July 2011

Deaf Baptists embrace unreached Deaf peoples

July 29 2011 by John Folker, Baptist Press

TOCCOA, Ga. — The Deaf should be in the multitude when, as the Book of Revelation depicts it, every language, people, tribe and nation will worship the Lamb around the throne, says Aric Randolph of New Life Deaf Fellowship in Fort Worth, Texas.

But, the Deaf pastor asks, “How will the Deaf be there if they don’t know Jesus?

“Right now, there are about 35 million Deaf all over the world,” Randolph notes. “Every day, 750 Deaf die without knowing Jesus. To be His hands, His heart and to tell His story, we must truly embrace the Deaf of the world.”

New Life Deaf Fellowship is planning a short-term mission trip — possibly to the Deaf in a high-risk country. “We go to let them know about Jesus. We go so they can know Jesus as Savior. We go to let them know they, too, can be in heaven,” Randolph said.

International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf, shares how Christians are to be Christ’s heart and hands to tell His story to unengaged, unreached people groups. Danny Bice, pastor of Moore (Okla.) Deaf Fellowship, interprets in American Sign Language.

More than 400 Deaf Southern Baptists gathered in Toccoa, Ga., July 16-21 for the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf (SBCD) and to witness the commissioning of six International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries to work with the Deaf.

IMB President Tom Elliff shared his burden for the millions of Deaf around the world who have never “seen” the name Jesus, challenging Deaf Southern Baptists to embrace a specific Deaf people group from the more than 100 unengaged, unreached Deaf people groups around the world.

Jim Dermon, the SBCD’s president, echoed Elliff’s sentiment. “If we are willing to learn more about Deaf people groups, to visit them, to learn their needs and desires, and to pray for them ... that will lead Deaf to accept the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dermon said. “If we embrace the Deaf in other countries, it will affect what we do here in the U.S. and we will see a multiplication of Deaf churches throughout the world.”

Steven Nance, a Deaf member of Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord, talked about his short-term trip to the Dominican Republic to reach Deaf children there. Now praying that others also will go there, Nance reminded conference attendees to pray for missionaries who are serving throughout the world to reach the Deaf.

Paula Little, a recreational therapist and member of Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church in Houston, told how a trip to South Africa changed her life. She had several chances to go abroad but kept ignoring God’s call. “I am focused on America! There’s not enough mission work being done here,” she recounted.

But, Little said, “God did not give up on me. I could not resist the gnawing need to go.” She thought she did not have the skills needed to go on a mission trip, but the moment she decided to go, she felt at peace. When Little arrived in Johannesburg, she was met by a Deaf IMB missionary and taken to her home. Little, expecting to see a hut, was surprised to see that the missionary lived in a regular house.

While in South Africa, Little played basketball with a group of Deaf Africans, and God used her abilities as a recreational therapist to connect with the Deaf athletes. Little invited the Africans to join her in a nearby park where Bible stories were being told in sign language. These Deaf began texting their Deaf friends and soon a large group had gathered. Many understood the gospel message for the first time.

After Little had returned to the United States, the missionary told her that 19 Deaf people had accepted Christ as a result of her trip.

John Wyble, Deaf pastor at Living Word Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., had gone on several mission trips. A turning point for Wyble was when he and his wife Denise went to the Virgin Islands and encountered hundreds of Deaf who had no access to the Gospel in their heart language. Wyble asked Terrence Jones, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in St. Thomas, to allow him to use the church building to meet with the Deaf. Jones was astonished at the number of Deaf who came each night to see Wyble teach. At the end of the week, Jones understood that the Deaf did not need to be objects of ministry but were a nation to be reached.

The Wybles are leading Living Word to embrace the Deaf peoples of St. Thomas, sharing a vision with Jones to see a Deaf church planted in St. Thomas that will initiate a Deaf church-planting movement throughout the Virgin Islands.

At the conclusion of the IMB-SBCD commissioning service, 75 people went forward and made commitments to lead their churches to embrace the ends of the earth. The IMB’s “Embrace” challenge encourages churches to make a lifetime commitment to an unengaged, unreached people group.

Bob Barker, Deaf pastor of Story One Plano (Texas), said, “We came together and, in a show of unity, we prayed for our new IMB Deaf missionaries and embraced the challenge to see more go to the harvest fields.”

To learn more about how a church can embrace an unengaged, unreached people group, go to call2embrace.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Folker is the International Mission Board’s Deaf affinity group liaison.)
7/29/2011 8:34:00 AM by John Folker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll: Americans want religious presidents

July 29 2011 by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service

Americans want their presidents to be religious, but many have trouble identifying the faiths of President Obama and leading GOP contenders Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann, according to a new poll released July 25.

A majority of Americans (56 percent) say it’s important for a candidate to have strong beliefs, even if those beliefs differ from their own, according to the poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.

Yet the religious groups most firmly behind this point — white evangelicals (73 percent) and ethnic minority Christians (74 percent) — often falter when asked about politicians’ religions.

For instance, just 44 percent of white evangelicals know that Romney is a Mormon. At the same time, more than 8 in 10 evangelicals say Mormon religious beliefs greatly differ from their own.

Even fewer ethnic minority Christians (21 percent) knew Romney’s religion. And only one in three Americans can correctly identify Obama’s Christian faith. Consistent with previous polls, about one in five (18 percent) Americans think Obama is Muslim.

Daniel Cox, the research director at PRRI, said Romney’s Mormonism could be a liability: of people who say Mormon beliefs are significantly different than their own, Obama currently leads Romney, 49 percent to 28 percent.

“Because views about the Mormon faith are tied to political support, Romney will need to address these perceptions as Americans learn more about him during the campaign,” Cox said.

Still, observers cautioned that perceptions can change over time, or even take a back seat to other factors like party loyalty or pocketbook concerns. And for Republicans, simply beating Obama could be the most important factor of all.

White evangelicals “are going to be more likely to vote Republican, even if the party nominates someone who isn’t known for strong faith commitments,” said Gary Scott Smith, an expert on presidential religions at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

“And if they don’t recognize that Romney’s a Mormon by now, then you wonder how attuned they are to politics anyway.”

In other findings:
  • Just four in 10 Americans can correctly identify Romney’s religion; 46 percent say they don’t know. When asked Obama’s religious beliefs, a full 40 percent of Americans say they didn’t know.
  • White evangelicals are the group most likely to say they don’t know what Bachmann’s beliefs are (51 percent), even though she attends a Baptist church, and only 35 percent say she has similar religious beliefs to them.
  • At a little more than 70 percent, Republicans and Tea Party members are significantly more likely than Democrats (51 percent) to say it’s important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs. Tea Party members (46 percent) are even more likely than Republicans as a whole (38 percent) to say it is “very” important for a candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
  • People who say it is important for a candidate to have strong religious beliefs tend to prefer Romney to Obama, 43 percent to 36 percent, or Bachmann over Obama, 44 percent to 38 percent, in head-to-head matchups.
Americans have traditionally elected presidents who use religious language and seek divine guidance, especially when grappling with the moral conflicts of the day, provided that their beliefs are relatively mainstream and don’t conflict with national security, Smith said.

The appeal of a visibly devout candidate, even if those beliefs aren’t actually understood, also reflects some mistrust of our political system, said Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

“There’s a suspicion of a strong central government — you can see that in the Tea Party — and Americans think that more religious leaders are less likely to abuse the people,” he said.

Obama has walked a careful line on his religious beliefs — talking openly about “glory(ing) in the promise of redemption in the Resurrection,” for example, but also trying not to alienate secular voters. If, after four years, six in 10 Americans still don’t know he’s a Christian, there may be little he can do to change the perception.

Bachmann, however, may have an opportunity to gain votes among fellow evangelicals by continuing to publicize her religious convictions, while Romney may be better off keeping undecided voters focused away from his Mormon faith, Silk said.

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey was based on telephone interviews of 1,012 U.S. adults between July 14 and 17. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
7/29/2011 8:25:00 AM by Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Koreans on board for people group challenge

July 29 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

CARROLLTON, Texas — On a crowded street in Seoul, Korea, David Gill’s life changed when a missionary from the United States did something he didn’t expect — the man spoke to him.

Gill, then 16, had traveled from a poor, rural farming area — about a day’s journey from Seoul — to live in the city and attend school. He was alone and needed a friend when the missionary reached out to him. He invited Gill into his home. He taught him English. He later helped lead Gill to follow Jesus as Savior.

More than 40 years later, Gill — now a pastor at Concord Korean Baptist Church in Martinez, Calif. — remains thankful for the missionary’s impact on his life, still marveling at how the man “found” him.

“There were so many people in the street of Seoul, Korea,” Gill said. “He talked to me. He loved me ... and through him I came to meet Jesus. I don’t know where I’d be without this man. God found me through (him).”

Southern Baptist Koreans must strengthen their outreach to those who likewise need to be found for Christ.

Southern Baptists of different languages, ethnicities and cultures have been challenged to “embrace” approximately 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups — those who live in places that are less than 2 percent evangelical and have no active church-planting strategy among them.

BP photo

A group of Korean Baptists and International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, foreground right, pray for a couple who made decisions during the call to “embrace” an unengaged, unreached people group at the annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America in Carrollton, Texas. More than 50 churches committed to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group.

Gill was one of nearly 400 participants at the annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America this summer at New Song Church in Carrollton, Texas. Of 190 churches represented at the gathering, 52 committed to accept the embrace challenge.

“I was amazed,” said Gihwang Shin, the International Mission Board’s (IMB) Korean/Asian missional church strategist. “Out of 190 churches represented ... (it) is a big number.”

The response from Korean Southern Baptists followed the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting held June 14-15 in Phoenix, when messengers turned in more than 600 commitment cards to find out how their churches can embrace unengaged, unreached people groups.

Korean Southern Baptist pastors like Gill, who has led his church for 35 years, are more than ready to join in the challenge. Right now, Concord Korean Church has six missionaries who are serving with IMB overseas.

“Pastors are busy with our own work, and you always have so much to do in local churches, but ... what does God really want us to do?” Gill asked. “Get out there.”

Gill added, “I’m really convinced God is using Korean Southern Baptist churches in America. We are praying for the next stage (of involvement).”

Hyoung Min Kim, pastor of Denton (Texas) Korean Baptist Church, also shares a readiness for that next stage. While Kim has a vision to plant as many churches in Texas as his congregation can handle — and has sent teams overseas in the past — he also is eager to embrace unengaged, unreached people overseas.

The church has about 150 members, mostly young students in their 20s and 30s. Kim said he hopes to see the young congregation refuse to get swept up in living the American dream and focus more on God’s work.

“To reach all the ethnic groups in the world, not just missionaries ... but all the local churches should be mobilized in order to reach all of the world,” Kim said.

Prayer is the key to embracing the difficult places, he added, noting, “Without prayer it is impossible to reach those ethnic groups.”

First steps to embrace
There are a few steps Southern Baptist churches can follow to get started in reaching an unengaged, unreached people group.

Pastors and church leaders are urged to check out the Embrace website at call2embrace.org. Here, they can begin the journey, which International Mission Board leaders suggest should begin with church-wide focused prayer. They can study an unengaged people group’s location and culture and identify their language, religion, barriers to the gospel and other helpful information.

A six-week Sunday worship prayer guide also is available to download and small-group guides are provided on the Embrace site.

Pastors also are encouraged to register to attend one of the Embrace equipping conferences scheduled:
  • Sept. 7 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
  • Oct. 27 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, Texas
  • Nov. 4 at Applewood Baptist Church in Denver.
  • March 24 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif.
Call IMB toll-free at (800) 999-3113 or visit imb.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
7/29/2011 8:17:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chinese pastor sentenced to labor camp

July 29 2011 by Whitney Jones, Baptist Press

SUQIAN CITY, China — A key leader of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) has been sentenced to two years in a labor camp as part of a crackdown on illegal worship, ChinaAid reported July 25.

Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of CHCA, was sentenced to “re-education through labor” — an extrajudicial punishment that requires no conviction or trial — because of his position in an influential umbrella group of Chinese house churches.

ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China, reported that Shi’s current charge is for “illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings.”

To become legal, Chinese churches must be registered with the government and join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But with registration comes restrictions on Sunday School, baptisms for minors and evangelism, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid.

According to ChinaAid, the labor camp sentence is not the first police action against Shi in Suqian City, which is 500 miles south of Beijing and home to more than 5 million people. The pastor was detained by police March 31 and held for 12 days.

Then, the Suqian Public Security Bureau detained the pastor June 21 for “suspicion of using superstition to undermine national law enforcement,” ChinaAid reported, noting that criminal detention is the first step in a legal process that usually ends in a criminal offense and a prison sentence.

Shi’s story unfolds against the backdrop of Shouwang Church, with nearly 1,000 members in Beijing, which has been attempting to meet outdoors despite persecution since April. Some have criticized Shouwang Church for trying to continue meeting as one large congregation instead of breaking up into smaller house churches like CHCA has done.

Shi’s church, with a congregation of several thousand, is actually larger than Shouwang but the CHCA members have been meeting in multiple locations across the city in an attempt to pass under the police’s radar. However, ChinaAid noted, Shi’s sentence shows that contrary to critics of Shouwang, investigation and punishment are not limited to large one-site churches.

CHCA has already faced persecution from the Chinese government for worshipping illegally. The Domestic Security Protection Department ordered CHCA to stop meeting and confiscated the umbrella group’s car, musical instruments, choir robes and 140,000 yuan — the equivalent to more than $21,000 — in donations, according to ChinaAid.

Shi’s family has served the church in China for four generations, and since the investigation of illegal churches his three daughters and their husbands also have been threatened by police, ChinaAid reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press.)
7/29/2011 8:15:00 AM by Whitney Jones, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pakistanis convicted for Christian’s death

July 29 2011 by Jeff M. Sellers/Compass Direct News

LOS ANGELES (BP) — Three Muslims convicted of killing a Christian in Pakistan’s Punjab Province for refusing to convert to Islam have been given life sentences, attorneys for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) have told Compass Direct News.

Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem were convicted on July 7 for torturing and killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, and were sentenced by a court in Mian Channu to life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years, Compass reported July 22. The court also ordered each convict to pay 100,000 rupees (US$1,153) to Masih’s family. A fourth suspect, Muhammad Asif, was acquitted.

“The ECLJ also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant,” said Asif Aqeel, director of the Lahore-based ECLJ-supported Community Development Initiative. “The callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case.”

Masih’s family said they are grateful to ECLJ attorneys for assisting the court in making its judgments.

Muslim businessmen were jealous of 36-year-old Rasheed Masih’s success as a potato merchant in Mian Channu district because he was a Christian, Ageel told Compass in relaying the account of Masih’s brother Asi. When Rasheed Masih met with the defendants at their farmhouse to discuss business on March 9, 2010, they asked him to convert to Islam. When he refused, the four Muslims beat him to death with iron rods.

A bystander informed Asi Masih, who then called police, according to the account relayed by Ageel.

Police officers along with the victim’s brother found the bloodied Masih and rushed him to a hospital, but he died on the way after stating to police that he was tortured by Rasool and his accomplices.

Police, however, denied that Masih ever gave such a statement and refused to charge or arrest the defendants, Aqeel said. A large number of Christians blocked an inter-city highway and demanded that the killers be arrested. Police conceded after the Christian community’s five-hour protest.

Iqbal Masih of the Mian Channu Parish of the Church of Pakistan told Compass last year that Rasheed Masih was a devoted Christian, and that both he and his brother Asi had refused Muslim pressure to convert to Islam. The Muslims had been threatening both brothers for six months before the murder, according to Asi Masih.

A hospital autopsy by conducted in Mian Channu revealed 24 wounds to Masih’s body, according to a copy of the report obtained by Compass.

The website of the European Centre for Law and Justice, headquartered in Strasbourg, France, described the ECLJ as an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. It was founded by Jay Sekulow and Thomas Patrick Monaghan of the American Center for Law and Justice in 1998.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Sellers writes for Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif.)
7/29/2011 7:55:00 AM by Jeff M. Sellers/Compass Direct News | with 0 comments

John Stott, evangelical leader, dead at 90

July 28 2011 by Baptist Press

LONDON — John Stott, a major figure in evangelicalism during the 20th century who helped frame the Lausanne Covenant and authored Basic Christianity and a series of other popular books, died July 27 at the age of 90.

An Anglican theologian, Stott’s influence spread far beyond London, where he served as rector of All Souls Church for more than 20 years. His books were popular because they were both theologically sound and easily understood. Basic Christianity (1958) sold 2 million copies and was translated into more than 60 languages. Other popular titles included I Believe in Preaching (1982), Issues Facing Christians Today (1984), The Cross of Christ (1986) and The Contemporary Christian (1992). He said his goal was to “relate the ancient Word to the modern world.” He wrote more than 40 books.

He became a rector in 1950 when evangelicalism had little influence in Anglicanism, and he helped spur its growth not only in that denomination but worldwide. He took sharing his faith seriously and encouraged church members to take a weekly training course in evangelism. In 1974 he chaired the committee that drafted the Lausanne Covenant, a landmark document passed by 2,000-plus Christian leaders gathering in the Swiss city. The document outlined shared biblical beliefs and underscored the need of Christians to cooperate in missions.

Stott’s death sparked a round of tributes to him by Christian leaders on their Twitter accounts. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, called Stott “one of my closest mentors.”

“I flew to the UK recently just to pray for him & sit by his bed. What a giant!” Warren wrote. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote, “You cannot explain English-speaking evangelicalism in the 20th century without crucial reference to the massive influence of John Stott.” Author and Christian apologist Lee Strobel called Stott a “giant of the faith and a gentle, sweet soul.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
7/28/2011 5:32:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Porn’s destruction is infiltrating the church

July 28 2011 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. — Foes of pornography are losing, and an onslaught of sexual attacks likely will result, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land believes.

“We’re losing this war. We haven’t lost it, but we’re losing it,” Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said at a conference on porn and sex exploitation. “And if you don’t think we’re losing it, you spend time with college-age young people, and you’ll find out we’re losing.”

He described hardcore, online pornography as “the greatest danger this country faces.”

“(I)t is destroying our culture. It is destroying our families. It is destroying our children,” Land said.

Sexually graphic material online is destroying men’s lives especially, he said. “Their ability to be the husbands and the fathers God intended them to be is being shriveled and shrunk and stifled and twisted and distorted by exposure to ever more hardcore, Internet pornography,” Land told conference participants.

The fall-out in the next decade from the problem could be devastating to women, he said.

“I believe that we are looking at in the next 10 years truly an avalanche, a tsunami of sex crimes against women and girls, because we’ve got a generation of boys that have been exposed at an earlier and earlier age to hardcore pornography,” Land said. “And the mathematics are a certain number who view it will become addicted to it, a certain number who become addicted to it will eventually act out what they’ve seen on screen.”

Land gave his warning at the Convergence Summit, a meeting held earlier this year in suburban Baltimore focusing on the battle against sexual exploitation in a digital age. Government, business, education and religious leaders from across the United States gathered to address solutions to pornography via new technology such as mobile devices, as well as the related problems of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Christians and the gospel ministry have not escaped the reach of porn, Land said.

“Internet pornography is in your church. If your church has got more than 50 members, it’s in your church,” he told the audience. “I can tell you hardcore pornography is on the seminary campus. It’s on the Christian college campus. It’s in the pastorate. It’s on the staff.”

Its prevalence among staff members has been disclosed when some churches have decided to begin daycare centers to reach out to their communities, Land said. In preparing to provide coverage for churches, insurance companies typically research what is being viewed online in the church’s buildings.

“I can’t tell you the number of broken-hearted pastors who have called me when they have discovered what some of their trusted church staff have been looking at on church computers,” he said.

His wife, Rebekah, and fellow psychologists focusing on marriage and family counseling say pornography is the leading cause of divorce in the United States, Land said: “They just routinely now ask the question, ‘What have you been watching? What have you been looking at?’ And the men are so surprised: ‘How did you know?’”

Statistics support Land’s concern:
  • A 2008 study of undergraduate and graduate students ages 18-26 showed that 69 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women viewed pornography more than once a month. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.
  • A Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey released in December 2009 showed that 15 percent of those ages 12-17 who own cell phones had received a “sext” message.
  • In 2009, the fourth-most searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under was “porn,” according to data by OnlineFamily.Norton.com. For all kids — those up to age 18 — sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.
  • A Time magazine story about a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that, of the 350 attendees, 62 percent said the “Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.”
There is no debate about pornography’s addictive nature, Land said.

“We know it’s addictive,” he said. “We know how it’s addictive. We know how it rewires the brain. It requires (viewers’) sexual response, so that they become focused on self-gratification as opposed to the gratification of their partner. It reduces their sexual partner to the level of an appliance.”

Churches need to address the issue, and a grass-roots effort must take hold to persuade the government to act effectively to address the problem, Land told the audience.

“Our pastors need to talk about it from the pulpit,” he said. “We need to talk about it in men’s groups and in boys’ groups. And we need to talk turkey.”

Resources on pornography and sexual exploitation recommended through the Convergence Summit website may be accessed here.

The Religious Coalition Against Pornography and the Christian organization Pure Hope sponsored the summit.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

Related story
Missouri convention targets pornography
7/28/2011 5:19:00 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Missouri convention targets pornography

July 28 2011 by Baptist Press

LINN, Mo. — “There is an 800-pound gorilla in the church auditorium that most congregations seem to be ignoring,” pastor David Krueger said.

“That gorilla is pornography.”

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) Christian Life Commission, with Krueger as chairman, plans to tackle the problem head-on through two upcoming workshops.

“Last year when we were discussing our priorities for 2011, pornography and the sexualizing of our culture was a top issue,” said Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Linn. “We committed ourselves and our resources to attempting to raise awareness of the problem in our churches and to provide them with resources to combat this scourge.”

Titled “Providing Moral Leadership in a Sexualized Culture,” the workshops will train pastors, church staff, and congregations for helping people trapped in the web of pornography. The first workshop will be Aug. 27 at Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis; the second, Sept. 17 at Sycamore Hills Baptist Church in Independence, Mo. Each workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. through 12:30 p.m.

John Splinter, executive director of Pure Hope Ministries in St. Louis, will be the keynote speaker. Attendees will be able to choose from eight different topics during two break-out sessions.

“We’re targeting Missouri Baptists through our mailings, but the conference is open to pastors, staff and church members of all faith groups,” Krueger said. “This is not just a Baptist problem.”

The Internet has been a game-changer in porn delivery, Krueger stated. Previous generations had to seek out illicit magazines or movies in retail stores, but now hardcore content is available anytime free of charge to anyone with Internet access.

“When you had to go into a drug store or video rental place to purchase porn, that kept a lot of Christian men from yielding to the temptation because of the public shame of being seen acquiring such material,” Krueger said. “But the anonymity of the Internet has been too big a temptation for many Christian men and women to resist.”

Among the findings Krueger cites from various surveys about the nation’s pornography plague:
  • 12 percent of all web content is pornographic in nature.
  • 35 percent of all Internet downloads contain pornographic material.
  • Porn revenue is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises — $12 billion a year in the United States and $57 billion worldwide.
  • The largest consumers of Internet pornography are teenage boys age 12-17.
  • 57 percent of pastors say addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation.
  • More than 50 percent of evangelical pastors admit to having viewed pornography in the last year.
  • 34 percent of readers of a Christian women’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn. Krueger said the workshops reflect the Christian Life Commission’s mission to educate and to encourage Missouri Baptist churches to challenge their members toward Christ-like living and the development of a biblical worldview in such matters as family life and current moral issues.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Reported by The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. For more information on the “Providing Moral Leadership in a Sexualized Culture” workshops of Missouri Baptists’ Christian Life Commission, visit “Christian Life Commission Workshop” at www.mobaptist.org/moral_issues or email David Krueger at fbclinn@osageconnect.net.)

Related story
Porn’s destruction is infiltrating the church
7/28/2011 5:14:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mobile unit rescues ‘2 babies & 2 souls’ in 1 day

July 28 2011 by Baptist Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — A mobile pregnancy care resource center may be relatively new for the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, but it already has become a strategic advocate for life and the health of the unborn.

“Two babies and two souls were saved” when the unit was stationed next door to a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Orlando in late June, Mary Lou Hendry, director of sanctity of human life for the children’s homes, reported.

The two women intended to get abortions but instead, by divine appointment, each was able to see her baby on an ultrasound machine screen provided by gifts to the Psalm 139 Project of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The mobile pregnancy care resource center — housed in a reconfigured travel trailer donated to the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes last year — offered its services from a vacant lot adjacent to the Planned Parenthood clinic in an economically depressed area of the city. The owner of the land granted the team permission to work from the parcel of land.

In a vacant lot adjacent to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Orlando, a mobile pregnancy care resource center — housed in a reconfigured travel trailer donated to the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes — offered its services in an economically depressed area of the city in late June.

Few women came over to the unit that Saturday. Venturing into the community to encourage women heading to an abortion clinic to reconsider their decision can be joyful at times, Hendry said, but “it also brings you to a point of brokenness.”

While the pregnancy care center unit was on site, 25 to 30 babies were aborted by Planned Parenthood next door, Hendry said.

Yet Hendry focuses on the “significance of the ones” who are saved, noting it is pure joy to see a mother accept Christ and reject the idea that her unborn child is a disposable inconvenience.

The mobile pregnancy care center, Hendry explained, is a Christ-focused outreach to women and their families who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy and do not have access to a pregnancy care resource center in their area.

Although designed to provide ultrasound screenings, counseling and other services to women in areas struck by natural disasters, the mobile care center doesn’t sit inactive until the state faces a natural disaster but is being utilized in underserved communities in Florida.

In May, the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes team provided pregnancy care services and information to young women in an area of west Orlando which does not have a pregnancy care resource center.

“During the four hours that we were set up we provided free pregnancy tests, biblical counseling, as well as ultrasound screenings for women to confirm that they were indeed pregnant,” Hendry said.

The outreach, called “Love Orlando,” was in partnership with First Baptist Church of Orlando’s First Life Center for Pregnancy.

“One young woman came by our mobile center who was 33 weeks along in her pregnancy and had not had any prenatal care,” Hendry recounted. “She wasn’t able to qualify for Medicaid and didn’t have health insurance.

“We provided her with her first ultrasound where she could see her fully developed baby, which will be born in the next several weeks,” Hendry said, adding, “It’s always an amazing moment when you are able to show mothers the new life that is living and growing inside their womb.”

The Florida Baptist team connected the woman with a nurse midwife to help with her needs through the remainder of her pregnancy and afterward.

The ultrasound machine, provided at no cost through the Psalm 139 Project, is an invaluable tool in helping to inform and educate women about their unborn child during a crisis pregnancy, Hendry said, noting, “She can see her baby’s heart beating at the very earliest stages of pregnancy.

“It’s important to note that nearly 80 percent of all women considering abortion choose life when they see their unborn child on the ultrasound screen,” Hendry stated.

Carmem Carmo, interim director for First Life Center for Pregnancy, said the Love Orlando outreach not only was a way to protect the unborn but also share the love of Christ.

“Our goal was to reach lost souls with the love of Jesus through this very unique pregnancy care ministry,” Carmo said. “We believe this project started in God’s heart, and we definitely felt His presence that day.”

In Psalm 139, the psalmist affirms God’s intimate involvement in his creation, writing, “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

“We are on the front lines,” Hendry said, committed to “bringing light into darkness.”

This year, funds donated by individuals to the Psalm 139 Project provided a mobile ultrasound unit for the Arizona Baptist Children’s Home to serve pregnancy care centers in Phoenix. Next, the project will underwrite the cost of an ultrasound machine and training in southern Louisiana, once sufficient financial gifts are in hand. Currently, there is a critical need for Southern Baptist outreach to women in crisis pregnancies in the greater New Orleans area. The Psalm 139 Project was launched in 2004 with the placement of an ultrasound machine in southern Indiana, with subsequent units placed in Florida, Arizona and four other states.

For more information about the Psalm 139 Project, visit psalm139project.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This article originated with the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes based in Lakeland, Fla., and has been republished by the Florida Baptist Witness and updated by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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Poll: Most support abortion restrictions
7/28/2011 4:59:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll: Most support abortion restrictions

July 28 2011 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults support restrictions on abortion — such as requiring parental consent — that are commonly implemented on the state level, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll of 1,020 adults found that:
  • 87 percent support laws requiring doctors to “inform patients about certain possible risks of abortion before performing the procedure.”
  • 71 percent back laws requiring those under 18 to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion.
  • 69 percent support laws requiring women to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion.
  • 64 percent support laws making it illegal to perform a partial-birth abortion. The laws in the four questions found majority support from Republicans, Independents and Democrats.
The rest of the poll had good news and bad news for the pro-life community. While U.S. adults think third-trimester abortions (86-10 percent) and second-trimester abortions (71-24 percent) should be illegal, they believe first-trimester abortions should be legal, 62-35 percent. The second-trimester data is particularly good news for pro-life groups who are in the middle of a major push to pass state laws prohibiting abortion at 20 weeks on the basis that the unborn child feels pain.

Gallup found less support and even opposition when asking about three other specific laws.  

By a 50-46 percent margin, U.S. adults support laws that would require a woman seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound. Yet adults (51-46) oppose laws that would allow pharmacists and health providers to opt out of “providing medicine or surgical procedures that result in abortion.” Adults (57-40) also oppose laws “prohibiting health clinics that provide abortion services from receiving any federal funds.” That latter question references moves by some states — and even Congress — to prohibit money going to Planned Parenthood. LifeNews.com theorized that the question was “worded in a way that might make respondents concerned about hospitals losing federal funding — which is not normally the case under such laws.”

The poll was conducted July 15-17.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)

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Mobile unit rescues 2 babies & 2 souls’ in 1 day
7/28/2011 4:51:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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