July 2013

Review: ThePlan reveals ‘measurable discipleship’

July 9 2013 by Neal E. Eller Jr., Book review

In ThePlan: Measurable Discipleship, Steve R. Clark identifies the current reality of disciple-making in today’s church along with the frustration and even guilt pastors feel for failing in their obedience to the Great Commission.
 
Clark, pastor of New Life Authentic Christian Community in Conover, N.C., acknowledges the following: leaders have available a multitude of methods, programs and styles; believers mature at different levels; it’s easy to measure baptisms, numbers of people in classes, classes offered, but they have very little to do with making disciples. In short, “each may measure some results but fails to identify disciples,” resulting in “church members left in the dark about what it means to be a disciple and are given no hint as to what it means to make a disciple.” 
 
Two haunting questions drove Clark to study scripture and the life of Jesus in order to develop a plan that accurately measures a disciple who makes disciples, and a strategy that implements a process to obtain the desired results.
 
The questions include: What does it mean to make disciples? And, how are disciples made?
 
Clark gives great clarity to the understanding, application and implementation of ThePlan. For example, “discipleship is one believer living with and teaching another believer how to teach other believers in the Kingdom of God.”

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Another example would be, “the Kingdom life is a life that is lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” 
 
ThePlan is never completely revealed until chapter 10.
 
It is tempting to skip immediately to chapter 10, but in doing so you will miss what the Holy Spirit may have to say to you personally in the other chapters.

 

ThePlan revealed

Clark opens chapter 10 with what he calls “the two actions the church needs to embrace if it is to continue in His Word: comprehension and compliance.”
 
The first action, comprehension, asks the church to consider what it means to make disciples.
 
The second action, compliance, involves the church taking a closer look at how disciples are made.
 
This is followed by an assumption the majority of churches have about disciple-making: “It is clear that the church does not make disciples because it has no way to measure disciples, no way to define the actions that designate a believer as a disciple, and no way to celebrate a person becoming a disciple. Yet rather than solving this perplexing issue of obedience to the Lord’s command, we just assume that as long as a person is baptized and participating in church, he is a disciple of Christ.”
 
ThePlan explains that disciples are discipled, disciples make disciples, disciples are disciplined, disciples are ministers, and disciples are participants.
 
In chapter 11, “The Celebration,” Clark explains the steps needed to implement ThePlan.
 
The reader will find an explanation of the process, the discipleship card given to new converts and those desiring to become a disciple.
 
In the concluding chapter, Clark paints the following picture: “Imagine a church … where families and individuals practice true discipleship.
 
Imagine what it would be like if, instead of having to come up with the next great program, disciples were coming to the church with ministry after ministry the Lord was leading them to accomplish.
 
Imagine what it would be like if discipline came from the congregation rather than the staff.
 
Imagine people not falling through the cracks or leaving the church without notice.
 
Imagine the leadership of the church just maintaining the environment of discipleship instead of creating an institution.”
 
For those desiring to create a disciple-making culture that transforms lives by the power of God, I highly recommend you and your leadership read and discuss this book.
 
I believe pairing this book with Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger would make an excellent start to this journey.  
 
Clark holds a bachelor’s of business administration degree from Marshall University and a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
He and his wife, Connie, live in Hickory. 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Neal E. Eller Jr. is team leader for church health at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. You can reach him at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5636, or at neller@ncbaptist.org.)

7/9/2013 2:37:18 PM by Neal E. Eller Jr., Book review | with 0 comments



Prayer, amid Egypt’s upheaval, ‘precipice of opportunity’

July 9 2013 by Eden Nelson, Baptist Press

CAIRO – The day after Mohamed Morsi was deposed as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the country’s streets once again filled with millions of Egyptians exercising their right to protest.

Now, violent and deadly demonstrations continue both in support of the ousted leader and in opposition. Since the military took control, the number of deaths associated with the protests was approaching 100 as of July 8 while more than 1,000 had been injured.

Morsi served as Egypt’s head of state only one year – elected June 30, 2012, and deposed on July 3.

Although uncertainty remains, Egyptians continue to observe the unfolding events with hope. Dr. M. Ibrahim*, an American-Egyptian Christian, considers the news “amazing,” saying this “has never happened before.”

Ibrahim moved to America with his family after growing up in Egypt and serving in the Egyptian army. He lived through the persecution of Christians in Egypt for many years.

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IMB file photo
Evangelical Christians in Egypt, during a gathering in 2011, worship through song, singing such words as “With my faith I will see the good in my bad situations. I ask my soul to sing for the Christ. Allelujah.”   

For Egyptians to rise up and be seen fighting for secular rule is unbelievable to Ibrahim. “We have never heard of this,” he said.

As he watched the news unfold on July 3, Ibrahim texted his wife saying, “Now we can go home and visit Egypt freely without having to be afraid.”

“My family in Egypt are all so excited,” he said in an interview, “but they are cautiously optimistic.”

Ramez Atallah, the general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, said in an article on Beliefnet.com, “We are on the precipice of opportunity, and feel that there is an incredible spiritual gap that must be filled.

“Our urgent desire is for the Word of God to speak,” Atallah said. “We cannot fail to seize this opportunity to share the relevance of God’s Word during this momentous time in Egypt’s history.”

Mike Turner*, a Christian worker in northern Africa, agreed. “We have to believe that God can do an amazing thing across all of Egypt. In these changing days, the history books are being rewritten by the hour. I hope that God’s people will respond in greater number.”

While Egyptians went to the streets to address their political circumstances, the prayer of Christians around the world is that the gospel will reach the masses during this time of rapid change, Turner said.

“If a geo-political scenario can play out like this and have enormous ramifications for all of Egypt,” he said, “the Holy Spirit can do the same thing in the lives of many.”

As people watch the news from Egypt, Turner asks that they stop and pray where they are “that the Kingdom [of God] will come in that place as it is in heaven.”

“God will use those situations, when it looks like it’s bleak and there is no positive or desirable outcome on the news. God has a different plan,” Turner said. “Make it your call to pray.”

A senior International Mission Board global strategist said, “Watching events unfold for Egyptians draws you to prayer. Pray for peace in the moment, but also pray for a future where many will one day know the Prince of Peace.”

Egyptians are desperate and willing to put everything “on hold” for weeks at a time to express what they think might solve their problems, said Rye Martins*, a Christian worker in Egypt. “But we know that it’s not” the ultimate solution. The solution is Christ, he said. 

“Our hope is that every mention of Egypt on the news will be a trigger for prayer,” Martins said.

“God can do it. He is capable of doing it, at His own time,” Ibrahim said. “He is always doing something big, sometimes we realize it and know it, sometimes we don’t – but He never lets His people down.”

Missions leaders suggest that, for some Christians, they consider responding by going to Egypt to share the hope of Jesus Christ in a season of unprecedented opportunity.

For others, prayer is urged:

  • For the new government that will emerge in Egypt.

  • For Christians to be bold and not hesitate to share the gospel in this moment in history.

  • For the elections that Adly Mahmud Mansour, interim head of state, has promised to hold soon.

  • For Christians in Egypt to have wisdom and creativity in sharing the gospel message.

*Names changed for security purposes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eden Nelson is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the Middle East.)

7/9/2013 2:25:54 PM by Eden Nelson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Moore: Church’s views ‘seem freakish’ to culture

July 9 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – American evangelicals’ view of themselves should resemble more closely that held by the church in the first century than that held by Christians in recent decades, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said in a nationally televised interview.

Moore, in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Monday (July 8), said there was a message for evangelicals and other social conservatives in the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“For a long time, social conservatives in America had a kind of silent majority view of ourselves, and conservative evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics had a moral majority view of ourselves, as though we somehow represent the mainstream of American culture – most people really agree with us except for some elites somewhere,” the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said. “That really isn’t the case.”

Instead, Moore said, Christians “need to start seeing the fact that we’re very similar to the way the Christian church was at the very beginning of its existence – a minority of people who are speaking to the larger culture in ways that are going to sometimes seem freakish to that larger culture. I don’t think that’s anything that should panic us or cause us to become outraged or despondent. I think it’s a realistic view of who we are.”

Asked about the church and politics, Moore said Christians need to find a path between two erroneous approaches.

“[T]he church can become a political action committee in a way that detracts from the mission of the church and destroys the mission of the church,” Moore told C-SPAN host John McArdle. “But I think there’s also a way in which the church can stand back and say, ‘We don’t speak to anything that we believe to be political,’ which really means the old question that the scripture gives us: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ If we care about our neighbors and if we care about our society, then we have to speak to those things that are for the common good and are for human flourishing.”


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Photo by Tom Strode
ERLC President Russell D. Moore, left, awaits questions from host John McArdle before his July 8 appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” 

He said there was a time “when evangelical Christians in America became too triumphalistic, had a Christian definition of a balanced budget amendment or a Christian position on a line-item veto or a Christian position on foreign aid in ways that there is no clear, biblical authority for that. But I think there are some foundational issues that we must speak to out of the convictions that we hold.”

Moore was not surprised the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in its June 26 opinion, but he was startled by the justices’ reasoning, he said.

The majority “essentially said there’s no reason to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman exclusively except for hostility and animus toward persons, which we don’t believe is the case,” Moore said. 

“I think [Associate Justice Antonin] Scalia is right [in his dissenting opinion], that it will be very difficult for the court now to allow states to state-by-state define marriage in the way that they currently do,” Moore said. “I think the language there is setting the court up for a Roe versus Wade type of decision in the future.”

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated all state restrictions on abortion.

Defenders of the biblical, traditional definition of marriage are not saying “the state ought to somehow penalize or stigmatize people,” Moore said. “We’re just saying that children have a right to a mother and a father, and there’s something distinctive about that sort of family structure that the state has an interest in.”

“The question is whether a child needs a mother and a father, and whether a mother and a father bring something distinctive to the task of parenting,” Moore said. “I believe that God did not design us simply to be parented but to be mothered and to be fathered.”

Twelve of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

“This isn’t a situation in which what we’re trying to do is to have the state affirm the love of two people,” Moore said. “We don’t need the state to do that. We can affirm love in all sorts of ways without the state becoming involved. The reason the state is involved is because there’s something distinctive about marriage, the union between a man and a woman, that’s different from other relationships. And we think that’s because the state doesn’t create marriage. The state doesn’t define it. The state simply recognizes something that already exists.”

A caller from Ashburn, Va., who identified himself as a “bisexual polygamist” wondered how the Supreme Court might define him.

Moore responded by acknowledging he isn’t “sure where this is going to go in terms of expanding the definition of marriage. I think there are obviously some polygamists and polyamorists, such as the caller, who are saying they would like to see the marriage definition expanded even further. I’m not sure where American culture is going there. All I can say is that I believe there is a unique, distinctive good that comes to honoring and recognizing the union between one man and one woman for life.”

During the 45-minute program, Moore responded to questions from McArdle, phone callers and tweeters. Among other topics Moore commented on were the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate in its health-care regulations, immigration reform and surrogate motherhood.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/9/2013 2:12:22 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Heritage’s Andrew Walker to join ERLC staff

July 9 2013 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has announced the appointment of Andrew T. Walker as the entity’s director of policy studies. 

Walker, 28, currently serves as policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, one of the country’s most respected conservative think-tanks. He has worked within Heritage’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society on marriage, family and religious liberty issues. Prior to his appointment at Heritage, Walker was a policy analyst for the Kentucky Family Foundation where he focused on issues ranging from family studies to state-sponsored gambling.

The New York Times featured Walker as one of the “undaunted” young conservatives advocating for the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Likewise, Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine profiled Walker and his Heritage colleague Ryan Anderson as representatives of a new generation of pro-marriage Christian activist/scholars.

At the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Walker will coordinate strategies for equipping churches to deal with moral and policy concerns. Walker joins Phillip Bethancourt of Texas and Daniel Patterson of Tennessee, who were named director of strategic initiatives and chief of staff to the president, respectively, upon Moore’s election to head the ERLC.

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Andrew T. Walker

“Andrew Walker’s name was on my heart from the moment I was asked to lead the ERLC,” Moore said. “He is brilliant, activist, energetic and gospel-centered. He is one of the brightest young minds in evangelicalism, widely respected in Washington and brings with all of that the ‘Kingdom first’ vision that characterizes the ERLC. Along with leaders such as Barrett Duke, Phillip Bethancourt and Daniel Patterson, Walker is part of a ‘dream team’ of co-laborers for which I am thankful to God.”

Duke is the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research.

Heritage Foundation officials hailed the ERLC’s choice of Walker.

Derrick Morgan, Heritage’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, said Walker has been “a key contributor to Heritage’s efforts to make the case for marriage during this important season in the debate. Andrew’s colleagues are glad he will continue to advance the cause at the ERLC.”

Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies in Heritage’s DeVos Center, said Walker has “a wonderful passion for Christian engagement in the great cultural issues of our day, and his gift for applied theology will be a great service to the ERLC. We look forward to working with Andrew, Russell and the whole ERLC team.”

Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at Heritage, added, “Andrew Walker is one of the brightest lights in the constellation of young evangelical leaders. Intelligent, articulate and faithful, Andrew brings impressive intellectual gifts with a winsome personality all at the service of the gospel. Heritage’s loss is the ERLC’s gain.”

Manhattan Declaration Executive Director Eric Teetsel, another leader focused on evangelical policy engagement, said, “Throughout his career, Andrew Walker has been a courageous voice for truth. He’s motivated by his love for God and others, which compels him to strive for policies that increase human flourishing and the common good. This new role with ERLC is a perfect opportunity for Andrew to continue the pursuit of these ends.”

Walker said he is “honored to join the ERLC team under the presidency of Dr. Russell Moore, whose visionary leadership will set a new tone for Christian engagement in the public square.”

“American Christians are entering a new era in how they’ll relate to the broader culture,” Walker said. “I’m excited about helping Christians in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, think through the dynamics of their faith on any number of contemporary issues.”

Walker added, “We can’t just be a people who stand athwart history yelling, ‘Stop!,’ as William F. Buckley once said; we must also be happy warriors for the Kingdom, yelling, ‘Come!’”

Walker earned a master of divinity degree in 2010 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and also is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. He is pursuing a master of theology degree in ethics from Southern Seminary. Walker will begin his duties at the ERLC Aug. 1 and will live in Nashville. The ERLC has offices in both Nashville and Washington.

A native of Jacksonville, Ill., Walker’s writings have appeared in such publications as The Weekly Standard, Christianity Today, Touchstone, The Gospel Coalition and The Louisville Courier-Journal.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)

7/9/2013 2:00:25 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. pro-life supporters hope for ‘Christmas in July’

July 8 2013 by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League

North Carolina pro-life advocates are calling on Christians to contact their representatives this week in support of the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act that passed the N.C. Senate July 3.
 
Initially a measure to prevent foreign law, such as Sharia law, from being applied in the state, House Bill 695 was amended last week. It now includes protection of health care workers, limits on abortion funding, prohibitions for sex-selective abortion and a provision that requires doctors to be present during an entire abortion procedure or when abortifacients are administered.
 
The bill heads this week to the House for concurrence, amid promises of continued intense protests from abortion promoters such as Planned Parenthood. Once the bill is approved, it will then be sent to Gov. Pat McCrory to sign into law.
 
“We call it Christmas in July, but the gift won’t be completely wrapped until it’s passed by the House and signed by the governor,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
 
“We urge Christians to let their representatives know that they support these measures that are bound to save lives,” he added. “They will certainly hear from abortion supporters, so we cannot afford to be silent.”
 
Abortion supporters described the bill as an attack on women’s rights, while advocates of the bill said the goal was to make the procedure safer for women.
 
Senators Ellie Kinnaird, (D-Orange) and Angela Bryant (D-Halifax) argued that the state had enjoyed four decades of safe abortions, but Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Franklin) read a Charlotte Observer article detailing multiple problems at a Queen City abortion clinic that led to it being shut down twice in six years. He also cited problems at a Fayetteville facility.
 
Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) pointed out the portion of the bill that would require clinics to operate under standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers was consistent with recommendations resulting from the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic case in Pennsylvania. Gosnell was found guilty for the death of three babies outside the womb at his abortion clinic.
 
“We’re not here today taking away the rights of women,” Daniel said. “What we’re taking away is the rights of an industry to have substandard conditions.”
 
Opponents of the bill said abortion clinics are already highly regulated and that the bill would effectively shut down all but one clinic in the state and lead to “back alley abortions.”
 
Sen. Phil Berger (R-Guilford) said the bill was not an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, but it simply included a number of “common sense processes to protect women and to protect public health” and that anyone interested in safe abortions had nothing to fear from the bill.
 
“We can stick our heads in the sand and act like problems don’t exist,” he said. “We can pretend that everything is just hunky-dory out there, but it is not.
 
“We are being warned by the results of the Charlotte clinic and by the results in Fayetteville that there are problems out there. … We have an obligation to protect the health of the women that go to these clinics and make sure the rules and safety procedures are the best they can be.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – BR staff updated and edited this story.)

7/8/2013 4:05:30 PM by L.A. Williams, Christian Action League | with 0 comments



Bible Drill in N.C. inspires South African couple

July 8 2013 by Special to the Recorder

Busy weekends are nothing new for most parents.
 
When Thomas and Elizabeth Gibbs of Midland heard the weekend their South African guests would be staying with them, they tried to decide what to do. With Elizabeth tied up with a Bible Drill competition and Thomas scheduled to coach a soccer game, they wondered, “Should we try to trade days with someone else?”
 
“It was God’s timing that we should meet and that we should [go] to the Bible Drill,” said Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland. 
 
The Gibbs were participating in a partnership between Cabarrus Baptist Association and the Baptist Union of South Africa. The partnership was established primarily to provide assistance to the churches and pastors of the Northwest Province Baptist Association, which contains 30 churches scattered over a sparsely populated area about the size of Texas and is part of the Baptist Union of South Africa.
 
That weekend the Gibbs hosted Pastor Moeng Segoai (also known as Kenneth) and his wife, Tshupetso (also known as Rebecca), from Kimberley, South Africa. The couple is also part of the partnership. Kenneth is pastor of Phutanang Baptist Church. While in North Carolina, Kenneth preached and shared about their ministries in Africa.
 
Thomas still doesn’t know how his family’s name got on the list to host the Segoais but he said God was at work. After a heart stent procedure in December, Thomas had gone for a follow-up appointment. He stopped at a restaurant where he ran into the pastor in charge of coordinating housing for the South Africans. He thanked Thomas for being willing to host a couple. Thomas didn’t say anything, but wondered what was happening since he had never signed any list. An email came a couple of weeks later letting Thomas know when his family would be hosting the South African couple.
 
Besides not signing up and having health issues, Thomas said they don’t have a lot of room in their home. The Gibbs have five children, ages 13 to 21, all living at home in their 1,500-square-foot home. There are three bedrooms and an office that also serves as a bedroom.
 
“Never try to second guess what God is trying to do,” Thomas said. “He works in His own way and in His own timing.”
 
When Thomas went to pick up the Segoais April 20, his soccer game had been cancelled due to rain. Instead of going to the soccer game, he took the couple to Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord, where the regional Bible Drill was taking place.
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Contributed photo
Elizabeth, left, and Thomas Gibbs, right, were able to provide Bible Drill supplies, including Bibles, to Kenneth and Rebecca Segoai of South Africa. The Segoais were in North Carolina as part of a partnership with Cabarrus Baptist Association.

 
After observing the children and youth taking part in the event, Kenneth and Rebecca asked where they could learn more about Bible Drill, a program that teaches the importance of studying and memorizing scripture.
 
Elizabeth Gibbs, who has been part of Bible Drill for around 15 years at various levels, shared how to use the materials they had with the Segoais. Deborah Robson, consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, provided some supplies as well.
 
The Segoais were excited about having a tool they could use to help young people in South Africa learn scripture.
 
“If we had come at any other time, we might not have seen [the] Bible Drill,” said Kenneth. “We may have been sick or just been too tired to have watched, but God planned it this way. We were looking for something to use to teach the young people in South Africa.” 
 

Bible Drill provides deeper understanding

While FBC Midland didn’t have a lot of participants in Bible drill this year – one youth and four children – Thomas said Bible Drill offers a deeper level of Bible understanding.
 
“It’s vitally important to memorize God’s Word but also to apply it,” Thomas said. “They use a variety of techniques to help them learn,” which include music CDs and other resources.
 
Elizabeth has seen Bible Drill make a difference in her own home. All five of the Gibbs’ children have participated in the program at some point.  She sometimes hears her children remind each other of scripture they learned during Bible Drill events.
 
“I know that God’s Word says it will never come back void,” she said. “It impacts people’s lives.”
 
Thomas pointed out that Americans take for granted the resources that are available.
 
Many can walk into LifeWay Christian Store or order various materials online. Something Americans might use once, the Segoais and other South Africans will be able to use numerous times.
 
“They just see us as having so much because they have very little,” Elizabeth said.
 
The Gibbs bought extra suitcases for the Segoais to carry back Bible Drill supplies.
 
The Segoias left with two boxes of Bibles and full suitcases of Bible Drill materials.
 
Thomas said his church and another congregation took up love offerings for the Segoais. Those funds will go toward helping complete a church building.
 
Kenneth said he “felt doubly blessed” by the generosity of the churches.
 
For more information about N.C. Bible Drill, visit NCBibleDrill.org. Contact Deborah Robson at drobson@ncbaptist.org or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5652.
 

Related story

What is Bible Drill?
7/8/2013 3:55:39 PM by Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



What is Bible Drill?

July 8 2013 by Special to the Recorder

Bible Drill, a program that teaches the importance of studying and memorizing scripture, is for children, youth and high school students in grades 4-12.
 
The program is built on three age groups – children (grades 4-6), youth (grades 7-9) and high school (grades 10-12). The Youth Speaker’s Tournament consists of high school age students, (grades 10-12) who present a prepared speech.
 
Children learn 75 Bible verses over three years; the number increases as they get older. Youth learn 30 verses a year. The high school group not only learns 30 verses a year but they also learn key passages. As they get older, the youth and high school participants delve more into biblical doctrine, which is built off the Baptist Faith & Message.
 
This year in Bible Drill, there were 576 registered participants who represented 720 N.C. Baptist churches. The competitions begin at the church level, then move to associational and regional levels. Only youth, high school and speaker’s competitors move on to the state level. There were 18 youth drillers, 10 high school drillers and seven speakers that participated in the state finals May 11 at Abbott’s Creek Missionary Baptist Church, High Point.

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Contributed photo
Youth and high school Bible Drill participants gather for a group photo after the state Bible Drill finals at Abbott’s Creek Missionary Baptist Church in High Point.

 

The first-place winners for the youth, high school and speaker’s tournament competed in the national competition in Duluth, Ga., June 20. Though none of them placed in the top three, Deborah Robson, consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said they represented the state well.
 
“The amount of scripture each driller learned, not only in their minds, but their hearts, makes them the top winner,” Robson said. “… This is what sets Bible Drill apart from other Bible programs.”

 
2013 state winners

Youth Bible Drill
1st Place: Taylor Jacobs, Mt. Elim Baptist Church, Red Springs
2nd Place: Daniel Cooke, University Hills Baptist Church, Charlotte, and Destiny Demery, Mt. Airy Baptist Church, Pembroke
 
High School Bible Drill
1st Place: Laura Abernathy, Wilkies Grove Baptist Church, Hickory
2nd Place: Kali Strickland, Mt. Airy Baptist Church, Pembroke
3rd Place: Katie Beasley, Coats Baptist Church, Coats
 
Youth Speaker’s Tournament
1st Place: Audra Daniel, Burkemont Baptist Church, Morganton
2nd Place: Mark Locklear, Island Grove Baptist Church, Pembroke
3rd Place: Sydney Bryant, Abbott’s Creek Missionary Baptist Church, High Point, and Madison Swift, Parkwood Baptist Church, Concord
 
The top scorer in each division went on to compete nationally in June.

 

Related story:

Bible Drill in N.C. inspires South African couple

7/8/2013 3:51:14 PM by Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



Transformed by missions, students become ‘gospel-global’ citizens

July 8 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

During his three years in college, Austin Tallant has participated in mission trips to Haiti, Cuba and New York City. 
 
“There is nothing in this world better than going on a mission trip and experiencing God in a different way,” said Tallant, a rising senior at Chowan University in Murfreesboro. “I can’t get enough of that.”
 
When Tallant, from Phoenix, Ariz., heard about Chowan’s annual international mission trip in May he quickly volunteered. For Tallant, mission trips are a natural outlet to serve others.
 
“I’ve had so many opportunities in my life; I just have to go,” he said. “It wouldn’t be right for me not to go.”
 
Tallant was one of 15 students and staff from Chowan to participate in the recent mission trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they ministered among more than 200,000 street children who call the city home.
 
Orphaned or abandoned, and as young as five years old, the children come to the city in search of money, food and shelter.
 
Money, food and shelter are in short supply in Ethiopia, where the average income per citizen is $125 per year. When children arrive in Addis Ababa they often have little choice but to live on the streets where they beg and sometimes steal to survive.
 
Yet, despite their circumstances, they have a contagious zeal for life, Tallant said.
 
“These kids are so loving; it’s remarkable to see,” he said. “If we could just have their exuberance and their love throughout our lives, imagine how much better the world would be.”

 

Transform 122

The Ethiopia trip was part of Transform 122, a collegiate missions initiative sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) and Baptist Campus Ministry that seeks to help involve college students in global missions opportunities. Transform 122 is based on Romans 12:2.

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Contributed photo
Chowan University students work on a puzzle with Ethiopian children and leaders. The students were part of Transform 122, a collegiate missions initiative to help facilitate global mission opportunities.

 

“We want college students to grow a passion for missions, to see a vision of helping others,” said Tom Beam, NCBM student missions mobilization consultant. “The way to do that is to involve them in missions in our local area, in our country and all around the world.”
 
Through Transform 122, the Chowan team worked with Onesimus Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that provides tutoring, social work, character building and spiritual ministry to street children. The organization’s goal is to place the children in Christian foster homes, or to reconnect them with family when possible. The Chowan students ministered daily at a drop-in center operated by Onesimus. Every day children at the center receive clothing, showers, food and participate in activities such as Bible stories, music, art and soccer clinics. 
 
“It’s a complex problem,” said Mari Wiles, Chowan campus minister. “They have the largest number of documented street children of anywhere in the world. There’s a myth in the rural areas that if one can make it to the city they can find wealth and prosperity.”
 
Wiles said the children’s stories were heartbreaking because in many cases their plight was caused by adults who acted irresponsibly.  
 
“One child said he traveled 500 miles under a bus. When he got there no one was there to help him so he started begging and stealing to survive,” Wiles said. “Children shouldn’t have to survive on their own.”
 

Gospel-global citizens

Each year Wiles coordinates three or four mission trips for Chowan students, including an international trip. She said the trips stress the importance of God’s people being engaged globally.
 
“God is global and the needs of God’s people are global. One thing we talk a lot about is that maybe the call of God and the cries of the world sound the same,” she said.
 
“There’s nothing like leaving home to help you become a gospel-global citizen, and that’s one of the beauties of the trip.”
 
Wiles said the student’s experience transformed their understanding of success. Unlike American culture, which pushes status as the measure of success, she said the students learned that real status in the eyes of God is humble service. 
 
“Maybe we couldn’t solve the whole issue of street children, but it was making a difference in the individual lives and that matters,” Wiles said. “Our students also got to see that they can be a part of the solutions to the world and not be apathetic, and that it’s OK when your heart breaks for the cause of Christ because that kind of break makes us stronger, not weaker.”
 
During the trip the team saw 20 children trust Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior – the highlight of the trip.
 
For more information about Transform 122, contact Tom Beam at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5626, tbeam@ncbaptist.org, or visit www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Collegiate

7/8/2013 3:38:19 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Southwestern Seminary launches innovative degree for IMB’s Macedonia Project

July 8 2013 by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications

FORT WORTH, Texas – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is launching an innovative master’s degree that will meet the needs of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) Macedonia Project, which was introduced at the 2013 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June.

“We’ve always wondered what the fastest way is to get a college student to the (mission) field in a legitimate fashion, so that they’re the best product possible for us on the field,” IMB President Tom Elliff said, describing the Macedonia Project to Southern Baptists.

The Macedonia Project, Elliff said, is a fusion of theological training and practical missions experience. A special International Service Corps (ISC) program, the project aims to deploy qualified missionary candidates immediately, while allowing them to pursue their theological training through Southern Baptist seminaries while on the field. For this purpose, the IMB has requested that participating seminaries develop an online, 45-hour master’s degree in cross-cultural missions.

Southwestern Seminary is prepared to meet the needs of the Macedonia Project through a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) with a concentration in cross-cultural missions. This program is built upon Southwestern’s new, fully online MTS degree, which includes 36 hours of study in Old Testament, New Testament, systematic theology, church history, Baptist heritage, Christian apologetics, and Bible and moral issues. This fully accredited degree was approved by Southwestern’s trustees this spring.
 

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The 45-hour MTS degree with a concentration in cross-cultural missions will replace Christian apologetics and Bible and moral issues courses with ones in world religions and cross-cultural ethics. It will also add a concentration with nine hours of study in missiology, cross-cultural church planting and evangelism.

“We’re excited that not only can we partner with the IMB in this way but that we are already prepared to go in meeting this need,” Executive Vice President and Provost Craig Blaising said. “This seminary has been the flagship of missions training over the decades, so our ability to partner in this way is exactly in line with not only our mission and vision but also with the historic focus of the school.

“The IMB has asked the seminary to provide the academic, theological and biblical training, that a missionary needs to face challenges of ministry in the world today. Southwestern has that. We have a degree program that does exactly that, one that will exactly complement the practical training that they will be doing in the IMB structure. We feel that it is an exact fit. … So we’re happy to be the first to announce that we’re ready in partnering to do this.”

According to Keith Eitel, dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Southwestern Seminary is a “first responder” in this attempt to send and train more missionaries to relieve the “disaster of lostness in the world.”

This program, Eitel said, has “two key strengths, one being that it allows a synergistic blend of academic learning and critical analysis of issues to be done simultaneously with on-the-field learning experience. So theory and practice are merged into one organic learning experience.”

The second strength of this program, Eitel says, is that it builds a foundation for further study on the master’s level or, eventually, on the doctoral level. With additional master’s level study, for example, students could eventually enroll in Southwestern’s Ph.D. in World Christian Studies, another pioneering degree aimed at training missionaries and other Christian leaders as they proclaim the message of Christ throughout the world.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is senior news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)

7/8/2013 3:29:16 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Is the growth of the nonreligious good or bad? Americans are divided

July 8 2013 by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

Nearly half of all Americans – 48 percent – say the growing number of nonreligious people is “bad for society,” according to a poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
 
But about the same amount – 50 percent – say the rise in nonreligious people is either a good thing (39 percent), or doesn’t matter (11 percent).
 
The findings flesh out last year’s Pew Forum survey on the “nones,” the one in five Americans who report no formal religious affiliation. But the results also illustrate the divided reactions to this trend between those who are religious and those who are not. The study found:

  • White evangelicals (78 percent) and black Protestants (64 percent) were most likely to think the growth of the nonreligious population is “bad for society.” Meanwhile, a combined 59 percent of Hispanic Catholics say the number of nonreligious people is either “good for society” (11 percent) or “does not matter” (48 percent).

  • Young people are more likely to think the number of people who are not religious “does not matter” – 50 percent of those between 18 and 29, compared to 34 percent of those over the age of 65.

  • About one-fourth of the religiously unaffiliated say it is a “good thing” that more people are not religious, while a 55 percent majority says it doesn’t make much difference for society.

Christian Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, said the study’s findings reinforce what religion sociologists observe about the young – they are more tolerant of religious, and nonreligious, diversity.

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RNS photo by Tyrone Turner
Thousands of atheists and unbelievers, including Alberto Valdez from Del Rio, Texas, gathered Saturday on the National Mall for the Reason Rally.

 

“They have grown up in a culture that has taught them not to judge others,” he said. “Plus, younger people are simply less religious themselves, so there are more of them who would not be troubled by this.”
 
But John Farina, an associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University, is cautious about some of the survey’s findings.
 
“Most surprising is the finding that more Hispanic Catholics than white Catholics are indifferent,” he said – 48 percent versus 38 percent. “That contradicts everything we hear about faithful Hispanics. I distrust this finding.”
 
Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa and author of a book about the attitudes of the religious versus the nonreligious, said he was concerned with the wording of the survey’s questions.
 
“Why are they specifically asking about an increase in the nonreligious rather than a decrease in the religious?” he said. “How you word questions matters.”
 
Still, the findings in part back up Cragun’s work with Barry Kosmin of Trinity College’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society about the attitudes of nonreligious Americans – that they are more tolerant of diversity and difference.
 
“It’s still fascinating that just under 50 percent of Americans find the increase problematic even though 80 percent claim to be religious,” Cragun said. “Either Americans aren’t as religious as they seem or they don’t think religion is such a good thing, which is pretty interesting.”
 
Pew conducted the survey among more than 4,000 adults nationwide; the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

7/8/2013 3:20:53 PM by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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