence in the campaign’s ability to help churches be more evangelistic because both Hunt and Greear have conducted similar, successful initiatives at their respective churches. Hunt previously served as pastor of Woodstock Baptist Church near Atlanta, Ga.
 
“We’ve got to prioritize evangelism again,” Law said.
 
Law also expects evangelism to be a “major topic of discussion” at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham this June.
 
“We’re not trying to focus on one particular resource,” he continued. “We’re trying to get people to use any resource they want to get people to share their faith.”
 
Hunt and Greear plan to embark on a “Gospel Above All” tour in the fall of 2019 and into next year. NAMB also has a number of national and regional events focused on evangelism.
 
A leadership training program called “Timothy+Barnabas” – which Hunt developed and led at Woodstock for years – came under the umbrella of NAMB’s leadership development arm on Jan. 1. Hunt will continue to lead the program and plans to host five training events in 2019 across the United States.
 
“Leadership and evangelism go together,” said Law, explaining that many congregations fail to share the Good News in their communities because they have not been led to do so by their church leaders.
 
Visit NAMB.net/evangelism for more information.

1/10/2019 11:43:36 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Ashford: ‘Be our better selves’ in the public sphere

January 10 2019 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

As an observer of Christianity and public life, Bruce Ashford sees the good, the bad and the ugly of American political engagement. In a new book, Letters to an American Christian, he is seeking to change it for the better.
 

Bruce Ashford

In a whimsical yet informative series of letters between Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a fictional character named Christian, the book seeks to address hot-button issues and ideologies in today’s American culture and how believers can speak thoughtfully and persuasively into them.
 
“I’m trying to show Christian conservatives how we can be our better selves, and I’m trying to appeal to progressives to show them why more conservative principles would be better for our nation,” Ashford said.
 
The recipient of the letters, Christian, is a university student among professors who are secular progressives and from a family of secular conservatives. In this context, Ashford seeks to help Christian consider how to address such topics as transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, nationalism and the relationship between church and state.
 
Whether a political junkie or a political novice, Ashford seeks to speak candidly to Christians seeking to better understand the nation in which they live.
 
“I wanted to write it for everyday Americans to try to reason from Christian premises and give Christian reasons for why I believe what I believe,” said Ashford, noting that the character Christian represents numerous questions he has fielded from believers who want to know how to interact with today’s issues.
 
The question is not whether American Christians should involve themselves in political discourse, Ashford said, but how they should do so. He encourages believers to insert their voices into their daily conversations in a loving manner, acknowledging that it can be especially difficult in social media conversations.
 
“It’s a strong Christian who, in the face of mocking and insulting, can stand there and give strong arguments with a gracious disposition,” Ashford said, stating that he seeks to find common ground with those who oppose his views and then make his argument. Through this approach, particularly on social media, he has found that half of the responses turn out to be positive.
 

Ashford said the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) can play a vital part in influencing the political sphere.
 
However, when political involvement and allegiances are not balanced well, Ashford said many outside observers think the SBC is affiliated with a political party.
 
“What we ought to do is make it very difficult for people to be able to classify us in that way,” he said, noting that this goal aligns with the purpose of his book by helping everyday Christians engage in the public square.
 
Ashford, who was part of a discussion carried by C-SPAN last fall, has been “pleasantly surprised” by the response to the book, published in mid-2018 by B&H Publishing of LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
SBC President J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., described Letters to an American Christian as a “fantastic, enlightening, and entertaining analysis that perfectly reads the zeitgeist and offers humble, practical, and biblically faithful counsel.”
 
Walter Strickland, former SBC first vice president and assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology at Southeastern, noted that the American political landscape “is an increasingly difficult space for Christians to navigate. Ashford offers a vision for Christian political engagement and applies it to the most pressing issues of the day ... for believers who desire to reflect biblical faith in the public square.”
 
Letters to an American Christian is available through Lifeway Christian Resources, Amazon, the iTunes store and other retailers.

1/10/2019 11:43:27 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments



After California wildfire, ‘God just keeps’ providing

January 10 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

His town devastated by the deadliest wildfire in California history, Pastor Doug Crowder was leading Magalia, Calif., Pines Baptist Church to serve 300-500 meals per day to the community. The problem was he had no bread to make the French toast his cook had planned for the next day’s breakfast.
 

Photo from Facebook
Magalia, Calif., Pines Baptist Church responded to November's deadly Camp Fire by serving 300-500 meals per day to the community, including a Christmas Eve dinner with hundreds of pounds of brisket.

That’s when a man from a local food bank walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Chuck.... Our warehouse burned down, and we need to get rid of some stuff. Do you need any bread?”
 
Such unexpected provision, Crowder told Baptist Press (BP), repeatedly has sustained community ministry by Magalia Pines even though the congregation launched its effort weeks ago with no money and no food. Through their ministry, the church also has seen a spiritual harvest in Magalia, which was approximately half destroyed by November’s Camp Fire.
 
Meanwhile, the neighboring town of Paradise, Calif., is almost completely destroyed. Most residents scattered, and churches are undertaking a ministry of counseling and listening.
 
The Camp Fire ravaged Northern California Nov. 8-25, killing 86 people and causing an estimated $16.5 billion in damage, according to media reports. The California Southern Baptist Convention’s (CSBC) disaster relief ministry has partnered with local churches to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of fire victims.
 
In both Magalia and Paradise, pastors have had to decide whether to maintain a focus on ministry amid destruction of their own homes.
 
That’s what Crowder did at Magalia Pines after his home burned down. And he’s glad he did. The unsolicited provisions the church has received have included produce, meat, a forklift, RVs, tools, clothes, propane and enough water to distribute 12 tons per day.
 
“We didn’t actually go looking for anything,” Crowder said. “God just keeps bringing the stuff,” including “that ridiculous water supply.” The “worldwide flood” of provision began, he said, following publication of a BP story about the church’s plight and Crowder’s harrowing rescue of some 30 locals Nov. 9.
 
As the community ministry continues, Magalia Pines has seen full worship services, salvation decisions and two weddings for local couples convicted they should not live together apart from marriage. One man who had never been in a church before told Crowder, “God and this church saved my life. The least I can do is give it to Him.”
 
Regarding the destruction of his own home, Crowder said, “We consider it a blessing” because no fire victim can say to him, “You have everything, so you don’t understand.”
 
At Paradise Ridge Southern Baptist Church in Paradise, Pastor Bob Sorensen likewise is ministering despite the loss of his house. In the early days of the fire, Paradise Ridge hosted firefighters and CSBC disaster relief volunteers in its building. Now, less than 5 percent of the church’s 60 regular attendees remain within 20 miles of Paradise, Sorensen said.
 
In addition to tending to minor damage of the church facilities, Sorensen has “walked the ashes with a lot of people.”
 
“I wept with them,” Sorensen told BP, “rejoiced when they found something. About the only thing that lasts [through the fire] is pottery.”
 
First Baptist Church in Paradise – whose pastor, Sam Walker, also lost his house – has hosted CSBC disaster relief chaplains in the church building. Walker has connected with and prayed for fellow community members and opened the congregation’s food pantry.
 
“I’ve really appreciated” the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains’ “being there” to counsel community members, Walker said. “I can’t be there every day” because “there’s a lot of stuff we are trying to do to just get our own family back into a place of functioning.”
 
Charles Woods, director of missions for the local Sierra Butte Baptist Association, asked believers everywhere to pray for recovery efforts in Magalia and Paradise.
 
“This is a time to pray for them that God’s presence would be revealed in a very loving way,” Woods told BP, “that even through the fires and flight, God is still there.”

1/10/2019 11:43:19 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Churches ramp up background checks to ensure safety

January 10 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

As churches become aware of potential safety issues, more are signing up for background check services through LifeWay Christian Resources’ OneSource program.

“The numbers have increased dramatically since we began our relationship with backgroundchecks.com,” said LifeWay’s Jennie Morris. “On average, we add 160 customers a month.”
 
Since January 2009, more than 16,000 customers have conducted more than 320,000 screenings with backgroundchecks.com through the LifeWay OneSource program. In 2018, more than 1,800 new churches signed up for the program.
 
Part of the growth, Morris said, comes from offering a $10 price point for a search that includes nationwide sex offender registry, various terrorist watch lists, more than 600 million felony, misdemeanor and traffic records searches, as well as Social Security number validation.
 
According to Morris, around half of the searches return some type of offense. Most are only for minor incidents, but historically, close to 2 in 10 discover a misdemeanor or more serious crime.
 
Churches have begun to recognize how pervasive abuse in churches can be.
 
A 2018 LifeWay Research survey found 12 percent of Protestant pastors say someone on church staff has sexually harassed a congregation member at some point in the church’s life, while 16 percent say a staff member has experienced sexual harassment in a church setting.
 
Having some peace of mind is part of the reason Rachel Steele, a ministry assistant at Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., said her church uses the service. The background checks are the “first level of due diligence,” Steele said.
 
“We want to have a basic idea of who we are working with,” she said. “For volunteers with kids, we need to make sure there are no offenses of note that would make it unwise to allow individuals to serve in those circumstances.”
 
Les Seal served as a pastor at Harper Creek Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Mich., and started using backgroundchecks.com for individuals working with kids and students. He said it was part of “taking steps to provide a safe and friendly environment for the children.”
 
Protection for children at church is one of the primary reasons Oak Grove Baptist Church in Covington, Tenn., decided to use backgroundchecks.com through LifeWay, according to Jim Martin, a retired deacon and Sunday School teacher.
 
The church added a background check requirement for all teachers of students to their child protection policy. Martin said no one has been disqualified from serving because of a background check, but church members are at peace knowing someone is checking the history of those working with youth and children.
 
He feels having the background check requirement in place may also have kept some potentially problematic volunteers from applying.
 
A lawyer recommended Oak Grove use background checks for their volunteers to provide not only protection for the children, but also legal protection for the church itself.
 
Martin said Oak Grove uses it for Sunday School teachers, AWANA leaders, Upward coaches, children’s church volunteers, mission trip leaders, and church staff. “If you love kids, you have to protect them from folks with evil intentions,” he said. “You cannot just leave it up to a volunteer selection committee and hope for the best.”
 
For more information on background checks, visit LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks or call (800) 464-2799. For additional resources to help churches prevent sexual abuse or other moral failures by staff members or volunteers, visit LifeWay.com/OneSource, SBCLife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf or SBC.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp.

1/10/2019 11:42:54 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Jimmy Allen, SBC president and ‘energetic dreamer,’ dies

January 10 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Jimmy Allen, a former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and entity leader known for his gregarious personality and engagement with cultural issues, died Jan. 8 in Brunswick, Ga. He was 91.
 

SBHLA photo
Former SBC President Jimmy Allen, pictured here at a press conference during the 1978 SBC annual meeting, was remembered as "driven" and an "energetic dreamer."

The last SBC president to serve before the convention’s Conservative Resurgence, Allen also was a confidant of President Jimmy Carter and once met with Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis. Allen led the SBC’s Radio and Television Commission from 1980-90 and the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission from 1960-68.
 
During Allen’s 1968-80 pastorate of 9,000-member First Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, the congregation was among the SBC’s baptism leaders and established a range of social ministries.
 
“He was the most energetic dreamer I think I’ve ever known,” said Allen biographer Larry McSwain, a former dean and provost at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “He was driven by a call from God as a young man that never left him, and he had a passion for people that shaped the kind of ministry he had throughout the many chapters of his life.”
 
A hallmark of Allen’s SBC presidency was Bold Mission Thrust, a convention-wide campaign adopted in 1978 “to enable every person in the world to have the opportunity to hear and to respond to the gospel of Christ by the year 2000.” Allen was among the campaign’s chief promoters.
 
Jimmy Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources and a friend of Allen’s since the 1950s, called Allen an excellent preacher and a passionate evangelist.
 
“The night [the SBC launched] Bold Mission Thrust, there was a huge crowd,” said Draper, SBC Executive Committee ambassador. “It was one of the most impressive evenings as [Allen] challenged us to implement Bold Mission Thrust. Even though we disagreed on a lot of things, I respected him. He was a good communicator and had a heart to see people reached for the gospel.”
 
Gender diversity marked Allen’s presidential appointments and SBC program decisions. At his first annual meeting to preside in 1978, a woman, Marian Grant, chaired the Program Committee and 15 women were appointed to SBC committees, according to McSwain’s biography Loving Beyond Your Theology. Five additional women had program roles, including addresses by Coretta Scott King and Ruth Graham Bell.
 
Allen’s intense work ethic, McSwain said, led him to sleep only about four hours a night and consume “coffee by the gallon.” He “had met everybody, and he knew everybody,” often calling pastors “Doc” when he couldn’t recall their names.
 
His engagement with social issues included efforts to battle racism and segregation during the Jim Crow era. Allen said in a 2008 interview his concern about racism began as a teenager when a conference at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center led him to rethink prejudiced views.
 
“My sense is that the Bible itself is our authority and our mandate and that the Bible is very clear about God creating all men in His image,” Allen said in 2008. “And therefore there’s a mandate in God’s Word to oppose any kind of discrimination and racial prejudice.”
 
At the Texas Christian Life Commission, Allen advocated for the integration of Texas public schools and helped organize a conference on race at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His 1969-71 presidency of the BGCT culminated with an interracial gathering of 41,000 Texas Baptists from various conventions in Houston’s Astrodome.
 
Allen’s advocacy of racial justice brought so many threats to his family that he and his wife Wanda established a secret pattern of rings for their home telephone to let their children know a parent was calling rather than a white supremacist with a death threat, McSwain said in a 2008 interview.
 
While SBC conservatives and moderates alike came to applaud Allen’s progressive thinking on race, McSwain told Baptist Press, his “progressivism” in other areas like theology and U.S. politics “probably triggered some reaction” from “grassroots” Southern Baptists involved in the Conservative Resurgence.
 
In his latter years, Allen participated in moderate Baptist groups like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the New Baptist Covenant.
 
Politically, Allen used his vast social network to help Carter carry Texas in the 1976 U.S. presidential election, McSwain said. Allen “lived on the telephone” and obtained “carte blanche access to the White House after Carter became president. ... Carter often called him for counsel” and “frequently addressed him as his pastor.”
 
On Christmas Day 1979, Allen was part of a nongovernmental U.S. delegation that met in Iran with the ayatollah amid a standoff over 52 Americans being held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. When the delegation initially was refused an audience with Ayatollah Khomeini, McSwain said, Allen appealed to his status as immediate past SBC president. Following his meeting with the ayatollah, Allen met with the U.S. hostages.
 
Among Allen’s deepest personal struggles was the deaths of his son, a daughter-in-law unrelated to that son and two grandchildren stemming from AIDS. He detailed the experience in the 1995 book Burden of a Secret. Allen also became an advocate for AIDS patients.
 
Allen’s funeral will be held Jan. 14 at First Baptist Church in St. Simons Island, Ga.

1/10/2019 11:42:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists commission 50-plus church planters

January 9 2019 by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

More than 50 new church planters were commissioned by Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina staff in a service that highlighted the convention’s commitment to plant new churches and share the gospel across the state, including with the many internationals now living here.
 


BSC photo by Mike Creswell
More than 50 church planters who partner with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina were commissioned Nov. 10 at Piedmont Baptist Association’s building in Greensboro, essentially as missionary church planters.

The service and dinner were held Saturday, Nov. 10, at Piedmont Baptist Association’s building in Greensboro. It drew primarily Hispanic and Asian church planters from around North Carolina who are partnering with the convention’s church planting team and receiving financial support, coaching support or both from team consultants.
 
Through that team, North Carolina Baptists have facilitated the planting of 494 new churches since 2014, Chuck Register told the assembly. Register is the convention’s executive leader for church planting and mission partnerships.
 
Sixty-five percent of those new churches have non-Anglo memberships, he said. Those new churches have counted 24,312 professions of faith in Christ as Savior during the same period.
 
“A commissioning service is always exciting when we commission our brothers and sisters that God has brought from across the world,” said Register.
 
North Carolina is now home to more than 160 language/culture groups, most often referred to as “people groups,” in missions strategy. Some of those groups have very few Christians among them at present and constitute a major missions challenge for North Carolina Baptists.
 
In his keynote message based on Jeremiah 29, Register told the planters, “God has a plan for your life,” and added that the planting of that new church is part of God’s plan.
 
Register compared life to a tapestry being woven by God into a beautiful picture, but for now planters only see the tangle and chaos of threads from the back side of the tapestry, not God’s ultimate picture on the other side.
 
“Discipling new believers is part of that beautiful picture God is weaving for your life,” he said. Church planting sometimes involve pain, Registered acknowledged. But when God’s plan and our pain collide, they should be driven to God, where we will find a beautiful time of worship.
 
Well over half the church planters commissioned were Hispanics, a nod to the state’s high Hispanic population, estimated at upwards of one million. William Ortega is church planting consultant for Hispanics.
 
The Asian church planters were from some 70 Asian language groups the church planting team currently works with, led by church planting consultant Ralph Garay. Some of the planters have been involved in convention life for years and are starting their second, third or more churches.
 
The prayers of North Carolina Baptists are a key element to the church planting ministry, said Mark Gray, church planting team leader on an interim basis.
 


BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, was keynote speaker.

“If we can get North Carolina Baptists to pray, we will see fruits of those prayers as church planters of multiple languages are raised up across the state,” he said. Gray said the team has received numerous calls from people across the United States who say God has called them to start churches in North Carolina. Often these planters have had no prior connection with the state, Gray said, “yet they are being obedient and they come, often at great sacrifice.”

Two church planters gave testimonies of God’s faithfulness as they have started new churches.
 
M.C. Ko, a native of South Korea, acknowledged he has struggled during the past two years as he has helped launch a multi-site Korean language church called The Connect Church in the Cary/Durham area.

Prayer has helped pull him in God’s direction, Ko said. When he is affected by turmoil, problems and stresses, he reminds himself that taking care of such challenges are God’s job, not his. Ko reminded planters the churches they are starting belong to Jesus, not them.
 
Hispanic Pastor Barry Matos told how he resisted God’s call to start a new Hispanic church in Kannapolis, but he finally surrendered and went.
 
Matos said he and a small group of members managed to get their church a place to meet in a converted storefront building on Cannon Boulevard in Kannapolis.
 
Despite having no money, they managed to install a floor, ceiling and other elements in the building.
 
Help from the Baptist State Convention and other churches was a part of that, he said.
 
Even getting his seven children through college has been possible with God’s help, he testified.
 
“He will provide if you trust Him and are faithful and honor Him with your firstfruits,” Matos said.

1/9/2019 9:20:18 AM by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina | with 0 comments



National Day of Prayer launches PRAY magazine

January 9 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, has introduced a new quarterly magazine, PRAY.
 

Photo submitted

While PRAY will seek to “encourage and equip Christians in how to pray more effectively,” Floyd noted to Baptist Press that “it is also published for men and women who lead local church prayer ministries.”
 
The National Day of Prayer publication “is just one tool we are using to mobilize unified public prayer for America,” Floyd said in a Jan. 7 news release.
 
“Through this resource, you can learn about how prayer impacts lives, find practical applications, and inspiration for your own prayer life.”
 
Orderliness is the theme of articles by Floyd and several others in PRAY’s inaugural January-March 2019 edition.
 
“In this issue, Dr. Ronnie Floyd writes about the wisest decision you can make: I will walk with God today. Getting our lives in order spiritually allows us to prioritize God’s work in our lives.
 
“Dr. Tim Clinton invites us to pray through our relationships – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the questionable. When our relationships are in order, we will naturally be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading because our thoughts are not as consumed with turmoil. And Rachel Cruz points out ways to order our finances, avoiding financial disasters and stress that can distract us and cause our prayer lives to become ineffective for the Kingdom.”
 
Clinton is president of the American Association of Christian Counselors; Cruz is the host of an online money management program, “The Rachel Cruz Show,” and author with Dave Ramsey, her father, of Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money.
 
Additional articles in the 40-page issue are titled “Praying Your Life into Order Physically” and “Six Biblical Prayers When Tragedy Strikes.”
 
Floyd was named as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force in April 2017. He is the senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. How to Pray, with a 20th anniversary edition slated for April, is among 20-plus book he has authored.
 
Subscriptions for PRAY and information about other church-related prayer resources is available at the National Day of Prayer’s Church Prayer Leaders Network, prayerleader.com.
 
This year’s National Day of Prayer will be May 2 with the theme “Love One Another.”

1/9/2019 9:19:56 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments



Venezuelans find mercy in arduous exodus from tumult

January 9 2019 by Monica Starr, International Mission Board

Night descends rapidly on the small plaza where a penetrating drizzle falls onto the cold stone floor. About 35 men, most in short sleeves or sleeveless shirts, huddle under the only two trees.
 

Photo submitted
Venezuelans gather on a rainy night in a small plaza anxious to receive food and clothing as they trek through Colombia's Andes Mountains. At 7,000 feet above sea level, they still have another 3,000 feet to climb before the terrain eases as they flee Venezuela's economic collapse.

Meanwhile, two young women scurry to pull together an improvised “tent” of black plastic trash bags while trying to keep a small girl dry in her fuzzy footsie pajamas. They select the top step of the plaza, against the wall of a closed building. Rain runs off the roof onto their shelter, collapsing it.
 
Nearby, under the narrow archway of the building, a young couple sit in physical exhaustion, leaning as far back as possible, their legs from the knees down with nowhere to go but out in the drizzle. Between their two bodies they try to shelter their eight-month-old son.
 
This is the first Colombian town of any size on the route up, over and along the high, arduous Andean mountains from the Venezuelan border, across Colombia to the Ecuadorian border, across Ecuador to the Peruvian border and – for some – across Peru to Chile or Argentina.
 
It represents only the first few days of travel by foot for Venezuelans fleeing the surreal collapse of their nation – once one of the wealthiest on the continent.
 
They are only a handful of the 200 to 500 Venezuelans who pass this way every day, some pushing the elderly in wheelchairs, many carrying a baby or child, a number well along in pregnancy, nearly all dressed for hot climates. Most have no money, no food, no connections outside of Venezuela. They have not eaten well for a long time in their home country, where a month’s salary will only buy two days’ worth of food. They have sold their homes and belongings to pay for bus fare across Venezuela to the Colombian border – if they are fortunate. Some cannot do even that, so they walk a week across Venezuela to the border – before beginning their long walk toward multiple countries.
 
Here in neighboring Colombia, the Venezuelans on this dark night on a mountain plaza are sore, hungry, thirsty, cold and wet. They have been walking steadily upward on the mountain highway for anywhere from two to four days. They carry with them everything they own in a backpack or luggage with rollers: perhaps a change of clothes, perhaps photos of family left behind, perhaps work boots for a hoped-for future job. They come from flat, hot plains or the sultry coast. They have never known cold – no more than what would be felt by opening a refrigerator door. They have never slept on the ground in a public plaza.
 
They have no coats, no jackets, no gloves, no sweaters, no scarves. Their socks (if they have any to begin with) and shoes are already in tatters. Their footwear is flip flops, cheap loafers or low-cost tennis shoes. They are all headed toward a 10,000-foot mountain pass where at least 18 people have recently died of hypothermia and exposure. They have no preparation, no resources for this appalling journey, and no idea what lies ahead.
 
Their survival depends on strangers. Some strangers are kind. Others are not. In a growing atmosphere of xenophobia against Venezuelan immigrants, some people are turning against them and some nations are slamming doors shut. In this town, this night, the townsfolk are in their homes, eating dinner, preparing for bed. They have seen floods of Venezuelans pass their shops and homes, all tired, all hungry, all penniless.
 
Then a small miracle comes out of the night. A van pulls up across the street. From it descend a weary band of missionaries.
 
Since early morning they have been driving up the mountain, stopping each time they see a group of Venezuelans, getting out, inviting them to put down their heavy loads and sit for a moment while they give the Venezuelans hot sandwiches and hot chocolate, bind up their tattered and broken shoes with silver duct tape, give out mountain clothing and gear donated by Colombian believers, hear their stories, tell them a story – one of God’s stories – share suggestions for staying well, cry with them, hug them, pray with them and encourage them along the way.
 
The plaza is the missionaries’ last stop. For 11 hours they have been hearing and seeing one heartbreaking story after another: the 16-year-old who has left home alone to find work to send money back to six younger brothers so they can eat. The elderly man who has worked the soil all his life. There are no seeds now, he says. He hopes someone will let him work their land and give him enough to eat. The woman in her fourth month of pregnancy whose intention in leaving is that both she and her baby live. The teenage girls walking to a 10,000-foot pass in sandals, capris and summer blouses.
 

Photo submitted
Early in their exodus from economic tumult, a group of Venezuelans visit with a missionary before beginning their taxing journey through Colombia's Andes Mountains.

The group of men on the plaza come to life as they realize that food – FOOD! – is being offered to them. And HOT CHOCOLATE. The two women receive their sandwiches and drinks, warm jackets and scarves. Expressing thanks, they quickly retire with the little girl to their reconstructed trash bag tent. A few feet away, the young couple under the archway barely have the energy to extend their hand for the sandwiches. All day and evening the missionaries have zealously guarded their one child-size blanket, watching for that child who most needs it. Now the pink crocheted blanket wraps their little boy. The father sits by his wife and child, completely unable to care or provide for them in any way. As he takes his first sip of hot chocolate, the hot tears begin to flow down his face and will not stop. 
 
The men are reluctant to let the missionaries leave. Here are people with jackets for them. More importantly, people who see them as human beings and know where they are going, and have information. “Will it be colder further on?” the men wonder. “Can anywhere be colder?” They are at 7,000 feet and still have another 3,000 feet in elevation to reach the pass, where nighttime temperatures range from 36 degrees to below freezing. Practical tip from the local pastor: don’t climb into the mountain heights while hot and sweaty – a sure way to get bronchitis. Cool off first. A tip from one of the missionaries: save the foil from the sandwiches. It can keep your hands warm.
 
Today, somewhere in South America these Venezuelans are still walking.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Monica Starr writes for the International Mission Board.)

1/9/2019 9:19:45 AM by Monica Starr, International Mission Board | with 0 comments



Baby-saving ministry ready to extend its reach

January 9 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

Justin Phillips said it’s the best and worst thing he’s ever done with his life. Every day, he stands across the strip mall parking lot from a door marked simply G-3422. It’s sandwiched between two dollar stores.
 

Contributed photo
Justin Phillips takes a fulfilling moment to hold one of the lives saved through the ONElife for Life outreach in Flint, Mich. 

Every week, 20 to 30 babies are aborted there.
 
“We’re out there pleading with moms and dads to have mercy on their child, and we’ll help,” said Phillips, a full-time missionary with ONElife for Life, a ministry of ONElife Church in Flint, Mich.
 
Since ONElife for Life began in May 2016, dozens of babies that they know of have been saved out of G-3422. And the ministry has grown, said Eric Stewart, pastor of ONElife Church and president of ONElife for Life. They’ve acquired a building next to the strip mall that will be a pregnancy resource center and they’ve been given a bus that will be used as a mobile ultrasound.
 
They’ve also expanded their reach to conversations outside a second abortion clinic in town.
 
It’s been slow growth. Stewart’s big-picture goal is for Christians to have a presence outside each of the nation’s 720 abortion clinics. Right now, ONElife for Life is covering two.
 
Stewart and Phillips have been speaking in churches in recent months trying to awaken a desire to pick up the mantle.
 
When he speaks, Stewart said the first thing he does is ask the church he’s visiting to repent with him.
 
“For years, I did nothing, but if it’s really murder, then we have to face that reality,” Stewart said. “If someone drove into our town and wiped out an entire kindergarten class every week, we wouldn’t sit idly by and say, ‘It’s not affecting me.’”
 
The story of the Good Samaritan demands the liability of the bystander, he said.
 
Stewart said he thinks about it all the time, ever since he heard a story about how one particular church in Nazi Germany would sing louder on Sundays so they wouldn’t have to hear the trains chugging by on the way to the concentration camps.
 
“We hear that story, and do we not wish that there would have been Christians who went to the point of injustice and said, ‘No, we can’t let this happen,’” Stewart asked. “We have our opportunity now. We are living in the American holocaust, and we have the opportunity to [speak] in Christ’s name.”
 
For churches interested in being involved, Stewart and Phillips can provide training in how to start a ministry like ONElife for Life and have conversations with people outside abortion clinics.
 
They aren’t there to protest, Stewart said. They’re simply there to show love and offer mothers the help they need to bring a baby full term.
 
“We want to equip the church. We’ve learned how to train people to do this kind of ministry – we’ve learned from our own mistakes and would love to pass that along so that people don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Stewart said.
 
“We’ve thrown our lives into this, and we would love to duplicate it all over the place. We need gospel-saturated missionaries to confront the darkness and abolish the evil of abortion. It really is a life-or-death situation.”
 
There’s an emotional toll to the ministry of standing at a “modern-day concentration camp,” Stewart said.
 
There at their tent across the parking lot, Phillips and volunteers from the church have conversations with anyone who will talk to them. They offer to adopt the baby or cover any financial needs the parents might have for the baby’s first three years of life.
 
They remind each mother that God knows the baby in her womb.
 
Sometimes those babies are still aborted.
 
“But we’re compelled to go because we’re told to go to orphans in their distress, and these children have been disowned by their parents,” Phillips said.
 
And at least 85 have been saved. It could be more. They only know about it if a tearful mother meets them there on the edge of the parking lot and tells them she’s decided not to go through with it, or if the parents later choose to swing back by and let them meet the baby.
 
“Every month we have people who come back and say, ‘Hey, I never said anything, but here’s my baby,’” Stewart said. “So, we know there’s probably more.”
 
God is at work there, shining light into the darkest of places, Phillips said. “We just stand there and watch Him move. It’s all Him. He brings people to us and saves babies all the time.”
 
One woman told Phillips that she didn’t want to talk to him, but her legs just walked her over there. After talking with him, she chose not to go through with it.
 
“It’s a battlefield all the time, and it’s an honor to stand there proclaiming a message of hope,” Phillips said. “We do that, and God does the rest. We can’t change hearts, but He can.”
 
It hasn’t been without pushback. Sometimes the clinic will have people posted in the parking lot to “shepherd” women into the building so they won’t have conversations with Phillips. Other times people have approached him with threats.
 
But in Christ, Phillips said he knows he goes out victorious already.
 
“It’s a horrible ministry, horrible to watch it every day,” he said. “But at the same time, to be able to lay down our lives in that way on behalf of Christ and His love for these babies is incredible.”
 
For more information about ONElife for Life, visit onelifeforlife.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

1/9/2019 9:19:36 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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