2011 SBC: more missions, no night sessions

January 28 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Changes are in store for the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting — including two missionary appointment services, fewer business sessions and no night sessions — in hopes that more people will participate, the chairman of the committee planning that meeting announced Jan. 28.

Proposed changes include trimming the program to morning and afternoon business sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14-15, and scheduling missionary appointment services for both of the convention’s two mission boards, said Will Langford, pastor of Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., and the chairman of the Committee on Order of Business.

The annual meeting will be in Phoenix at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“The Committee on the Order of Business has been working diligently with SBC President Bryant Wright to make adjustments to the 2011 Annual SBC Convention Program,” Langford said in a statement released to Baptist Press.

“Proposed changes include trimming down the number of program items so as to better emphasize the Great Commission work of the SBC entities and missionaries,” Langford said. “Changes to the program will consolidate the meeting into four sessions that will be morning and afternoon sessions on both Tuesday and Wednesday without unduly restricting seminary and other special luncheon time. The evening sessions will be eliminated.”

The committee believes eliminating the evening sessions and trimming the program items will enhance participation and free up time for messengers and guests for fellowship, discussions and family, Langford said.

“Also, it is the desire of the committee that the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board will be able to include missionary commissioning services as part of their reports, thereby enhancing the experience of the missionary, the messenger, the mission entities, and lifting up the Great Commission emphasis,” Langford said.

“By these changes we seek to promote greater attendance and participation in our annual meeting, and in providing this general preview the hope that anyone who has not yet made plans to attend might be encouraged by these new enhancements to do so,” Langford noted. “These are high bars to hurdle, and we are still working on details, but feel confident that when we announce the program on the traditional date of May 1, the new format will be one that is well-received by the vast majority of Southern Baptists.”

Other members of the SBC Committee on Order of Business are Emerson Falls, pastor of Glorieta Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Stan Buckley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.; Rudy Yakym Jr., businessman from South Bend, Ind.; John B. Hoychick, attorney from Rayville, La.; and William A. (Andy) Chambers, vice president for student development at Missouri Baptist University. SBC President Bryant Wright is an ex officio member of the committee. Jason Breland, worship pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., is the music director for the annual meeting.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/28/2011 3:49:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ezell gives preview of new NAMB strategy

January 28 2011 by Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell will propose new strategy, new vice presidents and a staff reorganization when he meets with NAMB trustees at a board meeting scheduled for Feb. 9 in Alpharetta, Ga.

The meeting comes almost exactly five months after trustees voted to call Ezell as the entity’s president last Sept. 14.

Ezell issued a statement Jan. 28 in advance of the board meeting. (The complete text of the statement is available at the end of this story.)

“I believe NAMB’s strategy needs to revolve around church planting that is focused on penetrating lostness in North America,” Ezell said.

“We will mobilize churches to become part of this church planting effort. Then we will equip them for the task and help them get it done.”

NAMB graphic

When he meets with trustees Feb. 9, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell will propose a regional approach to NAMB’s strategy implementation.


Ezell added, “This national strategy will be implemented regionally, working in close partnership with state Southern Baptist conventions in a way that prioritizes the largest areas of lostness. I am proposing that these five regions — Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada — each have their own leader who will report directly to me.”

Ezell will present trustees with two candidates as regional leaders. Stephen Davis, who has served as executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana since 2003, is to be considered as vice president-Midwest Region.

Davis “has provided great leadership at the Indiana Baptist State Convention since 2003 and has pastored for three decades,” Ezell said. “I could not be happier at the prospect of having Steve in this vital role.”

In addition, Ezell will present Jeff Christopherson as vice president-Canadian Region. Christopherson currently serves in Toronto as a NAMB church planting missionary.

“Jeff Christopherson has been one of our church planting missionaries and is at the forefront of those efforts in Canada. He has proven his great leadership and mobilizing abilities,” Ezell said.

Ezell said he will present two other vice presidential candidates to trustees at the meeting as well.

In addition to presenting new strategy plans and vice presidential candidates to trustees, Ezell will unveil a proposed organizational structure for NAMB that reflects the entity’s re-defined priorities.

“As I have said over the past months, once we determine our strategy, we will need to realign our organization in a way that will let us best carry out that strategy. I will present that re-structuring to our trustees at February’s meeting,” he said, adding, “There are not any staffing reductions associated with this re-alignment.”

In order to reduce staffing costs and place more money on the mission field, Ezell offered a retirement incentive package to Alpharetta-based NAMB employees in late 2010. Savings from the 99 people who retired or chose a severance package by year’s end is estimated to be $6 million.

Ezell thanked those who have been praying for him and for NAMB and said, “These are exciting times, but also critical days as we forge ahead with what I believe can be a new era of effectiveness for Southern Baptists.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by staff of the North American Mission Board.)  

Full text of Ezell’s statement
I will be presenting several items to our Board of Trustees when I meet with them February 9 and I wanted to share some of those details ahead of time.
  • Strategy and Approach
I believe NAMB’s strategy needs to revolve around church planting that is focused on penetrating lostness in North America. We will mobilize churches to become part of this church planting effort. Then we will equip them for the task and help them get it done.

This national strategy will be implemented regionally, working in close partnership with state Southern Baptist conventions in a way that prioritizes the largest areas of lostness. I am proposing that these five regions — Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada — each have their own leader who will report directly to me.
  • New Personnel
I have been asking God and others to lead me to those who would be best equipped to provide leadership for these regions. I am happy to say that I will present two of those to our trustees in February.
    • VP — Midwest Region — Steve Davis I am proposing that Steve Davis, who has provided great leadership at the Indiana Baptist State Convention since 2003 and has pastored for three decades, should lead our efforts in the Midwest Region. I could not be happier at the prospect of having Steve in this vital role.
    • VP — Canadian Region — Jeff Christopherson Jeff Christopherson has been one of our church planting missionaries and is at the forefront of those efforts in Canada. He has proven his great leadership and mobilizing abilities. I will present him to lead the Canadian Region.
These are the only two regional vice presidents we will be presenting to our trustees at this time, but I will present two other vice president candidates at our meeting.
  • Organizational Structure
As I have said over the past months, once we determine our strategy, we will need to re-align our organization in a way that will let us best carry out that strategy. I will present that re-structuring to our trustees at February’s meeting. There are not any staffing reductions associated with this re-alignment.

I want to thank all of those who have been praying for me and the North American Mission Board during these days of transition. These are exciting times, but also critical days as we forge ahead with what I believe can be a new era of effectiveness for Southern Baptists.
Serving Together,
Kevin Ezell
President, North American Mission Board, SBC
January 28, 2011

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)   
1/28/2011 3:38:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chinese woman leads dozens to Christ with tract

January 28 2011 by Sue Sprenkle, Baptist Press

THAILAND — No one notices the young Chinese woman silently crying in the back pew. It’s the only place she finds solace from her deep depression and fear of death.

She’s not even sure why she sits in this church every afternoon; her communist education and Buddhist religion teach against a belief in God. Yet something keeps drawing Lily Wang* here.

She pulls a Bible from the pew. It’s not in her native Mandarin, but she flips it open anyway. She learned to read a little Thai after moving to Thailand a few years ago to teach school, but she hasn’t learned enough to really understand this.

So many questions cloud her mind that she finally musters enough courage to speak to a man carrying the same book. He brushes past the petite woman and goes about his business. The rejection reinforces everything she’s feeling — no one is interested in her; no one cares.

Distraught and angry, Wang walks to the foot of the cross and screams, “Are you real?

“I don’t want to die. I want to live,” she cries. “Please give me a way.”

Wang storms out of the church, vowing never to return.

Hope comes
A few weeks later, Wang is sitting at her desk preparing lessons when a student rushes into her international school’s classroom.

“Teacher! Teacher!” the girl exclaims. Wang jumps up, startled and concerned, until she hears, “I found your book.”

The student hands her a soiled booklet. She found it in the trashcan on the playground. Wang scrunches her nose against the stench and explains it isn’t hers. The girl must throw it back in the trash.

One lone tract from the Southern Cross project got into Lily Wang’s hands. She came to saving faith in Jesus and then led more than 40 others to Christ as well. Southern Cross hands out packages containing a Bible and other Christian literature — at a production cost of about $3.45.


“But teacher, it must be your book,” the girl insists. “It’s written in Chinese.”

Wang quickly scans the first page. Her heart leaps. The story is about Jesus’ death and resurrection. She thanks her student for the book and sits down to read. The booklet, a tract called “Song of a Wanderer,” answers every question she whispered in the church. The information is shocking. Her education since childhood taught only evolution, but this booklet claims life started from a complete human form, not a single cell.

“This has to be true,” she mutters to herself.

The book opens a new world for Wang as she discovers a Creator-God. She stuffs the booklet in her back pocket and takes it everywhere, spending every spare second reading and rereading.

For weeks, her whole world revolves around the torn book. Finally, Wang decides she needs more. The booklet quotes Scripture throughout; she wants a Bible — but she has no idea how to find one. In her home country, China, you can’t just go out and buy one at the corner bookstore. Wang decides to write to the address on the tract requesting a Bible.

“No matter the cost, I will pay for the Bible,” she adds to the letter, fearing the Christians might reject her again.

“I don’t really believe anything will happen,” she thinks, preparing herself for disappointment. “It will be just like when I prayed in the church — nothing. God isn’t interested.”

Wang can’t help herself, though. She watches the mail daily, but nothing arrives. Just as she’s about to give up hope, a woman speaking Mandarin calls. Southern Cross Project, a Chinese Bible distribution ministry, received her letter. The woman offers to deliver the Bible in person.

Over coffee, Wang learns that as she was screaming at God months ago in the church, some American mission volunteers were distributing Mandarin Bibles and Christian literature packets to Chinese tourists. Somehow, one of these books made it across town to her.

“I’m in God’s hands. He does care about me,” Wang admits. “I need to accept these teachings.”

Hope shared
After her meeting, the teacher rushes home to call her mother in China. She excitedly recounts her new discovery and urges her mother to tell her sister.

“How can I share if I do not understand it myself?” her mother asks.

It hasn’t occurred to Wang that her uneducated mother might not understand the tract. It speaks to educated Chinese, those who learned about evolution and were taught to doubt God’s existence. Wang wants her family to find the same Creator-God, so, she calls everyday, reading from the tract and talking about God. By the end of the book, her mother and sister also decide to follow Jesus.

The first time Wang visits a Chinese church in her city, she notices everyone gathered around two women. The discussion about God heats up but the two remain stone-faced, unbending in their denial of God’s existence.

Wang pulls the precious tract out of her purse and discreetly hands it to the women. They read parts of it together and discuss it with the young teacher. Both ask Jesus into their hearts.

Wang takes the soiled booklet everywhere she goes. Even when she travels to England to work on a master’s degree, she slides it into her carry-on. While in Europe, she uses the tract to lead more than 20 people to Christ during her two years of study — not to mention 20 others in Thailand.

When Wang goes to China for vacation, her childhood best friend, Chen Wu*, notices something different about her. Wang starts to tell Wu about the change in her life but her friend stops her mid-sentence. Wu doesn’t want to hear; she thinks God is only for lucky people. Rather than argue, Wang comes up with a compromise.

“If you promise to read this book, I promise not to talk about God until you bring the topic to me,” Wang says, inwardly grimacing about leaving her precious, worn-out book in China.

Her friend agrees, not really believing something that looks like a piece of trash really holds answers for her life. It’s months before Wu opens the book. But when she does, Wu reads the entire thing in one sitting, then immediately calls Wang.

They kneel together — one in Thailand, the other in China — and Wang helps her best friend invite Jesus into her heart.

“Isn’t it amazing how God uses a piece of trash to call people to Him?” Wang asks her friend about the 70-cent tract. Then she adds, “Now, give me my book back!”

Wu ignores her. She now uses the booklet to tell others in China how her life changed. She’s lost count of how many have prayed with her to receive Christ.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The next Southern Cross project, Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, will be live-blogged at www.mreport.org. You can join six volunteer teams as they pray and distribute packets of Christian literature. To learn how to get involved in the Southern Cross Project, e-mail scptravel@pobox.com. Sue Sprenkle has been travelling the globe for more than a decade as a writer and photographer for the International Mission Board. She currently resides in Southeast Asia.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/28/2011 3:21:00 PM by Sue Sprenkle, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Retreat helps music ministers refocus

January 27 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Before jumping into the nuts and bolts of how to prepare for a worship service, the reason for worship had to be explained, for this reason helps set the course for all of life.

“We were created to worship God,” said Kenny Lamm. “When we choose to worship something less than God we abandon our reason for living, and suddenly we reduce our lives to less than God intended them to be.”

Lamm, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) senior consultant for worship and music, explained to those attending the Music Minister’s Retooling Retreat Jan. 21-22 that only when they understand the theology of worship will they will be able to truly help lead others in a meaningful worship experience.

BSC photo

Kenny Lamm leads a Music Minister's Retooling Retreat.


“The issue is not that the quality of worship needs to improve — it’s that the object of our worship needs to improve,” Lamm said.

People often, whether they intend to or not, worship something other than God, from celebrities and money to relationships and security. Worshippers of God spend time in His presence and demonstrate a lifestyle of worship.

“Worshippers spend the entire day with their spirits on the Lord, conscious of giving Him praise,” Lamm said.

Worship leaders with a right understanding of personal worship understand more fully the value of corporate worship. They recognize that their role in corporate worship is to help lead, or prompt, others in worship; they are not the main attraction.

A congregation is not the audience — God is the audience.

Lamm said a right model of corporate worship stresses major participation from the audience or congregation, a “welcome corrective to the situation in many churches in which the people take their seats, drop some coins in the offering, sit back and expect to be entertained and edified by the choir, the special music and the interesting sermon.”

The question of which style of worship to adopt, whether traditional, contemporary or blended, is a question many congregations are struggling to answer. Lamm reminded participants that these discussions often never move beyond the issue of personal preference. “We assume people with different preferences are wrong and we equate our preferences with God’s preferences,” he said.

After laying the groundwork for a theology of worship Lamm turned his attention to worship leadership. Worship leaders must see themselves as servants who seek to bless God and who help others do the same. Worship leaders must remember that God’s grace is the foundation of worship and His glory is the goal of worship. A worship team must be committed to doing all they do with excellence, and to think of themselves as “skillful artisans” who use their creativity to help others experience God’s mercy and grace in new ways.  

Lamm explained 10 ways to improve worship leading, such as studying under other worship leaders, understanding the importance of worship in the Bible, working with the pastor, and learning to communicate well with the congregation.  Lamm then spent the rest of the weekend helping music ministers learn practical ways to retool the music and worship experience for their church. A worship team was also present to help with demonstrations and modeling various musical techniques. Topics covered included:
  • Songs for worship: How to properly select music for a congregation
  • Worship Formats: Understanding varying worship styles
  • Worship Mechanics: Linking songs, key relationships, thematic considerations, worship flow, making a plan, use of instrumentalists
  • Practice of Corporate Worship: Practical insights to help all team members, from musician to tech team
Five one-day boot camps, the first scheduled for next month, will also address topics covered in the retreat. All worship leaders, whether full-time, part-time, bivocational or volunteer, are invited to attend the boot camps.

The boot camps will be held:
  • February 5: Oakmont Baptist Church, Greenville
  • March 26: Arran Lake Baptist Church, Fayeteville
  • April 9: Grove Park Baptist Church, Burlington
  • May 7: Front Street Baptist Church, Statesville
  • May 21: Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, Hendersonville
For more information visit www.worshipnc.org

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 

1/27/2011 5:03:00 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Assn. seeks sale to resolve seminary controversy

January 24 2011 by Samuel Smith, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Tarrant Baptist Association’s (TBA) executive board voted unanimously Jan. 24 to offer to sell a building that has been a point of contention with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

If the seminary is unwilling to buy the building on its campus in Fort Worth, Texas, for fair market value, the TBA executive board asked that the matter be referred to a three-member arbitration panel as stipulated in a 1982 affiliation agreement, according to TBA moderator Al Meredith. The executive board also resolved to pray for seminary leaders in the matter.

The seminary sent a letter on Dec. 10, 2010, informing the association that it had six months to vacate the building located at 4520 James Ave. in Fort Worth. According to Meredith, while the building is located on the seminary’s campus, Southwestern transferred the deed to the association in 1997. Meredith added that three or four years ago representatives of the seminary inquired about the availability of the property, but that nothing had been said on the matter between then and last December. A second letter from the seminary dated Jan. 18 reaffirmed the seminary’s position, but allowed for some leeway in when the association would have to move, Meredith said.

“I don’t have another step if these measures don’t resolve the issue,” Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, told Baptist Press after the meeting, voicing hope that the issue can be resolved through a negotiated settlement. Otherwise, “If the TBA wins, the Kingdom loses. If Southwestern wins, the Kingdom loses. No one wants to see the Kingdom lose because of this.” Representatives of Southwestern have declined comment until the matter is resolved.

Published reports indicate that the seminary holds that the affiliation agreement between the entities has been breached and is no longer in force.

The seminary’s letter raised two issues: the TBA’s inclusion of churches that are not in “friendly cooperation” with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and a lack of help with finding preaching assignments and ministry opportunities for seminary students and faculty.

TBA member Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth no longer is affiliated with the SBC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) over differences in how to deal with homosexuality among church members. The Southern Baptist Convention stipulates that any church that affirms homosexuality is “not in friendly cooperation.” The SBC voted in 2009 to cease relationship with the church, and in 2010 the church voted to leave the BGCT.

“What the SBC does is not binding on state or local institutions or the local churches,” Meredith said. “It is different for Southwestern, since it is a denominational entity. As an association, we’re trying to work with people who are archconservatives and moderates and everything in between.”

As to the association’s lack of help in placing students and faculty, Meredith said, “The great majority of the pastors on staff in the Tarrant Baptist Association attended Southwestern. At my church, I am the only person on staff who did not attend Southwestern. That does not even take into account the myriad of seminary students who volunteer in TBA churches.”

Meredith added, “I pray for Paige Patterson and Southwestern Seminary every day, as I know many of our members do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Smith is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 

1/24/2011 2:03:00 PM by Samuel Smith, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



96-year-old: God gives strength to serve

January 21 2011 by Scott Barkley, Baptist Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Finishing up her master of divinity degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1996 at age 82, Margaret Burks admitted the toughest class her final semester had nothing to do with theology or ministry methodology, but athletics.

“It was required,” Burks said. “I nearly killed myself competing and playing soccer with those kids in their 20s.”

Instructors, however, did urge her to take it easy. Burks, now 96, didn’t take the conventional route to missions involvement either. In May 1985, she was recently widowed and serving as Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) director for Chattahoochee Baptist Association in Gainesville, Ga. She said Dorothy Prior, then leading WMU for the Georgia Baptist Convention, called and asked Burks if she was interested in going to Liberia.

The day after Christmas that year, Burks, a member of First Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, was on a plane to the West African country for her first mission trip. She was 70 years old.

“The (Georgia Baptist Convention) had a partnership with Liberia then and I went to work at a youth camp,” said Burks, who would go to Africa 21 times before graduating from New Orleans Seminary. She would return to the country to assist in establishing women’s ministries as well as working with a construction team that built eight church facilities.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Burks

Margaret Burks is protected from the African sun by Don Gardner, a volunteer at Mount Meru University in Tanzania. Burks, a member of First Baptist Flowery Branch, Ga., began taking mission trips to Africa in her 70s.


On those construction efforts, the decades-younger men called Burks “Mud Mother” as she mixed mortar.

“It was just like mixing cornbread,” Burks said. “One day a man didn’t take his medicine, so he went home. I took his place laying bricks.”

Around the time she finished her degree at New Orleans, Burks’ attention turned to Tanzania. Six weeks before finishing her courses, Harrison Olange, president of International Baptist Theological Seminary of Eastern Africa in Arusha, Tanzania, had come to speak on the New Orleans campus. She visited Olange at the Tanzanian school, now named Mount Meru University after the nearby mountain of the same name. She wound up teaching English and the Bible — among other subjects — to women for three years.

“We taught in Swahili,” Burks remembered. “I only knew three words, but we were able to communicate. Women have a language all our own.”

In the mid-1990s, the school housed only around 240 on campus, Burks said. Now it enrolls more than 1,000. In all, she would return to Tanzania eight more times. An elementary school she helped build now has about 400 students and teaches English, which is unusual, Burks said, because “most schools there don’t teach English until the seventh grade.”

“She’s an inspiration,” said Earl Pirkle, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Gainesville and a friend of Burks. “She went back to Africa multiple times through 2007.”

Pirkle had known Burks for more than 20 years but only in the past few have they grown closer through a shared loved for missions. A January 2007 journey to Tanzania — Burks’ last international trip — gave Pirkle a firsthand look at her desire to spread the gospel.

“I saw her passion to teach and minister to the people there,” Pirkle said.

Burks knew she was on the verge of beginning dialysis, he added, but wanted to make that final overseas excursion. In May she began the visits to aid her kidney functions.

“From that point, I continued with the mission work in Tanzania,” Pirkle said. “Margaret is still very involved in the planning of these trips and sponsoring students in the university in Arusha, Tanzania.

“She has a passion which is like a fire when you are around her,” Pirkle added. “She does not like anyone to tell her no! Her passion, at her age, gives me motivation.”

Burks’ time in Africa came with some harrowing moments, as well as God’s provision. She was with International Mission Board personnel who were forced to make a quick exit to avoid being caught up in Liberia’s 1989 civil war. In Tanzania, Burks recalls driving a seminary student to his church plant — students had to start a church as part of their degree — when her car ran out of gas “in the middle of nowhere.”

The two pushed her car to a tree where they were to pick up a passenger. Fortunately, not only did the passenger have a can of fuel, but it was diesel, the specific fuel the car required.

“God gives you a love for the people you serve,” Burks said. “They called me ‘Koko’ — Swahili for ‘old woman.’ I don’t think you ever retire from God’s service.”

You also don’t retire from encouraging others to pursue that service and the education needed for it. While at New Orleans, Burks came to know Stan Wilkins, who became one of her favorite professors. Wilkins was a longtime pastor in Georgia who directed Bartow Baptist Association before dying in 2006 following a fall at his home on Thanksgiving.

For the past four years, a motorcycle ride in Wilkins’ honor has raised money for a scholarship — named for Wilkins and his widow Gail — at New Orleans Seminary. Burks had always contributed to the effort.

Gail Wilkins contacted Burks last year about helping recruit a few extra riders for the event. The senior obliged, with one condition.

She wanted to ride too.

The request — though that may not be the right word considering Burks’ history of determination in doing what she wants to do — shouldn’t have surprised Wilkins. “Stan talked about her a lot,” she said. “He’d say she was so full of life and enthusiastic and driven to learn and do the work of the Lord. She never let anything stop her or stand in her way.”

“Mrs. Margaret thought the world of him,” added Wilkins’ daughter, Tamara Brock. “She was more than thrilled to be there at the ride and honor him.”

So Burks took part in the 100-mile ride, perched on the back of a Honda Goldwing Trike driven by Pirkle’s brother Paul.

“(Her activity) confirms that it doesn’t matter what age you have to be to reach people for the Lord,” Brock said. “She has a heart for ministry and reaching people.”

No longer an 80-something-year-old kid, these days Burks drives herself three times a week from Flowery Branch to Buford for dialysis treatments. It’s only slowed her down somewhat, as she drives others to doctor appointments. To her it’s nothing special.

“I just think (of my time of service) as normal,” Burks said. “Whatever you’re to do, He gives you the strength to do it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Barkley is production editor for the Christian Index, newsjournal of churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/21/2011 8:03:00 AM by Scott Barkley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ezell announces $2.3M Annie offering shortfall

January 20 2011 by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Southern Baptists gave $54.3 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) for North American Missions in 2010 — a $2.3 million or 4 percent decline compared to the 2009 total of $56.6 million. The amount for 2010 is not yet audited.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell shared the total with leaders attending the annual Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) board meeting on Jan. 9 at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

“Thank you for all that you do,” Ezell told the WMU gathering. “We are dependent upon you as you serve the Lord and promote the Annie Armstrong Offering. We are thankful for the $54.3 million from the offering and how that is being used.” All funds from the offering go directly to pay the salaries and ministry needs of missionaries serving in North America.

“One of the blessings of being at NAMB the last three months has been learning the stories of our missionaries,” Ezell said. He told of recently meeting an inner-city missionary serving Los Angeles, a church planting missionary in Connecticut and a church planter in Boston who is starting two churches, one English-speaking and one Russian-speaking.

“There are courageous heroes of the faith that we so often don’t hear about,” Ezell said. “And meeting them and hearing their stories has been a blessing.”

WMU President Debby Akerman told attendees, “We pledge to continue praying for our brother (Ezell) as we’ve been doing. It’s not always easy to give up what you desperately love doing to pursue what God wants you to do.”

Photo by Mike Ebert

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, addressing the annual Woman’s Missionary Union board meeting Jan. 9, reports that Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions totaled $54.3 million in 2010.


Turning to changes taking place at NAMB, Ezell said the goal is to bring more resources to the North American mission field. Of the 99 NAMB staff members who retired or accepted severance packages at the end of 2010, Ezell said, “We are going to operate with fewer people in Alpharetta for the sole purpose of more money going to missionaries on the field. We are going to save $6 million this year through those staff transitions.”

Ezell said details of NAMB’s new strategy and how it would be implemented will be shared at the Feb. 9 meeting of NAMB’s board of trustees, but he gave insights into what to expect.
  • NAMB’s Alpharetta staff will stay lean. “We don’t all have to be in one location anymore,” Ezell said. “You cannot judge the strength of an entity by how many are at its headquarters. You have to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of it out in the field.”
  • State conventions are being asked to prioritize their work. “Right now we are working with each state and asking them to let us know their priorities,” Ezell said. “And as a part of that, we are saying, ‘These are our priorities. We are trying to narrow our focus.’ And then we are asking, ‘What is it that you do best? What is it that NAMB does best? And what is it we want to do together?’” 
  • New money for church planting will be directed to areas with the largest unreached populations. “What we’re going to do with the money we’re getting from these reductions is to come into areas with the greatest lostness and put church planting on steroids and do it with a greater degree of intensity there. We are going to come up with a strategy that can be implemented everywhere, but when you have limited resources, you go with where the greatest degree of lostness is.”
Ezell said executive directors from the state Baptist conventions “have been wonderful to work with and have been a huge help to me. I’m very grateful for them.” He said discussions with state leaders have been about shifting more resources to “new work” states and that NAMB would have written agreements with every state convention that wanted one.

“There doesn’t have to be whiplash on this,” Ezell said. “We don’t have to accomplish all of this by June. We are going to get there and we will find a way to get there together. It takes longer to do it together, but it will be a much better result in the end, and it will produce what we want.”

Ezell said not all NAMB missionaries would focus exclusively on church planting.

“We’re going to have all sorts of missionaries, but they all need to be connecting people to a church. We want to help people, but it’s help so they can see the Hope. And it’s not just so they have a hope and it ends there, but it’s about them getting connected to a local church. We’re trying to make sure everything is church-focused.”

Ezell took questions at the end of his presentation and was asked whether NAMB’s work in missions education would continue. “It’s not going away, but we want to utilize all of the partners available to us,” he said. “We are in the process of making it better — not to see it dissolve, but to utilize partners to do it even better.”

In addition, he said NAMB’s work with local associations will continue but might be accomplished in new ways, utilizing staff members outside the Alpharetta building. Asked if he felt called by God to lead NAMB, Ezell replied he “absolutely felt called.”

“Part of the reason I led my church the way I led it was I felt like the system was broken,” Ezell said. “I didn’t feel like enough money was reaching the missionaries. And I disengaged. But I feel like God said, ‘Hey, it’s put-up or shut-up time. Do you want to fix it? I’m going to let you fix it.’

“We have a lot of work to do,” Ezell said. “I’m very excited about the future. Change is difficult, but with God’s grace and help we are going to take it step by step and get there. I’m very excited about it.”

The 2011 goal for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is $70 million. All money from the offering goes directly to missionaries serving on the field.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ebert is vice president of communications for the North American Mission Board.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/20/2011 12:12:00 PM by Mike Ebert, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Seminary gives association 6 months to vacate

January 19 2011 by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary notified Tarrant Baptist Association before Christmas it had six months to vacate its offices on the edge of the seminary campus. The seminary asserted the association was in violation of its affiliation agreement — in part because of perceived toleration of homosexuality by a member church or churches.

But while Tarrant Association Moderator Al Meredith contends the seminary lacks authority to take unilateral action, he expressed hope the situation can be resolved and the association’s longtime fraternal relationship with the seminary be maintained.

The association office received a registered letter from Southwestern Seminary Dec. 10. The letter stated the association was in violation of its 1997 affiliation agreement, and it directed the association to vacate its property on James Avenue within six months. It also stated title on the property should revert back to the seminary.

In 1982, the seminary provided Tarrant Baptist Association land and the funds to build its office building, granting a 99-year lease on the property, Meredith explained. At that time, the seminary and association entered into an affiliation agreement stipulating the property would not be used for commercial activity, and the association and seminary would commit to remaining in theological harmony.

In 1997, the property agreement was renegotiated, and Tarrant Baptist Association received the deed to the property. “The affiliation agreement remained intact,” Meredith added.

According to the agreement, if any disagreement should arise between the association and the seminary, the matter should be resolved by a three-member arbitration panel with one seminary representative, one associational representative and one party mutually agreed upon by both parties, he noted.

On Dec. 20, three associational representatives — Moderator-elect Meredith, Moderator Bobby Bridges and Leadership Development Director Becky Biser — met with Seminary President Paige Patterson and some of his staff to discuss the situation.

“We had a lengthy and amicable discussion,” Meredith said in an interview.

He noted during the discussion, Patterson commented that he had learned information he did not have when the original Dec. 10 letter was delivered. He agreed to consider the matter further and discuss it with the seminary’s attorneys.

Patterson was not available for comment for this article.

In a Dec. 21 letter to pastors in the association, Meredith noted specific areas in which the seminary claimed the association was not in compliance with its affiliation agreement:
  • Toleration of homosexuality. While the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message takes a clear position against homosexual behavior, the seminary contends the association has a church or churches that do not comply with the statement of faith on that matter. “They feel this places them in a contradictory situation,” Meredith’s letter stated.
The Southern Baptist Convention cuts its historic ties with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2009 over its perceived acceptance of homosexual members. Last year, Broadway also withdrew its affiliation from the Baptist General Convention of Texas rather than face a challenge
  • Placement. The seminary asserted it had asked for — and had not received — assistance from the association office in helping students and faculty gain access to empty pulpits in the association.
Meredith’s letter also noted the seminary expressed the need for additional office space or a welcome center that could be housed in the offices Tarrant Association occupies.

“For now, the ball is in the seminary’s court,” Meredith said, adding he and other associational leaders were praying for a win/win situation.

“If Tarrant Baptist Association wins and Southwestern Seminary loses, the kingdom of God loses. If Southwestern wins and the association loses, the kingdom loses. The matters of the kingdom are greater than either the seminary or the association. My prayer is that we do nothing to bring reproach on the name of Christ,” he said.

“Tarrant Baptist Association has enjoyed a longstanding fraternal relationship with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and we want that to continue.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Baptist Standard.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/19/2011 9:38:00 AM by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Faith gets star treatment at Sundance

January 19 2011 by Piet Levy, Religion News Service

Celebrity sightings and up-and-coming indie flicks are a given at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, but this year something else is drawing attraction on the red carpet: faith on film.

A small but noticeable number of films at Sundance — where crossover movies like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Little Miss Sunshine” broke into the mainstream — tackle issues of religion, spirituality and faith.

Out of 120 Sundance features scheduled to show at the Jan. 20-30 festival, 12 are overt stories about religion, or chronicle protagonists largely defined by faith, says John Nein, senior programmer for the festival.

“There are definitely more films (exploring spirituality) that ended up in the program this year than in years past,” he said, noting an uptick in the number of submissions that touch on religious themes.

Christianity is a central theme in most of the films, from the star-studded satire “Salvation Boulevard,” featuring Pierce Brosnan as a popular preacher who frames a born-again Christian follower for a crime, to the riveting documentary “The Redemption of General Butt Naked,” about a Liberian warlord-turned-preacher facing the loved ones of people he killed.

The Italian film “Lost Kisses” centers around a Sicilian community’s reaction to a 13-year-old girl who may perform miracles. Two films explore Christianity and Islam, with “Kinyarwanda” set during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the documentary “Position Among The Stars” tracing the lives of an impoverished family in Jakarta, Indonesia.

RNS photo

“Position Among the Stars,” which will screen at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, centers on the story of a Christian mother and her Muslim sons in Indonesia.


The Japanese “Abraxas” focuses on a depressed Zen monk who reconnects with punk rock, while the bizarre American comedy “The Catechism Cataclysm” centers on a priest who loves heavy metal music. Three American narrative features — “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Kevin Smith’s horror film “Red State” and Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut “Higher Ground” — are concerned with cults and religious sects on the fringe.

Religion, of course, isn’t totally new territory for Sundance — previous fest fare included “Saved!,” “Jesus Camp” and “Shape of the Moon,” a precursor to this year’s “Position Among The Stars.”

Most Sundance religious fare tended to be satirical or derisive — with “Saved!” a prime example — said Dick Staub, author of The Culturally Savvy Christian and a columnist for Religion News Service, who has participated in the Windrider Film Forums around Sundance that bring together directors and audiences to talk about faith on film.

William L. Blizek, founding editor of the Journal of Religion and Film and professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said religion may have a higher profile at Sundance this year because “religion has become a much more visible part of our culture.”

“Now that you’ve got a culture that is more open to the discussion of religion, you get more movies (exploring religion),” he says, citing Mitt Romney, President Obama and others who are defined in the public’s eye by their faith.

With more openness toward religion, there is more freedom to make movies about it, some Sundance filmmakers say.

“Position” director Leonard Retel Helmrich says he tried pitching documentaries dealing with religious themes in the ’80s and’90s in his native Netherlands but could not get financing until recently. Flash forward to 2010 and “Catechism” director Todd Rohal said there were no concerns from funders that his film had a priest for a protagonist or a “ridiculous” Catholic-infused title.

Sundance’s Nein said this year’s selections “indicate a wide array of approaches” toward religion, including politics and current events, blatant inspiration (“Salvation” and “Red State”) and more personal stories of redemption and soul-searching (“Tyrannosaur,” about a Christian charity worker, and “The Ledge,” a thriller where a woman wrestles with her personal faith).

Some films highlight the connection between religion and society while still telling personal stories.

Helmrich, whose family has ties to Indonesia and both Islam and Christianity, was drawn to making a documentary about the lives of a Muslim family with a Christian matriarch in the nation’s most populous Islamic country.

“Butt Naked” is a personal story of a man seeking redemption after a 14-year civil war had killed 250,000 Liberians. Several scenes show the allegedly reformed warlord face-to-face with relatives of his victims, but why and how they forgive is left to the viewer to speculate, along with the question of whether such a sinner can truly be redeemed.

“We were interested in knowing if somebody made a transformation this extreme, what would it look like?” said co-director Daniele Anastasion. “... How much do you have to do to balance the scales? Is it even possible to balance the scales?”  

The Films At Sundance
Exploring Religion Following is a brief synopsis of the major films dealing with faith, religion or spirituality at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival:  
  • “Abraxas” — A depressed Buddhist monk tries to reconnect with his punk rock past.  
  • “The Catechism Cataclysm” — A young priest who’s lost touch with his flock reconnects with a high school acquaintance for a canoe trip.  
  • “Higher Ground” — Vera Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated actress from “Up In The Air,” directs and stars in this movie about a woman seeking answers from a fundamentalist Christian community.  
  • “Kinyarwanda” — The first dramatic feature film produced by Rwandans intertwines six accounts of survival during the Rwandan genocide, including stories about a priest and an imam.  
  • “The Ledge” — An atheist says he must leap off a building by noon in a thriller that also examines the life of a woman seeking spiritual redemption.  
  • “Lost Kisses” — Residents in a Sicilian community suspect a 13-year-old girl has a miraculous vision.  
  • “Martha Marcy May Marlene” — A woman who fled a dangerous cult tries to return to a life of normalcy.  
  • “Position Among The Stars” — The final installment of a documentary trilogy that follows the life of a Christian matriarch living with her Muslim sons in Jakarta, Indonesia.  
  • “The Redemption of General Butt Naked” — A former Liberian warlord who’s responsible for the murder of thousands seeks salvation and forgiveness as an evangelical preacher in this documentary.  
  • “Red State” — Kevin Smith, who caused controversy with his scathing comedy “Dogma,” tries out horror with this film about dangerous Christian fundamentalists.  
  • “Salvation Boulevard” — George Ratliff, director of the documentary “Hell House” about a church-run haunted house, directs this satire of megachurch culture. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei and Ed Harris.  
  • “Tyrannosaur” — Actor Paddy Considine (“In America”) makes his directorial debut with this story of a self-destructive man who seeks redemption with help from a Christian charity worker.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/19/2011 9:28:00 AM by Piet Levy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Canine pal ‘Proof’ helps missionary in Bronx

January 18 2011 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

Squeezed between the Harlem River and the old Yankee Stadium lies the mostly forgotten neighborhood of Mott Haven. For decades, this South Bronx community has borne the brunt of crime, drugs and poverty in a city known for its luxuriously rich and desperately poor.

Mott Haven is a hodge-podge of storefronts, public housing, abandoned buildings and turn-of-the-century brownstones and recently was ranked by the Daily News as one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City to raise kids — based on statistics for education, crime and health risks such as asthma, diabetes and teenage pregnancy.

It’s because of the depth of these problems that the red brick building with the bright green door at Brook Avenue and 141st Street stands out amid similar structures.

It’s home to Graffiti 2 Church and Community Ministries, and on this particular Monday morning, the building is quiet. It’s the calm before the storm of activity here every afternoon. As soon as the last bell rings at the elementary school around the corner, some 25 first- through fifth-graders will fill the room for Graffiti 2’s after-school program.

Missionary Andrew Mann takes advantage of the quiet to prepare for the week ahead. Sitting at his laptop, he reaches down and scratches the head of a yellow Labrador retriever at his feet. The slumbering dog peeks one eye in recognition of her master’s touch. “Proof” seems to know that now is the time to catch some Z’s before the after-school crowd rushes in and the work begins.

Gone to the dogs
The five-year-old Lab is not your average pooch. She’s a Canine Assistance Animal trained as a professional therapy dog that has become instrumental in Mann’s ministry at Graffiti 2. Proof’s calm and friendly presence makes her a natural draw to people in the neighborhood.

Normally a model of restrained energy, Proof “lets loose” as she races kids who come to the after-school program at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries led by Andrew Mann, a North American Mission Board missionary. See video.


“More people in the neighborhood know Proof than know me,” Mann says. “I have strangers who come up and greet Proof by name and I have no idea who they are.”

No doubt they’ve heard of Proof from the kids at the after-school program where she earns her dog treats. Proof serves as a reading incentive, de-escalation tool and source of unconditional love for the children.

“For kids who struggle to read, it’s good for them to read out loud,” Mann explains. “Sometimes they’re embarrassed to read to an adult because we know the mistakes they’re making. Proof doesn’t know their mistakes, and they’re comfortable reading out loud to her.”

Mann also uses Proof as an anger management tool. If a kid is mad or upset, Mann hands over Proof’s leash and asks them to watch her. And then he walks away and lets Proof work her magic on the troubled child.

“I wait until they are calm and petting Proof, then I can walk over and talk to them,” Mann says. Pretty cool “tricks” for a dog, but what’s amazing is her uncanny ability to evaluate a situation and problem-solve to find a solution.

Mann tells the story of a kid who was having a particularly bad day — “screaming at the top of his lungs, interrupting the rest of the program and making it difficult for the other kids.”

“With no cue from me, Proof got up and walked toward us. She walked right up to the kid and started licking his hands. Like a light switch being flipped off, he stopped screaming and started petting Proof. He was calm the rest of the day.

“She’s a very special dog,” Mann says with a proud smile. “We call her the first missionary dog. For the kids, there’s few better examples in our natural world of God’s unconditional love than what comes through a dog.”

When God calls
It’s been more than five years since Mann moved into the South Bronx neighborhood — a far cry from the Missouri farm where he grew up. What started as a weeklong basketball camp has grown into a thriving after-school program, an expanded summer sports and fine arts program and — most important — a church that’s primed to minister in the neighborhood.

God first brought Mann to New York as a percussion major studying at New York University. While in school, he attended East Seventh Baptist Church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

That’s where he met North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary Taylor Field, pastor of the church and director of Graffiti Community Ministries. Mann began volunteering at Graffiti between classes and rehearsal time. Soon he was hooked on urban ministry.

Andrew Mann, a North American Mission Board missionary, leads an after-school program in the South Bronx in which students are paired with a middle school or high school student who mentors and helps them with their homework.


Although he eventually transferred to Wheaton College in Chicago, Mann kept coming back to New York as a NAMB summer missionary and serving at Graffiti.

Mann cites his three summers as a student missionary as a time when God honed his calling to ministry. He’d just started his third summer with Graffiti when Field showed him a map pinpointing five neighborhoods — considered the most difficult and most at risk — where he wanted to start other Graffiti ministries.

One of those neighborhoods was Mott Haven.

Field asked Mann if he would start the next Graffiti ministry there. “He caught me off-guard,” Mann recounts. “I had a lot of reasons to say no: I was too young, I was still in school, I hadn’t been to seminary.

“I didn’t say no, but in my head I was thinking it’s not the right time. But I told Taylor I’d pray about it.”

Mann continued with his summer mission assignment and made a point to visit the neighborhood before he left the city that summer.

“I came up here one day and did a prayerwalk through the neighborhood. It was a hot, July summer day,” Mann says. “All the fire hydrants were open and kids were playing in the spraying water.”

He noticed two things: the multitude of children playing in the streets, a clear sign of ministry potential, and a flock of birds.

“God drew my attention to all these sparrows on the ground,” Mann says. “I was reminded of Matthew 6, and I knew God was saying, ‘Andrew, I’ve taken care of these birds in this urban environment and I’ll take care of you, just trust Me in this.’ I got an overwhelming sense that this was where I needed to be and not just to invest a short time, but to invest my life.”

Mann began to take steps to move in this new direction. He had lots of questions: How was this going to work? What would this look like? What am I going to do about my student loans? But God started to put the answers in place and in 2005 Mann moved to Mott Haven.

Mann moved into his apartment on a Saturday. A mission team met him on Monday. They passed out fliers for a basketball camp planned for that week. On Tuesday, nearly 100 kids showed up.

He and his mission team made a great splash in the neighborhood. That first week helped lay a foundation for the work they’re currently doing.

Mann remembers a little girl, Nana, who came to the camp that first week. “Nana didn’t really care about basketball, but she followed all the women around and took pictures of everything and everyone with her camera,” Mann recounts. “We all remember her.”

The following weekend was Labor Day. Nana’s family was celebrating with friends and neighbors at the park that Monday night. Nana’s uncle got into an argument with another man.

The other guy pulled a gun and shot Nana’s uncle five times in the chest. He survived, but a stray bullet hit and killed Nana.

“I always tell people you never know what kind of impact you’re going to have,” Mann says. “I don’t know if Nana knew Christ or not, but I do know her last week on earth she was loved, and she was shown God’s love in powerful ways. That’s really all we can do, and we trust God with the rest.”

Since that first week of ministry in 2005, Graffiti 2 has become a haven for kids growing up in the neighborhood.

Want a revolution
Mann has seen the effects of a culture that largely ignores God — crime, vandalism, malnutrition, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, gang activity. You name it, he’s seen it. But that hasn’t kept him from moving in and making Mott Haven home.

“We’ve been impacted by the love of Jesus Christ,” Mann says. “And that in turn leads us to impact everyone around us.”

Mann points to the God-given mission of Graffiti 2 written on the wall — Revitalize, Revive and Revolutionize.

“It’s the idea of ministering to the whole person,” Mann says. “When we’re doing that, we allow the most opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work in someone’s life.

“We can’t draw people to God, only God can do that,” he says. “We can proclaim it, we can share the Good News, and we’re just going to keep doing that.”

Mann is starting to see small seeds of change sprouting from the concrete jungle he calls home. When he needed more volunteers to work with kids in the after-school program, he recruited middle school and high school students from the neighborhood. Today, 20 teenagers are involved in a ministry called G.S.A.L.T. — Graffiti Serving and Leading Teenagers.

They assist every day after school from 2:30-5:30 p.m., teaching and mentoring the younger kids. After they walk the kids home, they come back to the center for Bible study and help with their own homework.

Graffiti gives them a safe place after school, they hear the Word of God and get loved on, and in return they are affecting the lives of younger kids. Mann has watched God work in the lives of several students and their families.

“I can see how God is strategically planting seeds all over the place,” Mann says. “I know the impact here is not going to be short-term. I believe the harvest is yet to come, and I believe the harvest is going to be more than we can ever dare ask, dream or imagine.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pipes is editor of On Mission from which this article was adapted. Take a virtual prayerwalk through Mott Haven at graffiti2ministries.org.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/18/2011 9:49:00 AM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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