July 2019

Prayer yields 3rd church in Taiwan town of 50,000

July 29 2019 by IMB Staff

Ming Wei* is a firm believer in the power of prayer. When she moved to her husband’s hometown eight years ago, she began to pray for the opportunity to make a difference in the city of 50,000 with only two Christian churches but countless temples.

IMB photo
As a new church in a Taiwanese city of 50,000 takes root, pray for the right people to be raised up to shepherd the flock.

Two years later, the opportunity to work with children provided the perfect chance. Wei and others taught Bible stories and songs and held camps and other activities to share Jesus’ love with the children and their families.
People slowly came to faith, and the need for a church became a reality. The believers began the process to obtain government approval to start a church, which required having a minimum of 21 people attend a meeting.

As the day drew near, only 17 people had committed to come, and Wei spent time praying whether to cancel the meeting.
She heard God ask, “If 17 people are gathered together to worship Me, is that not worthy of a meeting? Is it not enough to come together to pray and worship even if you do not have 21 people?”

IMB photo
Ming Wei, name changed, leads an activity during a summer camp in Taiwan, using such opportunities to share the gospel and start a church.

Wei was convicted. The meeting went on as planned, and 23 people attended. The government gave approval for the believers to become an official church.

Pray for this new church and for the right people to be raised up to shepherd the flock. Pray this town would undergo a transformation from idol worshipers to Christ-followers.

Gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering make it possible for Southern Baptists to live and work in Taiwan alongside national believers to share the gospel, disciple new believers and start churches.
To learn more about outreach in East Asia, click here.
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of the International Mission Board.)

7/29/2019 11:13:55 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

College students see lives change through GenSend

July 26 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

A group of students in Calgary had the opportunity to share their faith with another student and saw him come to Christ. The next week, another team of students, 3,400 miles away in Puerto Rico, led a grandmother to Christ. In New York City, an unexpected subway detour led a student to a gospel conversation with a Muslim man.

NAMB photo
College students prayer walk in Puerto Rico where they have been working with church planters and assisting in the rebuild of homes still damaged from Hurricane Maria. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board, sent out college students through GenSend for the summer to serve alongside NAMB missionaries and reach communities with the gospel.

All summer long, students participating in Send Relief’s GenSend program have been living “on mission” in 19 cities across North America by serving with North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries.
“We teach students how to live their lives on mission in a different context by putting them alongside church planting and compassion ministry missionaries,” said Steve Turner, senior director of next generation mobilization with NAMB’s Send Relief ministry.
“We teach a set of principles that are transferable,” he noted, “no matter where they go.”
The GenSend team in Calgary stayed in summer lodging at a local university and had the opportunity to interact with other college students living there, including the one who gave his life to Christ.
“He spoke to us about everything that he was struggling with and told us that he needed Jesus,” reported Carly Hale, a member of Cross Church in Fayetteville, Ark., on behalf of her team. “We were able to pray with him and lead him to the Lord.”
  In Puerto Rico, part of their GenSend team worked with a local church plant’s Vacation Bible School (VBS). As parents and guardians dropped of their children, the college students were able to share the gospel with the adults. There, a grandmother who had grown up in and around the church heard the gospel for the first time.
“After a lengthy chat, she confessed her need for Christ,” said Itamar Elizalde of the Puerto Rico GenSend team.
“Later, the grandmother admitted that she went [to the VBS] so her grandchildren could be entertained,” Elizalde said, “but [she] understood that the Lord had a deeper purpose.”

NAMB photo
In Calgary, students serving with Send Relief's GenSend summer missions program lived in summer housing at a local university. While staying there, they were able to lead a college student to the Lord. GenSend sent nearly 280 students to 19 different locations across North America.

As GenSend students live in their cities over the summer, their intentional focus to share the Gospel with their neighbors leads them to cross generational, ethnic and religious boundaries.
Several teams reported encounters with members of other faiths – including Baha’i, Mormonism and Hinduism – where they had to engage in respectful dialogue to defend and share their faith.
When a recent blackout in New York City led GenSend student Bruno Telma to take a different subway train, he wound up sharing the gospel with a man who was asking for money.
“I asked him if I could pray for him,” Telma said. “Then I started telling him about Jesus, and he told me he was a Muslim, but he really wanted [to respond]. So, he accepted Christ right there.”
Katherine Hafley of Bush Memorial Baptist Church in Troy, Ala., and a student at Troy University described her anxiety ahead of going door to door to invite people to a sports camp hosted by a Washington, D.C., church plant. She realized she needed the Holy Spirit’s help to have the courage and overcome a fear of rejection.

“Between the group of four people, we had about five gospel conversations and one profession of faith. And that’s just the fruit we saw that day,” Hafley said. Several kids from the neighborhood signed up for the sports camp and one person started attending the church regularly.
“The work ... reminds me that we have no idea what God can do through our faithful action,” said Joel Whitson, a student at Spurgeon College at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who has been serving in Chicago this summer.
“We simply need to listen, act and watch as God grows the kingdom one soul at a time,” he noted.
During their summer in the city, the students are encouraged to learn the city’s routines by visiting coffee shops, hosting activities at public parks and finding the hubs where residents are building community.
Turner calls this “exegeting the culture.”

NAMB photo
GenSend, a Send Relief summer missions program for college students, sent a team to New York City where the group worked with local church plants and Send Relief's Ministry Center to send the hope of the gospel. One student had the opportunity to lead a Muslim to faith after getting off the subway.

“We teach them to find people of peace,” Turner said. “We teach them to really find the places of community where you can hang out, meet people and build relationships.”
Part of reading their community led GenSend participants to take note of the needs affecting their cities. GenSend introduces students to Send Relief’s compassion ministry efforts – and to how these efforts help in making gospel conversations easier as students and churches seek to meet needs with the goal of seeing lives changed through the power of the gospel.
For example, GenSend students continued to help citizens in Puerto Rico rebuild after the devastating hurricane in 2017.
Across North America, GenSend encouraged students to meet needs through Send Relief ministry centers and through their local church plants.
For ways the church can get more involved in meeting needs in the community, visit sendrelief.org for ministry guides and other helpful resources.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/26/2019 11:16:52 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Gardening cultivates work in the Lord’s fields

July 26 2019 by Madeline Arthington, IMB

International Mission Board missionaries Gary and Carolyn Miller are tapping into a Hungarian love of nature to build bridges for gospel work through a program called “The Master’s Gardeners.”

IMB photo
Missionaries Gary, right, and Carolyn, center, Miller show their garden in Hungary to a visiting friend. The Millers created “The Master's Gardeners” program to cultivate opportunities to share the gospel with those who have never heard about God’s love.

The idea of using a horticultural program to share the gospel came to Gary several years ago while he was prayerwalking. He stopped to chat with an elderly woman hoeing her garden. His background in farming led him to identify ways the woman could improve her garden. Following the conversation, Gary realized gardening could open doors for deepened relationships and gospel conversations.
The Master’s Gardeners is a network of trained volunteers who share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed through loving relationships and science-based gardening practices. The program combines lectures from agriculture professionals with practical guidance on evangelism and how to turn gardening conversations into gospel opportunities.
The Millers want this program to become a nationwide network of Christians in Hungary sharing the gospel and using creation to tell about the Creator. Handing over responsibility to local believers is an important step in this process. One Hungarian gardener from their inaugural class of 2018 has joined the Millers as the program coordinator.
Gary says their goal isn’t just to make better gardeners, but rather “to make gardeners who are working in the Lord’s field for the Lord’s harvest.”
Pray that many will join their vision, and that many Hungarian gardeners will come to faith as they hear about Jesus Christ.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering make it possible for Gary and Carolyn to live in Hungary where they can partner with local believers through The Master’s Gardeners.
Learn more about ministry to European people here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Madeline Arthington is a writer who serves with IMB in Central Asia.)

7/26/2019 11:08:02 AM by Madeline Arthington, IMB | with 0 comments

Not all stories end happily, but gospel prevails

July 26 2019 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

Clayton Gangji would have been 16 years old on June 6.
Yet, more than two years ago, Clayton was killed by gunfire at the age of 14 after being involved in a robbery involving stolen cars.

Submitted photo
Participating in a recent Backyard Kids Club, sponsored by Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, Tenn., were, from left, pastor Poly Rouse, Vicki Hulsey and Rick Short.

But as always, God can use evil for His good.
When Clayton was a young boy he lived in the same neighborhood as Vicki Hulsey, childhood specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Hulsey, a member of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, Tenn., began conducting a Backyard Kids Club about 11 years ago in her neighborhood to reach children who might not attend church.
Clayton began attending the backyard club at Hulsey’s house and soon developed a close friendship with her. He returned year after year and eventually made a profession of faith.
That profession of faith is what Hulsey and Clayton’s grandfather, Rick Short, find hope in, two years after Clayton’s tragic and untimely death.
It’s also the reason Hulsey is such a strong advocate for Backyard Kids Clubs, which take the gospel outside the church doors into the neighborhoods.
Statistics reveal that the majority of people who accept Christ do so before age 18, Hulsey noted, citing Barna Research that indicates adults age 19 and over have just a 6 percent probability of becoming Christians. She added that a survey from the International Bible Society indicates that 83 percent of all Christians make commitments to Jesus Christ between the ages of 4 and 14.
Clayton is a prime example “of why it is so important to reach children with the gospel,” she noted. “What if he had not been reached?”
Clayton was the product of a broken home and though he moved in with his grandparents – Rick and Jo Ann Short – at the age of 5, he was scarred by what he was forced to witness. Though he lived with his grandparents, he maintained contact with his mother and father and did not always encounter positive influences.
When he entered middle school, Clayton was around older kids who also negatively impacted his life, Rick Short said. As a result, Clayton was arrested and spent time in juvenile detention shortly before he was killed.
“He was influenced by the wrong people, and we weren’t successful in turning him around,” his grandfather said.
As one would expect, Short wonders what might have been.
“My wife and I think about what we could have done differently,” he acknowledged.

Submitted photo
Clayton Gangji accepted Christ as a child during a Backyard Kids Club sponsored by Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, Tenn. He died a tragic death at the age of 14, but his story has inspired children’s workers all over Tennessee to share the gospel with children in their neighborhoods.

Short said he finds hope in knowing that Clayton was involved in church and Backyard Kids Club and that he had professed faith in Christ. He said Clayton played a role in helping him turn his life around.
Short noted he had drifted from God, and that he drank too much.
“In 2010, Clayton told me, ‘Pop, you aren’t the same when you drink.’ That changed me,” Short said. He immediately stopped. “I told Clayton he was the reason I quit drinking.”
By all accounts, Clayton was a good kid with a passionate heart who always looked out for younger kids and those who might not have been the most athletic.
Hulsey was one of the speakers at Clayton’s funeral two years ago.
“I’ll never forget that day in 2015 when Clayton spotted me after church. He gave me his usual bear hug and then excitedly told me that he had accepted Jesus as His Savior. He wanted to follow Jesus and to be like Him,” she recalled.
At the funeral Hulsey acknowledged that “Clayton wasn’t perfect, and I have no doubt that he made some bad choices. I also know that I’m not perfect and neither is any person in this room. But I do believe this. Just like He did with Clayton, Jesus sees who you really are. He knows your heart. He knows your worth, and He loves you no matter what.”
She reminded his friends that though Clayton died, “God can bring about His purposes not only through Clayton’s life, but also through his death.”
And, in the two years since Clayton’s death, Hulsey has found that to be true.
“I have had the opportunity many times to share his story across the state as I share about the importance of reaching outside the walls of the church,” she said.
She once shared the story at a Weekday Early Education Conference sponsored by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“One of the preschool teachers in attendance accepted Christ. She and her husband have since been baptized,” Hulsey said.
She has had numerous people tell her that Clayton’s story has inspired them to reach the children in their community.
“His story has motivated people to share the gospel all across Tennessee,” Hulsey said.
“His story captivates people,” she noted. “God is still fulfilling His purpose for Clayton through his death.”
Clayton’s tragic death definitely has inspired his grandfather to continue to be involved in church and especially Backyard Kids Club.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to make a difference in my other grandchildren’s lives and other children in the community so they don’t go down the path that Clayton went,” Short said.
He urges “all parents and grandparents to action to watch for warning signs” and to take an active role in young lives to draw them to God and set the example to try to prevent other tragedies of young lives lost.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

7/26/2019 10:58:39 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Southern Baptist Media Day slated for July 28

July 25 2019 by Margaret Colson, Baptist Communicators Association

Longtime trusted sources for information and inspiration, Southern Baptist media are now being celebrated and recognized with a day to call their own: Southern Baptist Media Day.
Recently added to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) calendar, Southern Baptist Media Day, on July 28, is set aside to celebrate how God has used and continues to use Southern Baptist media in His mission.
“In the 30 years I have served in Southern Baptist communications, first as a curriculum editor and now as leader of a state Baptist news service, I have witnessed how God uses media – in all its forms – to inform, inspire and involve Baptists in the mission of Jesus Christ,” said Tim Yarbrough, editor of Arkansas Baptist News, and immediate past president of Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP).
“The lives impacted by Southern Baptist media are without a doubt immeasurable,” he said.
Southern Baptist media were birthed by missions nearly 200 years ago. Georgia’s The Christian Index was established as the first Baptist state paper in 1822, after the 1814 formation of the Triennial Convention, forerunner of the SBC, which was founded in 1845.
Known for its first 44 years as The Columbian Chronicle, the weekly Baptist newspaper, the outgrowth of the work of legendary missions leader Luther Rice, was “a national effort to encourage support for the early missions endeavors of Rice’s friends like Adoniram and Ann Judson (missionaries to Burma, now Myanmar),” according to christianindex.org. Ten other Baptist state papers, still being published today, were founded in the 1800s, according to the 2018 SBC Annual.
In the almost two centuries since the launch of The Index, Southern Baptist media have grown exponentially and adapted dramatically to opportunities offered by the ever-expanding world of technology. The 2018 SBC Annual reports a total of 37 state Baptist papers, with a total circulation of 621,521.
Many of those state papers offer a combination of print and digital versions. Some state papers, including The Christian Index, have moved to a digital-only format, tapping the benefits of technology to reach their audiences while at the same time alleviating the escalating costs of printing and mailing. Some state papers offer editions of their publications in languages other than English.
Baptist Press (BP), Southern Baptists’ international daily news service, was birthed in 1946, and its website was launched in 1996. Originally formed at the suggestion of Baptist state paper editors, BP has grown into one of largest religious news services in the United States. BP also provides news and opinion for the Hispanic Baptist community through a weekly webpage in Spanish.
Beyond state papers and BP, today’s Southern Baptist media include many SBC entity publications, websites, curriculum, campaigns for special mission offerings, podcasts, photography and videography and more. 
“Media and communications have continued to change and evolve in the 174 years the Southern Baptist Convention has existed,” Yarbrough said. “Southern Baptists are embracing new and innovative ways of communicating the gospel through new media.”

Telling the Southern Baptist story

As diverse as Southern Baptist media are, the shared goal is to “keep us informed about what is going on in the denomination, in our country and in the world,” said David Williams, editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, and ASBP president. “The forte of Southern Baptist media is telling the Southern Baptist story. No one does it better.
“What Southern Baptist media do best is telling the stories of what God is doing in our churches and through our people,” he said. “Those are the stories you seldom, if ever, find in the secular media – stories about a dying church being revitalized, an unreached people group being touched by the gospel, a revival breaking out in a community or on a college campus, a church planter gathering a group of unchurched people into a new congregation, a church setting up a ministry to refugees who have located in their community, a young couple answering God’s call to leave their home and become missionaries in a country where they will likely be persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Stories like these we find nowhere else except in Southern Baptist media.”

Inspiring action

Such stories build awareness of God’s work in the world, often inspiring Southern Baptists to action, said Jim Veneman, visiting professor of journalism and new media at California Baptist University and president of Baptist Communicators Association (BCA).
“We take action based on what we know,” he said. God has uniquely gifted Southern Baptist media professionals “to tell a story in a way to help move awareness into action.
“While news provides ever-important awareness, powerful stories of Christianity in action inspire us to action,” he said. That action might include praying, giving or actively going.
The work of Southern Baptist media professionals, Veneman noted, is similar to the little boy’s lunch that Jesus used to feed the 5,000 in John 6. 
“We think it’s just one photograph, one story, one social media post – until God blesses it, and it’s exactly like that lunch. It has an impact way beyond the scope of anything we may ever even know about.”

Impacting God’s mission

The International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) affirm the positive impact Southern Baptist media have made on God’s mission in the world.
Julie McGowan, IMB public relations director, noted the missions entity “values our enduring partnership with Southern Baptist media who, for nearly 175 years, have shared the stories of how God is at work around the world with millions of church members across the convention.”
“Those stories give us all the opportunity to glorify God, to support His mission through our prayers and giving, and to learn where and how we can go on mission with Him,” she said. “The nations are waiting to hear the good news of God’s love for them, and Southern Baptist media play an integral part in getting that message around the globe.”
Mike Ebert, NAMB executive director of public relations, said Southern Baptist media “play a crucial role in telling the story of missions in North America.”
“We are indebted to them,” he said, “for how they communicate the challenge of lostness and for the way they tell the stories about the missionaries and churches that are responding to the call to be on mission for Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – July 28 is Southern Baptist Media Day in the Southern Baptist Convention. Margaret Colson is executive director of Baptist Communicators Association, executive secretary of Association of State Baptist Publications, and a Southern Baptist writer living in Marietta, Ga. With reporting by Art Toalston, senior editor, Baptist Press.)

7/25/2019 4:26:29 PM by Margaret Colson, Baptist Communicators Association | with 0 comments

New Hispanic churches often do more with less

July 25 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

New Hispanic church works in the U.S. are reportedly seeing similar patterns of attendance growth and conversions as other church plants despite having a fraction of the financial support and training, as well as facing complications from the immigration status of members and leaders, according to a new study released July 24.

“Evangelical groups who are starting new churches are starting Hispanic churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
LifeWay Research surveyed leaders from more than 200 new Hispanic church works from 14 Protestant denominations. And the study, conducted March 15–June 26, revealed most of the pastors and members were born outside of the U.S.
Among the lead pastors of these churches, 94 percent are Hispanic and 80 percent are first-generation immigrants. Around 1 in 12 (8 percent) say they were born in the U.S. But one or both of their parents were born elsewhere, and 12 percent say both they and their parents were born in the U.S.
One in 4 pastors (25 percent) say some of their church leaders have undocumented status. Around 2 in 3 (64 percent) say none of their church leaders have undocumented status and 11 percent prefer not to answer.

Within the churches, pastors estimate 89 percent of their congregation is Hispanic or Latino. Two-thirds (66 percent) were born outside of the U.S., while 22 percent are second-generation immigrants and 12 percent are third generation.
Pastors say most of their congregation are citizens with permanent legal status (68 percent), while they estimate 21 percent of those in their church have undocumented status and 11 percent have temporary legal status.

Two-thirds of new Hispanic church works (64 percent) conduct their services completely in Spanish. And three-fourths (73 percent) say they have no plans to change the language(s) used in their church.

The new Hispanic work congregations are, in large part, middle aged, with 40 percent being 30 to 49 years old. Around 1 in 5 (21 percent) in the church are under 18, 16 percent are 18 to 29, and 23 percent are 50 and older.
“While most of the leaders of these churches are first-generation immigrants themselves,” said McConnell, “most have been in the area their church serves for 10 years or more.”

Similar growth with fewer resources

As with most other church plants, new Hispanic church works see exponential growth during the first few years. The average attendance in the church’s first year is 31. That climbs to 42 by the second year, 53 in year three, 69 in the fourth year and 81 after the fifth.
While those numbers are smaller than other church plants, they have similar growth trajectories. A similar 2015 LifeWay Research study of 843 Protestant church plants found the average new church began with 51 people in weekly worship attendance and grew to 146 by the fifth year.

The same is true for the number of conversions. In the first year, Hispanic church leaders say their church saw 10 first-time commitments to Jesus. That climbed to 13 in the second year and 15 in years three and four.
Among all church plants in the 2015 study, an average church saw 11 conversions in the first year, 14 in the second, 18 in the third and 17 in year four.
Similar to all church plants, around 4 in 10 attendees in new Hispanic works are completely unchurched or have been for many years. However, Hispanic churches are reaching a higher percentage of those who are completely unchurched (26 percent to 18 percent).
“Though new Hispanic church works start out smaller, they are more evangelistically effective per person,” McConnell said.
In order to start their church, 60 percent of pastors of new Hispanic works say they received funding from their denomination, compared to 72 percent of all church plants.

Fewer Hispanic church starts say they receive funding from a sponsoring congregation (45 percent to 56 percent).
In total, Hispanic new church work pastors say they receive an average of less than $13,000 in their first year from outside sources, which drops to less than $8,000 in the fifth year. By comparison, overall, church plants average more than $43,000 of outside funding in their first year. Even by their fifth year, the average church plant receives more money from others ($15,409) than the new Hispanic work receives its first year.
Similarly, new Hispanic churches receive, on average, $13,617 from church members and attendees in their first year. That climbs to $33,782 by year four, which is less than what the average church plant collects from attendees in their first year ($46,191).
Fewer than a third of Hispanic church plants have received church starting training that specifically incorporates the dynamics of a Hispanic/Latino context.
“Raising funds from individual donors may include cross-cultural challenges,” McConnell said. “But there is no valid justification for the funding inequities Hispanic church starts experience, especially at the denominational level.”

Among the 61 percent of Hispanic church starts with a sponsoring church, however, they are more likely than all church plants with a sponsoring church to say they received support like using a church building, having the sponsoring church’s pastor preach occasionally, helping with administrative needs, and providing training.
Pastors of new Hispanic works are less likely to receive training from their denomination and less likely to have advanced schooling.

Among church planters overall, 42 percent have a graduate degree, while 6 percent have a high school diploma at most. For pastors at new Hispanic works, 24 percent have a graduate degree and 19 percent have a high school diploma or less.
New Hispanic work pastors may have less education, but they tend to have more life experience.
The average age of a new Hispanic work pastor is 49 years old, while more than a third (37 percent) are under 45. Among church planters overall, 62 percent planted before age 45, including 31 percent who planted under age 35.
“So far the development of young Hispanic church starters is lagging far behind that of other ethnicities. And it is not due to a lack of young people in church,” McConnell said.

Evangelism and prayer

New Hispanic work pastors overcame many of the resource deficits by placing a stronger emphasis on evangelism and prayer.
Two-thirds of Hispanic work pastors (67 percent) say they have continued to use evangelistic visitation for identifying church prospects after the launch of the church, while only 32 percent of church plants overall do the same.

Half of Hispanic new works (52 percent) continue to use door-to-door evangelism compared to 22 percent of church plants overall.
Since the beginning of the church, 79 percent of new Hispanic works provide evangelistic training for church members, while 50 percent of church plants overall do the same.
Hispanic works also are more likely to say they have an intentional weekly prayer meeting for members (78 percent to 53 percent).
“The effectiveness of Hispanic new church work evangelism,” McConnell said, “is directly tied to these churches doing more outreach.”


LifeWay Research conducted the study March 15–June 26, 2019. The study was sponsored by the Send Institute at Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center with funding from the Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Evangelical Covenant Church, Mission to North America, North American Mission Board, Reformed Church in America, The Wesleyan Church, The Wesleyan Church West Michigan District, The United Methodist Church and Vineyard.
Members of the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship provided lists of Hispanic new church works. Each was invited to participate in the online survey. Leaders of 218 Hispanic new church works completed the survey.
New church works were defined as church starts, church mergers, revitalizations, restarts, Hispanic ministry within a non-Hispanic church, and new sites for an existing congregation.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

7/25/2019 4:14:12 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

‘Thank you,’ Greear tells black church assembly

July 25 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As the annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference opened to perhaps 1,000 attendees at Ridgecrest, N.C., Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear was in the number.

Photo by Diana Chandler
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear thanked black Southern Baptists for their sacrifices and faithfulness at the 2019 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“I want you to hear from me, who has the privilege of serving in this capacity as president, I want you to hear, ‘Thank you,’ and I want you to know that your sacrifices, and your prayers and your faith, have not been in vain, that God is using them,” Greear told the predominantly African American audience on the event’s opening night July 22.
“And with our humility, and with our continued posture of repentance, we believe that even greater days are ahead,” Greear said, “because God doesn’t move in His church unless He intends to impact the world in the future.”
Greear, who has demonstrated diversity in his appointments to SBC committees, attended the urban ministry event with his wife Veronica and about 10 other members and staff from The Summit Church he leads in the Raleigh-Durham area.
“By God’s grace, He is moving in His church, and He is showing us that ... to be a reflection of His glory, we need to reflect the diversity of our communities, but we also need to proclaim the diversity of the coming Kingdom, and that is what gives glory to Jesus,” Greear said. “You, brothers and sisters,” he told conference attendees, “you have believed that, and you have prayed for that, for a long, long time. I think in recent days we have seen a new movement of God’s Spirit in continuing to move us toward that.”
Intentional diversity, Greear said, is not about charity, but about truth.

Photo by Diana Chandler
Ken Weathersby, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, introduced SBC President J.D. Greear.

“It is really a recognition that we need the wisdom that God has put into your community to go into the days ahead,” Greear said. “God has written a very unique story in your churches, in your lives. That is a wisdom that He intends to use sovereignly as we continue to proclaim the gospel to our nation. It is something you are doing not as a service to the Lord Jesus, not only to Him, but also as a service to your brothers and sisters of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, introduced Greear as a friend who has led The Summit Church to be used by God in a “tremendous way.”
“The church is drawing through sending out folks. That sounds strange,” Weathersby said. “But God has called Dr. Greear to raise up leaders and send them out. And yet as he sends leaders out all over the country and around the world, God continues to multiply The Summit Church. The Lord grows the ministry by giving away.”
The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program of funding missions empowers all churches to be involved in sending missionaries and planting churches, Weathersby said, introducing an informational video on the Southern Baptist “Who’s Your One?” evangelistic emphasis.
Who’s Your One? and keeping the gospel paramount have been among Greear’s top concerns during his presidency, now in its second year. The gospel holds together the diversity of God’s Kingdom, Greear told the gathering that also included Southern Baptist entity representatives.
“God has given us a privilege to serve, to stand together, to come together around the gospel being above all, for the purposes of the Great Commission,” Greear said. “As I look around this room I see not only a very important part of the present of the Southern Baptist Convention, but even more so I’m overwhelmed by this being the picture of our future.

Photo by Diana Chandler
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, right, speaks with former SBC President Fred Luter.

“We know brothers and sisters what God’s Word says about the church, that it’s a group of people that come together not around skin color, or not around past cultural heritage, certainly not around political affiliation,” he said. “We come together united in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
More than 60 percent of all Southern Baptist churches planted last year were planted with leaders of color. Nearly 20 percent of Southern Baptists are people of color, Greear said.
Greear asked conference attendees to pray that Southern Baptists remain focused on the gospel as the United States enters a national election season, which presents challenges based on political differences.
“Southern Baptist churches are not always or ever at their best during seasons like this one. I want you to pray with me that God would allow this to be a season where we really do keep the gospel above all,” Greear said. “What I do know is this, salvation did not come riding in on the wings of Air Force One. That great Savior sitting on the throne of God one day is not going to be an elephant, and He’s not going to be a donkey. He’s going to be a lamb that was slain since the foundation of the world. Him we preach, Him we proclaim.”
Separating the church from the gospel separates us from the power of God, Greear said, referencing 1 Corinthians 15, where the apostle Paul describes the gospel as most important.
The leadership conference, nearing its 30th year, is not exclusively for blacks, conference convener Mark Croston has said. The gathering is designed also for parents of black children, church leaders who want to reach black communities around them, and leaders of churches desiring to become more multicultural, said Croston, national director of black church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources.
“To All Generations! Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Favor Forever” is the conference theme, with nightly worship, daily group Bible exposition, expanded breakout sessions, gender-specific events and recreational activities. LifeWay’s Centrifuge Camp for grades 7-12 runs concurrently for conference families.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/25/2019 4:09:10 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

State Department religious liberty event shows gains

July 25 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Described as the largest religious freedom event in world history, the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom demonstrated a growth in support for the cause even as advocates received a reminder of its grave need.

U.S. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain
Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback opens the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department on July 16.

The U.S. State Department convened its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 16-18 in Washington, D.C., a year after sponsoring the inaugural event to combat persecution of and discrimination against people of all faiths. Delegations attended from 106 foreign governments – an increase of more than 20 from 2018 – and representatives from nearly 900 religious or civil society groups – an increase of hundreds, according to the State Department.

Numerous survivors of persecution or terrorist attacks because of their religious beliefs spoke during the event, which began a day after a new study showed an increase in restrictions on and hostilities toward religion.
A Pew Research Center report issued July 15 showed “high” or “very high” restrictions on religion by 52 governments, an increase of 12 in the decade covered from 2007 to 2017. It also found the countries with the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion grew from 39 to 56 in the same period.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) participated in the ministerial and hosted one of the dozens of side events that accompanied the official State Department meetings.
The ministerial “demonstrates the commitment of the United States to lead on the issue of international religious liberty,” said ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt, who was in attendance.
“While it was significant to hear from experts in the field and leaders around the globe, the most powerful moments came from the testimonies of those who had endured unspeakable hardships for simply living out their faith – survivors from shootings at places of worship, Uighur women who had escaped oppression from the Chinese government and missionaries to North Korea who suffered in prison camps,” Bethancourt told Baptist Press in written comments. “The strength of the ministerial was the combination of facts and faces that humanized the issue and galvanized the participants for further action.”

U.S. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers welcome remarks at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. State Department.

The ERLC hosted a Capitol Hill event July 18 on North Korea that featured an interview with an escapee from North Korea, a panel discussion and the premiere of a documentary film on persecution under the horribly repressive regime.
In his keynote address July 18, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told attendees the growth in the ministerial “proves that religious freedom matters to literally billions of people all around the world. Look around you. Religious freedom isn’t just a Christian concern, a Jewish concern, a Muslim concern, a Buddhist concern, a Hindu concern, or a humanist concern. It’s all of our concern; it is everyone’s concern.
“We are committed, and we are united,” Pompeo said, “and our voices are growing stronger and stronger. And this is, indeed, just the beginning.”
Sam Brownback – ambassador at large for international religious freedom – said in the opening session July 16, “A global human rights movement centered on religious freedom is being launched from this meeting. This right extends to all, everywhere, all the time. It is a God-given right governments must protect if their people are to prosper.
“This is not an exercise here in trying to achieve some sort of common theology. This is an exercise to protect a common human right. Let’s determine to fight for each other’s God-given right to religious freedom,” said Brownback, who described the ministerial as not only the largest religious freedom event in history but the largest human rights event ever hosted at the State Department.
Vice President Mike Pence told survivors of persecution in the audience July 18, “The American people are with you. The people of the United States are inspired by your testimony and by your strength. And it steels our resolve to stand for religious liberty in the years ahead.
“And we will always stand with people across the world who take a stand for their faith.”

U.S. State Department photo/Public Domain
Participants from 106 countries were in attendance at the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on July 16-18.

The ministerials in 2018 and 2019 have helped demonstrate the ongoing attention the United States has given to global religious liberty since the late 1990s. In 1998, Congress and President Clinton enacted the International Religious Freedom Act, which established the ambassador at large and Office on International Religious Freedom in the State Department. It also created the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which tracks the status of religious liberty worldwide and issues reports to Congress, the president and the State Department.

In his speech, Pence reported on two initiatives announced at last year’s ministerial: 1) The United States has given through the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program more than $340 million in aid to religious and ethnic minority communities persecuted by ISIS in Iraq and elsewhere in the region and 2) the International Religious Freedom Fund has received nearly $5 million in pledges and helped more than 1,800 victims of persecution.
In other news during the ministerial:

  • Statements of Concern were issued on six issues – including blasphemy/apostasy laws, protecting places of worship and the use of technology regarding religious freedom – and three countries – Burma, China and Iran. Last year’s ministerial also released statements of concern on the same countries. Only two governments joined the United States in the statement on China.

  • Follow-up conferences were announced in Albania, Bangladesh, Colombia, the Marshall Islands, Morocco and the Vatican.

  • The first religious freedom awards went to people from Brazil, Cyprus, Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan.

On July 16, the State Department announced a ban on travel to the United States for four Burmese military leaders as a result of severe human rights violations during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Their families also are prohibited from entry into this country.
The Cuban government prohibited at least four Christian leaders in the communist country from traveling to Washington, D.C., for the ministerial.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/25/2019 4:00:01 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC leaders alarmed by ‘misleading’ footage in Founders video

July 24 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Executive Editor

(Updated July 24, 1:35 p.m.)

Four Southern Baptist seminary presidents featured in a video published online by Founders Ministries on July 23 have expressed concerns that the edited footage does not accurately portray their views or the views of other Southern Baptists.

Image captured from Founders Ministries video

The video is a trailer for a forthcoming documentary film titled “By What Standard?” which is slated for release in September. The film, described as a “cinedoc,” is meant to “sound an alarm” about “godless ideologies” being promoted among Southern Baptists “in the name of social justice,” according to a promotional web page at Founders.org.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the trailer “misleading” and asked that his association with the documentary and interview material be retracted. Akin and three other seminary presidents were among interviewees that agreed to discuss doctrinal issues such as the authority of scripture and gender roles in ministry with Founders in on-camera interviews.
“As a Southern Baptist who has staked the whole of my life and ministry on the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture, I was happy to share my convictions on the matter,” Akin said in a statement posted online hours after the video’s release. “Today I was disappointed to see the trailer for that documentary. What I saw was edited footage that I believe to be misleading, which misrepresents important issues and what leaders in the SBC actually affirm.”
The seminary presidents expressed concerns when they discovered interview clips were stitched together with ominous portrayals of fellow evangelical leaders, such as well-known author and speaker Beth Moore; Curtis Woods, an executive leader at the Kentucky Baptist Convention; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Rachael Denhollander, author and advocate for victims of sexual abuse.
“I am alarmed at how some respected SBC leaders are represented,” Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said as part of a series of posts on Twitter.
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in email comments to the Biblical Recorder, “You can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a movie by its trailer. But this trailer is either a click-bait promotional piece or it represents a movie that’s uncharitable and unhelpful. Founders Ministry has often played a constructive role in SBC life, but I’m afraid this video isn’t one such occasion. It doesn’t appear to be the type of documentary I thought I – and other SBC leaders – was signing up for. These issues demand we engage with clarity and charity, and we should do just that. “
Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on social media that he was interviewed about the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Conservative Resurgence,” but added, “I will not, however, be part of any agenda seeking to divide Southern Baptists unnecessarily.”

Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, noted on social media that he and Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., were also interviewed by Founders on the topic of complementarianism. Leeman shared Akin's statement on Twitter, saying, "our experience and reaction is the same."
Founders Ministries is a Calvinistic group that developed in the early 1980s to host events and publish material to promote conservative evangelical beliefs. Founders President Tom Ascol is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla.
This story is developing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Liz Tablazon contributed to this report.)

7/24/2019 11:32:38 AM by Seth Brown, BR Executive Editor | with 0 comments

Augie Boto to retire from SBC Executive Committee

July 24 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

D. August “Augie” Boto has announced he will retire from the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) effective Sept. 30.
Boto, the EC’s executive vice president and general counsel, notified EC President and CEO Ronnie Floyd of his retirement in a July 18 letter.

Submitted photo
D. August “Augie” Boto has announced he will retire from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee as executive vice president and general counsel effective Sept. 30.

His retirement brings his service “full circle,” Boto told Baptist Press, having joined the EC as a member in 1995, the same year Floyd began his 1995-1997 service as EC chairman.
Boto, 68, joined the EC in 1998 as vice president for convention policy, moving to executive vice president and general counsel in 2007.
He served as EC interim president and CEO from April 2018 until Floyd assumed office May 20 after his April 2 election at a special EC meeting in Dallas, coming to the office after nearly 33 years as senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
Boto was honored for his 13-month interim role amid his 21 years on the EC staff by a resolution of appreciation adopted during the EC’s June 10 meeting prior to the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
Floyd told Baptist Press, “I have known Augie for many years and appreciate his close walk with the Lord, his deep commitment to his family, his active involvement in his local church, and his love for the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a Christian gentleman and a godly layman of the highest order. He ably led the Executive Committee as interim president during a challenging year in Southern Baptist life.
“When Augie began discussing his retirement plans with me, I asked him to continue working alongside me through the September Executive Committee meeting, something he graciously consented to do,” Floyd said. “I know many others join me in expressing gratitude to the Lord for his 21-year investment in Executive Committee leadership and pray God’s blessings on him and Cindy as they begin the next chapter in their lives together.”
In the letter to Floyd regarding his retirement, Boto wrote that “it has been a genuine pleasure working with you since you were selected to lead the Executive Committee as its president.”
“Renewing our personal friendship has again brought back the pleasant feelings and memories that attended my first involvement with you and the EC over 24 years ago,” Boto wrote. “It has greatly encouraged me that a pastor of your stature and accomplishments was selected, but it is even more pleasing that you cherish the SBC, its pastors, its people, its entities, and its Cooperative Program as I do.”
Boto continued, “In examining all the ways I might be of help to you and the future of the Executive Committee, I have come to the conclusion that stepping aside in retirement from my work is the best one. This will provide you with the maximum flexibility in reorganizing and re-tasking the EC staff along lines you believe will be most fruitful.
“When I have thought about retirement, it has been a subject causing mixed emotions. Southern Baptists, and particularly the EC staff, are like my family, and the Executive Committee offices have become a home of sorts,” Boto wrote. “... Nevertheless, please be assured that if called upon, I will always be happy to be of service to you, and to Southern Baptists, though perhaps in other places, but certainly in ways intended to be harmonious with your stated objective of helping the Convention better accomplish its Kingdom mission.”
Prior to joining the Executive Committee staff, Boto served as administrative counsel for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and had been elected as Cooke County prosecutor and helped start the Texas Fellowship of Christian Prosecutors.
At First Baptist in Dallas under the ministry of the late W.A. Criswell, Boto began attending the church at age 13 with his family and later became a deacon and Sunday School teacher in the young married division. He also was among the church members involved in the Conservative Resurgence to return the SBC to its biblical heritage.
He made a profession of faith in Christ at age 7 at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church when his family lived in Riverside, Calif. He was born in St. Charles, Mo.
His late grandfather, T.W. Medearis, served as executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention from 1942-1954; as a pastor in Missouri, Oklahoma and California; and as interim president of California Baptist College (now University).
Boto holds juris doctor and undergraduate degrees from Baylor University. He and his wife have been married nearly 40 years and have three grown children, Lucas, Matt and Grace.
In comments to Baptist Press, Boto noted, “Though my assignments at the Executive Committee may be drawn to a close by my retirement, after a short sabbatical period I expect the Lord will have other things for me to do with and for Southern Baptists, for they are ‘my crowd.’ The vast majority of my happiest times and fondest memories have always come from activities with family –- my wife, kids, parents and siblings (my ‘blood’ relatives) – and my broader church and denominational family (my ‘blood of the Lamb’ relatives).”
Southern Baptists, he added, “care that people know and follow Jesus, and believe that having a relationship with Him is the only thing that really matters.”
The full text of Boto’s letter to EC President and CEO Ronnie Floyd follows.
July 18, 2019
Dr. Ronnie W. Floyd
President, Executive Committee of the SBC
901 Commerce St.
Nashville, TN  37203
RE: Retiring
Dear Dr. Floyd,
First of all, let me say that it has been a genuine pleasure working with you since you were selected to lead the Executive Committee as its president.  Renewing our personal friendship has again brought back the pleasant feelings and memories that attended my first involvement with you and the EC over 24 years ago.  It has greatly encouraged me that a pastor of your stature and accomplishments was selected, but it is even more pleasing that you cherish the SBC, its pastors, its people, its entities, and its Cooperative Program as I do.
In examining all the ways I might be of help to you and the future of the Executive Committee, I have come to the conclusion that stepping aside in retirement from my work is the best one. This will provide you with the maximum flexibility in reorganizing and re-tasking the EC staff along lines you believe will be most fruitful.
When I have thought about retirement, it has been a subject causing mixed emotions. Southern Baptists, and particularly the EC staff, are like my family, and the Executive Committee offices have become a home of sorts. That being the case, it is almost impossible to avoid sentimentality when one goes through an exercise that involves a degree of separation. Said another way, situationally moving can be very emotionally moving. I know you have recently experienced very similar emotions in your transition.
Nevertheless, please be assured that if called upon, I will always be happy to be of service to you, and to Southern Baptists, though perhaps in other places, but certainly in ways intended to be harmonious with your stated objective of helping the Convention better accomplish its Kingdom mission.
Not wanting to draw out the process to any great length, please know that a retirement date of September 30th (which falls soon after the next Executive Committee meeting) will be fine with me so long as you believe it will not be disruptive. I can assure you I will attend to my assignments until then, or however long you think my work should continue.
Knowing the challenges before you are great, but also knowing we both serve a God Who is omnipotent and sovereign, and One Who has long ago put things in place for our present good and for His eternal glory, I pledge to be praying with you for the Convention, and for you as you begin and continue your time as the president of its Executive Committee.
D. August Boto
Executive Committee executive vice president and general counsel
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

7/24/2019 11:10:52 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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