June 2011

Hispanic pastors & leaders receive training

June 21 2011 by David Raúl Lema Jr., Baptist Press

PHOENIX – More than 120 Hispanic Southern Baptists pastors and leaders participated in a joint training in Spanish June 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

The “SBC Avanze Hispano” (SBC Hispanic Advance) was coordinated by Hispanic liaison staff of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.

Hispanic leaders presented two conferences for men and two for women on the topic of church transformation.

In the men’s sessions, Hispanic ministries pastor Ramon Medina of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, summarized the book “Transformational Church: Creating a new scorecard for congregations” by Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer. Medina spoke from his experience in applying the book’s principles in the context and daily life of his church.

Jason Carlisle of the International Mission Board’s Hispanic mobilization team, addressed the topic “El Problema de la Iglesia en Jerusalen” (The Problem of the Jerusalem Church). Carlisle urged participants to act on the Great Commission and lead their churches to make a difference.

“The church where I am has only 80 members but it is sending missionaries to Senegal every three months,” Carlisle said before listing strategic steps that churches can take to become missional.

The women’s conferences were “Conectadas Para Transformar” (Connected for Transformation) led by Mirsa Amaro of Phoenix and “La Mujer: Un Recurso de Dios Para las Naciones” (Women: A Resource from God for the Nations) led by Gloria Londoño of Union Baptist Association in Houston.

Amaro challenged the women to “connect” and thereby transform their personal relationship with God, “grow” into a higher level of discipleship, “serve” the church more effectively and “tell” the people in their field of influence the story of Jesus.

Londoño’s conference provided an overview of the role women have played in the life of Jesus, in Hebrew culture, in the history of the church and in modern missions. Londoño underscored the need for trans-cultural missionaries who are in high demand particularly for people in Muslim regions of the world.

Arturo Nuñez, a NAMB church planter from Joplin, Mo., closed the training with a personal testimony.

The love of God has been made manifest in that community struck by disaster, Nuñez said. “The church plant is still going on.”

Nuñez challenged fellow pastors to “come to Missouri to help us in whatever way you can in the effort of rebuilding.” Those wishing to help with volunteers or support can contact Nuñez by email at nunez542@sbcglobal.net.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Raúl Lema Jr. is a Miami-based Hispanic correspondent for Baptist Press.)
6/21/2011 8:08:00 AM by David Raúl Lema Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

African Americans hear call for revival

June 21 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

PHOENIX  – The multi-ethnic emphasis of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2011 annual meeting has made it “one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to,” James Dixon told participants at the National African American Fellowship June 14.

Dixon, in his second year as president of the organization that was founded in the early 1990s, said he chose 33 years ago to cooperate with the SBC. The pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md., said, however, he had a concern.

There have been many initiatives for multi-ethnic inclusion in the SBC, “and every time it’s staying on the table,” Dixon said.

“We really need to repent,” the pastor said. “Sin hinders us from carrying out the will of God. ... I’ve been hearing all day we need revival. No, we need healing. (Sin) is not going to go away until we deal with it,” Dixon said in talking about sin that replaces God’s best for the best humans can do without Him.

“We need to be sure God be glorified in all our efforts,” Dixon said.

Preaching from Hebrews 12 about men who learned from their mistakes, Dixon said, “Failing doesn’t make you a failure,” noting, “The cost to quit is greater than the cost to fail. ... The call on your life is an eternal call. You’ve got to be careful with it.”

Photo by Adam Covington.

Joseph Lyles, left, of Fort Foot Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md., prays with William H. Smith, center, part of the North Buffalo Community Church in Buffalo, N.Y., and another attendee prior to the National African American Fellowship night of gospel preaching and Christ-centered praise June 12 at Canaan Missionary Baptist Church in Mesa, Ariz. The service preceded the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The banquet also included greetings from SBC entities and from Vance Pittman, president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

NAAF’s business session opened with an extended time of prayer and included greetings from Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board. Bob Loggins, who leads a prayer and spiritual awakening emphasis for the Missouri Baptist Convention, directed NAAF members through Psalms 121, 51 and 37 to ask God for cleansing personally and corporately throughout the body of Christ.

Dixon had appointed four ad-hoc committees earlier in the year, and chairmen of three of the teams reported during the NAAF business session. The fourth report – on racial reconciliation – is to be presented during the annual Black Church Leadership Week, July 18-22 at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.

Michael Pigg, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., reported on the work of the Great Commission Resurgence team.

The GCR team supported the SBC Executive Committee’s recommendations regarding ethnic inclusion in SBC life, which were adopted by the SBC June 14; determined that NAAF should take a lead responsibility in the continuation of a multi-ethnic consortium; affirmed the new Send North American church planting strategy of the North American Mission Board, with a suggestion that the NAAF president discuss with NAMB the possibility of more ethnic focus; and that NAAF develop ways of including more black groups such as Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Haitian and African.

Tyrone Barnette, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., reported on the work of the missions team.

By working with churches engaged in national and international missions, awareness could be heightened to the point that “mission empowerment conferences” could take place in each of NAAF’s time zone regions by 2013, Barnette said. This also would involve pastors experienced in missions trips mentoring those without experience.

NAAF will assist churches, associations and state conventions in planting 150 new African American churches by December 2012, plus 25 more in 2013, and 25 more in 2014, Barnette added. The missions team suggested a National African American Fellowship church planting network might need to be organized to keep the focus strong. In addition, the mission team suggested NAAF churches partner with non-African American churches to plant 25 non-African American churches in by 2014.

Barnette identified other suggestions from the team: sponsoring a black student leaders mission trip by December 2013, providing disaster relief training opportunities, and recognizing churches that take the lead in promoting and engaging in missions.

NAAF officers for 2011-12 include Dixon, president; A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., vice president; Mark Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., treasurer; and Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., secretary.

National vice presidents/regional directors include Brian King, pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa.; Roscoe Belton, pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, Mich.; and Garland Moore, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, N.M. A fourth regional director position is vacant.

Robert Wilson, associate pastor at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, is the group’s historian, and K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., is the parliamentarian.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.)
6/21/2011 8:01:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chinese fellowship plans 800 new churches

June 21 2011 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

PHOENIX  – Pastors and deacons from Chinese churches across the United States and Canada discussed a goal of planting 800 Chinese churches by 2020 during a June 14 meeting in Phoenix.

The Chinese Baptist Fellowship, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, has 260 member churches, said Peter Leong, president and interim executive director of the fellowship.

“If every state planted one church a year, then we can do it,” said Leong, who has served 23 years as pastor of Southwest Chinese Baptist Church in Houston.

“I know this is a very big and difficult challenge, but we are relying on prayer,” Leong told two dozen leaders in attendance, including several state convention and North American and International mission board staff members.

“God has all the personnel and resources. And the best part is that we have a very good friend in the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board,” Leong said.

Leong noted that the effort coincides with NAMB’s new strategy, Send North America, which focuses on mobilizing missionaries and churches to plant churches across the United States and Canada.

Jeremy Sin, the North American Mission Board’s multiethnic team coordinator for Asian people groups, noted that the Chinese population in North America has increased dramatically. In 1980, there were 1 million Chinese in the U.S., compared to the 4 million who now reside within the U.S.

Prior to 1985, most Chinese immigrated from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Now, most come from mainland China, Sin noted.

Church-planter Arnold Wong, who ministers among the Chinese in Canada, asked participants to send mission teams from their churches to assist in outreach.

Jon Sapp, evangelism director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, attended the gathering because of his interest in the growing number of ethnic groups in the Midwest.

Sapp, who also is responsible for the convention’s collegiate ministry, indicated a desire to support a house-church movement among internationals on college campuses.

To help facilitate the new church growth, the Chinese fellowship plans to conduct church-planting seminars in Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Edison, N.J.; Honolulu; Houston; Los Angeles; New York City; and Oklahoma City.

The fellowship, which also seeks to assist Chinese churches with pastoral care, women’s ministry and second-generation ministry, will hold its next meeting in September 2012 at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. To learn more about the Chinese Baptist Fellowship, visit www.cbfusacanada.org.)
6/21/2011 7:58:00 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Filipinos ‘well-suited’ for multicultural gains

June 21 2011 by Adam Miller & Norm Miller, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Filipino Southern Baptist leaders met June 14 in Phoenix to ramp up church planting efforts among the 3.2 million Filipinos living in the United States and Canada.

“We want to see the number of Filipino churches double,” said Roger Manao, president of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America and pastor of Philadelphia Bible Church International. “We have 200 churches, and we are not doing enough. We have to do more.”

Manao said a strengthened emphasis among Southern Baptists toward reaching cities has infused excitement into Filipino pastors who see great opportunity among Filipinos to reach multicultural communities. Cultural understanding and insight into city life among Filipino Christians, most of whom live in the urban areas of the U.S. and Canada, make them a strong force in reaching population centers for church planting and evangelism.

“We are well-suited for cross-cultural ministry because of our cultural background,” Manao said. “We are multi-lingual, adaptive and accepting of other cultures. These are all strengths we can be proud of and use when it comes to partnerships with other ethnic groups.”

Photo by John Swain.

Southern Baptist Filipino leaders discussed church planting and evangelism among Filipinos in North America as well as cross cultural ministry mobilizing Filipino Southern Baptists whose culture, history and languages make them effective at reaching many cultures with the gospel. Ken Weathersby, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) associate vice president for Multi-ethnic Church Mobilization, talked about the open door North America provides for reaching the nations for Christ.

Jeremy Sin, the North American Mission Board’s multiethnic team coordinator for Asian people groups, encouraged the pastors to get mobilized through NAMB’s new Send North America strategy for church planting.

“We at different times and at different places have been blessed by Southern Baptists,” Sin said. “But we also have an opportunity to be a blessing – to see ourselves as part of that same Kingdom work that God has done in our cultures through Southern Baptists.”

Ken Weathersby, NAMB’s associate vice president for multi-ethnic work, said Filipinos in North America have a great opportunity to have an impact.

“God has given us an open door in North America,” Weathersby said. “It’s an opportunity to make Christ’s name known, to encourage the saints and to make disciples and new believers. It’s an opportunity to plant churches.

“With Filipino churches mobilized to partner with Southern Baptists through Send North America, our Filipino brothers and sisters will help us reach people regardless of ethnicity or other barriers,” Weathersby said. “They have been very effective and we expect even greater things as they continue to reach across their culture and outside their culture.”

The Filipino fellowship, during its June 14 session at North Phoenix Baptist Church, reported on its own church planting project, the Asian Multiplication Evangelical Network (AMEN).

“The aim of this year’s meeting is to educate and mobilize our Filipino pastors and church members regarding AMEN,” said Manao, chairman of the initiative which operates under the fellowship’s umbrella. “I’m praying everyone will be challenged to get on board our Filipino church planting movement.”

Created in 2010 by Filipino Southern Baptist pastors and NAMB, AMEN is focused on nine of the most populated regions in the United States, with “the objective to create church planting and multiplication awareness, and with a goal of planting 30 churches by 2021,” Manao said.

The Filipino Fellowship is comprised of 200 churches. The June 14 meeting drew about 60 pastors and laypeople from nine states and Canada.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board; Norm Miller is a writer based in Richmond, Va.)
6/21/2011 7:53:00 AM by Adam Miller & Norm Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Native Americans organize for impact

June 21 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Members of the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC) voted at their annual meeting to hire a self-funded, full-time executive director to help bring a “voice” to Native Peoples across the Southern Baptist Convention.

The June 13 morning session was held in conjunction with the June 14-15 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at the Phoenix Convention Center.

In addition to a four-part motion related to the hiring of an executive director, the meeting included remarks by Leroy Fountain, a North American Mission Board mobilization strategist for ethnic groups, and Donny Coulter, aboriginal church starting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention.

Photo by Matt Miller

Emerson Falls, president of Fellowship of Native American Christians from Oklahoma City, Okla., talks about the need for a an executive director and regional liaison network with Indian churches in state conventions during a meeting of the FoNAC June 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. The meeting was held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14-15.

The meeting also recapped two recent Native Peoples’ events: The Gathering for Spiritual Awakening among Native Americans in Oklahoma City in early March and the North American Native Peoples Summit in Springdale, Ark., in late April.

“We’re here to unite us together to train Native People,” Emerson Falls said in his president’s address. “We need a unified voice.”

The North American Mission Board has invited FoNAC, which was organized in 2008, to “sit at the table with everyone else” in the SBC, Falls said.

It’s a “total new day” for Native Peoples, Falls said. He noted that 150 years of sending non-Native pastors to reach Native Peoples and of non-Native church construction mission teams perpetuated a dependency that has been broken as Native People have begun saying to themselves, “We can do this!”

Non-Native assistance is still welcomed – and needed and appreciated, Falls said, but today’s Native American Christian leaders are understanding they can do the ministry others once did for them. It’s the difference between ministry “to” Native Americans and “with” Native Americans, he explained.

Once empowered by training and doing, Native Americans will be ready to take the next step, Falls said.

“As Native churches, we need to reach out wherever people (of any background) are, not just Native peoples,” Falls said.

The four-part motion contained the executive director’s position description; directed FoNAC officers to serve as a search committee, with authority to call an executive director; authorized the officers to revise the organization’s constitution and bylaws as needed to reflect having an executive director rather than part-time president; and called for the current officers to serve until the constitution and bylaws are approved. The motion was adopted unanimously.

The North American Mission Board’s Fountain said NAMB is focusing on the growth of multi-ethnic groups across America. He asked Native leaders to keep him posted on the ministries they lead, promising to use that information to “make the larger Southern Baptist group aware of what Native Americans are doing.”

The Canadian National Baptist Convention’s Coulter told the group Native People’s ministry in Canada is making headway. Three Native churches affiliated with the Canadian National Baptist Convention in January 2010 and there could be 10 more by January 2012, he said. Coulter attributed the potential growth to praying a “Harvest Prayer” every day, such as when an alarm on his phone goes off at 10:02 a.m., based on Luke 10:2, which says: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (HCSB).

As a result of his praying, Coulter said he began to network with Native Christian leaders across Canada, inviting them to national Native American events. Word of mouth is spreading that Southern Baptists have a network of Native Peoples churches that covers both the United States and Canada.

Fifty people participated in FoNAC’s annual meeting – a record number for the group, reported FoNAC treasurer Tim Chavis of North Carolina.

Other officers elected by the group were Falls, president; Coulter, vice president; Bruce Plummer of Frybread Fellowship in Fort Belknap, Mont., secretary; and Gary Hawkins, church planting strategist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, assistant treasurer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections and The Montana Baptist.)
6/21/2011 7:45:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messianics discuss spiritual warfare

June 21 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Followers of Jesus often look for the devil’s attack in the wrong places, a speaker told the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship June 11.

While many believers think of the occult or moral evils when they think of spiritual warfare, Satan’s schemes often are focused on misleading God’s people through trusted spiritual leaders, said Bruce Stokes, dean of California Baptist University’s school of behavioral sciences, in a gathering at CrossPoinTempe Church in Tempe, Ariz.

The Messianic fellowship was one of several groups meeting prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, June 14-15 in Phoenix.

Stokes, drawing from Referring to Ephesians 6:10-17 and 2 Corinthians 2:11, noted that spiritual warfare is about “standing firm” and “resisting the devil’s schemes” but lamented that many believers today don’t understand how the devil works.

Photo by Bill Bangham

Ric Worshill, left, a police chaplain in Lindenhurst, Ill., and David Foster, a member of Beit Yuash Shem of Meridian, Miss., worship during the meeting of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship at CrossPoinTempe Church in Tempe, Ariz. The services were held Saturday, June 11 prior to the start of the June 14-15 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. 

“In our Darwinian world, predators go after the weak, and we’re told (in Scripture) to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. The false teacher will go after the weak sheep,” Stokes said. “But Satan’s going to go after the leadership, because if he can tweak the leadership, he takes the whole parade in that direction.”

The devil’s two primary schemes – and the field of battle in spiritual warfare – are deception and sowing discord among the brethren, Stokes said.


“2 Corinthians 11:13 says Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,” Stokes said.

In Middle Eastern culture – unlike Western culture – the serpent that deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden was seen as a symbol of wisdom, not evil. In Western culture, the deceiver would have been an owl, Stokes said.

Satan’s disguise “is going to give the appearance of wisdom,” Stokes explained. “This is Satan walking into the garden in doctoral robes, with a Bible in his hand. ... That’s Satan’s primary thing. He deceives by trying to look like the truth. He doesn’t deceive by being obvious deception.”

Like the devil deceived Eve by twisting what God had said, Satan deceives spiritual leaders by getting them to add their interpretation to what the Bible actually says, Stokes said.

“We are being deceived because we are not paying attention to the biblical text, and because we’re regurgitating rumors that get pulled into this pastor’s life and into this guy’s book, and then we read that and we restate it...,” Stokes said.

A ship’s course only needs to be off a little to entirely miss its destination, Stokes noted.

“Satan’s approach is to just twist the text slightly in a direction that makes sense and then we’re off to the races – and the races lead to sin and chaos. That’s all he’s got to do, change the trajectory just a little, make it look like you’re serving God when you’re not,” Stokes said. “Most heresies are simply a true doctrine just slightly tweaked or over-exaggerated and we end up deceived.”


Another factor in spiritual warfare is that Satan builds on deception by setting followers of Jesus at odds with each other over the differences in their understandings of Scripture, Stokes said.

“How do I dwell in unity when many of you are wrong about things?” Stokes asked. “How do you dwell with me when I’m wrong about things?”

The problem, Stokes said, is that people look for unity in doctrinal uniformity. While it is possible to stray too far on some points of doctrine – doctrine does matter, he said – unity in the body of Christ comes when believers connect with others who have a heart for God and struggle to obey God.

“I don’t look at denominations to see what they are doing wrong. Obviously, they are doing (some) things wrong,” Stokes said. “I look at denominations to see what they are doing right, and when you are doing right, I will walk with you.

Ephesians 4:3 is clear that “it’s the unity of the Spirit – not the doctrine – in the bond of peace,” Stokes said.

The Text

The primary strategy in spiritual warfare – to stand firm and resist the devil – is to let the text speak for itself and not layer it over with one’s own interpretations and explanations, Stokes said.

“I want to warn you about the danger of two things: What I call Rorschach theology – you know the ink blot test? – where you project into the text what you want it to say,” Stokes said. “The other is pulling verses out of context,” sometimes with an attitude, “I got a verse. I see your verse and raise you two … to prove what we already believe and … prove the other guys are wrong.

“The Bible was not given to us for that purpose. It was given to us to study and it was given to us to do,” Stokes added. “And you have to learn it and do it in context so the experience that comes out of it is an experience in truth. Most of us are too lazy to do that.”

Modern commentaries, like Judaism’s rabbinic traditions, separate people from the Scripture itself and focus their attention on men’s interpretations rather than God’s Word, Stokes said.

“Stay close to the text. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He stayed close to the text,” Stokes said. “Satan plays with the text, so if you don’t know your text, he’s playing with you.”

Holding aloft a copy of the Scripture, Stokes concluded: “If we are serious about spiritual warfare ... this is a light to my path. I walk in it. ‘Because I know your word,’ the psalmist says, ‘I am wiser than all of the teachers.’ This is the Word of God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press. For information about the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, visit www.sbmessianic.net.)
6/21/2011 7:39:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fishers of men: N.C. church tackles unreached

June 20 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

It hangs from the ceiling near the auditorium of Englewood Baptist Church like an overgrown spider web. It’s frayed and tattered in spots, with blue netting where it has been repaired multiple times through the years.

Pastor Michael Cloer runs his fingers along the fishing net, admiring the craftsmanship. As he inspects the net, he voices an impromptu object lesson.

“You look at the individual pieces and they don’t look like much, but together they are strong. … It’s a great picture of the church,” said Cloer, who received the net from a fisherman in South Asia when Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount took its first overseas missions trip to reach the Koli people for Christ.

That Koli fisherman is now a follower of Jesus.

A couple of months after the initial mission trip in February 2011, a second Englewood team returned to the same spot where Cloer had met the fisherman. By the end of 2011, the church will have sent four teams to engage the Koli people with the Good News.

At last year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Orlando, Cloer said he became convicted that the congregation had not done enough to help reach people groups like the Koli — those unreached with less than a 2 percent evangelical presence and unengaged with no church-planting strategy among them.

“The Spirit of God just spoke to my heart and said, ‘What are we doing about unreached people?’” Cloer said.

“God told us to be fishers of men,” said Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount. He stands beside a fishing net given to the church by a Koli fisherman in South Asia. The fisherman is now a follower of Jesus. See related video here. It was shown during the Southern Baptist Convention June 14-15 in Phoenix.

“We had been praying for them, just as a whole, but that’s as far as we were going. I came back and … began to pray, ‘God, where do you want us to go?’”

The church soon was committed to ministering to the Koli people.

Amidst a backdrop of modern conveniences and technological advances, the Koli people — with their colorful boats and waving flags — represent an old way of life committed to hard work, tradition and idol worship. Fishermen struggle to make a living in polluted waters in a time when modern life seems to have passed them by.

Most of the younger Koli generations hunt for new opportunities to escape the old way of life, while clinging to the worship of more than 300,000 gods.

Of the 283,000-plus Koli people whom Englewood is engaging, fewer than half of 1 percent are evangelical.

“We saw a people group who were mainly fishermen, and the Lord immediately struck in my heart,” Cloer said. “God told us to be fishers of men … fishers of men among the fishermen.”

In the summer of 2010, the International Mission Board (IMB) challenged Southern Baptists to adopt 6,426 unreached people groups based on that year’s research. At this year’s SBC annual meeting, IMB President Tom Elliff plans to narrow that focus to the approximately 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups. Englewood Baptist Church’s partnership also will be featured at this year’s SBC meeting.

The Koli are now engaged with a church-planting strategy — and the work has just begun.

Church members venturing among the Koli in South Asia won’t have to look far to find challenges. On the streets they’ll find a variety of idols — ones surrounded in fresh flowers on cab dashboards or those swinging from the rearview mirror. Some will be displayed on posters along shop walls and encased in concrete shrines. In some homes they’ll find a cross, a statue or even a picture of Jesus, but locals view these as mere additions to their idol worship.

Koli fishermen prepare their boats along the coast of South Asia. For centuries the Koli have been unengaged by any known Southern Baptist work, and less than half a percent of them are evangelical. Members of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount have sent teams since February 2011 to share Jesus with them.

“To the Koli, Jesus is just another god,” said Claude*, an Englewood member the church is supporting to lead follow-up work among the Koli. Claude and his wife Lynne* plan to live in South Asia until the end of 2011.

“These people who live in these Koli villages along the coast are in total spiritual darkness,” Claude said.

But there has been some progress.

Since the Englewood team first set foot in the Koli villages, nearly 20 people have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

“We had men and women pray out loud in front of other people: ‘I want Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior; I renounce all other gods but Jesus,’” Cloer recounted.

“We’d go back the next day; that individual had thrown out all of their idols into the street.” The response has been an encouragement, but it also has served as a reminder of the follow-up work the church still has to do.

During the first trip, one Koli fisherman made a profession of faith. He agreed to have a Bible study at his home. But when Claude and a team returned a couple months later, the fisherman had changed his mind. He told the team another villager had attacked his wife for her faith and she had been prevented from using the well.

It’s slow work, said Kaleb*, an IMB representative among the people of South Asia.

“This (people group) has existed for thousands of years, but Satan has had a hold on (them),” Kaleb said. “When we go into these areas and make these big pushes just to get the gospel out, we see Satan’s attack.”

The level of commitment needed to make a dent among people groups like the Koli is high, Kaleb said.

“I know lots of people back home who say they want to reach the nations,” he said, “but they’re not praying for the nations. They’re not going to the nations. They’re not sending others to the nations.

“Until we become doers of the Word of God and take this message to the nations, then nothing is going to change.”

Kaleb admits being pleasantly surprised when he first spoke to Cloer about Englewood Baptist Church working among the Koli. Cloer asked Kaleb how many teams he could handle and what it would take to get the job done.

“When I heard that, I realized they are in it,” Kaleb said. “Their hearts were committed. Knowing that churches like Englewood are out there … makes me feel like I’m not out here alone.”

‘Whatever it takes’

In the coming months Cloer hopes to mentor fellow pastors in the U.S. in how to begin work among other unengaged, unreached people groups.

Though Englewood is larger than the average church, Cloer knows his congregation — and most other churches — can’t do it alone.

“I was led by the Lord, ‘Why don’t you ask other pastors to join you in this?’” he said. “We hear it from the national platform … but it’s another thing for a brother to look you face to face and say, ‘Brother, why don’t you get involved?’”

Cloer said after his time on earth is done, he hopes he will have helped reach 1 percent of those people groups unreached with the gospel.

Just like that old net hanging from the church ceiling, together Southern Baptists are stronger than they are separate, Cloer contends.

“I believe there will be someone from every people group standing around the throne of Jesus,” he said.

“To think that we could have (that) opportunity … it’s going to be worth it all. It’s going to be worth whatever it takes.”

*Names changed.

Related story
Couple is at peace among unreached
6/20/2011 8:38:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Couple is at peace among unreached

June 20 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

Taped to the inside of their apartment front door is a list of essentials — “phone, water, keys, money, copy of passport” — that a North Carolina couple doesn’t want to forget when leaving venturing into the streets of a South Asian city of 12 million people.  

Claude and Lynne*, members of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, have been living in South Asia since April 2011.  

One item that’s not on that list but is crucial to their ministry among the Koli people is prayer. Answered prayer is why they are there.  

The couple plan to live in the South Asian city for at least 10 months to help Englewood with follow-up among the Koli — an unreached people group that did not have a church-planting strategy among them until recent months. Englewood began a partnership among this people after the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Orlando.  

Claude first felt the call to live among the Koli after his pastor, Michael Cloer, returned from the SBC with a conviction that Englewood should do more to spread the gospel among those who haven’t heard about Jesus.  

“I wondered if that could be us,” Claude said of Cloer’s passion. “I didn’t know if God was in it or not. I just kind of thought about it, prayed about it. It looked like a tremendous opportunity.”  

“It’s like home,” said Lynne (name changed), a member of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, referring to a South Asian city of 12 million where she and her husband Claude (name changed) have been living since April 2011. After overcoming “mountains” to move to South Asia for at least 10 months, Lynne and Claude are working with IMB personnel and their supporting church among an unreached people group in South Asia.

At the time, Claude and Lynne — like many Americans — had issues with debt, bills and thoughts of missing their children and new grandchildren. Nevertheless, the couple became more compelled to learn about this new opportunity.  

Then, their world was rocked when Lynne was injured in a car accident.  

A truck struck her vehicle as she was driving through an intersection, leaving her unconscious with two fractured bones in her back, a cracked rib and internal bleeding.  

Then, doctors discovered something else.  

“The internal bleeding was actually (caused by) a tumor on my right kidney,” Lynne recounted. “It was fairly large, so we had to process that.”  

At that moment, plans of going to share Jesus among the Koli people no longer were “on the radar.” Yet, Lynne said, “God was with us. We sensed His presence carrying us through this, (but) we were not thinking about the Koli people at this time.”  

“This is God’s answer — we’re not going to (South Asia),” Claude added.  

“The focus of our life was my wife … and her health. I kind of just let it go.”  

And then as quickly as cancer entered their life, it was gone. Doctors removed the tumor before it could spread to other organs.  

“God was so good,” Lynne said. “He had such a perfect plan.  

“That accident was a way for the doctors to find the tumor. Now I’m cancer free.”  

Still, even though the cancer was gone, obstacles remained that kept them from being sure God was still calling them.  

“Before Lynne’s accident we were thinking about our children, finances, bills, debt and things that would keep us from going,” Claude said.  

One by one, however, each barrier began to fall as the couple prayed and let go of their fear.  

He quoted Mark 11: “Jesus said, ‘I say to you whoever says to this mountain ‘be removed and cast into the sea’ … but believes those things he says (it) will be done.’”  

“You start understanding that if God’s in us going to South Asia, if it’s His will, He can topple mountains. My future and our future … we just surrendered that.”  

In February 2011, the couple went with a team from Englewood Baptist Church to South Asia, with the plan to return for 10 months. In their return trip a few weeks later, the first three days were a “mountaintop” experience, as Claude described it.  

“We were with the Koli; people were coming to Christ; we were being let into homes,” he said. “Wow … this is so fun.”  

“We were welcomed,” Lynne added. “We were treated with such respect and honor no matter what home we went in.  

“We were given the best food. Whatever they had, they gave it to us. It was just so refreshing … the love of the people was just overwhelming.”

Then reality hit.  

“We crashed after the third day,” Claude said. “I believe it was spiritual warfare. I believe the enemy came against us.”  

“It’s a very intimidating city, overwhelming,” Lynne said.  

“There were things that I saw and smelled. I couldn’t process it and deal with it. It was just so much in your face.”  

The peace of God that Lynne once felt vanished as she struggled more and more with doubt. Even simple tasks like walking along the city streets and navigating traffic were a challenge.  

“What are you doing here?” she thought. “You don’t speak (the language). You can’t even cross a street.” Claude also struggled with discouragement. “The adversary really came against us,” he said. “He’s been controlling these people for thousands of years.  

“This is an unengaged, unreached people group. There’s no light (of Christ) among them. So when two people ‘bebop’ over here from the States, thinking they’re gonna go into (Satan’s) territory that he’s had for thousands of years and rescue people with the gospel, he came against us.”  

Both now say their “low point” was a combination of fatigue, spiritual warfare, culture shock and the stress of moving from family. Lynne credits the prayers of friends back in the States with helping her cope with the challenges. One friend later told her she specifically prayed that Lynne would feel at home while she was away. Those prayers made all the difference, Lynne said. “I’ve totally adjusted,” she said. “Even though I hear horns … it’s noisy and loud, I can sleep through the night. It’s like home.”

*Names changed.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)

Related story
Fishers of men: N.C. church tackles unreached
6/20/2011 8:30:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Charlotte teens take stage in Phoenix

June 20 2011 by staff and wire reports

Two North Carolina teenage ladies took part in this year’s Southern Baptist Convention and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) annual meetings in Phoenix, Ariz.

Kianni Curry and Cassie Taylor, both of University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, are two of six teenagers on the 2011 National Acteens Panel. Acteens is the WMU missions organization for girls in grades 7-12.

Curry and Taylor are also preparing to take part in Blume 2011 July 13-16 in Orlando, Fla. Blume, formerly known as the National Acteens Convention, is sponsored every four or five years by WMU. National panelists, Debby Akerman said to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers June 14, are “an elite group of young women who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Jesus and to missions through their involvement in Acteens, their church, their community and their education.They represent the finest among today’s young women.”

Akerman was re-elected to her presidency at the WMU annual meeting prior to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wanda S. Lee, national WMU’s executive director, and Akerman of Myrtle Beach, S.C., were joined by five of WMU’s six National Acteen Panelists in issuing the invitation to Blume’s sessions.

Akerman asked each Acteen panelist to summarize her experience at Blume in 2007 in Kansas City in one word. Their responses were: “impactful,” “extraordinary,” “exhilarating,” “inspiring” and “fulfilling.” Blume is open to all teen girls (www.blumeforgirls.com).

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Kianni Curry, left, and Cassie Taylor play rock, paper, scissors as part of an icebreaker called “The Progression Game.” Curry and Taylor taught the session and participated as part of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Missions Conference for youth April 2. The two are National Acteen Panelists and members of the same church — University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte. See photo gallery.

In other WMU business, Rosalie Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., was re-elected to a third term as national recording secretary.

About Curry, Taylor

Curry and Taylor have been involved in Acteens for more than five years by participating in missions trips, taking part in various ministries such as Vacation Bible School, and leading missions conferences across the state. Since 2009, they both have been on the state’s Acteens panel. Curry is also a member of her school’s soccer team and book club.

Taylor is involved in Key Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Charlotte Children’s Choir, and other school activities.

“Missions is about showing God’s love to everyone,” Curry said. “It requires devotion and commitment to God so you can tell others about Him and help others in any way that you can.”

Deborah Taylor, Curry’s Acteens leader and Cassie’s mom, says Curry has a genuine servant’s heart. “Kianni believes in missions and seeks to find ways to make a difference in the world as well as individual lives.”

Cassie said each mission trip has taught her “something new about myself.” Whether it is drawing on sidewalks or making balloon animals, Taylor said, “what I love about mission trips is that God gets all the credit.”

“Helping others and doing missions is my way of worshipping and serving Christ, and (it) brings me true joy,” says Taylor. “There is no set way it has to be done as long as you are helping and loving on others, putting them before yourself and sharing the gospel.”

In April, the girls led sessions on icebreakers for groups taking part in a North Carolina Baptist Men’s missions conference for youth.

The next weekend they were helping with the WMU-NC Missions Extravaganza at Ridgecrest. Ruby Fulbright, executive director of WMU-NC, interviewed the girls in front of participants.

Curry said before she thought of missions as “planned and predictable fun.”

But then, she went to Canada and had to learn to be flexible after a car accident left them stranded. “For the first time in a while I had to sit quiet and listen,” she said.

The girls made it but their time was almost up. Curry said they tried to make the best of it and made balloon animals for four hours straight at an outreach event.

Curry admitted she struggles with finding time for God. Being part of Acteens has helped her stay organized and prioritize.

The Acteens at University Hills only meet once a month.

“We’ve learned to make those meetings the best they can be,” Taylor said.

Curry thanked Cassie’s mom for her support over the years.

“Miss Deb has been one of the most influential people I’ve ever met,” said Curry, who met Cassie when they were younger at an ice cream truck. “The Taylors have been my second family.”

Fulbright said Debbie Taylor “is one of the examples of the best of the best,” highlighted in her director’s report. University Hills has had five national panelists since 2000.

During that time there have also been three other ladies represented on the national panel.

“It’s a privilege to work with girls who tell me we’re not doing enough,” said Debbie Taylor.

Julie Keith, youth specialist for WMU-NC, describes Cassie as a leader. “(She) is very intentional in mentoring the younger girls in Acteens as well as in youth group. Her passion and love for missions is evident in her church Acteens involvement, but she also helps with associational and community missions projects.”

Taylor and Curry began serving as national panelists Feb. 1 and will continue through the end of the year. The WMU Foundation has also awarded each of the young women a $1,000 scholarship from the Jessica Powell Loftis Endowment for Acteens.

At Blume the panelists will have program responsibilities during all general sessions, and will be featured in other ways as well.

In addition, the panelists will have the opportunity to write for The Mag, the missions magazine for Acteens, and for www.wmu.com/students. Throughout the year, Curry and Taylor will work together with the other panelists to shape the future of Acteens.

WMU also recognizes Hayley Baxley of Galeed Baptist Church in Bladenboro as a National Top Teen.

Other WMU news

During the WMU’s “Proclaim” event June 12-13, WMU leaders heard from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg, International Mission Board President Tom Elliff and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell. Ezell gave Lee the “hand off” for Royal Ambassadors with a large cut-out race car and presentation of badges.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — For full stories about the WMU report at the SBC and the WMU annual meeting, visit www.biblicalrecorder.org/resources/SBC2011.aspx.)
6/20/2011 8:08:00 AM by staff and wire reports | with 0 comments

Unreached gain So. Baptists’ ‘embrace’

June 20 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Hundreds of pastors, church leaders, laymen — young and old — made their way down the aisles. Some carried small children. One limped forward with a cane. On the final evening of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting, they filed to the front of the Phoenix Convention Center hall, following the International Mission Board’s (IMB) presentation June 15.

They shared a public commitment for their churches to “embrace” one of the approximately 3,800 people groups currently not engaged by anyone with an intentional church-planting strategy and where less than 2 percent are evangelical Christians. The crowd gathered in front of the stage shortly after IMB President Tom Elliff extended the invitation for Southern Baptists to signify their willingness to embrace these unengaged, unreached people groups.

“To the best of our knowledge … nobody has them on the radar screen,” Elliff said. “It’s like having people standing out in the cold around your house while you’re enjoying a wonderful warm meal. You know they’re out there but you have no plan to go out there and offer them anything.

“Well, I believe Southern Baptists do.”

To reach them, Elliff added, “It’s going to take nothing short of being willing to lay down your life.”

BP photo

Delivering his first report to messengers as president of the International Mission Board (IMB), Tom Elliff told the 4,800 messengers God is moving through IMB missionaries, but that it will take a movement of Southern Baptist churches to reach the world’s 3,800 unreached, unengaged people groups.

Go here to view a photo gallery of N.C. Baptists at the annual meeting.

Forty new IMB missionaries who were commissioned earlier that evening were standing at the front to receive commitment cards from those who responded.

“We need to be bearers of the light, whatever the cost,” Elliff said. “Do we just want to be Southern Baptists, or do we want to be New Testament people (like Peter and John) who cannot stop speaking?”

Elliff continued, “(These) people groups … as best we can tell, we have absolutely no one saying, ‘I want to reach them. We’re going to ask God for a strategy, we’re going to figure out a way to get boots on the ground.’”

IMB is using the word “embrace” to identify this effort.

“It’s not a matter of yanking names off (a map) and saying we’ll sign up,” Elliff said. “No, no … we want this to be a lifetime marriage between the two of us.

“We don’t just want you on our parking lot or in our store. We want you in the cash register, behind the counter and in the warehouse. Everything we have is yours because it’s always been yours.”

The evening program was the culmination of a series of challenges issued by pastors and convention leaders throughout the convention and the Pastors’ Conference that preceded it.

Earlier in the day, messengers heard that “anything can be accomplished if God’s people join together” from David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. “What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt. It’s glory,” Platt said.

“Glory for a King, for a King who deserves the praise of every people group on the planet.”

‘Don’t drop the cross’
The challenge also was extended through the presentation of a wooden cross during the IMB’s report to the SBC. Handcrafted by a missionary who was killed in 2002, the cross — bearing the words “Don’t drop the cross” and the verse Rev. 7:9 — served as a visual reminder of the cost for Southern Baptists to take the gospel to the far corners of the earth.

SBC President Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., presented the cross to Southern Baptists during the program.

The cross was made by William Koehn, who lost his life Dec. 30, 2002, when a gunman shot and killed him and two others — Kathleen Gariety and Martha Myers — at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen where they served.

Nearly a decade after their deaths, a Christian worker in the Middle East gave the cross to Wright about two weeks earlier in Cairo, Egypt. They stood in a cemetery near the grave of Oswald Chambers, who wrote the devotional My Utmost for His Highest.

“We’re reminded of the cost that it is to reach the hardest places still on earth,” the worker told Bryant.

“I want to give this cross to you as a challenge to you and Southern Baptists to not drop the cross,” the worker said. “Remember the peoples that are yet unreached and unengaged.”

The worker broke into tears as he shared what his three fallen colleagues meant to him and so many others.

“They gave it all and that challenges me,” the worker said. “They didn’t stop until He was done, and then He took them home and that’s what I want to be — my utmost for His highest. “It’s worth it all,” he said.

“It’s worth it all.”

“If you make a commitment today,” Wright told the crowd, “it may cost you your life, not just a lifetime of service, not just temporary service, but it may cost any of us our life.”

Giving up a comfortable life here in the States hasn’t been easy for Christy and Ryan Campbell and their five children, who will be serving in sub-Saharan Africa. Members of Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, N.C., the couple were among the 40 newly commissioned missionaries.

“Though I had surrendered to missions as a fourth-grade girl, I found my role as a mom and wife living the American dream quite comfortable,” Christy Campbell told the crowd.

“Hesitantly I agreed to pray, and God clearly revealed to me that the time had come to go.”

The couple will be joining nearly 5,000 missionaries on the field. In Elliff’s report, he shared that IMB workers reported 360,876 baptisms in their work with Baptists overseas, 29,237 churches planted, 920 people groups currently engaged and 114 new people groups engaged. Southern Baptists gave $7,985,000 that went toward hunger and relief, and $145,662,925 to the 2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“Although it did not reach our goal, it still is the fourth-highest Lottie Moon offering in the history of that offering,” Elliff said. “That, with the economy and everything that went on in this world and in our country (this past year), we’re so grateful….

“Now, you know that I’m going to ask us all to step up to the plate,” he added. “We can do better than that. The truth about giving is … that we cast ourselves totally on the providence of God. That’s what turns giving into a faith exercise.”

As Wright told the crowd earlier in the program, “let us not drop the cross. The challenge has now been passed.”

To see the “Don’t drop the cross” video, go to imb.org/main/downloads/flashvideos.asp?filename=/files/127/12794/12794-72509.flv. To learn more about how a church can embrace an unengaged, unreached people group, go to imb.org/main/lead/embracedefault.asp?StoryID=9651&LanguageID=1709. For more information about this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme, go to iamsbmissions.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
6/20/2011 7:53:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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