July 2017

Randall House’s Ron Hunter hopes to help families connect

July 25 2017 by BSC Communications

Ron Hunter Jr. is the executive director & CEO of Randall House, a Christian publisher that promotes generational discipleship through curriculum, books and events. Hunter helps church leaders, parents and grandparents live out the disciple-making principles of Deuteronomy 6 through D6 Family Ministries and as an author, conference speaker and leadership consultant. Previously, Hunter served for 11 years in ministry in Florida and Tennessee.

Ron Hunter Jr.

Hunter will be the keynote speaker at the first event of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Faith at Home Network Fall Conference Series on Aug. 29 at Lakeview Baptist Church in Hickory. Hunter will address what family ministry can look like in the church. Hunter recently took time to answer some questions about his ministry and what he’ll be sharing.

Q: From your perspective, what is the current spiritual state of the family in the United States?
A: For the past three decades, parents have delegated the responsibility of spiritually developing and discipling their kids to the church. Research reveals the problem arises when a child’s primary influencers (traditionally his or her parents) do not engage their kids from a biblical perspective.
Parents cultivate their child’s passion for sports, music and other hobbies but fail to disciple. It is not that parents do not care about discipleship; they have simply not observed good models nor been taught how to engage their kids in the way Deuteronomy 6 directs. The family unit is often non-traditional and faces brokenness, pain and guilt. The only true answers come from the scriptural mandate to have the church equip the saints (including parents and grandparents) to teach their kids how to put on the whole armor of God and see discipleship as way of life, not an event.
Q: You lead a ministry called D6 Family, which is focused on aligning the church and home to accomplish God’s design of generational discipleship. What does Deuteronomy 6 tell us about developing faith within the family?
A: Deuteronomy is the second most quoted book by Jesus, and Deuteronomy 6 has always been held in such high regard for God’s people, even to this day. But many Christians stopped practicing the simple formula given in Deuteronomy 6. God actually commands us ... to look for teachable moments in the home.
Parents and grandparents do not need to add anything more to their schedule if they simply spend time in the Word daily and use the counsel of scripture to shape the decision making ability of their children. The idea of writing on the doorposts provides a lasting reminder to live, outside the home, what the home biblically teaches. The “impress them on your kids” suggested an ongoing effort to establish a biblical worldview rather than just teaching a single lesson. The former requires commitment, while the latter provides just knowledge.

Q: D6 focuses on the home as the primary vehicle for imparting faith to the next generation. How should churches and families work together in this effort?
A: Churches are the on-ramp, equipping place and training venue for how all ages should live, act and believe when not at church. So, why have so many American families compartmentalized the church and home, dividing the efforts? If the church recalibrated efforts to help parents continue to teach what begins during the weekly service, then the biblical lessons would stick and transform families. The goal is consistency in church and home between parents and kids.
The church can teach lessons or teach people – teaching people creates cultural change. The church can provide tools to help parents have Deuteronomy 6 conversations outside of church which help kids understand their parents really do believe and practice biblical values. D6 believes in an age-graded discipleship plan where every age is on the same page learning at different depths. Family-aligned devotionals keep the family connected through the week, allowing conversations to flow more naturally. The church equips and trains parents and grandparents so they can spiritually coach their kids and grandkids.

Q: Why do some pastors and churches struggle to prioritize, incorporate and implement a comprehensive family ministry plan into their current ministries? What encouragement would you share with them?
A: This one is so simple but not at all obvious to ministry leaders. Senior pastors and the staff form the greatest trained leaders America has ever had. As a result, the family has trusted everything to church leaders and expect the discipleship to occur only at church. When the ministry leaders come to realize that all their efforts cannot go into what happens at church, then time and attention can be directed toward what happens outside of church.
A church service is an event, and one cannot become a healthy disciple from an event approach. We like to say it this way, “Discipleship is not an event; it is a way of life.” Church should be executed with excellence, but not in such a way that parents think they can never measure up to what ministry leaders do. The not-so-obvious solution is to spend less time planning the weekly worship hour and more time planning what the families will do with the lessons taught during that hour throughout the week.

Q: What do you hope attendees at the upcoming Faith at Home Fall Conference Series might take away from your presentation?
A: My prayer is that attendees find a renewed focus on helping dads get real wins connecting to their kids spiritually, even if imperfectly; that ministry leaders recognize the single moms struggling, but show them how they can give to their kids what really matters – a contagious walk with Christ.
My prayer is that ministry leaders learn how to begin working on a change in the church that teaches Deuteronomy 6 in such a way that families become stronger, biblical worldviews lead our actions, and our culture reflects more of Christ. Church is not a performance; it is a launching platform for everyday life that still takes daily effort.
Visit ncbaptist.org/faithathome.

7/25/2017 9:11:31 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Ole Miss coach resigns amid scandal, requests prayer

July 25 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The forced resignation of University of Mississippi “Ole Miss” football coach Hugh Freeze – an outspoken follower of Jesus – amid what the university described as “moral turpitude” has left believers disappointed and expressing hope for repentance.

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“I truly believe that [Freeze] is a good man,” said Mississippi pastor Clarence Cooper, a friend of Freeze’s for two decades. “And he has been overtaken with a fault. In his text to me was, ‘I love you. Please pray for me. Please stand by me and pray for my family.’”
Freeze, a regular speaker at churches and conferences whose Twitter account is filled with Christian references, resigned July 20 after the university discovered a “pattern of personal misconduct inconsistent with the standards we expect from the leader of our football team,” Chancellor Jeff Vitter said according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
According to media reports, Freeze’s phone records indicate he placed a one-minute call to a female escort service from his university-issued cell phone.
Ole Miss did not reference any specific call, but athletic director Ross Bjork said a detailed examination of Freeze’s phone records revealed “a concerning pattern” that would have triggered termination for “moral turpitude” had he not resigned. Media reports have not disclosed the specific conduct for which Freeze was forced to resign.
Freeze’s exit is unrelated to an National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation of Ole Miss for alleged rules violations, Sports Illustrated reported.
Cooper, pastor of Brandon (Miss.) Baptist Church, told Baptist Press (BP) Freeze seems to have demonstrated initial fruit of repentance.
Freeze is seeking “to get his life back together again, get his mind clear and get things right between him and the Lord,” Cooper said.
A former Mississippi Baptist Convention president, Cooper said Freeze is not “a fake” when it comes to his Christianity.
“The closer a man is to God, the greater the temptations and the pressures are,” Cooper said.
Pinelake Church, the multisite Southern Baptist congregation Freeze and his family attend, said it will help the Freezes through this difficult season of life.
“The Freeze family is a part of our Pinelake Church family,” the church told BP in a statement. “We want to honor their privacy during this time. As a church, we are called to love and shepherd people from a biblical perspective, no matter their position. Our prayers are with the Freeze family.”
Kenny Digby, executive director of Mississippi Baptists’ Christian Action Commission, told BP Freeze committed a sin with significant consequences and needs spiritual restoration.
“There is a party line out there that’s just as wrong as it can be that there are no ‘big’ and ‘little’ sins,” Digby said. “That’s just not true ... When it comes to sanctification, different sins carry different consequences.”
Sins like Freeze’s “have greater consequences than other sins,” Digby said. “Does that mean we’re not going to forgive? No. Does that mean we’re going to be judgmental and we’re not willing to restore? No. We need to be willing to forgive and restore” a sinning believer to fellowship with God and other believers.
Digby added that “when we are public with our faith, which we should be, we need to understand there is a higher scrutiny.”
Freeze’s resignation has triggered both sympathetic and hostile reactions on social media.
Mo Baker, director of the Ole Miss Baptist Student Union (BSU), told BP believers should take care not to either excuse Freeze’s actions or be judgmental.
“The tendency is to give a kneejerk reaction of either exceptionally leaning toward free grace or being extreme in our judgment and condemnation,” Baker said. “The Christian community needs to be very cautious, first of all, because we don’t have all the information. And second, whatever he was guilty of ... there needs to be evidence of repentance in order for grace to be fully given.”
Freeze has spoken twice at the BSU, Baker said, noting the former coach has seemed in the past to live out his faith in an exemplary way.
The Ole Miss Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) told BP in a statement it is “praying for Hugh Freeze, his family and his former players during this difficult time. Coach Freeze has been a friend to FCA for many years, and the ministry respects his contributions to the game of football as well as his commitment to sharing his faith with the many he has impacted during his career.”
Steve Mooneyham, director of missions for the Gulf Coast Baptist Association in Gulfport, Miss., said Freeze’s misconduct has made for a “sad time” in Mississippi.
A “mature” reaction to Freeze’s sin is to “recognize the disappointment but ... also recognize the admonition of [Galatians] 6:1 to be honest about things [and] to move toward restoration,” said Mooneyham, an 18-year season ticket holder for Ole Miss football.
“To forgive is not to minimize the depth and the greatness of the sin,” Mooneyham said. “... I want [deep guilt] to drive [Freeze] to the cross, because it’s at the cross that we find a great love by a heavenly Father who loves us despite our faults, who gave His Son to save us from our faults and to redeem us.”
In five seasons with Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25, including a 2016 Sugar Bowl victory. He was featured in BP in 2013 when he baptized a family friend at North Oxford Baptist Church, where he was a member at the time.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

7/25/2017 9:08:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey of young leaders shows CP in positive light

July 25 2017 by Roger S. Oldham, SBC Life

Many younger pastors have a positive view both of the name “Cooperative Program” (CP) and the ministries funded through CP, according to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) Young Leaders Advisory Council Survey.

Photo by Roger S. Oldham
Executive Committee Young Leaders Advisory Council chairman Jordan Easley, far right, guided the conversation as the group brainstormed ways to increase participation of younger pastors in Southern Baptist life during the council’s first meeting in Atlanta in January.

Slated to conclude in early August, the survey is one of the tools the Executive Committee Young Leaders Advisory Council is using to find ways to deepen the involvement of millennial pastors and church leaders in the total life of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The 22-member council is chaired by Jordan Easley, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.
“We’re looking for ways to maximize the next generation of pastors and leaders and show them that we are truly stronger when we work together,” Easley said.
The early reports from the survey of young leaders, initiated in March, “have given us great insight,” Easley said. “It’s obvious the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders recognize and appreciate the value and ministry portfolio of the Cooperative Program.”
The survey had been completed by 2,299 respondents by mid-July. While the survey is accessible to anyone, the large majority of those who have completed the survey are between 18 and 39 years of age.
Forty-two percent said they found the name “Cooperative Program” either extremely appealing or very appealing, and another 38 percent found the name somewhat appealing. Five percent said the name is not at all appealing.
Respondents identified the two “highest value ministries” to “you and your church” as the International Mission Board (81 percent) and the six SBC seminaries (76 percent).
Theological education ranked number one in response to the question, “In which area(s) of SBC NATIONAL Convention ministry have YOU personally seen the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program?” Seminary training received the top ranking by 76 percent of the respondents, followed in order by international missions (68 percent) and church planting (61 percent).
Relief ministries (38.5 percent) came in at number five in the national SBC question but was number one in the question asking participants to rank state CP-assisted ministries, with 1,355 marking disaster relief and 796 marking children’s homes and other benevolent ministries.
The average percentage respondents said their churches have given through the Cooperative Program from their churches’ undesignated receipts is 7.8 percent.
Sixty-three percent of respondents are senior pastors or other church staff; 8 percent are church lay leaders; 6 percent are denominational staff; 5 percent each are church planters and seminary students; and 2 percent each are missionaries and college students.
Appointed by Executive Committee President Frank S. Page in January, the EC Young Leaders Advisory Council has a one-year assignment to identify and recommend best practices to help Southern Baptist entities, state convention leaders, associational networks and a newly-launched young leader initiative better to connect with millennials.
“The [advisory] council is working to provide concrete ways for young leaders to actively be involved in the life of the convention,” said Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement and EC liaison to the council.
“We want to know what steps we need to take to make sure their voices are heard and that they are providing leadership in every aspect of the convention,” Weathersby said.
The advisory group hopes to draft recommendations to foster vibrant participation within Southern Baptist life among young leaders, including both pastors and denominational servants, and present a comprehensive report to Page by spring 2018.
In order to meet this goal, council members continue to seek input from millennial leaders through the 21-question online CP survey. The 2017 SBC EC Young Leaders Advisory Council Survey can be accessed here.
The advisory council’s second meeting is scheduled for mid-August. Council members hope to see the survey response rate increase so their recommendations will be as comprehensive as possible.
In a related move, the SBC Executive Committee and North American Mission Board (NAMB) are launching an ongoing young leader initiative to more effectively engage younger pastors between the ages of 25 and 45.
The initiative’s goal is to provide a sense of brotherhood for those already participating in Southern Baptist life, but also will focus on finding ways to engage those who are disconnected or minimally involved, Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, noted.
“I know there are thousands of young pastors who have a great contribution to make to our Southern Baptist family,” Ezell said. “We want to serve them better and let them know they are loved, valued and needed.”
Page added his hope that the EC Young Leaders Advisory Council will provide valuable information that will enable the EC and NAMB to see an increase in young pastor participation.
“The Executive Committee is delighted to partner with the North American Mission Board in this process of engaging younger pastors and churches,” Page said. “Our driving imperative is to do whatever it takes to see every man, woman, boy and girl have the opportunity to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this partnership helps make that possible.”
Jonathan Akin, former pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., has joined NAMB’s staff to lead the joint effort.
“This summer will serve as a launch date for a new day in how the SBC mobilizes our next generation of pastors,” Page said.
The Executive Committee has hosted or sponsored several events and efforts under Page’s leadership to connect with young leaders, including the Southern Baptist Young Leader Network and formation of talkCP, a blog geared toward younger Baptists with the goal of fostering greater understanding of and participation in the Cooperative Program.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, sbclife.net, the journal of the Executive Committee.)

7/25/2017 9:05:21 AM by Roger S. Oldham, SBC Life | with 0 comments

Pastor sleeps on roof after students reach VBS goal

July 25 2017 by Imari Scarbrough, Special to the Recorder

A Wadesboro pastor slept on the roof of his church after a recent Vacation Bible School (VBS) raised well over twice the goal of $1,000 for charity.

Anson Record photo
Mark Perko, left, and John Fagala, founder of Sole2Soul, meet following Perko's night on the roof of Deep Creek Baptist Church in Wadesboro. Fagala brought breakfast for Perko.

Mark Perko, pastor of Deep Creek Baptist Church, challenged his students to raise the money for Sole2Soul by the evening of June 29, VBS Family Night. He promised them that if they met their goal, he would sleep on the roof of the church.
As of June 28, the students had only raised $466. That same day, Perko received a phone call with a commitment for $325, leaving them only $209 from the goal. During the offering taken on deadline during Family Night, the students collected about $1,400.
The students sent Perko out while some counted the money and wrote the amount on a poster board. Perko heard cheering, then turned and saw the figure written on the poster board. A few individual contributions of $5 and $10 bumped the total figure to just over $2,300.
A nearly 30-minute Facebook Live video taken by Steve Northcutt showing Perko on the roof had 1,400 views, 73 reactions and 14 shares as of June 30. In the video, the narrator asked for supporters to bring coffee and check in with the pastor to see if he needed anything as a crowd watched him and took photos.
Perko has made a habit of offering his students unusual incentives for raising money for charity.
“I always try to do something crazy,” Perko said. “Last year, I said if we raised $700 I’d let the kids throw pies at me. The year before, we collected food and had a large mailing box. I said if we got the box full, I’d dye my hair blue for the last night, Family Night. This year, though, I thought I’d set the bar really high with $1,000.”
Both of the previous two goals in 2015 and 2016 were met, and Perko had pies thrown at him and dyed his hair.
The money raised goes to organizations within the county. The $700 raised two years ago was donated to Anson County Toys for Tots.
Perko carried a small air mattress, blanket and phone charger with him to the roof and took short “catnaps” during his stay.
“Throughout the night, different people were texting me,” he said. “I had four different individuals until 1:30 (a.m.) drive up just to check on me. One member of our church is a Polkton police officer. He came up and put the floodlight on me just to check. Everyone had such a great time with it. At 5:30, members brought coffee to check in on their way to work.”
Perko originally planned to have breakfast with John Fagala, founder of Sole2Soul, but Fagala had another commitment. Fagala still stopped by the church to visit Perko, bringing breakfast from the Hub restaurant.
Sole2Soul is a charitable organization founded by Fagala and his teenage daughter, Kelli.
The pair raises money and buys shoes to give to children. In March, more than 100 Anson children in kindergarten through sixth grade and their families went to the Rotary Planetarium and Science Center for a Sole2Soul event and were given shoes and treated to activities and a dinner prepared by members of Deep Creek. Some members of the congregation also washed the feet of the students – a tradition rooted in scripture and performed by Jesus for his disciples – and spoke with the students about faith.
Fagala said at the time that the organization does not require proof of income in order for families to receive shoes.
“Deep Creek has been an absolute God send to our mission,” Fagala said in an email to the Biblical Recorder. “They have raised over $6,000 for these kids, and we will be forever grateful.”
Perko said Sole2Soul held a similar event July 19 in Monroe for about 300 children, and that another will be held in Anson soon after school starts. Fagala also said there was another event scheduled in West Virginia for 326 children. All of the VBS money will go to pay for shoes during the events.
The church treasurer will count the remaining change brought in by students and add it to the total. A check for the full amount will then be given to Fagala for Sole2Soul.
Perko estimated that about 230 people were present during Family Night – average attendance for that part of VBS – and that there were 50 to 75 there when he went on the roof.
The pastor said he was thrilled that the students raised so much over the goal.
“It was just so awe-inspiring,” Perko said. “I knew all along we were going to hit the goal; I prayed and asked God to give me a number, an amount, and it was $1,000. I knew he wouldn’t tell me $1,000 if we weren’t going to get it …. I told folks it was just the kind of God we serve. He gives us exceedingly, abundantly more than we think. Think of the 12 baskets left over from a boy’s lunch when Jesus fed over 5,000 people, and there were still leftovers.”
Perko said doing feats such as fundraising such a high goal for the group is just part of serving God.
“We try to shovel it out, and God always shovels it back,” he said, “and His shovel is bigger than our shovel.
“But I promise you they will in coming weeks, and they will be pretty crazy,” Perko said. “It’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done – and I’ve been in ministry 26 years – but this was the most fun and most rewarding. It was worth it all.”
The students haven’t yet suggested any fundraising ideas for next year’s VBS, but the pastor said he’s considering jumping out of a plane.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was originally published in The Anson Record.)

7/25/2017 8:44:37 AM by Imari Scarbrough, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Charlie Gard’s parents end battle to save his life

July 25 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The parents of Charlie Gard have put an end to their legal fight to gain treatment for their 11-month-old son in a heartrending case that gained international attention.

NBC News screen capture
The parents of Charlie Gard have put an end to their legal fight to gain treatment for their 11-month-old son in a heartrending case that gained international attention.

A lawyer for the parents – Chris Gard and Connie Yates – told a judge in a British High Court hearing July 24 that “time had run out” for the infant, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) News. Since an experimental treatment no longer seemed to hold promise, the parents said they “are now going to spend our last precious moments” with their son.
The legal battle over the infant’s life came at the intersection of the sanctity of human life, medical ethics and parental rights. The parents raised about $1.7 million for an experimental treatment in the United States, but Great Ormond Street Hospital – where Charlie is a patient – refused to permit the therapy and received the backing of various courts to remove him from life support.
Pro-life advocates grieved the result.
“Charlie Gard might be invisible to the European authorities, but Jesus knows and loves him,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments.
“The European courts’ abuse of their power by usurping the authority of Charlie’s parents regarding his care is shocking to the conscience,” Moore said. “We should pray for them and for this troubling precedent from the courts to end.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, provided legal counsel for the parents in recent weeks and was in the courtroom when the decision was announced.
“This decision was not made lightly,” Foster said in a written statement. “After over 8 months of exhaustively battling for the right to care for their son, Chris Gard and Connie Yates made a brave choice to do what was best for their little Charlie and end the legal fight to seek cutting-edge treatment.”
However, Foster said, “… if Charlie had been allowed to receive treatment back in November 2016, when his parents originally requested it, there would have been a good chance that Charlie could have substantially recovered and lived a full and complete life. Instead, the hospital and the courts denied Charlie and his parents that chance, leaving their hands tied and a gut-wrenching decision to be made today.
“We will continue to fight for the dignity of every human life and for every parent to make life-affirming, evidence-based choices for their children,” Foster said.
Charlie Gard has a rare condition known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). He appeared healthy at birth but began to deteriorate soon thereafter, BBC News reported. He now has severe brain damage and cannot open his eyes, breathe without a ventilator or move his limbs.
Michio Hirano, a Columbia University neurology professor who had offered to try nucleoside bypass therapy with Charlie, traveled to London last week to determine if he might still be a candidate for the treatment, but a MRI scan indicated it was too late, according to BBC News.
In a statement he read outside the court July 24, Chris Gard said, “This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say, and we are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go.
“A whole lot of time has been wasted” while court battles were fought, Gard said in the statement published by the British newspaper The Independent.
“Tragically, having had Charlie’s medical notes reviewed by independent experts, we now know had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” Gard said. “Charlie’s been left for his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return.
“All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world-renowned hospital to another world-renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world’s leader in mitochondrial disease,” Gard said. “We’ll have to live with the what-ifs, which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”
Connie Yates read a similar statement in the courtroom.
The legal battle, which began in early March, saw three British courts rule against the parents before the European Court of Human Rights announced June 27 it would not intervene in the case, BBC News reported. The hospital sought a new court hearing July 7 after new evidence was suggested regarding the experimental treatment.
President Donald Trump and Pope Francis both offered in early July to help the parents. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment July 18 to grant permanent residence status to Charlie and his parents, according to The Hill newspaper. The proposal would have expedited the process for them to travel to the United States for the experimental treatment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/25/2017 8:29:12 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Broken Before the Throne

July 24 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Chris Schofield is a student of revivals, awakenings and and great movements of God throughout history, and he says there’s a common thread that unites all of them.

“Every awakening has started with God’s people recognizing their desperate need for Him and crying out to Him in heartfelt prayer,” says Schofield, who serves as director of the Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Schofield, the Office of Prayer strategy team and other state convention leaders are urging fellow Baptists to join together at this year’s BSC annual meeting on Nov. 6-7 at the Joseph H. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro and cry out for God to move in our state, nation and world.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the entire evening session will be devoted to a time of dedicated prayer for revival and spiritual awakening as part of the “Broken Before the Throne” prayer gathering.
The prayer gathering aligns with the annual meeting’s theme of “Return to Me,” based on Zechariah 1:3.
More information about annual meeting and the prayer gathering is available at ncannualmeeting.org.
“We’ve got to return to Him, and the first element of that is being broken over our sin before His throne,” Schofield said.
While citing reports of spiritual apathy, declining church health, fewer conversions, as well as cultural, economic, political and social unrest, Schofield says he’s never seen a time in recent history where there has been a more desperate need for God to send revival to the church. He said the prayer gathering at annual meeting is an opportunity for God’s people to unite and humble themselves in brokenness, repentance and one-accord prayer. It will be a time to seek the Lord and call upon Him to move in a mighty and powerful way.
“We need revival in the church and spiritual awakening in the culture,” Schofield said. “This prayer gathering is a call for God’s people to pray and seek the Lord. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge and confess to God that He is our only hope.”
Acts 3:19 will serve as a guiding verse for the prayer gathering. It reads, “Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (NASB).
The prayer gathering will include seasons of worship intertwined with scripture readings, testimonies and directed seasons of individual and united prayer.
“Our prayer is that the gathering will be an environment where God’s people can seek His face, turn from their wicked ways, pray and listen to the Lord,” Schofield said. “We are not having a designated speaker that night, except for the Lord.”
N.C. Baptists can prepare their hearts for worship and prayer leading up to annual meeting with a 30-day devotional prayer guide that will be available by early fall.
The devotional will correspond with the annual meeting theme of “Return to Me” taken from Zechariah 1:1-6.
The prayer guide will feature 30 days’ worth of daily devotions, prayer points and reflection questions, and it is intended for use during the month of October.    
Each N.C. Baptist church will receive one complimentary printed prayer guide, with additional copies available for purchase.
A free electronic version and other related resources will be available for download at prayfor30days.org.
“We are also calling on pastors and churches to devote a portion of their worship service to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening on Sunday, Nov. 5, leading up to annual meeting and the Tuesday evening prayer gathering,” Schofield said.
Schofield said he hopes the prayer gathering will encourage and challenge pastors and churches to unite and seek the Lord through extraordinary prayer.
“I do think God wants to send revival and spiritual awakening to His church and to America” Schofield said. “But it must start with my broken heart and my desperate prayer.”

7/24/2017 2:06:09 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Rebuilding: Many residents still trying to dig out of devastation

July 24 2017 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina, leaving damaged and destroyed homes in its wake.
Since then, N.C. Baptists on Mission (NCBM), also known as Baptist Men, have made restoring and rebuilding some of these homes a top priority through its disaster relief ministry.
Forrest and Lillie Jean Mobley are the owners of one such home.
Last Oct. 7, the Mobleys left their home in Duplin County to visit their daughter, hoping to remain with her for a few days. Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina later that weekend, and by the time the Mobleys returned home, their house had been flooded in nearly three feet of water.
“We lost everything except the dishes that were up in the top cabinets,” Lillie Jean Mobley said. “A few pictures on the top wall, and that’s about all that we saved. A few clothes.”
The couple was on a waiting list for a few months since many other homes in the area needed to be restored. When Baptists on Mission volunteers showed up to work on their home, the Mobleys said they were grateful for the joy and integrity that the volunteers brought to their work. It’s what separates them from other organizations, they said.
“They have caring people,” Forrest Mobley said. “People that do things like they think they need to be done, which is good.”
“To see how they have just jumped in and taken hold and do what needs to be done – and they do it with a smile!” Lillie Jean Mobley added.
“They’re happy to do it, and that makes a big difference.”
NCBM has set a goal to rebuild and restore up to 1,000 homes that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew in the next two years. The organization receives most of its funding from the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), which is received primarily during the month of September. Each year, 41 percent of the NCMO funds are allocated to Baptists on Mission for ministries like disaster relief.
This year, the offering’s theme is “Eyes to See,” taken from John 4:35. Richard Brunson, NCBM’s executive director, says disaster relief isn’t just about helping people rebuild homes. It’s about sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ and helping people build a new life in Christ. “When God gives those who serve Him eyes to see the brokenness and hurt around them, He works through acts of compassion and love to touch lives,” Brunson said.
The Mobleys said the workers’ kindness and consideration have helped them in dealing with the aftermath of the flood, which brought about losses that are both monetary and sentimental. The Mobleys lost most of their possessions from their 48 years of marriage in the storm, in addition to irreplaceable items given to them from family members who have since passed away.

https://youtu.be/iEKCzSJs5o8 “It’s just hard,” Lillie Jean Mobley said. “We had so many people here helping us tear out and taking everything and just putting it on the pile. But we do have our memories, and that’s something that can’t be taken away from us.”
And through the work of the Baptists on Mission volunteers, the Mobleys say that they had been blessed.
“This time with the flood, if you’ve never been through it before, it is something else. I hope I never have to go through it again,” Forrest Mobley said. “But if we had to, I hope we could count on (N.C. Baptist Men) to help us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Watch a video about the Mobleys by visiting vimeo.com/channels/ncmo. To learn more about the North Carolina Missions Offering, visit ncmissionsoffering.org.)

7/24/2017 2:00:52 PM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Couple hopes to be first Montagnard missionaries

July 24 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Khoung Rolan was born in a small Montagnard village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. His grandfather was a general in the Vietnamese army, and his father worked in the communist government.

Contributed photo
Khoung Rolan, right, or Kyle as he is known in the United States, wants he and his wife, Jenny, to be the first Montagnard missionaries sent from North Carolina. They hope to garner support from churches and individuals to help them on their journey to the Philippines. First Baptist Church in Matthews plans to provide some of the funds.

Through the witness of a cousin, Rolan and two of his sisters became Christians. Their parents did not agree with the children’s decision to follow Christ. Communist leaders made life hard for Christians, but the young boy and his sisters prayed that their parents would also follow Christ.
One of the sisters became very sick, unable to eat or drink for three days. In desperation, Rolan’s father asked if the elders of the Christian church would come to his home and pray for the girl. The father said, “If your God is real, and He can heal my daughter, I will accept Christ, follow your God and leave my job.”
The church leaders went to the girl’s bedside and prayed for hours. “About midnight my sister got up and asked for food,” Rolan said. “My father and my mom received Christ after that.”
The family began to face persecution from the communist government. Following Christ changed many relationships in communist-ruled Vietnam.
In his late teen years, Rolan rebelled and turned to gang life, indulging in a life of crime as a gang leader. He was charged with criminal assault and given a seven-year prison sentence.
Rolan said God got his attention in prison. He repented and cried out to God saying, “I will serve you all of my life if you will get me out of the prison.”
After serving only 10 days of the seven-year sentence, he was mysteriously released and told to leave. He fled to Cambodia where Rolan lived in a refugee camp for eight months.
In 2005, a United Nations refugee resettlement organization placed Rolan in Charlotte. He changed his name from the Montagnard “Khoung” to a more American name, “Kyle.”  He was able to help his father and mother escape persecution in Vietnam and immigrate to the United States.
In Charlotte, Rolan met Jenny, a Vietnamese woman who had fled the country with her family five years earlier. One year later they were married.
Jenny grew up in a Christian family in Vietnam. Her father was an interpreter for the American Army during the Vietnam war, and was imprisoned at the end the war. Her family of six fled the country through an immigration program for those who assisted Americans during the war and whose safety was at risk.
Kyle and Jenny began to meet with other Montagnard Christian families for fellowship and Bible study in the Charlotte area.
In 2012, Pastor K’Them, the Montagnard Baptist ministry coordinator for North Carolina, invited Rolan to attend a weekly Bible study class in Greensboro. Hungry to be discipled, Rolan accepted and drove to Greensboro every Saturday for two years. “Many times, my wife drove the car since I worked late the night before,” he said.
“The big turning point in my life was in late 2014 when we came to First Baptist Church (FBC) in Matthews. Since then, Pastor Brad has been coaching me, and the godly men in the church have been training me so I [can] understand [the Bible] better.”
Brad Sallee, missions pastor at FBC, said, “From the very beginning, I’ve seen the call and the hunger in Kyle’s life. He has quite a story ... it seems to me that God has had His hand on Kyle from the beginning of that journey.”
FBC has involved Rolan in mission trips to Asia. In 2014, he went back to Cambodia. Last year, he served with a team that traveled to the Philippines. The church has been planting churches in the Philippines for 10 years and now has nine house churches meeting regularly.
The experience has been life changing for Rolan. The team saw 175 people accept Christ as Savior last year. “When I was there, I saw the power of the Holy Spirit work through me,” he said. “It is amazing that God can use us and bring other people to Him.”
This year another mission trip to the Philippines resulted in 800 decisions for salvation and two new church plants.
“When I got back, I knew God had put something in my heart,” Rolan explained. “I prayed about it a couple of months and talked to my wife. I said, do you want to move to the Philippines? She said, ‘Yes, no problem, if the Lord wants us to go there, we will go.’”
The Rolans plan to relocate to the Philippines next June as the first Montagnard missionaries sent from North Carolina.
The missions council and the pastor of FBC are “fully supportive of Kyle and Jenny going as one of the church-supported missionaries,” Sallee said. “He meets all of the criteria for approval. At this point First Baptist Matthews is the only organization supporting Kyle.”  They hope more churches and individuals will add their support for the couple.
Rolan is a project supervisor for a company that remodels stores for a large supermarket chain.
His boss is a Christian who supports his mission trips and the decision to serve in the Philippines.
On weekends Rolan leads a Montagnard Bible study group and worship service at FBC. The group has almost 20 adults each week, with more than 60 joining them Easter Sunday. Their ultimate goal is to prepare church leaders to take the gospel back to their Asian countries, he said.
Jenny has been a full-time housewife and part time interpreter for those who speak Jarai, the native Montagnard dialect of the Vietnamese language. She translates primarily at hospitals and medical clinics.
She fully supports the move to the Philippines.
“Our generation is too comfortable and doesn’t want to go to the hard places,” Jenny said. “We need to do something to share the gospel in other countries.”
After reading a book by David Platt and another book by a man who served as a missionary to Vietnam before the war, Jenny said her call to missions was strengthened.
“It really inspired me,” she said. “This missionary went to a place that was really strange to him and not many people welcomed him, but he wanted to share the gospel with people who had never heard the Good News about Jesus.”
Sallee said Rolan has participated in FBC’s discipleship groups including a deacon-led small group.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Kyle, and there is no question that he is committed to the Lord,” he said.
“Kyle has been discipling a Montagnard small group. I’ve never met anybody that seems to love the Lord Jesus more than he does. He is so hungry to learn and to grow spiritually.”
Although the Rolans do not have a connection with a mission organization, FBC Matthews will provide some support for the couple and their children when they leave next year. A seminary in the Philippines has offered Rolan some work, also. They are praying for additional financial backing.
“Kyle Rolan has a heart that burns to take the gospel to the nations,” said Clay Smith, senior pastor of FBC Matthews. “He has been an integral part of our church’s present mission in Charlotte and I look forward to seeing how God uses him to expand the Kingdom in the future.”

7/24/2017 1:53:11 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Survey: Good deeds by Christians often go unseen

July 24 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Many Americans are unaware of various efforts by local Christians or churches to serve their neighbors, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

In a survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research looked at 13 service programs conducted by churches – from tutoring kids to teaching job skills. They asked Americans if they’d heard of churches or church members being involved in those activities in the past six months.
Six in 10 say they know churches feed the hungry. Half say they know churches give clothing to the poor.
Beyond that, acts of service by churches often appear to go unnoticed, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“Unless you’ve received help from a church – or been involved in serving others – these kinds of programs may fly under the radar,” McConnell said.
Few Americans were aware that churches help people prepare their taxes (8 percent), provide foster care (12 percent), teach English to immigrants (13 percent) or teach job skills (13 percent).
A few more know churches tutor kids (16 percent), provide aid to new moms (19 percent), support local schools (21 percent), offer after-school programs (24 percent) or visit people in prison (25 percent).
About a third of Americans know churches shelter the homeless (33 percent) and provide disaster relief assistance (39 percent).
Fourteen percent of Americans haven’t heard of any of these services by churches. Seventeen percent were not sure.
Not surprisingly, Americans who attend religious services at least once a month are more likely to have heard about good works done by congregations:

  • 30 percent say they’ve heard of churches tutoring school kids. Only 8 percent of those who attend less than once a month have heard of church tutoring programs.
  • 48 percent have heard of church members meeting with those in prison. Forty-five percent have heard of churches sheltering the homeless. Infrequent attenders are less likely to have heard of churches visiting prisoners (12 percent) or sheltering the homeless (27 percent).
  • 58 percent are aware of churches providing disaster relief compared to 29 percent of those who attend less often.
  • 72 percent are aware of churches giving clothing to the poor, while only 39 percent of those who attend church less than once a month have heard of such ministry.
  • 79 percent of those who attend services at least once a month have heard of churches feeding the hungry. About half (49 percent) of those who attend less often have heard of this.

Churches and church members often serve anyone from their community, whether they attend services or not, said McConnell. But outsiders may not get the message, which he said is a problem: If people don’t know about a church’s efforts to serve others, they won’t turn to a church when they need help.
And, with better awareness, those who don’t go to church might show up to help their neighbors.
A previous LifeWay Research study found that half (51 percent) of unchurched Americans – those who haven’t attended services in the past six months – say they would be willing to help a church with a community service project.
“People who need help may be missing out,” McConnell said. “And Americans who want to lend a hand might miss the chance to help out and along the way connect with the church.”
Methodology: LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. People in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not have Internet access, a laptop and ISP connection are provided at no cost.
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and in matters that affect churches.)

7/24/2017 9:41:48 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Teen Internet addiction cited as growing concern

July 24 2017 by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press

Gateway Seminary professor Paul Kelly had a friend who once became so addicted to online gaming that he would ignore his family and friends, while also skipping meals, so he could play more games on the Internet. His desire became so severe that he began failing classes and stole from his family to support his habit.
Amid the emerging challenge of Internet addiction, youth ministry experts are calling for churches to raise awareness of the topic and provide resources for parents and students. While pornography is perhaps the most publicized online addiction, Internet-based activities that are less sinister in themselves can rise to a harmful level, according to a growing body of evidence.
Kelly, professor of educational leadership at Gateway, told Baptist Press (BP) he is “very concerned about much that teens are doing on the Internet,” though he believes harmful online behavior generally stops short of addiction.
“The Internet is ubiquitous for most teens,” said Kelly, who teaches youth ministry. “The Internet is just an extension of where they live. We see students having real problems disconnecting from friends through texting or other forms of messaging.”
The National Center for Biotechnology Information describes Internet addiction as a “preoccupation with the Internet and digital media” accompanied by an “inability to control the amount of time spent interfacing with digital technology.”
Internet addicts may experience “the need for more time or a new game to achieve a desired mood, withdrawal symptoms when not engaged, and a continuation of the behavior despite family conflict, a diminishing social life and adverse work or academic consequences,” according to the center.
Hilarie Cash, a psychotherapist at an Internet addiction rehab center in Washington state, told The Guardian “there isn’t consistent criteria to measure [Internet addiction] yet,” but it is “being considered for future possible inclusion” in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the standard U.S. reference book for mental health.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average teen spends 2.3 hours per weekday engaged in media and communication-related activities.
A female teen was the focus of an National Public Radio (NPR) feature that explored Internet addiction. Naomi, whose name was changed for privacy reasons, initially watched YouTube videos fleetingly in her spare time. Her mother began to notice Naomi was watching videos online more frequently, and the videos usually featured females fighting one another. What’s more, Naomi would become “agitated” and “bleary-eyed” after emerging from her room.
Naomi’s obsession reached its darkest hour when she began to watch videos about how to commit suicide.
“I got the idea to overdose online,” Naomi told NPR. “I was researching how many pills I had to take to die.”
After checking into rehab followed by a month-long outpatient program, Naomi said she was committed to not falling back into addiction. She asked her mom to restrict her phone use so she can’t use the phone when she’s alone.
“I’ve realized what it’s done to me in some ways,” Naomi said of her addiction. “I’ve seen what it has done to some of my friends.”
Youth minister Chuck Butler believes churches should act now to stem the tide of harmful teen Internet consumption.
“I think there are some students who are potentially addicted to the Internet,” said Butler, minister to students at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told BP. “I also think there are opportunities for us to help that.”
A challenge, Butler said, is “for the church to be able to shine a light on [Internet addiction] and to not shame and guilt the use of technology. There is more we should do and we have got to be more proactive.”
One reason teens might become addicted to the Internet, Butler said, is their desire to be connected to what is happening around them.
“There are so many points of connection on the phone, and so many things on the phone are incredibly appealing,” Butler said. “Students love being connected to each other. They love being connected to everything that is going on.”
Educating parents on how to deal with Internet addiction is one solution to the problem, Butler said.
“We’ve had the opportunity to get in front of parents and teach them about technology,” Butler said. “We’ve attempted to help parents understand that the Internet doesn’t always have to be an evil thing, but you have got to be aware of the dangers.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Woodman, who will be a senior journalism major at the University of Missouri, is a summer intern with Baptist Press.)

7/24/2017 9:38:03 AM by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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