July 2015

Iran deal: persecuted church ‘left behind’

July 15 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The nuclear deal struck by Iran and six world powers led by the United States has drawn criticism from evangelicals for its potential ill effects on Israel and persecuted Christians in the Persian nation.
 
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) lamented that the deal, which was announced today in Vienna following 20 months of negotiations, apparently does not include the release of American pastor Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison.
 
Johnny Hunt, a former Southern Baptist Convention president who has led First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., to do extensive mission work in Iran, said the Obama administration’s willingness to negotiate with Iranian leaders likely encourages the regime to continue persecuting Christians and threatening Israel.
 
“I fear for Israel and other Middle Eastern countries in light of Iran’s hatred of Israel along with their many threats,” said Hunt. “I find it so difficult for us as a nation to trust nations that are publicly known for their religious persecution. The lack of accountability of Iran in light of all their inconsistencies with the United Nations leads me to believe that [America’s diplomatic engagement with Iran poses] an even greater risk to Iran’s growing Christian Underground Church.”
 
Hunt added, “Every concerned citizen should be asking, ‘What has changed in Iran’s behavior that has led us to believe they can be trusted in a nuclear deal?’“
 
According to The New York Times, the deal requires Iran to maintain a 98-percent reduced stockpile of low enriched uranium for the next 15 years, reduce by two-thirds the number of centrifuges spinning at the nation’s primary enrichment center and continue to limit its acquisition of conventional weapons among other provisions.
 
In exchange, the U.S. and the international community will lift oil and financial sanctions on Iran – a move expected to generate between $300 to $400 billion for Iran’s economy, according to the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that promotes traditional values.
 
President Obama celebrated the deal in a White House address, saying without the accord Iran and its neighbors would be more likely to pursue a nuclear arms race.
 
“This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification,” Obama said according to a transcript of his remarks published by the Associated Press. “Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. [They] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.
 
“This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones,” Obama said. “Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.”
 
Republicans in Congress expressed skepticism regarding the deal as did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Congress will have 60 days to review the deal and either approve or disapprove of it. Obama said he will veto “any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”
 
The Times said “Obama’s chances of ultimately prevailing are considered high.”
 
Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he questions “whether the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
 
Sen. James Lankford, a Southern Baptist and Oklahoma Republican, said Iran remains “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism.” Iran’s leadership, he said, “is a threat to its neighbors and the world, therefore we should closely analyze and debate this deal before any sanctions relief occurs.”
 
Netanyahu called the deal a “historic mistake,” according to the Jerusalem Post. The agreement will result in “hundreds of billions of dollars” pouring into Iran that can be used to fund terrorism and aggression toward neighboring states, Netanyahu said.
 
“It is impossible to prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who chant ‘Death to America’ even during the negotiations,” Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to U.S. negotiators.
 
Leaders in Iran and Syria both welcomed news of the deal.
 
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said, “Thank God, I have fulfilled my election promise to try and solve the nuclear crisis. We are a few steps away from the peak.... Even if the process stops now, we have performed our duty,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suggested he expects more support from Iran in his war against insurgents following the nuclear deal announcement.
 
“We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, just causes of nations and work for peace and stability in the region and the world,” Assad said according to Haaretz. He said in a separate statement, “The coming days will see momentum in the constructive role played by the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting for [sic] the rights of people and the laying of the foundation stones for amiable relations between nations for the good of humanity.”
 
Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and a former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president, said the deal is alarming because it appears to endanger Israel and do nothing to help Iran’s persecuted Christians. Johnson Ferry heard testimonies at its MOVE Conference earlier this year from two Iranian believers who were imprisoned for distributing Bibles.
 
“History shows that when you try to appease evil, it often winds up creating more problems rather than bringing about good,” Wright said. He added that Netanyahu’s objections to the deal are “of great concern” because “the world is becoming so much more anti-Semitic, so much more hostile to Israel.”
 
Wright is concerned for Iranian Christians in the wake of the deal announcement because “so far, nothing I’ve heard indicates there will be a greater freedom and a greater sense of justice for those who are suffering unjustly there in Iran for their faith.”
 
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, said it is egregious that Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned since 2012 for his Christian faith, has been “left behind” by U.S. negotiators.
 
“It is unconscionable that the Obama Administration would sign a deal with Iran without securing the freedom of Pastor Saeed who has been imprisoned for nearly three years simply because of his Christian faith,” Sekulow said in an ACLJ news release. “President Obama told the Abedini family face-to-face that he considered the release of Pastor Saeed a ‘top priority.’ How could that be a ‘top priority’ when a deal is reached and Pastor Saeed is left behind? What happened today makes a bad deal even worse. We will now focus our attention on convincing Congress to reject this deal.”
 
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh also asked Congress to reject the deal and insist that Iran release her husband along with other imprisoned American citizens.
 
“I plead with each member of Congress to review the deal with our family at the forefront of their thoughts,” Naghmeh Abedini said according to the ACLJ release. “Congress holds the key to bringing my husband home, to returning the father to my children. My children have desperately missed the loving embrace of their father for the last three years of their lives. They have grown up almost half of their lives without their father. Please help us ensure the remainder of their childhood includes both a mother and a father.”
 
Naghmeh Abedini tweeted that the “State Department has not provided any assurance of Saeed’s release. The Lord has been preparing me for this.”
 
SBC President Ronnie Floyd echoed the call for Saeed Abedini’s release in written comments to BP.
 
“While still learning more about this deal made with Iran, I stand appalled that we would make any kind of deal that would not demand the immediate release of the four Americans held hostage, including Pastor Saeed Abedini,” said Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Additionally, I am concerned for the safety of the people of Israel, America’s great ally. All of this calls the church to rise up and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as well as recommit ourselves to the evangelization of the world.”
 
Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted that he is “praying for @NaghmehAbedini and her children this morning after the #IranDeal announcement.”
 
The Heritage Foundation tweeted what it views as problems with the deal. Among them, “We gave Iran a better deal than we give our allies” and “Nuclear inspectors can only inspect with Iran’s permission.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

7/15/2015 10:57:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptists not shocked by latest Scout vote

July 15 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Boy Scouts Executive Committee’s approval of gay and bisexual adult leaders disappointed but did not shock Southern Baptist spokesmen – and prompted one to predict an even greater exodus by Baptist churches from the organization.
 
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced July 13 the unanimous vote by its Executive Committee to rescind the across-the-board ban on gay and bisexual employees and unit leaders. The resolution approved July 10 by the committee protects the rights of religious organizations, however, to bar gays from serving as adult leaders.
 
If the BSA’s National Executive Board of about 70 members ratifies the resolution July 27, the change will become effective immediately.
 

The Executive Committee’s vote followed by two years the Boy Scouts’ approval of lifting its prohibition on gay scouts.
 
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, described the latest decision as “a huge disappointment.”

 
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“I am saddened that their decision will sacrifice the current and future influence of this organization,” he told Baptist Press in written comments.
 
Roger S. Oldham, the SBC Executive Committee’s vice president for Convention Communications and Relations, said the BSA Executive Board “telegraphed its goal of changing the standards for membership and leadership 30 months ago, exchanging principled courage for cultural accommodation. While disappointed, we are not surprised by this next step toward that goal.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed skepticism the Boy Scouts will hold the line on protecting the rights of churches and other religious institutions.
 
“At every point, the Scout leadership tells us that they will go this far and no farther, but here we are again – so it’s hard for me to believe, in the long term, that the Boy Scouts will allow religious groups to have the freedom to choose their own leaders,” Moore said. “In recent years I have seen a definite cooling on the part of Baptist churches toward the Scouts. This will probably bring that cooling to a freeze.
 
“It’s important for our churches to be clear on this issue, even when our most cherished social institutions are not,” he said. “Tragically, the Boy Scouts seem to be pursuing an ongoing evolution toward the moral priorities of the Sexual Revolution.”
 
Gay rights advocates welcomed the new resolution but still found fault with it.
 
“[W]riting in an exemption for troops organized by religious organizations undermines the potentially historic nature of today’s vote,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “As we have said countless times, half measures are unacceptable and discriminatory exemptions have no place in the Boy Scouts.”
 
If the new policy gains final passage, it will fulfill a prediction in a resolution approved by messengers to the SBC’s 2013 meeting. Voting less than a month after the Boy Scouts’ opened their membership to gay youth, messengers expressed opposition and said the BSA action was “merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual adult leaders.”
 
The BSA Executive Committee’s July 10 vote followed by less than two months a call by the Scouts’ president, Robert Gates, for the organization to end its ban on gay leaders. Speaking at the BSA’s annual meeting in May, Gates, formerly CIA director and secretary of Defense, said he was not asking for immediate change. The BSA must voluntarily permit gay leaders before the judicial system requires it to do so, Gates said.
 
The July 10 BSA resolution says no adult applicant to be an employee or volunteer may be rejected “on the basis of sexual orientation.” The resolution makes eligible gay or bisexual adults who previously were removed as leaders.
 
In a July 13 memo sent to scouting leaders, the BSA said it “will continue to legally defend – or indemnify – the rights of its religious chartered organizations to choose leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.” It also said the BSA National Council “will take action” against a local council that refuses to charter a unit that abides by “the beliefs of its religious chartering organization.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. With reporting by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

7/15/2015 10:49:27 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay selects partners for new headquarters

July 15 2015 by Baptist Press staff

LifeWay Christian Resources announced July 14 it has hired design and construction-related partners in its efforts to relocate the organization’s corporate headquarters to a new location nearby in downtown Nashville.
 
LifeWay has contracted with Gresham, Smith and Partners to design its new 216,000-square-foot office building, according to a news release from the Southern Baptist entity. Bell & Associates Construction in Brentwood, Tenn., will manage construction of the new building. Compass Partners, LLC, in Brentwood, Tenn., will help LifeWay manage the process of the new project, serving as the owner’s representative.

 
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“We are blessed to have gathered such a renowned team that will be instrumental in the success of this project,” said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay. “These three partners are responsible for much of the transformation of Nashville’s skyline over the past 20 years. We are excited about the development of a timeless, long-lasting building in the heart of downtown Nashville that is representative of our values and will serve our ministries for the next 100 years.”
 
LifeWay anticipates finalizing the sale of its 14.5-acre downtown property in the next few weeks to Uptown Nashville, LLC, a consortium of local and national developers formed specifically to develop the property.
 
The entity began a preliminary feasibility study last August into selling its campus to relocate to facilities better suited to the ministry’s future.
 
Some of LifeWay’s downtown buildings date from the early 20th century and weren’t designed for modern technology or collaborative work, Rainer has said. LifeWay has moved printing, assembly and shipping elsewhere, leaving two-thirds of the current property unused. Its complex includes more than 1 million square feet of office, warehouse and parking space. About 1,100 of LifeWay’s employees are scattered through nine downtown buildings. The organization also oversees 186 stores and 4,300 employees in 29 states.
 
“We cannot waste time, money and other resources on inefficient facilities,” Rainer told messengers at their annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17. Read story on Rainer’s report. “We must be the best stewards of the resources Southern Baptists have entrusted to our care.”
 
LifeWay, founded in 1891 as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, expects to acquire new property later this summer with plans to break ground this year on a new facility that is slated for completion by late 2017.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was compiled by Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of Baptist Press, from a report released by LifeWay.)

7/15/2015 10:44:52 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Chris Draft: ‘It’s a blessing to play’

July 15 2015 by Roman Gabriel III

Chris Draft played linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 years with the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and two years with the Carolina Panthers. Draft was a three-year starter at Stanford University, graduating in 1997 with a degree in economics. In 2002 he received the Ed Block Courage Award, and in 2006 he was voted “Man of the Year” by the Carolina Panthers. In 2011 Chris lost his wife of five years, Keasha, to lung cancer.
 
In 2006 he established the Chris Draft Family Foundation, which focuses on eight primary initiatives with overarching themes that stress the importance of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline and physical fitness. The Atlanta-based foundation seeks partnerships with local and national community health organizations, school districts and non-profits across the country, striving to empower and uplift communities by educating and equipping families to make healthier choices.
I caught up with Chris and we talked about his work with NFL Player Engagement, and – through his strong faith in God – taking up the challenge of helping countless cancer survivors and their families.
 
Q: Chris tell us about NFL Player Engagement and your involvement in helping current players prepare for life after football.
 
A: The hardest thing our players have against them is that most of them think they’re going to play forever. And thinking that, they don’t consider what they’re going to do next. What player engagement does is communicate to players: you know you’re going to be done at some point, and you know it can happen at any time – regardless of how you’re feeling, how you’re doing or how you’re performing. By preparing yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, you have the best chance to succeed moving forward.

 
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Chris Draft

Q: Fans see elite players like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Larry Fitzgerald – star players that play from 8 to 14 years. That is not the norm; most players on the roster are fighting for their jobs every year.
 
A: It’s a blessing to play that long; I had a chance to play in this league for 13 years. That’s a long time, but when you look at retiring in your early 30s – around 35 – you have your whole life ahead of you. In football terms, that’s an old man, but in real-life that’s a real young.
 
None of those years were guaranteed. I fought and scratched and pawed. Teams tried to kick me out the door, and some succeeded, and I fought for my job every year. You have to focus on what’s next, but more importantly what you would enjoy doing after football. Hopefully your life isn’t just about football greatness, but about greatness as a man.
 
Q: As Christians and former professional athletes, you and I know that it is ultimately our relationship with God that keeps us secure and motivated moving forward. How did that fact impact your life?
 
A: Football is such a tremendous game in terms of getting you in touch with your faith in God and getting to know your faith. You can only do so much preparation and then you must release it to God and let go.
You can only prepare your body so much, mentally, physically and emotionally. Somebody’s got to take over for me to get up. For me to play that long, it’s a true blessing. You need to help young players understand you can’t play forever.
 
Q: I heard Tony Dungy say once, “Football is not my life, it’s my vocation.”
 
A: It’s not your life; it’s a job; it’s absolutely your work. We see that our vocation in our work is an absolute blessing from God. When you accept that, you cannot predict how long you’re going to play, all you can do is put yourself in the best situation. God is the person who takes care of the rest.
 
Q: You lost your wife, Keasha, in 2011 to lung cancer, and you have committed yourself over the years to her memory, and to many others through the Chris Draft Foundation, and helping survivors and their families dealing with cancer. How is that fight going?
 
A: We initiated a Super Bowl Challenge for our lung cancer survivors. With most fundraising initiatives you create a team, and the team raises money, and it goes to research. It’s kind of in honor of that person. We wanted [the Chris Draft Foundation] to be a little bit different, because we believe in this cancer fight, it’s not just about research moving forward. It’s also about loving the survivor who’s here right now. So we are fighting for survivors now, and fighting for survivors in the future, and remembering those that have already passed.
 
Q: Tell us about your current hospital program.
 
A: We work with all the hospitals and 130 cancer centers nationwide, really trying to find out where they’re lung program is. Then with our Super Bowl Challenge, this year we were able to do more with individual survivors. We have cancer centers raise up their survivors and allow the community to get behind them. Now they’re raising money for that community and local cancer center so they can do more in providing support for survivors in their local communities.
 
Q: For people who are struggling with lung cancer, or a family member or friend supporting someone, where do they go?
 
A: They can go to chrisdraftfamilyfoundation.org, and at Twitter @chrisdraft,
and Facebook at Teamdraft.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website:soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)

7/15/2015 10:37:02 AM by Roman Gabriel III | with 0 comments



Executive Committee gives approval to 2016 budget

July 14 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) gave its approval to a proposed 2016 budget that will increase giving to missions through the Cooperative Program (CP) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by three percent.
 
The $29.5 million budget approved by the EC on Thursday, July 9, reflects an overall increase of a half-million dollars from the current 2015 budget and proposes to increase the percentage of funds given to the SBC for missions from 37 to 40 percent.
 
The proposed budget will be presented to the full BSC Board of Directors at its September meeting. Messengers from N.C. Baptist churches will vote to give final approval to the 2016 CP budget at the BSC annual meeting Nov. 2-3 in Greensboro.
 
“We did this (budget) under the framework of maximizing the potential we have to impact lostness,” said Tony Honeycutt, chairman of the Budget Committee, who presented the budget proposal to the EC.
 
The proposed budget also includes increased allocations to the BSC institutions and agencies, as well a designation to the Evangelism and Discipleship Group to fund new projects related to church strengthening and revitalization. It includes a two percent cost-of-living increase for BSC staff.
 
The budget maintains life and disability protection benefits for N.C. Baptist pastors and church staff, but eliminates an annual matching contribution given to pastors and church staff members who participate in the GuideStone retirement plan. The contribution equates to about $210 per person per year.
 
“We are asking churches to pick up this minimal amount of expense for their pastors and for their staff,” Honeycutt said.
 
The budget also keeps the allocation and goal for the 2016 North Carolina Missions Offering unchanged at $2.1 million.
 
The three percent increase in funds sent to the SBC means about $1.1 million more would go toward supporting missions and ministries through the CP. The proposed increase continues a trend of sending a higher percentage of the annual budget to the SBC each year. The BSC has increased its allocation to the CP by one-half percent every year for the past 10 years.
 
Regarding the current 2015 budget, Beverly Volz, director of accounting services, reported that CP funds received by the BSC through June 30 equal approximately $13.8 million, which is 2.58 percent higher than the same time period last year.
 
In other business, the EC voted to transfer money from a BSC fund previously earmarked for church loans to the North Carolina Baptist Foundation (NCBF) to support the N.C. Baptist Scholarship Program, which NCBF now manages.
 
The funds will support merit and need-based scholarships for students from N.C. Baptist churches attending one of the five colleges and universities affiliated with the BSC, as long as those schools remain in friendly cooperation with the convention. At its May meeting, the Board of Directors voted to transfer oversight of the annual scholarship program from the convention to NCBF.
 
The EC also approved a new missions mobilization consultant position with North Carolina Baptist Men. The consultant will work with churches and associations to involve more individuals in various local, state, national and international mission projects and partnerships. The position will be funded through the North Carolina Missions Offering and other reserve funds.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Austin is the communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

7/14/2015 12:02:38 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Rural association identifies, engages internationals

July 14 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Many find it unsurprising that booming industrial and educational centers in North Carolina are teeming with internationals. It’s predictable that churches in those highly populated areas make efforts to identify and reach nearby internationals with the gospel. The Biblical Recorder previously reported on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) project to map the numerous people groups residing in the eight largest population centers of the state: Asheville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville, Charlotte-Metro, Greenville and Wilmington.
 
What might surprise some North Carolina Baptists is that, for the first time, a rural association is targeting the international population.
 
The Johnston Baptist Association is identifying and engaging multiple, global people groups in their area.

 

“We are looking for any and all internationals living within our borders,” said Kelton Hinton, associational missionary for the Johnston Association. “We know that there are many Hispanics among us but we wanted to know who else were our newest neighbors.”
 
Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese are the top languages spoken in the local school system, aside from English, according to Hinton.
 
The association has enlisted two researchers that have been trained by Caleb Bridges*, ethnographic researcher for BSC, to help pastors make connections with internationals and demonstrate for pastors how to train their congregations to do the same.
 
Aaron Lumpkin and Clint Rasberry, students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, are scheduled once a week for eight weeks to take Johnston Association pastors to ethnic restaurants and businesses in towns like Clayton and Selma, generating natural encounters with internationals.
 
The goals are to establish connections and gather information in these locations so churches can follow up with outreach ministry.
 
Lumpkin said there are three steps. The first step is to examine the area, identifying internationals by looking for ethnic restaurants and businesses. Many pastors and lay people already know where internationals are, said Lumpkin. They know an Indian person works at a certain gas station, for instance.
 
“They know they’re there,” he continued, “they just don’t know their name.”
 
The second step is to encounter internationals by visiting the restaurants and businesses, asking everyday questions about where they’re from, how long they’ve lived in the area and if they have family nearby.
 
The third step is intended primarily for local congregations – to engage internationals by building relationships with the goal of sharing the gospel.
 
“Many of them are not new here,” said Lumpkin. He has met people from West Africa, Nepal, India and others. Hinton said many of them come from places that are closed to the gospel and dangerous for Western missionaries. They’ve also identified a small mosque in the area.
 
The demographic information collected from their encounters is put into a database that can be mapped and used by churches to plan ongoing outreach ministries to these international communities.
 
Many pastors are busy, according to Lumpkin, and they don’t like the idea of adding another program to their schedule. “It’s not an additional program,” he said, “it’s something you can do regularly.”
 
Simply visiting convenience stores and restaurants where internationals work – striking up natural conversations – is a large part of the effort, which most people already do.

*Name Changed

7/14/2015 11:57:10 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



‘War Room’ shows believers who they are really fighting

July 14 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

The latest movie from Kendrick Brothers Productions uses North Carolina as a backdrop for a story about spiritual warfare.
 
“I think with what we’re seeing in our culture … our churches need to be called back to prayer,” said Scott Davis, pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord.
 
Pitts Baptist, along with more than 80 churches in 19 different towns in and around Charlotte helped make “War Room” possible.
 
More than 1,000 people volunteered to help in a variety of ways with the movie, which opens Aug. 28.

 
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An Upward basketball event held at Pitts triggered the church’s involvement. A member of the film’s production crew came to the church to see a family member play and called Alex and Stephen Kendrick about the site’s possibilities. A couple of days later the brothers visited the church to see the facilities.

“They had been praying and praying and praying about the right location,” Davis said. “From a human standpoint … we could say coincidence, yet Jesus said, ‘My Father’s house should be about prayer.’”
 
Other sites considered included Orlando, Nashville and Birmingham.
 
“We found everything we needed to produce this movie here,” said Stephen Kendrick, “the homes, businesses and even our Miss Clara; we’ve been blown away by Charlotte. God is clearly at work here in so many ways.”
 
Filming in downtown Charlotte and in Kannapolis, Concord, Hickory and Huntersville, the Kendrick Brothers Productions project spent three months in the area and employed a cast of 45 and crew ranging between 85 and 100 people.
 
Film crews shot scenes in Pitts Baptist’s sanctuary and multi-purpose facility.
 
For three long days, Jonathan Turner, Pitts’ minister of music, helped the crew with sound and lighting.
 
Turner said while the work was exhausting, “it was neat and exciting” to be part of the filming. The heart of the Kendrick brothers impressed Turner. They started each day with a morning devotion.
 
There were prayer captains whose “sole job was to come and pray during production of movie,” Turner said.
 
The church provided some meals and loaned the crew 15- and 32-passenger vans to use with transporting cast and crew. Members served as extras during some of the filming and helped with transportation and set security.
 
Jim Strickland, a retired truck driver, said watching the process was “fascinating.” It reminded him of being in the Army in that there was a lot of “hurry up and wait.”
 
Strickland said he and others from Pitts felt welcomed by the crew and cast.
 
“Everyone was gracious as they could possibly be,” he said.
 
Strickland went to several church campuses, moving people and equipment from one place to another.
 
“It’s just like everybody … was of one mind and one heart on this thing … even though they didn’t know the full message,” he said. “I [could] already see this was going to be a powerful movie about prayer.”
 
Retired school bus driver Dan Collingwood spent time driving the church bus as well as equipment trucks.
 
“It was quite an experience,” he said, seeing how many times they shot a scene, “sometimes all day. We saw God’s hand unfolding in the making of the movie.”
 
The first day of filming in Concord, the crew’s rental truck battery died in front of the house where they were filming. A wrecker had come to move a dumpster down the street and jumped the battery. The wrecker’s driver said this was his second trip that day because the dumpster was blocked earlier.
 
“He came back at the right time,” Collingwood said.
 
Collingwood said from the very first day “you could just feel the Lord; every one of us got on our knees and dedicated” the movie to God.
 
The crew tried filming a scene in a Concord cemetery but had been rained out one day. The next day started sunny so filming began but weather radar was tracking a storm coming straight for Concord.
The cast and crew stopped to pray God would allow them to finish the scene.
 
Collingwood said he sat in his truck watching the radar on his phone.
 
“The storm dipped and went around Concord and came back up,” he said.

 

Screenings

Across the country there have been screenings of War Room. Pastors as well as other church leaders have been invited to see the film and asked to host a showing at their local theater on opening weekend.
War Room, along with “Woodlawn,” a film by the Erwin brothers, were screened at the Southern Baptist Convention June 15-16. Alex and Stephen Kendrick talked about their movie before and after the June 15 screening of War Room.
 
“We have a very real enemy,” Alex Kendrick said. “Your spouse is not your enemy; your deacons are not your enemy.”
 
Premieres of the film happened June 25 in Charlotte and June 29 in Orlando. Other premieres are scheduled in Dallas, Atlanta and New York in August.
 
Pitts plans to fill a theater Aug. 30 and use some of the LifeWay Christian Resources materials to teach their people to pray.
 
“Any change is going to have to come about in and through prayer,” said Davis, who was at the recent screening in Charlotte.
 
The movie has “got everything … comedy … suspense,” Davis said. “It really does encourage believers to have prayer strategy in their lives.”
 
Visit warroomthemovie.com.

 

Related Story:

Film calls people to pray

7/14/2015 11:51:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Gardner-Webb professors, students cover SBC

July 14 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

For Bob Carey, coming to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting each year provides a chance to see old friends and offer an educational opportunity to his students.
 
“We enjoy covering assignments and fellowship together for the week,” said Carey, chairman of Gardner-Webb University’s (GWU) department of communication and new media, and member of Poplar Springs Baptist Church in Shelby, who brings students to help cover some of the events around the SBC.

 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
John Stroup covers a movie screening during the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio. He was part of a Gardner-Webb University team that provided coverage for the meeting.

Carey was invited in 1990 to be part of the Baptist Press photo team. Assigned to cover Houston’s Crossover, he went from event to event taking photos of the outreach. At the time, he was the event’s only photographer.
 
“My first year, I think I captured what many have told me was an iconic image of Crossover,” Carey said. “I was in a park near the Houston Galleria and an evangelist was using a white board to share Christ. They had been expecting a very large crowd, but rain had made the park vacant except for one young boy who was focused on the presentation.
 
“I shot from behind the boy showing the evangelist and the wide open field of the park. To me, it shows that even just one is important to Christ.”
 
Carey, who began teaching at GWU in 1997, was hired to begin the journalism and photojournalism program at GWU. He has been chairman of the department for 11 years.
 
“About 10 years ago, we moved to teaching from a convergence concept in all of our majors in the department,” he said. “We teach our students to utilize all aspects of media to tell stories. We’ve been extremely successful in our photojournalism program, having students intern with the [International Mission Board], a National Geographic photographer and Sports Illustrated.”
 
It was about the time the program began to change that Carey began bringing students with him to cover Crossover and the SBC. Each year two to four students help with coverage.
 
Prior to Crossover, Carey says he tries to “gather as much [information] on the planned events and decide which ones seem to be the most unusual or visually interesting.”
 
Current coverage includes four teams consisting of a still photographer and a student who shoots multimedia.
 
Since Saturday is the big Crossover push, Carey sends his teams out to shoot video and take pictures. The teams produce one-minute stories on Crossover, that are finished on Sunday.
 
They also work on three or four feature stories using multimedia. During the annual meeting, the teams “alternate shifts shooting everyone who comes to the podium of the annual meeting,” he said.
 
“This allows us to make sure that if a state paper or someone else needs for example a photo of someone who opened a session in prayer that we have it.”

7/14/2015 11:43:42 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Southeastern alumni luncheon highlights mission, diversity

July 14 2015 by SEBTS Communications

The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) alumni and friends luncheon hosted 400 guests for brief engaging talks on mission and a worship time led by Shane & Shane.
 
The luncheon was held June 17 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), stopped in to encourage attendees at the luncheon. Platt spoke about the strong partnership between SEBTS and the IMB to fulfill the Great Commission.

 
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D.A. Horton

Platt believes that God is doing a unique work at the seminary with all areas of the campus “engrained with mission fervor.”
 
The three short talks were focused on what it means to answer the call of God to go make disciples.
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, spoke on “All God’s People on All of God’s Mission.”
Stetzer said “the mission of God is not something that is engaged in a subset of God’s people but is engaged by all of God’s people. I am blessed when all of God’s people say I am going.”
 
D.A. Horton, national coordinator for urban student missions at the North American Mission Board and a doctoral student at SEBTS, spoke on “Kingdom Diversity and the Mission of God.”
 
Horton highlighted strategic ways to seek the diversity of the kingdom of God in a higher academic setting by building an articulation agreement, providing benevolent funding and developing a high level of authenticity.
 
Horton spoke about as the unified body of Christ “we’re running to communities that everyone is running out of.”
 
Chuck Quarles, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, spoke on “SEBTS and the Great Commission.” Quarles believes Jesus’ greatness leads the nations to believe in him and worship him. “God will draw the nations of the world to bow before our Savior,” Quarles said. “We should share the gospel expectantly because our Savior is greater.”
 
SEBTS president Danny Akin delivered an update on highlights from the past year and future goals. “God continues to let his hand of blessing rest on this institution,” Akin said.
 
Matt Carter, pastor of teaching and vision at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, recently graduated with a doctor of ministry degree from SEBTS. His church pledged an additional $500,000 to support the seminary over the next 10 years. “Southeastern is striking a perfect balance between academic theology with practical training,” Carter said. “SEBTS was the best educational experience of my life.”
 
The luncheon concluded as Shane & Shane came on stage to lead the friends and family of Southeastern in worship before they depart to their places of ministry around the world.

7/14/2015 11:23:17 AM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Lawless launches blog for church leaders

July 13 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Chuck Lawless loves the local church and those who lead her. In an effort to build stronger churches and leaders he launched a new blog, chucklawless.com, on July 1 that he hopes will be encouraging and practical.
 
“I want the blog to be practical, simple, helpful resources that a local church leader can pick up and read in a few minutes and grab a nugget to take with him for the day,” he said. Response to the blog has been “unexpectedly strong.”
 
As a seminary professor for 19 years, a pastor for 14 years and a consultant for the International Mission Board, his typical readers are seminary students and missionaries. But he sees the need to reach a broader audience.
 
“I particularly want to encourage local church pastors and lay leaders – perhaps those folks that may not have opportunity to go to conferences or get additional training,” Lawless said.

 
The professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, said, “Frankly, I reached the place in my life where I am beginning to ask, ‘How do I maximize my time, my efforts and my training to try to help people in local churches reach their neighbors and the nations?’
 
“Using this blog allows me to speak to a larger audience. It gives me an opportunity to speak to a broader world for the sake of the gospel. I’ve just come to the place where I want to maximize that, and the Internet allows me to do so.”
 
The content of the blog is aimed at helping pastors and church staff because “that’s the world I work in,” he said. “But I also want to help lay leaders, who mean so much to our local churches. I want to help them think about, ‘How do I walk with God, how do I use my abilities to help my local church?’”

 
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Chuck Lawless

The first of the blog’s three goals is to provide practical resources for local church leaders. “If someone has a question about how we get more prayer into the local church, they can at least come to the website to see if there are any resources that might help them,” said Lawless. “My primary focus is to help them think about, ‘How do we reach our neighbors; how do we extend the gospel to the nations, and how do we become the healthiest churches in order to do that?’”
 
A second goal is to encourage church leaders. He said, “I think sometimes church leaders are beaten up. I don’t want to do that. I want people to come here, read and walk away saying, ‘I’m glad the Lord called me to do this ministry.’”
 
The third goal is to encourage all believers to read the scripture regularly, so a daily devotion will be included on the website and readers are invited to subscribe. “I know there are an awful lot of folks in our churches that want to read the scripture,” Lawless added. “But they don’t know how, or they don’t make the time to read the scripture. I want to try to walk with them and invite them to read the daily post with me.”
 
At the end of the day, Lawless said he wants to see church people in love with Christ, loving their neighbors and the nations, and being part of Great Commission minded churches. He believes churches should evaluate their health not only by reaching their local community but by reaching beyond themselves. Churches should ask themselves, “Are we thinking about the nations as we think about our neighbors?”
 
Very early in his pastoral ministry, “The Lord just grabbed my heart for the nations,” he said. It began with a Woman’s Missionary Union leader who asked him to teach a foreign missions study. “I told her I would be happy to do it, but I had never heard of a foreign mission study.”
 
She was not at all pleased that her pastor had not heard of a foreign mission study. “She strongly encouraged me that if I was going to be the pastor of that church, I was going to have to think about missions,” Lawless said. “She was right. The Lord started grabbing my heart.”
 
His passion for the nations has only increased as he traveled to dozens of countries and witnessed the “depth of lostness,” he said. “You can’t help but be impacted when you get off the plane and see millions of people and very few believers in nations around the world.”
 
He hopes international missionaries will be engaged with his blog, also. “I’ve seen missionaries around the world who simply need encouragement. They need somebody to walk with them and pray for them. I want to help do that.”
 
Lawless’ 14 years’ experience as a pastor in Ohio instilled in him a love for the local church.
 
“I have a great deal of respect for the pastoral position,” he said. “I love what God does when He puts the church together.
 
“Often the church is messy and hard to lead, but there is still a beauty in the church, and it is an incredible privilege to be a leader in a local church. I want to help my readers fall in love with messy churches and know they are not walking this road alone. I want them to know that there are people praying for them and standing behind them and beside them.”
 
Guest bloggers will be invited to write for chucklawless.com. Some will be church planters in North America, he added. Missionaries will write about how to connect with international missionaries and how to pray for them.
 
He also recognizes that many church leaders are struggling with ministry, but not reaching out for help. Some hesitate to ask for help because they think they are imposing, Lawless said. “I strongly encourage pastors – young or old – to ask for help when you are hurting and struggling.
 
We’re not supposed to lead churches on our own. We need to recognize the value of the body of Christ.”
 
It is risky and dangerous to try to lead church ministry on our own, especially when we are struggling, according to Lawless. “We wind up fighting battles by ourselves, and that makes us only more vulnerable to defeat. I would strongly encourage pastors, if you need to talk to somebody there is nothing wrong with doing that. In fact it is almost more arrogant to keep it to yourself, to decide you can handle it on your own. That just gets us into more trouble.”
 
Lawless welcomes ideas from local church leaders who offer insights or want to suggest topics for discussion. He invites readers to contact him through the website.
 
He added, “Please contribute to the blog by asking, ‘Have you thought about writing about this?’ or ‘I need some help with this.’ I am very open to hearing from others.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Previously he was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a pastor in Ohio.)

7/13/2015 2:30:36 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



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