July 2019

N.M. Baptists continue to aid migrants

July 5 2019 by Daniel Porter, Baptist New Mexican

Serving asylum-seeking migrants is as simple as “a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name” says Frieda Adams, a former 20-year veteran Southern Baptist missionary and current coordinator for medical personnel in New Mexico’s Dona Ana County.

Photo by Xchelzin Peña, Deming Headlight
A group of asylum-seeking migrants from Guatemala and El Salvador wait for a bus in Deming, N.M.

Adams is one of many Baptists in New Mexico providing humanitarian assistance to asylum-seeking migrants vetted and released by United States Customs and Border Patrol agents, en route to approved immigration sponsors in other parts of the country.
In the nearly three months since U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began releasing asylum-seeking migrants in the border state, at least eight churches affiliated with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico have provided, or are currently providing, assistance to migrants in three communities – Albuquerque, Deming and Las Cruces. Several New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief (NMBDR) volunteers have also provided assistance.


On March 14, following a meeting with several local faith-based ministries and representatives from the City of Albuquerque’s Emergency Management Office, NMBDR Director Ira Shelton, began mobilizing his team to respond to the needs of migrants. Between March 14 and 26, NMBDR volunteers prepared and distributed approximately 320 meals. Sandia Baptist Church, Albuquerque, allowed NMBDR to use their commercial grade kitchen to prepare those meals. Shelton, citing Matthew 25, said if New Mexico Baptists “can bring hope, help and healing, then that’s what we need to do.”
On April 22, approximately 30 members of First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque served lunch to migrants in Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque.
The church’s pastor, Stephen Baum, said the congregation’s response is not political, but rather, the priority is to “put food in hungry bellies and do that in the name of Christ and just show the love of Jesus to these folks.” NMBDR provided equipment for the meal, while the church covered the cost of the food.

Las Cruces

In mid-April, Calvary Baptist Church in Las Cruces partnered with Peace Lutheran Church and other local faith-based organizations to feed and house asylum seekers in their community. Dennis Garcia, a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst for southern New Mexico, and a member of Calvary, said in April that the situation provides “an opportunity to be light to our neighbors.”
“They may not be our physical, tangible neighbors for long,” he noted, “but during the time that they are in our city they are the people God is bringing, and we have an opportunity to be a tangible expression of God’s love and grace and mercy in their lives.”
Adams, who works closely with Calvary, said that she was “extremely grateful” for the church’s efforts, adding that serving migrants is “about obeying Matthew 25. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
In a July 3 written statement, Garcia said, “right now the number of families coming to Las Cruces [is] much lower than just a few weeks ago. This is good in the sense that aid workers have a more manageable situation. However, it also means these families are being held at the federal detention centers longer.”
Another church member is working to schedule and coordinate medical care for shelters in the city.
As of July 3, Garcia said he is “working with Border Servant Corps to assist with systems development and strategic planning.” Border Service Corps is a Las Cruces-based nonprofit organization that “promotes and demonstrates justice, kindness and humility through the exploration of community, simplicity, social justice and spirituality in the U.S. and Mexico border region,” according to its website. Border Service Corps is not in partnership with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (BCNM) or the Southern Baptist Convention. 


During the BCNM’s April 15 State Mission Board meeting in Albuquerque, Mason Davis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Deming, encouraged board members and convention personnel to see the current crisis as an opportunity to share the gospel with the nations, whom God has brought to New Mexico.
On May 13, First Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church in Deming began partnering to provide hot meals and sack lunches to migrants temporarily housed in the city. Migrants are currently being held at the Southwestern New Mexico State Fairgrounds as well as a hangar at a nearby non-operational airport. Robert Hamilton, pastor of First Baptist Deming, said as of July 1, the church had distributed more than 1,000 sack lunches to migrants.
Hamilton said even though the situation is not ideal, his congregation has responded with compassion. He added that he has been vocal from the pulpit about separating the political from the personal and showing love to those in need. Hamilton, who is currently preaching through the Gospel of Luke, said that in studying Jesus’ teachings, he has emphasized that “it’s never wrong to show compassion and often that’s the avenue that we have to then share the gospel.”
After speaking with Hamilton and Davis, Connie Dixon, New Mexico state director for Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), contacted churches in the state’s Eastern Baptist Association (EBA), asking for supply donations. Within 48 hours, Dixon was able to completely fill a trailer with donated items, including food, bedding and shoes. On May 21, she drove the items to the fairgrounds in Deming and transferred them to municipal officials for distribution.
Dixon noted that the national WMU’s current social emphasis is on refugees, adding that “Deming would be a great place to go” for anyone looking to plan a mission trip over the summer.
“We’re called to minister to them, and what better place to do that than here?” she said.
Two churches in the EBA – Calvary Baptist Church and Emmanuel Baptist Church, both in Portales – are gathering additional supplies at Dixon’s request and plan to deliver them to Deming July 8. Calvary is also taking up a financial offering to assist efforts in Deming.
With fewer migrants entering Las Cruces, members of Calvary Las Cruces have shifted some of their efforts to the situation in Deming. According to Garcia, as of July 3, the church is packing hygiene kits and sending them to one of the facilities in Deming, some 60 miles east of Las Cruces.


Many of those seeking asylum are acting in accordance with current United States asylum laws (8 U.S.C. 1158). According to Scott Wilson, BCNM Missions Mobilization Team leader, asylum-seeking migrants “are vetted, have ankle monitors and sponsors somewhere in the U.S.”
Asylum seekers, Adams noted, typically spend less than 48 hours in their host city before boarding a bus or plane to connect with their sponsors.
Roger Ebner, director of the City of Albuquerque’s Office of Emergency Management, told the Baptist New Mexican that as of July 2, the city “has received and assisted around 4,000 asylum seekers this year.”
Udell Vigil, communications director for the City of Las Cruces, said that between April 12 and July 1, “12,311 asylum seekers have been brought to Las Cruces by U.S. Border Patrol. We are averaging 150 daily, which is down from the 200 to 250 daily from two weeks ago.”
Close to 7,000 migrants have been brought to the city since May 11, according to the Deming Headlight.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Porter writes for the Baptist New Mexican, gobnm.com, news journal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Drew Stevens, news management intern, contributed to this report.)

7/5/2019 11:19:50 AM by Daniel Porter, Baptist New Mexican | with 0 comments

Mark Aderholt pleads guilty in sex assault case

July 5 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Former Southern Baptist missionary, minister and state convention worker Mark Aderholt pleaded guilty July 2 in a plea deal related to the sexual assault of a minor two decades ago.

Photo from Google
District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

Aderholt, 47, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily injury, said Sam Jordan, a communications officer with the Tarrant County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office. Aderholt surrendered to authorities Tuesday to begin serving 30 days in jail and 24 months’ probation, and was levied a $4,000 fine in confessing to the Class A misdemeanor.
Aderholt was originally charged with four counts of sexual assault of a child under 17, a second-degree felony, in crimes that allegedly occurred in 1996 against a 16-year-old Anne Marie Miller. She met Aderholt, she told the court, while searching the America Online website for help organizing a See You at the Pole event during her junior year in high school. Aderholt, then a 25-year-old Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student, responded to her online search.
Miller agreed to the terms of Aderholt’s plea deal, adjudicated in the 297th District Court of Tarrant County.
“This morning,” Miller wrote on her blog after Tuesday’s hearing, “I had the opportunity to do something I never thought I would be able to do, emotionally or logistically: tell Mark Aderholt how the sexual abuse he inflicted on me as a teenager affected me, and that I forgive him. I did both at his hearing today at the Tarrant County Courthouse.”
In the victim impact statement she made off the record in court but later posted on her blog, Miller termed her ordeal “over.”
“I used to believe that in order for this ordeal to be over, you needed to tell the truth and ask me to forgive you,” she told Aderholt. “I know now that’s not the case. This is over because I have spoken the truth. It’s over because I have forgiven you. Your lies have no more power.”
She encouraged Aderholt to repent.
“I pray you begin to feel the pulse of conviction pursuing your heart,” she said. “I pray you begin to immerse yourself in the repentance and forgiveness you have spent your life proclaiming but never fully experiencing.... And I pray you will know the holy and saving power of God’s perfect and unconditional love.”
Aderholt made no statement in court other than his guilty plea, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Aderholt served as a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB) from 2000-2008 and later on the staffs of two Arkansas churches. He was arrested in the Miller case in 2018 in South Carolina, where he had served on staff of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Former IMB President David Platt apologized to Miller in 2018 and announced two independent investigations of IMB’s handling of any past sexual abuse allegations and its policies of zero tolerance for sexual abuse.
In May, current IMB President Paul Chitwood also apologized to any victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by “anyone associated with IMB” and said IMB is “committed to making the changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable.”
The Southern Baptist Convention addressed the issue of sexual abuse extensively at its 2019 annual meeting June 11-12, passing constitutional and bylaw amendments, conducting panel discussions and releasing new resources to equip churches to combat abuse, submit perpetrators to criminal justice and minister to victims.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/5/2019 11:15:16 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Praying for more believers they don’t know

July 5 2019 by Caroline Anderson, IMB

They love hearing about baptisms of people they don’t know. News of strangers being baptized means there has been generational growth of Christians in their area, say William and Nancy Potter,* International Mission Board (IMB) workers who serve in Southeast Asia.

IMB photo
A new believer in Southeast Asia celebrates as she is baptized. IMB workers had the opportunity to witness baptisms of third-generation believers in the Southeast Asian church they’ve been a part of for many years.

The “generational growth” – people who lead people, who then lead other people, to Christ – first began 18 years ago when they met Ary Keo* and her husband Chann.* As the Potters discipled them and cast a vision for church planting, the Lord gave Ary and Chann a heart to take the gospel to an area eight hours away.
The Keos’ ministry was slow at first, Nancy reported. It took eight years to see the first church start, then another few years to start a second church.
Now the Keos are discipling and baptizing believers who do the same with other believers. Approximately 60 Christians recently were baptized in one part of the country.
The Potters are witnessing a discipling domino effect. They discipled the Keos, and members of their community have gone on to disciple other communities. Now church growth is expanding far beyond their reach. Their vision is to see churches start in 10,000 unreached villages across the nation.

IMB photo
Generational growth of Christians in Southeast Asia results in dozens of people lined up to be baptized.

The Potters also recently witnessed a third generation of believers being baptized in a church where they’ve been connected for many years.
The Potters are praying for more stories of believers they haven’t personally met because this means the gospel is spreading throughout their country. They hope soon there will be a day when everyone in their Southeast Asian nation has heard the name of Jesus.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists living alongside Southeast Asian Christians to help them learn how to plant healthy churches and expand their gospel witness.
Read this story and more at imb.org. Learn more about Southeast Asian peoples here.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is a writer and media specialist with the IMB. She serves in Southeast Asia.)

7/5/2019 11:05:49 AM by Caroline Anderson, IMB | with 0 comments

NAAF launches new website, logo, social media

July 5 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has rebranded with the new website naaftogether.org, a new logo and social media presence on several platforms.

NAAF will send a letter in mid-July announcing the change to its membership of about 4,000 African American Southern Baptist pastors, rebranding task force leader Kevin James told Baptist Press (BP) July 2.
“I’m excited about it, and I’m just excited about where God is leading us,” James, also NAAF’s director for the northern and western regions and pastor of New Creation Bible Fellowship in Tracy, Calif., said in unveiling the changes at the fellowship’s June business meeting. “The number one thing that we want to do, and that’s why we chose the URL naaftogether, is to connect everybody together.
“You know as Southern Baptists we say we can do more together than we can do by ourselves,” James said at the meeting held in Birmingham, Ala., in advance of the SBC 2019 Annual Meeting. “For the fellowship, we’re trying to bring everybody together in one place.”
The logo, featuring a cross transcending a globe, is designed to spotlight the gospel message, unity, and affiliation with the SBC, leaders said. NAAF utilizes Facebook, YouTube and Periscope, and is developing a presence on Twitter and Instagram.
NAAF rebranded to become more attractive to a social media-savvy audience, create a more navigable and functional website, and to more efficiently share information with fellowship churches, James said.
New resources for pastors and state African American fellowships include PowerPoint decks, NAAF flyers, letterhead, links to NAAF partners within and outside the SBC, and contact information for NAAF officers, regional leaders and state presidents.
Additional resources are planned, NAAF executive director Dennis Mitchell told BP.
“We are working on another very exciting initiative that we call NAAF Global Connect,” Mitchell said. “It’s a database that contains the names of NAAF churches that are engaged in mission projects and partnerships outside of the U.S.
“Having that information in the database will allow pastors and churches who might have an interest in going to Kenya for example, to see who is already working in Kenya, where, the nature of the project, and when those trips typically take place,” Mitchell said.
“We see that as an opportunity of connecting churches that are already working abroad,” he noted, “to those who might have an interest in doing so.”
The new website will allow churches to advertise events, learn of NAAF activities and in some cases, broadcast church and fellowship activities, leaders said. Naaftogether.org enables giving through PayPal.
“The new website will be the focal point moving forward to bring all churches together (hence, naaftogether.org),” James said.
Marshal Ausberry, SBC first vice president and senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., is NAAF president.
Formed to address the needs of Southern Baptist African American churches, NAAF states as its mission “to seek and encourage African American participation in every facet of kingdom building through the Southern Baptist Convention,” and envisions an SBC “that fully reveals the unity of the body of Christians that celebrates diversity while carrying out the Great Commission.”
The fellowship’s churches have a combined membership of 400,000 NAAF said on its website, with congregations ranging in size “from house churches to some of the largest churches in America and ministering to people in rural, urban, suburban and multi-ethnic communities across the country.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/5/2019 11:01:40 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Reading your Bible daily? Study gives closer look

July 3 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Christians say the Bible is God’s Word, but even among Protestant churchgoers only a third spend time reading it every day, according to a study released July 2.
The 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study from LifeWay Research, conducted Jan. 14–29, found those who regularly attend Protestant churches are inconsistent in their reading and thinking about scripture.
The study identifies Bible engagement as one of eight signposts that consistently show up in the lives of growing Christians.
“This research asked churchgoers about many biblical characteristics to see which actions, beliefs and desires are present in the lives of followers of Christ,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Among them, Bible reading was one of the most predictive of spiritual maturity.”

Regular Bible reading

A third of Americans who attend a Protestant church regularly (32 percent) say they read the Bible personally every day. Around a quarter (27 percent) say they read it a few times a week.

Fewer say they only read it once a week (12 percent), a few times a month (11 percent) or once a month (5 percent). Close to 1 in 8 (12 percent) admit they rarely or never read the Bible.
A 2016 LifeWay Research study found 1 in 5 Americans said they had read all of the Bible at least once. However, more than half said they have read little or none of it.
In the latest study, churchgoers aged 50 to 64 are more likely to say they read the Bible every day (35 percent) than adults under 50 (30 percent).
Churchgoers in the western U.S. (37 percent) are more likely to be everyday Bible readers than those in the Midwest (31 percent) or South (31 percent).
Hispanics are the ethnic group most likely to say they read scripture every day (40 percent).
Those who attend church four times a month or more (34 percent) are more likely to read every day than those who attend less frequently (27 percent).
Evangelical Protestants (36 percent) and black Protestants (30 percent) are also more likely than mainline Protestants (20 percent) to say they read scripture every day.
“Jesus’ prayer for His followers was that they would be sanctified by the truth of God’s Word,” McConnell said. “It’s not surprising that the lives of those who spend time reading the Bible look more like Christ.”

Impact of regular Bible reading

In a 2016 study of churchgoing Protestant parents, LifeWay Research found regular Bible reading as a child was the biggest factor in predicting the spiritual health of young adults.
The latest survey finds Bible reading as an adult has similar far-reaching effects.
LifeWay Research asked churchgoers if they think about biblical truths throughout the day and if they miss time with God if they go several days without reading the Bible. Responses to those questions are closely tied to how regularly churchgoers read the Bible.
When asked if they find themselves thinking about biblical truths throughout the day, 32 percent of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree. In total, nearly 7 in 10 at least somewhat agree (69 percent).
Twelve percent disagree and 20 percent aren’t sure.
Women (33 percent) are more likely than men (29 percent) to strongly agree.
Churchgoers 65 and older (27 percent) are the age demographic least likely to strongly agree, while Hispanics (52 percent) are the ethnic group most likely to strongly agree.
Evangelical Protestants (35 percent) and black Protestants (33 percent) are more likely than mainline Protestants (18 percent) to strongly agree.
Among those Protestant churchgoers who say they read the Bible every day, 51 percent say they find themselves thinking about biblical truths during the day.
For those who read the Bible a few times a week, 32 percent say the same. That falls to 20 percent of those who read Scripture once a week to a few times a month and 9 percent of those who read it once a month or less.
“This is a case in which the action of reading the Bible influences one’s thoughts,” McConnell said. “This mindfulness on God’s truths has additional benefits of influencing other actions and speech.”
A third of Protestant churchgoers (33 percent) strongly agree they desperately miss the time with God if they go several days without reading the Bible. Nearly 3 in 5 at least somewhat agree (58 percent).
Around 1 in 5 disagree (20 percent) and 22 percent neither agree nor disagree.
Women (36 percent) are more likely to strongly agree than men (30 percent). Hispanic churchgoers (44 percent) are more likely to strongly agree than African American (36 percent) and white churchgoers (31 percent).
Those 65 and older are the least likely age group to strongly agree they miss the time with God when they go several days without reading the Bible (27 percent).
Evangelical Protestants (38 percent) and black Protestants (33 percent) are more likely to strongly agree than mainline Protestants (19 percent).
The more regular the Bible reading habit, the more likely churchgoers are to say they miss that time with God.
Among Protestant churchgoers who read the Bible every day, 65 percent strongly agree. That number is cut in half among those who read scripture a few times a week (32 percent). It continues to decline among those who read it once a week or a few times a month (13 percent) and among those who read it once a month or less (6 percent).
“One indication that reading God’s Word is beneficial is how much readers miss it after not reading for a few days,” McConnell said. “This fits with the Bible’s own description of itself as being ‘living and effective.’”
Bible engagement is one of eight signposts measured in the Discipleship Pathway Assessment and addressed in LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum. For more information, visit DiscipleshipPathwayAssessment.com.


The online survey of 2,500 Protestant churchgoers was conducted Jan. 14–29, 2019. Respondents were screened to include those who identified as Protestant or non-denominational and attend religious services at least once a month. Quotas and slight weights were used to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity, income and denominational affiliation. The completed sample is 2,500 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.0 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
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.)

7/3/2019 11:12:01 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Nat’l CP 2.80% over YTD budget projection

July 3 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in June were 2.80 percent above the projected budget through nine months of the current fiscal year and 0.13 percent above the amount received during the same period last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd.

As of June 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $149,580,020.95, or $189,882.46 above the $149,390,138.49 received through the first nine months of the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The June YTD total is $4,080,020.95 above the $145,500,000 YTD allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
“I rejoice at this report of support for what we as Southern Baptists are doing together – statewide, nationally and internationally,” Floyd said. “The SBC exists to help churches leverage our Acts 1:8 mandate to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every person in the world and make disciples of all nations.
“In these summer months, we are praying for all Southern Baptists to practice generosity faithfully so our churches can maximize their evangelistic opportunities through ministries like Vacation Bible School, student and children camps, as well as local, national and global mission experiences. Our world desperately needs each of us to live and breathe gospel urgency every single day,” he said.
Year-to-date designated giving of $170,633,259.53 was 2.97 percent, or $5,217,045.83, below gifts of $175,850,305.36 received in the first nine months of last year’s fiscal year. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
Meanwhile, CP allocation receipts for SBC work for the month of June totaled $15,754,420.34. Designated gifts received in May amounted to $23,528,476.07.
The CP is Southern Baptists channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
The Convention-adopted budget for 2018-2019 is $194 million and is disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.

7/3/2019 11:08:41 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Church stays ‘traditional’ amid gated communities

July 3 2019 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

“We have a choir. We have an organ and piano,” pastor Reed Buntin said. “We’re just your traditional Southern Baptist church.”

Submitted photo
“It makes your Bible come alive,” Reed Buntin, pastor of Triune Baptist Church near Nashville, says of trips to Israel that have enhanced his preaching at a “traditional” church that undergirds Southern Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.

For Triune Baptist Church, “traditional” also includes a missions mindset rooted in the Cooperative Program and discipleship rooted in Sunday School.
Located amid rolling hills and gated communities 30 miles southeast of Nashville, Triune Baptist has found a niche in a region where many Baptist churches worship with contemporary or blended music.
Founded just 26 years ago, the church’s worship center was designed to look “established” when it was built in 1997.
“The way we do things reminds [the congregation] of when they grew up,” Buntin said. “I made a promise when they approached me that the church would remain the same throughout my pastorate here.”
Triune Baptist gives the Cooperative Program “a lot of publicity,” the pastor said, in helping its members understand Southern Baptists’ channel of support for state, national and international missions and ministry.
“We talk about what we have and how we’ve been blessed and how we need to bless others. The church budget is three times the size it was when I came here as pastor. There’s none of us who haven’t been blessed and probably funded by the Cooperative Program.
“Things like our mission studies, our curriculum, our chance to go and do missions somewhere else with the IMB [International Mission Board] or NAMB [North American Mission Board] – the Cooperative Program is our way of connecting and being connected back to,” Buntin said.

Submitted photo
Members of Triune Baptist Church near Nashville aid a food pantry with quarterly supplies – a local initiative in balance with their support through the Cooperative Program for state, national and international missions and ministries.

“We’re reaching little boys and little girls for Christ, and we’re helping start churches to reach people where we as our church can’t go, but we can send others who are called to do that,” he said. “We’re asked as individuals to give 10 percent back to God, and we felt the least amount we could give through the church was 10 percent, but we wanted to do more, so we give 11 percent.”
With the pastor’s background as a minister of education, Buntin said the church knows “you grow your church through Sunday School. You grow your Sunday School through new classes. We’re pretty much saturated, to the point where we’ve got to have new space to continue to grow.” A second education building is in the fundraising stage.
About 250 people gather each week for worship. Discipleship also takes place in video-based classes and through the church’s deacon family ministry.
“They each have so many family members they minister to and disciple,” Buntin said. “Our deacon body is strictly ministry.”
Locally Triune Baptist collects canned goods four times a year – and have done so for eight years – to donate to a nearby Methodist church, which has a long-established food pantry.
“There’s no reason to compete,” Buntin said.
Every year for the last eight years, Triune Baptist members go on mission to Vonore, Tenn., a rural hamlet in the Appalachian Mountains where they host a children’s camp. For the last two years, Triune youngsters have joined in the camp near the North Carolina border.

Reed Bunti

Locally, the church seeks to connect to the people who live in gated communities through such events as a “dinner on the grounds” with hamburgers and homemade ice cream.
“Vacation Bible School is a large community event in our area,” Buntin added. “We’re the only Baptist church in 10 miles. We have a lot of communities [subdivisions] around here that have built up, but we don’t have community.
“We’re trying to build community,” he continued. “We can’t get in the gated communities, but we do prayerwalks. And we do direct mailings, though they haven’t done what I hoped they’d do.”
Sunday, July 14, will mark the conclusion of this year’s VBS. There will be a late-afternoon community-wide cookout and two 50-by-100-foot water slides.
Triune Baptist hasn’t taken a team on an international mission trip yet, but Buntin has led two groups to Israel – one of 18 people; the other, 25.
“It’s a lot of walking, but it’s worth it,” he said. “I can speak on a certain subject when I’m preaching, and we’ve been there – like Simon the tanner’s house – so those who went got a lot of history and background about both the Old and New Testaments. It makes your Bible come alive.”
In addition to the Cooperative Program, Triune Baptist supports Southern Baptists’ seasonal missions offerings: Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions; Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.

Submitted photo
From a “traditional”-looking building, Triune Baptist Church near Nashville is “stepping outside our comfort zone … to gain access to the people,” even worldwide by devoting more than a tithe of its budget to missions.

Each offering is collected on its designated day. Members go on a “Missions Walk” to the front of the worship center where they place their offering in a wooden box.
“Since the inception of this church, we have met or exceeded every one of our [mission offering] goals,” Buntin said. “This year our goal for the Annie Armstrong Offering was $7,000, and we raised over $14,000.”
Triune Baptist uses the children of church members to take up the offering each Sunday.

“It’s a time to worship together by giving,” Buntin said. “The children learn about being good stewards, they feel a part of the service – a very important part – and it means so much, too, to the many who are adults.”
Some people in the community might not appreciate Triune Baptist’s traditional ways, but other people would be drawn to the church because of them, Buntin said.
“If it was a perfect church I wouldn’t be the pastor, but we’re striving,” he said. “We’re moving forward. We’re reaching outside our church to reach people in our community. We’re stepping outside our comfort zone in some areas, but that’s all right. We’re trying to do things to gain access to the people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/3/2019 10:48:19 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Strengthen the Church: Q&A with Walter Strickland

July 2 2019 by BSC Communications

Walter Strickland serves as Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology and Associate Vice President for Diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with itinerant preaching and speaking engagements, Walter contributes to Canon & Culture as an associate research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the Gospel Project and the Biblical Recorder. Walter’s work has also appeared in Christianity Today, Baptist Press and World Magazine. His first book, Every Waking Hour: An Introduction to Work and Vocation for Christians, was released in March of 2016. Walter is a featured speaker for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s first-ever “Strengthen the Church Conference,” which is designed to equip and inspire church leaders to embrace and pursue multicultural ministry.

Walter Strickland II

Q: Revelation paints a picture of heaven with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. What obstacles do churches face today in trying to reflect this vision?
A: Many pastors cherish the biblical vision of “every tribe, tongue and nation” seen in Revelation 5 and 7, and desire to see racial reconciliation and God-honoring diversity in our churches. Despite a prayerful desire to actualize this kingdom vision, we often find ourselves helpless to move forward with any real success. I think that in our efforts to catalyze change, we’ve oversimplified the problem of racial bias, and we’ve sprinted toward solutions without comprehending its complexity and depth. As a result, we only look to remedy a small portion of the problem, which breeds frustration and a sense of defeat.
Q: How can churches be strengthened through listening to voices different from the majority culture?
A: Human limitations generate blind spots that cannot be denied. As a result, the question should not be, “Do I have blind spots?” but rather, “What are my blind spots?” It is dangerous, and at times can result in sinfulness, when personal blind spots are denied. Because we “see in part,” we need brothers and sisters who see God’s Word and God’s world from different perspectives as we seek His truth and are on His mission. Proverbs 27:17 says that, “Iron sharpens iron,” and I am convinced that iron sharpens iron most effectively across the lines of difference and, as a result, we see better together than we can apart.
Q: How has your experience being a church member shaped your perspective on embracing diversity/multiculturalism?
A: A body of believers that worships across racial lines and expresses the “one anothers” of the New Testament paints a wonderful picture of the gospel’s ability to tear down the walls. Moreover, it is a people who have heeded the call of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” People in multi-ethnic churches have been able to put on Christ in a way that overcomes historical baggage, heals grudges and forces them to think on behalf of the other. This requires the forgiveness and patience that have been exemplified in Christ.
Q: Many churches say that they want a diverse congregation, but in reality may not want to take the necessary steps to get there. Where do we look in the scriptures for the power and wisdom to make these changes? 
A: God’s plan for a diverse people unified in Him is undeniable throughout the pages of scripture. As a result, it contributes to how scripture ought to be read. A few specific passages that bespeak God’s desire for this kind of unity and diversity are Genesis 12, Ruth, Matthew 28 and Revelation 5 and 7. In addition, scripture offers directives about how to pursue unity in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2, Philippians 2 and beyond. In the end, God’s people need strength to be obedient to God’s calling in His Word.
Q: We’re looking forward to having you at the first Strengthen the Church Conference. What do you hope attendees may take away?
A: My prayer is that attendees will be able to understand that Christians pursue diversity because of fidelity to scripture’s calling, and not because the church is playing catch-up to culture. In addition, I hope that attendees will be able to develop an eye for seeing how God describes His desire for unity in Him in scripture, and grasp how that ought to influence their teaching and preaching on a weekly basis. Lastly, I pray that ministers (of all sorts) will gain specific insights about how to pursue diversity in their place of ministry.

7/2/2019 1:15:37 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Sudan Christians: ‘Only Jesus can bring true peace’

July 2 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Nationwide civilian protests for democracy resumed June 30 in Sudan, where democratic rule could decrease Christian persecution under Sharia law.

BBC News screen capture
Sudan civilians resumed mass protests June 30, vying for civilian rule that Christians believe would lighten persecution of the Church, even under Sharia law.

Eight people were killed and about 200 were injured as tens of thousands protested to establish civilian rule, according to reports from the Associated Press (AP) and the New York Times, citing estimates from Sudan’s Ministry of Health and the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors. Seven were reportedly killed in Khartoum and one in Atbara, about 200 miles northeast of Khartoum.
Christians comprising about three percent of Sudanese have not participated in protests officially, a religious watchdog group told Baptist Press (BP), but individual Christians have been active in the protests that began in April.
“Christians are not really organizing and protesting as part of the Church as in a Christian function,” Nathan Johnson, International Christian Concern’s (ICC) regional manager for Africa, told BP July 1. “I do know some Christians are participating in the protests, but because the Christian church has been so beaten down and persecuted for so long there, it’s dangerous for them to stand up and do anything at this point in time.
“It would honestly be almost suicide for them to really come out as a church and say, ‘We have to fight the power,’” Johnson said, “because that would easily turn them into martyrs at this point in time.”
Christians there are praying for peace and safety, a Southern Baptist who witnessed earlier protests told BP today.
“They are fine,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “None are participating in the protests but are praying for peace and safety in the country so they can live in tranquility and spread the gospel. They are using the turmoil to proclaim that ‘only Jesus can bring true peace to the hearts of men.’”
Christians in Sudan hope civilian rule will decrease religious persecution that intensified under the 30-year-rule of Omar al-Bashir, ousted in April. With al-Bashir gone, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) established power, and protesters led by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) continue to rally for civilian rule.
The TMC is reportedly blamed for killing an estimated 128 protesters, and raping 70 women and three men June 3. Sunday’s protests followed failed negotiations for a transition to civilian rule. The TMC also hindered communication among civilians by blocking internet access in the country, but civilians organized Sunday’s demonstrations through word of mouth and bullhorns, the AP reported.
Government persecution of Christians is high in Sudan, where churches have been destroyed and pastors have been harassed, evicted from their homes and arrested. In some cases, Christians have resorted to living in caves and worshiping under trees, according to reports.
Muslims protesting for democracy are expected to treat Christians more favorably under civilian rule, even as Sharia law is expected to continue.
“We haven’t seen any indications that they would take away Sharia law or anything afterwards,” Johnson said of protesters. “Even if this group takes over, there’s no guarantees for the Christian community there in Sudan that Sharia would be taken away or that there would be freedom of religion. But there is a massive hope that they would at least suffer less under a democratically led government.”
There’s always hope for Christians in Sudan, Johnson told BP, despite discouragement and fear that increased after protesters were killed.
“You never know when someone may stand up and say something that will turn a culture around,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen it throughout history where a Christian leader or somebody will stand up and really be able to change the government’s heart. There’s always hope. They hopefully will not lose that, won’t lose their faith.
“God clearly wants the church in Sudan to thrive, wants them to stand up for their faith,” Johnson said. “And with these protests you never know; it may end up turning the government to a democratic society which is definitely a step forward from the more autocratic or dictatorship that has been around.”
Open Doors USA, in its 2019 World Watch List of Christian persecution, ranks Sudan as the sixth most difficult country for Christians.
“All Christian communities in Sudan are afraid of having conversations about their faith with Sudanese Muslims because that could put them at risk for arrest or intimidation,” Open Doors reported during al-Bashir’s rule. “The level of persecution that converts and ethnic Africans face is enormous. There have been arrests; many churches have been demolished with others on an official list awaiting demolition. In areas like the Nuba Mountains where there is an ongoing conflict between government forces and rebel groups, many Christians are attacked indiscriminately.”
The U.S. State Department supports civilian rule in Sudan, and has deemed the country a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has described Sudan as a “country of particular concern” since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Sudan’s 43.1 million population is 97 percent Muslim, primarily Sunni, with a range of Muslim minority groups and Sufi orders, according to State Department figures. Evangelicals are included among Christians that comprise 3 percent of the population, including Coptic, Greek, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox; Roman Catholic; Anglican; Presbyterian; Pentecostal; Seventh-day Adventist; and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/2/2019 1:10:45 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Last abortion clinic in Missouri gets Aug. 1 reprieve

July 2 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The battle to shutter a final abortion clinic in Missouri will continue at least until Aug. 1, according to a state commission’s ruling June 28, acting on a federal judge’s ruling a week earlier.
Missouri could become the first state in the nation without an abortion clinic since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision – if state health requirements prevail in closing an abortion clinic operated by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri (RHS).
State law requires abortion facilities to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who perform abortions have hospital admitting privileges for emergencies.
Federal Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer intervened to keep the RHS clinic open June 21 – the date set by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) for nonrenewal of the clinic’s license due to alleged medical complications from abortions.
Stelzer said the issue of closing the clinic should be handled by the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC), which fields disputes against state agencies. The AHC on June 28 set an Aug. 1 hearing on the issue.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the DHSS cited failed surgical and medication abortions among several reasons for denying the clinic’s license renewal. The state attorney general’s office, in a court filing, noted that Planned Parenthood had refused to make five physicians available to answer questions about patients who had suffered complications.
The attorney general’s office stated that “it is not arbitrary or capricious for [the DHSS] to infer from the noncooperation of RHS and its physicians that they lack satisfactory explanations for their conduct.”
The AHC, however, stated, “Our review of the applicable statutes and rules finds no provision that affirmatively provides an obligation for DHSS to make, or RHS to procure, such interviews.”
Missouri also is among a number of states that have enacted a wave of abortion restrictions in recent months, with Republican Gov. Mike Parson signing a bill in May to ban abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, except in medical emergencies, effective Aug. 28.
The 2007 Missouri law governing abortion facilities was among the first in the nation. It has been targeted in court by Planned Parenthood but was upheld by a federal judge in February of this year.
Among Missouri’s other abortion restrictions: A woman must receive counseling and information to dissuade her from having an abortion, followed by a 72-hour waiting period before the abortion; the use of telemedicine for abortion medication is prohibited; and minors must receive a parent’s consent before an abortion is provided.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/2/2019 1:08:19 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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