January 2012

Survey: U.S. split on candidates’ religion talk

January 23 2012 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Presidential candidates who discuss their faith on the campaign trail may not be helping their bid for the nomination, according to a LifeWay Research survey of American adults.

The online survey asked, “When a candidate running for office regularly expresses religious conviction or activity, how does that impact your vote?”

According to the survey, only 1 in 6 Americans (16 percent) are more likely to vote for a candidate who regularly shares his religious beliefs.

While 30 percent indicate they would be less likely to vote for a candidate expressing religious activity, 28 percent say it would have no impact on their choice of candidate. Twenty-one percent of Americans say it would depend on the candidate’s religion.
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According to age distinctions, the survey revealed younger Americans ages 18-29 (24 percent) and ages 30-49 (24 percent) are more likely to select “depends on the religion” of the candidate. Those age 65 and over are the most likely (37 percent) to say a candidate’s expression of religious conviction or activity would have no impact on their choice of candidate.

“Millennials are not known for active involvement in matters and practices of faith,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “Yet this survey reveals that young adults do have stronger feelings and that they are more likely to vote differently depending on which religious convictions a candidate expresses.”

Americans who consider themselves to be a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian are more likely (28 percent versus 11 percent) to select “more likely to vote for the candidate” expressing religious conviction compared to Americans who do not share their religious beliefs. Similarly, these Christians are more likely to select “depends on the religion” compared to those who do not identify with these beliefs (36 percent versus 20 percent).

Americans who never attend a place of worship are most likely (67 percent) to say a candidate’s expression of religious conviction or activity would make them “less likely to vote for a candidate.” Only 3 percent would be more likely to vote for the candidate.

“Different people get a different picture in their mind when a political candidate shares or shows their religious convictions,” McConnell said. “While some Americans warm up to this, many don’t see it as a positive.”

African Americans are most likely to be put off by a candidate’s religious expression – just 2 percent say they would be “more likely to vote for the candidate.” Hispanic Americans (41 percent) and African Americans (43 percent) indicate they would be less likely to vote for a candidate expressing religious conviction or activity.

“In fact, two-thirds of Americans who never attend a place of worship appear to flee from candidates who repeatedly put their religion in front of them and 4 in 10 Hispanic and African American adults take it as a cue that the candidate is not for them,” McConnell said.

Methodology: The survey, conducted Sept. 23-26, 2011, sampled an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, party, age, race, religion, gender and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 2,144 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin is LifeWay’s manager of editorial services.)
1/23/2012 1:25:39 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Platt/‘Secret Church’ topic: ‘Cross & Suffering’

January 23 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – “The Cross and Suffering” will be pastor David Platt’s topic for a Good Friday “Secret Church” simulcast on April 6.

Registration opens Tuesday, Jan. 24, at LifeWay.com.

Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and author of the bestseller “Radical,” will examine biblical answers for such questions as “Why am I suffering? Where is God when I suffer? How can God be good and allow such evil in the world?” Platt’s teaching will center on how the gospel strengthens, sustains, supports and ultimately satisfies believers in the midst of suffering.
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Secret Church events include six hours of in-depth Bible teaching and prayer for the persecuted church. Churches, small groups and individuals around the world participate in the Secret Church simulcasts which are produced by LifeWay Christian Resources in partnership with Disciple-Making International and The Church at Brook Hills. This will be LifeWay’s third Secret Church simulcast.

On Good Friday 2011, while thousands gathered at The Church at Brook Hills, approximately 50,000 people from 1,300 churches and small groups participated in the first LifeWay simulcast. Participants for that event were spread across 42 states and 11 countries.

Groups from 14 countries and a few restricted-access countries participated in the November 2011 Secret Church simulcast.

Secret Church was born from Platt’s experiences teaching in underground house churches in Asia. There, he experienced how Christians met in secret at great risk to their lives in order to study the Bible. This awareness sparked the desire to see that same urgency and hunger for biblical teaching in his own church.

There have been 11 prior Secret Church events, but after the first meeting reached sell-out capacity, The Church at Brook Hills began a reservation system.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
1/23/2012 1:21:18 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay’s Gospel Project to provide in-depth curriculum

January 23 2012 by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time in more than a decade, LifeWay Christian Resources is releasing a new ongoing Bible study series for children, students and adults under one theme.

The Gospel Project is an in-depth and gospel-centered Bible study designed to help participants examine the deeper theological and missional concepts in the text. It is slated for preorder in June and features a three-year study plan with 13-week units. Each unit uses an age-appropriate voice, depth and course of study.
 
For example, The Gospel Project for Kids follows a chronological timeline of Bible events, while The Gospel Project for Students focuses on biblical theology, apologetics, missions and the overall story of Scripture.

“This is more than curriculum,” said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project. “The goal is to provide a theologically driven study that points people to Jesus.

“It’s easy to come to Scripture looking for just new information or immediate application. We can even have Bible knowledge and not be focused on Christ,” Wax said.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, serves as general editor for The Gospel Project.
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“Going ‘deep’ means different things to different people. Some of what passes for ‘deep’ is merely information, Bible trivia and minutia,” Stetzer said. “Others pit ‘deep’ and ‘relevant’ against one another. Yet, more church leaders realize today that unless you dig deep and help people know and live out the Scriptures, you are not relevant.

“Much Bible study material is created under the assumption that to be relevant to the new believer or unchurched visitor, the leader needs to stay on the surface,” he added. “Some even say, ‘Dig deep and you lose people.’ We think leaders must make the profound truths of Scripture accessible to everyone.”

Frank Page, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee president, said he’s “excited about LifeWay’s new in-depth Bible study,” adding that it “will help our people understand how Jesus ties the entire Bible together.”

“Resources that lead adults, students and even kids through theological and missional concepts can only strengthen Southern Baptists’ effectiveness in reaching the world for Christ,” Page said.

Stetzer and Wax brought together a team of church leaders and scholars from across the country who offered counsel regarding the development and direction of the curriculum.
 
The Gospel Project’s advisory council included D.A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill.; Matt Chandler, The Village, Dallas; James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicago; Daniel Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; J.D. Greear, The Summit Church, Raleigh, N.C.; Eric Mason, Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia; Kimberly Thornbury, Union University, Jackson, Tenn.; Jay Noh, Illinois Baptist State Association, Chicago; Joe Thorn, Redeemer Fellowship, St. Charles, Ill.; Juan Sanchez, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas; and Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition, N.J.

“We brought this advisory council together to speak into this project at the outset,” Stetzer said. “We received direction regarding the topics we would cover, the approach we would take – Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan – and the level of accessibility we should strive for.

“It’s important to hear from people in a variety of contexts who are serving the local church, and the advisory council helped us think through important high-level issues at the outset of the curriculum’s development,” Stetzer said.

Said Chandler, a member of the advisory council, “One of the things I love about The Gospel Project is that it is going to shine a light on so many of these great [Bible] stories that we know and show ultimately how they are leading us to worship God more for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ and what God accomplished in the gospel for us.”

Samples of the new LifeWay Bible study are available at GospelProject.com. Future resources for The Gospel Project also will be available in multiple formats, including e-reader and mobile app formats.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
1/23/2012 1:09:59 PM by Jon D. Wilke, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Sudan escalates threats on churches, leaders

January 20 2012 by Compass Direct News

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments has threatened to arrest church leaders if they carry out evangelistic activities and do not comply with an order for churches to provide their names and contact information, Christian sources in Sudan have reported to Compass Direct News.

The warning in a letter to church leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church arrived a few days after Sudan President Omar al-Bashir told cheering crowds on Jan. 3 that, following the secession of largely non-Islamic South Sudan last July, the country’s constitution will be more deeply entrenched in sharia (Islamic) law.

“We will take legal procedures against pastors who are involved in preaching or evangelistic activities,” Hamid Yousif Adam, undersecretary of the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment, wrote to the church leaders. “We have all legal rights to take them to court.”

Christians are facing growing threats from both Muslim communities and Islamist government officials who have long wanted to rid Sudan of Christianity, Christian leaders told Compass. They said Christianity is now regarded as a foreign religion following the departure of 350,000 people, most of them Christians, to South Sudan following the July 9, 2011, secession.

“This is a critical situation faced by our church in Sudan,” said Yousif Matar, secretary general of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC).

Another church leader said the order is another in a series of measures by the government to control churches.

“They do not want pastors from South Sudan to carry on any church activities or mission work in Sudan,” the leader said.

Sudanese law prohibits missionaries from evangelizing. Converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by imprisonment or death in Sudan, though previously such laws were not strictly enforced. The government has never carried out a death sentence for apostasy, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report.

Sudan’s Interim National Constitution (INC) holds up Islamic law as a source of legislation, and the laws and policies of the government favor Islam, according to the state department report. Christian leaders said they fear the government is tightening controls on churches in Sudan and planning to force compliance with Islamic law as part of a strategy to eliminate Christianity.

As he has several times in the past year, Al-Bashir on Jan. 3 once again said Sudan’s constitution will be more firmly entrenched in sharia law.

“We are an Islamic nation with sharia as the basis of our constitution,” he told crowds in Kosti, south of Khartoum. “We will base our constitution on Islamic laws.”

His government subsequently issued the decree ordering church leaders to provide names and contact information of church leaders in Sudan, sources said. Christian leaders said the government is retaliating for churches’ perceived pro-West position.

Muslim scholars have urged heavy-handed measures against Christians to Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Christians in Sudan celebrated last Christmas amid several threats from officials in Khartoum and some followers of Christ were arrested for their faith, sources said.

Yasir Musa of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) was arrested along with two other church members by national security agents in Khartoum on Dec. 23; they were detained because they were Christians and therefore suspected supporters of southern military forces. Released shortly afterward, they said authorities threatened to arrest them again if they did not comply with orders not to carry out Christian activities in the Islamic nation.

SCOC leaders said they have complained to the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments and were told that the three were arrested for security reasons.

In another case, sources said Islamic militias loyal to the government in civilian uniform abducted a church leader and two church members as they were returning from a worship service and demanded $1,000 in ransom. They were released after two days.

Christians in Khartoum increasingly fear arrests by militias loyal to the Islamic government, the sources said.

Security agencies in Khartoum also have ordered local Christians not to organize Bible exhibitions, as some churches have done annually, the sources said.

The pressures on Christians come as war in Sudan’s South Kordofan state reportedly has led leaders there and in North Kordofan to incite hatred against Christians, with officials in both states calling for holy war against the predominantly Christian Nuba people.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Compass Direct News (www.compassdirect.org), a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.)

1/20/2012 3:14:35 PM by Compass Direct News | with 0 comments



Babies ‘dedicated’ to temple prostitution

January 20 2012 by Kate Taylor, Baptist Press

Imagine living in a society in which you are judged by your station in life, determined by your birth, rather than by your individual worth or accomplishments. As a member of the lowest rung of society, you can barely keep food on the table for your wife and two daughters.
 
When your wife becomes ill after giving birth to a third daughter who, unlike the son you had hoped for, will be an unbearable financial burden, you have only one choice: You must dedicate your daughter to the goddess as a devadasis, a temple prostitute.
 
By dedicating your baby, you have given her a profession and a way to obtain food for her family. Perhaps the goddess will now show favor to your family, sparing your wife’s life and filling her womb with the long-awaited boy child. Your daughter’s sacrifice is small compared to your entire family’s alternative fate of starvation. If her body is the price the goddess asks, it must be paid.
 
In India, the devadasi (day-vah-dah-see) system, a Hindu practice of temple prostitution, has existed for more than 5,000 years, says David Dass, executive director of the India Gospel League. In the state of Karnataka, where he and his wife live, starving families dedicate hundreds of girls each year to the goddess Yellamma. The children are forced to begin a life of prostitution at age 11 or 12.
 
“From the very beginning, they’re being exploited as babies,” says Annette Romick, a humanitarian aid worker in India. “Then, when they hit maturity, their bodies are exploited by men. Even when their bodies are no longer desirable to men, they are still exploited and abused because that stigma is on them. They can never escape from it. It’s a trap that they’re stuck in; it’s a living hell that they’re experiencing.”
 
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BP photo by Kate Taylor

Lack of education and lack of job skills further enslave women in the sex industry. “Once they get in, they can’t get out,” one Christian worker says. Even among India’s caste system, women who have been exploited aren’t even recognized.

The word devadasi literally translates to “god’s female servant.” Parents usually choose to dedicate their daughters as infants to the goddess Yellamma, in hopes of gaining the goddess’ favor or easing a financial burden.
 
Once dedicated, a girl is considered to be married to the goddess and is never allowed to marry a man. When the girl reaches physical maturity, she is forced to begin her life as a prostitute.
 
“Since 1982, the devadasi system has been banned by the government of India and Karnataka,” says Joseph Paul, a Christian pastor ministering among devadasis. “But there are underground practices – nobody knows how they practice and how they dedicate.”
 
Because the devadasis practice has gone underground, the women work mostly from their homes, only visiting the temple to beg money from worshippers. Many of the prostitutes are trafficked to the red light districts of Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and other large cities. “Our parents gave us birth and threw us on the street. Men come and use us, finish their job and go,” says Sugandha, a former devadasis receiving assistance from a non-governmental organization.
 
In the Hindu religion, devadasis have hope for a better life only through the cycle of rebirth. Few devadasis have ever heard the name of Jesus Christ who offers hope for this life and for eternity.
 
“Their lives have been ruined, and they feel like trash that’s just been used over and over again and just discarded,” Romick says. “They need to know the love of Christ and the only way that they’re going to have that is if we go and tell them.”
 
Devadasis come mainly from impoverished families of the untouchables class, the lowest rung of Hindu society. They are used and exploited by men. Sometimes they receive compensation for their services, sometimes not. A vulnerable population, the devadasis are susceptible to HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
 
“Not only are they shunned because of their profession, but they’re shunned by society because of their status,” Romick says. “They’re the lowest of the low. They’re not even in the caste system – they’re outside the caste system.”
 
A number of human needs organizations are working to prevent the continuation of the underground devadasi system, but the practice is still widespread throughout India; estimates range from tens to hundreds of thousands of devadasis in the country.
 
A devadasis who discovers a relationship with Christ, Dass says, becomes a powerful witness in her community: a witness against the practice that enslaved her and for the Savior who set her free. “It’s like the woman at the well,” Dass explains.
 
“Jesus asked questions and finally she realized, ‘Hey, here is the person whom I know that He is the Messiah.’ Then she goes out, calling other women and bringing them and telling, ‘Here is the answer for our problem.’”
 
Education and awareness are essential components to bring about the end of the devadasis system. Of the women themselves, Dass says, “Equip them, empower them, mentor them, train them, disciple them and put them back [in their communities] and you’ll see what the Lord does.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Taylor writes for IMB, International Mission Board.)

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India's brothels need God's love
1/20/2012 2:53:57 PM by Kate Taylor, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



India’s brothels need God’s love

January 20 2012 by Kate Taylor, Baptist Press

A white-haired American woman sits in the corner seat of the train as it rattles along its tracks through the skyscrapers and the slums of a large city in India. Kathleen Jones* chats with a street boy hawking nail polish, a friendship she has acquired during her frequent train rides.
 
At the end of the line, Jones weaves through the throngs of people in the station and out into the sunlight. She keeps a steady pace along trash-covered sidewalks and across busy streets until she reaches her destination: a small, dilapidated building, partially obscured from the street. It’s a brothel.
 
A woman runs out to greet her and, taking her arm, pulls her excitedly toward the others waiting in the shelter of the building’s overhang. Women crowd eagerly around Jones as she distributes eggs for their lunch and gives them each a welcoming hug and a smile of friendship.
 
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BP photo by Kate Taylor

Many of the women Kathleen Jones meets were sold into the sex trade at a young age by a family member. None are here by choice.

Jones comes to this brothel five days a week to share Christ’s love with the women working here. She is 69 years old and has been ministerng in the red light districts of India for more than three years. With four children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren at home in the United States, coming to India was not an easy decision, but Jones says she knew it was what God called her to do.
 
“I am living proof that God can use anybody at any age,” Jones says. She has no plans to pack up and head home any time soon.
 
Jones serves through the ministry of Rahab’s Rope, a faith-based nonprofit organization fighting human trafficking in India through prevention, rescue and aftercare.
 
“My heart just broke for [the women here],” Jones says. “It seems that God has just put a burden in my heart for women in need.”
 
In society, Jones says, “these women are scum of the earth. No one wants to talk to them, be their friend, associate with them. They are outcasts.”
 
She spends time with them, offering her friendship and teaching them basic knowledge and practical skills, since most have not had the opportunity for education.
 
“They don’t see anything beyond where they live, how they get to where they work and their workplace,” Jones says. “They don’t know the possibilities that are out there in the world. They don’t even know how big the world is because they have lived in such a limited and controlled environment.”
 
Many of the women were sold into the sex trade at a young age by a family member. About half of the women in Jones’ ministry have been trafficked from India’s neighboring countries. None of them come by choice.
 
“Once they get in, they can’t get out,” Jones says. “They have no skills; they have no education; they have nowhere to go.”
 
Though the women do not earn very much money – just over $2 a customer – they make far more by working in the brothel than by doing any other kind of unskilled labor.
 
“A lot of them would like to get out [of their work in the brothel] but they have families to support,” Jones says. “They get trapped by the money because they couldn’t go wash floors and make as much money as they make in the brothel. That becomes a problem. It perpetuates the situation.”
 
Jones tries to teach the women about the hope that is free to them in Christ. Since many of the women are practicing Hindus, their only hope for a better life lies in an almost endless cycle of rebirth. Jones fights to show them hope for this life and for eternity.
 
“There’s as much hope for them in Christ as there is for [any of] us,” she says.
 
A huge part of the ministry is meeting the basic needs of the women, Jones says, reaching them physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. She could tell the women that Jesus loves them and walk away, or, as she says, “I can go out there and I can spend time with them and I can show them that I love them by trying to teach them and improve their lives in some way. That speaks more to them than what I say.”
 
Jones ultimately wants the women to know they are loved without any strings or conditions, without anything required of them in return. Deep and unconditional love comes only from Christ.
 
“There is not enough that I could give them and do for them that would really change their lives without Christ,” she says.
 
Though it is hard for Jones to be away from her family, it is harder to see the women trapped in a situation from which they feel there is no escape.
 
Her own heart daily breaking for the hurts and hardships of the women, Jones has chosen a tough ministry.
 
But, Jones says, “There’s not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for letting me be here.”
For more information about the ministry of Rahab’s Rope, visit rahabsrope.com.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Taylor writes for IMB, International Mission Board.)

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Babies 'dedicated' to temple prostitution
1/20/2012 2:39:27 PM by Kate Taylor, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Poverty, unemployment factor in pregnancy crises

January 19 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

In Roger Newton’s five years leading the Ashe Pregnancy Care Center he has seen the need for pregnancy ministries rise – not only in Ashe County, but across North Carolina.
 
The economic downturn has made unexpected pregnancies even more of a crisis for many. He has seen more families as well as grandmothers raising children.
 
“The thing that I’ve seen grow is the need to help in these first three critical years” of childhood, Newton said. “It’s hard for moms to go back to work after having a baby.”
 
The center averages between 30 and 50 clients a month. While most of the clients are women, Newton has seen a good number of men over the years through counseling and parenting classes.
 
The center began in the mid-1990s because leaders in the area saw a need, “even in our little county to provide information and to provide alternatives to abortion,” Newton said.
 
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Contributed Photo

One of the biggest fundraisers each year for the Ashe Pregnancy Care Center is its walk. Each October, individuals and families come out in support of the center. Some of the participants are not old enough to walk but they are the same age as some of the babies the center helps.

While abortions are not performed in Ashe County, Newton said 35 abortions were reported for Ashe County more than five years ago when he became director of the center. That number has dropped by 10 since then. Women head to Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh or other cities for abortion services.
 
Newton stressed that Ashe County still has a big need for this type of ministry.
 
While Ashe County doesn’t top the list of the most impoverished counties, it ranks several percentage points above some of the more metropolitan areas, where donations tend to be higher.
 
Jobs are also sparse. Ashe County has a high suicide rate because it is a difficult area to live in because there are not many jobs, said Newton.
 
“We’ve seen more husbands and boyfriends out of work,” Newton said.
 
The center helps not only with counseling about abortion alternatives but offers incentives – called baby bucks – to people who watch or attend parenting classes or videos. The center provides diapers, formula and supplies up to age 3. They offer a Bible study and one-on-one peer counseling.
 
One of the seven board members is a 15-year-old girl who was a client.
 
“So many want to help after they’ve been helped,” Newton said.
 
The center is affiliated with the North American Mission Board and works closely with local churches and Ashe Missionary Baptist Association. The center also works with Ashe Really Cares, a ministry associated with the local Baptist association. Together they help clients get housing, food, and other supplies.
 
Newton said he prays Sanctity of Life Sunday Jan. 22 will help “get the word out” for his center and for others across the state who are reaching out to this underserved section of the population.
 
Sanctity of Life Sunday, as well as public service announcements on the radio, spread the word about the pregnancy center. Newton emphasizes that word of mouth continues to be the best way people find out about the center and its services.
 
The center hosted an event inviting the public to attend a bazaar for people with home businesses to share about their ministry.
 
The center’s biggest fundraiser is the first Saturday in October when they host a walk for life. Newton, a minister and former IMB missionary looks for opportunities to speak in churches about the ministry and occasionally fill in for pastors who need someone to preach.
 
New programs
The center recently partnered with Wilkes Community College’s Ashe campus to help clients get their GED. Directed by the college, Newton said clients are tested by someone from the campus. Center volunteers then tutor the clients to get them ready for the GED exam. Newton said a high school degree or the equivalent GED is required to even work in a fast food restaurant. Twelve students are currently preparing for the GED.
 
Another recent offering is cloth diapers. One of the center’s board members makes cloth diapers, and the center has purchased some to make available for those who request it.
 
Stories of hope
One of the common misconceptions about pregnancy centers is the kind of clients they see, said Newton. Many mistakenly believe that most clients are teenagers, but Newton said the pregnancy center sees women mainly in their mid-20s. The youngest client is 14. The oldest are grandmothers raising their grandchildren. With teenagers, they usually get help from parents or the school they attend. But the early to mid-20s is the “most abortion vulnerable” age, Newton said.
 
“It’s much more of a crisis, at least an inconvenience,” he said. This group usually no longer has a parent helping them.
 
One woman with five children sought help from the center after her second set of twins.
 
Her husband, who worked in the building trade, developed breathing problems and was unable to work.
“She’s now going back to school,” Newton said, “and she’s gotten into a church. Christ has changed her life.”
 
Another married mom who was a bank teller lost her job. Her husband lost his job. She was feeding her baby sugar water to try to get by, but Newton said Ashe Pregnancy Care Center was able to help by providing counseling as well as food, diapers and other supplies.
 
“Sometimes we are just a bridge over the crisis that they have,” he said.
 
Planning for the future
Through the local Baptist association, the Ashe pregnancy center created an account with the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.
 
“We don’t have very much in it yet,” said Newton, but he hopes the interest will begin contributing to the ministry soon. “Some people like to give money that will help for years and years to come.”
 
The center is also waiting on word about a bank loan to purchase a place. Currently it is located in a strip mall. Newton said the current, rented location has allowed them to help a church plant that started in the same shopping center. Members used the center for the church’s nursery. The church is now located in a larger building. He believes finding a permanent place will allow the center to spread its ministry even further and help give families in the county a better chance.
 
The center is open three days – Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Contact Newton at (336) 846-4100 or visit https://sites.google.com/site/ashepregnancycarecenter/.
1/19/2012 2:45:40 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Church planter reflects on journey, God’s provision

January 19 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Bryon Lamb knew God was calling him to plant a church that would intentionally engage the unchurched people in his community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Lamb was not trained in church planting, had never started a church, and he wasn’t even sure he had the means to start one.
 
Lamb soon learned that when God leads, God provides. 
 
Lamb was serving as a bivocational pastor in what he described as a traditional church when he first felt God calling him to church planting. “There was an unchurched person who kept coming but did not fit in wearing blue jeans and Crocs,” Lamb said. “It was obvious they did not feel comfortable because everyone else was wearing suits and ties.”
 
That experience ignited a passion to start a new church where everyone would feel comfortable regardless of their appearance. “People need to know there is a place they can come no matter what they are wearing and feel accepted and loved,” Lamb said.
 
Lamb talked with his director of missions, Jeff King, about his idea for a new church. King put him on track to receive church planting training through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
The BSC trains more than 100 church planters in North Carolina each year. After passing an initial assessment, potential planters are eligible to receive basic church planting training through the BSC.
 
Lamb said the BSC training provided everything he needed to launch a new church. “I learned so much during basic training that I went back to our 10-member church plant group and we went through the material together,” Lamb said. “It has really blessed us.”
 
It was not long before the team was finalizing plans to launch LifeSpring Community Church in Franklin. They needed some help renovating the facility they rented as their worship center, and they wanted advice from an established church before finalizing the bylaws. 
 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Bryon Lamb, left, pastor of LifeSpring Community Church in Franklin, participates in an observation exercise with other bivocational and small church pastors. Lamb approached his director of missions when he saw a visitor at his church looking uncomfortable because of his attire. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina provides training to more than 100 church planters each year. Coweeta Baptist Church in Otto has been assisting Lamb with planting LifeSpring Community.

King arranged a meeting between Lamb and Davis Hooper, pastor of Coweeta Baptist Church, to see if Coweeta would consider partnering with LifeSpring during the launch period.
 
At first, this seemed like an unlikely pairing. 
 
“We are two polar opposite church families,” Lamb said. “Coweeta is probably the most traditional church in the association. I never thought they would consider sponsoring a church such as ourselves.”
 
The generational gap and different worship styles were not a concern for Hooper. He knew Lamb had a passion to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
 
“I had no reservations about helping Bryon,” Hooper said. “We were eager to help.”
 
Coweeta did everything LifeSpring needed them to do. They helped LifeSpring finish their bylaws, and when LifeSpring had less than 30 days to complete the renovation of their worship center, they were there to help.
 
“Davis Hooper showed up with 25 people from Coweeta and they got more work done in one day than we could have done in a week on our own,” Lamb said. 
 
The relationship formed between Coweeta and LifeSpring is one that has continued to grow. The two congregations have held joint worship services together, and Lamb and Hooper have invited each other to participate in ordination services at their respective churches.
 
“Coweeta has been wonderful for our church family,” Lamb said. “They are a much older congregation than we are, and their commitment to us has really taught our younger people how important it is to be committed to your church family.”
 
Hooper’s congregation has also benefited from the partnership. “Our partnership with LifeSpring has taught us that you don’t have to be traditional to reach people for Christ,” he said.
 
LifeSpring held its first service December 12, 2010, with 20 people in attendance.
 
Although not quite the beginning they expected, Lamb and his team did not give up. One year later, LifeSpring is averaging 50 to 75 people during Sunday morning worship.
 
It’s the life change, not the numbers, which excites Lamb. “I have seen people who were never churched become on fire for God during the past year,” he said. Lamb believes a threefold emphasis of boldly preaching God’s Word, intentional discipleship, and a contemporary worship style is making a positive impact. 
 
“It has changed the way people view church,” Lamb said. “I had a young man ask to be baptized recently, and he told me he did not know church could be this fun.”
 
Part of the fun for Lamb is not being tied to a traditional set of rules. For example, the Sunday before Memorial Day, “we decided to go camping,” Lamb said. “We put a sign on the [church] door telling people to meet us at the local campground and to bring their flip flops and chairs.”
 
With LifeSpring growing numerically, and its members maturing in the Lord, Lamb and his team are preparing to plant more churches. “We want to start churches out of our church,” he said. “We just want people to be reached for Christ.”
 
Planting new churches might seem impossible to others, but Lamb knows all things are possible with God.
 
“Church planting was a whole new animal,” he said. “I never thought it would happen.”
1/19/2012 2:38:42 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 1 comments



Trot Nixon: Lunch pail guy aims for ‘hall of fame with Jesus’

January 19 2012 by Roman Gabriel III, Special to the Recorder

Boston Red Sox fans appreciated Trot Nixon as a hard-working, bring your lunch pail to work everyday guy in left field. In a career that spanned from 1996 to 2008, Nixon was always ready to battle opposing pitchers while residing in the outfield at legendary Fenway Park. But it was his late game heroics that set him apart. 
 
In Game 3 of the 2003 American League Division series facing the Oakland A’s, Nixon was called from the bench as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 11th. With the Red Sox facing elimination, Nixon lined a two-run homer over the center field wall for a 3–1 Boston victory. After that famous homerun hit, in front of a national TV audience, he boldly proclaimed his allegiance to Jesus Christ.
 
In 2004, with help from Nixon’s biggest year, the Red Sox won the World Series. Nixon was known for being intense and passionate about the game, and a leader on and off the field.  
 
Today Trot and his wife, Kathryn, and children reside in Wilmington. In his spare time he works with kids at youth baseball camps, and he hosts a regional sports television show about high school football.
 
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Trot Nixon featured on a video game cover.

Roman Gabriel III, who periodically writes about athletics for the Biblical Recorder, caught up with Nixon and talked to him about his faith, family and sports. 
 
Q: As a senior at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, you were named the State Player of the Year in both football and baseball. You competed for the starting quarterback job at N.C. State University. Do you think you could have played both football and baseball?
 
A: I looked at myself as a good college quarterback, but my heart was more geared towards baseball. I never aspired to be a professional football quarterback … but I just wanted to be one of those college players [who] went to bowl games every year and won national titles. That was the bigger picture to me. 
 
Q: Did your hard-nosed style of playing football help you in regards to toughness on the baseball field?
 
A: I think it just carried over. The nature that I was brought up in playing sports was to be very aggressive. 
 
Q: Many pointed to you as a player who led by example. What was the foundation of your strong leadership skills?
 
A: I learned how to be a leader when I was in high school. We all like to have leadership skills. I think that kind of helped me to understand that this is my profession. I looked up to the hard-working, hard-hat kind of guys.
 
Q: When did you start your relationship with God?
 
A: I accepted Jesus Christ in 1993. At that time I really didn’t live the Christian life. I went to church, chapel services every Sunday, but [I] really didn’t try to take that extra effort to know Jesus Christ and welcome Him into my life. 
 
Q: I always talk about the importance of strong mentors in every person’s spiritual development. Who was that influential person in your life? 
 
A: Before I came to Boston, my teammates Mike Stanley, John Watson and others brought me closer to Jesus Christ. I had a Bible my mom had given me, but I hadn’t carried a Bible to Sunday School or church.
 
A key person was Walt Day, our chaplain. He would say we need to get in the Word.
 
I know it made me a better person, a better husband and a better teammate. Baseball was No. 1 in my life. There is a huge difference now that Jesus is No. 1 in my life. I realized God had a plan for my life.
 
Q: You struggled throughout your career with chronic back problems. How did that struggle impact your life? 
 
A: I think most baseball players don’t want to think too much about injury and what it could do. It hindered me enough where I probably lost four years of my professional career. I just tried to get back into it and rediscover my swing but those were the times when I didn’t know the Lord.  I didn’t pray. I wasn’t in His Word. I was always saying why me?  I’ve come to realize over the years that God is not going to put anything in front of us to do that we can’t do or hold up.
 
Q: Did you ever have aspirations or thoughts about the Baseball Hall of Fame during your career? 
 
A: I wanted to be a good person on and off the field.
 
I really never thought about the [Baseball] Hall of Fame. There is only one hall of fame for me. All Christians understand the hall of fame that we all can be a part of, the hall of fame with Jesus Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is president of Sold Out Ministries. He hosts Sold Out Sports, which can be heard Saturday at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. Contact him at 910-431-6483 or soldoutrg3@gmail.com, or visit soldouttv.com. The Recorder staff would like feedback on items like this as well as the design of the paper. Email editor@BRnow.org or call 919-847-2127.)
1/19/2012 2:28:36 PM by Roman Gabriel III, Special to the Recorder | with 1 comments



Season ends, but Tebow inspired fans on and off the field

January 19 2012 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tim Tebow’s riveting and tumultuous season ended Jan. 14, with the New England Patriots hammering the Denver Broncos 45-10 in an AFC divisional playoff game.

“A lot of ups and downs,” Tebow said about his second NFL season after the loss in Foxborough, Mass. “Overall, it’s been a very special opportunity for me, something I’m really thankful for. There’s a lot of things we’re proud of. Obviously, it’s hard to see them all right now,” Tebow was quoted as saying.

Still, Tebow’s performance over the course of the season earned him the right to be the starting quarterback entering the 2012 season, Denver vice president of football operations John Elway said Monday (Jan. 16).

The popular quarterback, whose habit of kneeling in prayer on the football field started a nationwide trend of copycats engaged in “Tebowing,” inspired millions of fans with his positive attitude, charitable work with the seriously ill and overt references to his faith in Jesus Christ. He also earned the derision and mockery of others who didn’t share his religious beliefs.
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Denver Broncos photo by Eric Lars Bakke

Tim Tebow


Tebow’s penchant for pulling out seemingly impossible wins also sparked a lively debate about the role God plays in a player’s success.

“It may be that Tebow will succeed in spectacular fashion; it may be that he will have the worst game of his life,” Owen Strachan, professor of theology and church history at Boyce College, wrote in an article in The Atlantic before the game with the Patriots.

“Either way, the Bible assures us that God loves his chosen, God is orchestrating every detail of their lives, and God will lead them through success or failure to the end of all things.”

Tebow’s status with the Broncos was a touchy subject even from the start of the team’s training camp. Several football analysts were pessimistic about his prospects as a successful NFL quarterback, and at one time speculation loomed that Tebow might fall to third-string behind Brady Quinn.

Things changed, however, when Denver went only 1-4 under then-quarterback Kyle Orton. The Broncos handed the starting job to Tebow who led the team to a 7-1 record over the next eight games, including several thrilling come-from-behind victories in the final seconds.

Though Tebow struggled late in the season and the Broncos lost their final three games, they squeaked into the playoffs when Oakland lost its final game to San Diego, giving Denver the division title with an 8-8 record. In Denver’s opening-round playoff game against Pittsburgh Jan. 8, Tebow had his best game in the NFL – throwing for 316 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play in overtime to give the Broncos a shocking win.

But Tebow couldn’t duplicate that success against the Patriots. New England quarterback Tom Brady threw six touchdown passes, and Tebow completed only nine of 26 passing attempts for 136 yards.

“I just wanted to show character, and anytime you get beat like that, you continue to fight,” Tebow said after the game. “It doesn’t change who you are, how you play, how you go out there. You should be the same at all times, and that’s what I wanted to show.”

Throughout the season, Tebow was the subject of mockery and scorn by some – such as Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who kneeled in a mocking prayerful pose after sacking Tebow in an Oct. 30 game. Others, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, were more vocal in their criticism. “We don’t need God on our sidelines,” Suggs said in reference to Tebow.

Despite the criticism, by the end of the season Tebow was earning the fanfare of writers and fans alike. ESPN columnist Rick Reilly, in an article titled “I believe in Tim Tebow,” reported on Tebow’s actions toward those who have serious illnesses.

“Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured,” Reilly wrote. “He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster’s), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.”

Reilly said such actions, regardless of Tebow’s performance on the field, are praiseworthy.

“I’ve given up giving up on him,” Reilly wrote. “I’m a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.”

Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at the University of Florida, is a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports (www.bpsports.net) and director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
1/19/2012 2:19:39 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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