March 2011

ABP to honor Puckett for lifetime achievement

March 31 2011 by Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press

RALEIGH — A ceremony honoring retired Baptist state newspaper editor R.G. Puckett for a lifetime of journalistic achievement is scheduled May 1 at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

Puckett, who worked as a Baptist journalist longer than any person in the 20th century, is being honored by Associated Baptist Press with the Greg Warner Lifetime Achievement Award in Religious Journalism.

A pastor at heart, Puckett never expected a journalism career. Yet, after being elected at age 25 to edit the Ohio Baptist Messenger, he went on to serve as associate editor of Kentucky’s Western Recorder, then as editor of the Maryland Baptist for 13 years and finally 16 years as editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder before retiring in 1998.

Puckett was a founding board member of Associated Baptist Press. He described July 17, 1990, when Al Shackleford and Dan Martin were fired by Baptist Press, the catalyst for forming the independent news service, as “the saddest day of my entire journalistic career.”

R.G. Puckett

Covering Baptists from their golden age of numerical growth and harmony through controversies over race relations, women in ministry, biblical inerrancy and finally a strong shift to a theological and political conservatism, Puckett, 78, saw Baptist newspapers mature from devotional and promotional journals to instruments covering and interpreting hard news in the expansive denomination.

Puckett said he admires groundbreaking Baptist journalists like W.C. Fields of Baptist Press, E.S. James of the Texas Baptist Standard, Reuben Alley of Virginia’s Religious Herald and John Jeter Hurt, who edited both the Christian Index in Georgia and the Baptist Standard. Yet he claims as mentor C.R. Daley, the legendary editor in Kentucky, with whom Puckett served as associate 1963-66.  

Daley’s consistent calls for improved race relations in an era when the nation was still figuring out how to treat all men equally and white churches often denied membership to blacks drew constant heat.

Puckett remembered Daley’s editorial following the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in which four girls were killed as the most important thing Daley ever wrote. Puckett said he considers himself privileged just to have handled the galleys of that editorial and committed it to the press.

Puckett credited Fields with making Baptist Press a respected news service and creating a positive image nationally for Southern Baptists who, until then, were often treated as a regionally limited caricature of religion.

Fields, 89, ranked Puckett among “those remarkable, ambidextrous, amphibious journalists who move through trying, challenging situations with courage, confidence and effectiveness.”

“He has the energy and intelligence that have made him a trusted colleague and friend for 50 years,” Fields said. “If he didn't exist, I think we would have to invent him.”

After 36 years of helping to write the first draft of Southern Baptist history at their rowdiest, Puckett remains more than a casual observer. He laments the trend of Baptist newspaper editors to play it safe while the convention is throbbing with change.

“Self-policing is basic to being a Baptist,” Puckett said. “A hierarchical system and monolithic mentality exists in so much of the world. If Baptists succumb to that, they will no longer be Baptists.”

After several pastorates in his native Kentucky and one in Ohio, Puckett became editor of the Ohio Baptist Messenger 1958-61. Then he followed a seminary classmate’s pastorate in a tough situation in Dunedin, Fla. He stayed long enough to realize his heart was in Baptist state newspapers and he returned to his hometown of Louisville to serve with Daley. He still speaks glowingly of Daley, who died in 1999, as a man of courage, insight and frustratingly long sentences.

As often happens, a good associate is tapped for an editorship, and Puckett moved to Maryland in 1966 to edit the Maryland Baptist.

“One of the joys of my ministry was serving as associate to C.R. Daley,” Puckett said. “I struggled to leave that because it was secure, it was in my hometown, close to my seminary alma mater. But I went to Maryland out of a deep sense of call.”

Being in Maryland put Puckett in the heart of Southern Baptist expansion into the Northeast. At one time the Maryland Baptist Convention covered all or parts of 11 states. On his own time, he produced papers for the New England and Pennsylvania/New Jersey conventions.

In 1979 he became executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Many Southern Baptists were involved with the organization at the time, and it was in some transition. But Puckett traveled constantly, his family was still young, and his heart still beat for Baptist newspapers.

He regarded the North Carolina Biblical Recorder one of the best of those papers and when its editorship came open with the retirement of J. Marse Grant in 1982, Puckett pursued that opportunity.

He led that paper for 16 years, through the delicate and often contentious transition from a moderate convention fond of and supportive of its institutions to a more conservative, anti-institutional leadership that shook the denominationally loyal base and prompted the rise of an alternative fellowship of moderate churches.

Looking back, Puckett calls his years at the Biblical Recorder “the greatest experience of my career.” He is within months of publishing a history of the Recorder, which he has named, “The life and death of the vision.”

After his journalism career, Puckett was a part of the founding faculty at Campbell Divinity School, where he taught preaching. He called it “the capstone of my career.”  

“Baptists say they believe in a democracy,” Puckett said. “An informed constituency is essential to the survival of any true democracy. Thomas Jefferson said the Baptist church was the purest form of democracy he’d ever seen. Therefore a free press is essential if Baptists are to be Baptists.”  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/31/2011 10:25:00 AM by Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptists respond to Food Roundup

March 31 2011 by BCH Communications

Seeing boxes of nonperishable food filling up the back rooms and other storage areas of statewide Baptist association offices is a common sight during the month of April. The large amounts of collected items can make it difficult for staff members and visitors to move about. Association directors, however, don’t seem to mind the inconvenience as they encourage their churches collect more for Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) annual “Food Roundup.”

“It is our desire that through meaningful projects like the Food Roundup, we can help each child know they are loved, regardless of their circumstances or situation,” said John Pond, West Chowan Association director of missions. West Chowan Association in Ahoskie is one of the food drive’s top participating associations. Just as in years’ past, Pond leads his churches to collect and give the needed items that will care for the daily needs of BCH’s residents.

“Historically, BCH has been a vital part of the DNA of West Chowan churches,” Pond said. “Our support of the food drive is a part of who we are.”

The Food Roundup is a true partnership between associations and Baptist Children’s Homes. Through help of associations and their participating churches, BCH is able to serve more than 700,000 meals and snacks to its residents.

Kay Parker, the youth consultant for the association, is encouraging youth leaders to involve their young people with food collections.

“When you give it’s often more of a blessing for the giver, and I think it’s important for our youth to experience that,” Parker said. “I also believe it’s important children at BCH see that people their own age care about them.”

West Chowan’s participation becomes even more personal this year as BCH’s new group home in Ahoskie, Britton Ministries, prepares to open its doors. Since they are located in the same community, the association plans to deliver some of the donated items directly to the new home.

“Everybody’s excited about the new home,” Parker said. “We hope it will make participation in the food drive even greater.”

BCH president Michael C. Blackwell says the Food Roundup has a tremendous impact on the children both physically and spiritually.

“Many of our boys and girls come from situations where their needs did not come first,” he says. “The food drive shows our residents there are adults who truly care for them. It is the love of Christ put into action.”

For more information, visit Collection pick-up dates are from April 25 to May 6. For additional information contact Alan Williams at (800) 369-3669, ext. 1277.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/31/2011 4:22:00 AM by BCH Communications | with 0 comments

Report: Small churches feeling financial squeeze

March 31 2011 by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service

Almost all U.S. churches witnessed a change in the financial giving they received in 2010 compared to 2009, with smaller churches feeling the squeeze but larger churches faring relatively better, according to a new report.

Only 12 percent of churches reported unchanged giving from 2009, according to the State of the Plate survey released March 30, while 43 percent of churches experienced a giving increase and 39 percent reported a decrease.

Smaller congregations were more likely to see a decrease in giving, said Matt Branaugh, an editor at Christianity Today International, which helped gather the data for the State of the Plate for the past two years.

“We do see smaller churches continuing to struggle, it seems more so than larger-sized churches,” Branaugh said.

The report found that about 40 percent of churches with fewer than 249 attendees experienced a drop in giving. Only 29 percent of megachurches, with an average weekend attendance of more than 2,000, reported a decrease in giving, according to the report.

The percentage of churches that reported a drop in giving in 2010 rose slightly from 2009, from 38 percent to 39 percent. Churches that reported an increase in giving rose from 35 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2010.

The State of the Plate survey was launched in 2008 when Brian Kluth, founder of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Maximum Generosity, realized there was minimal solid data on church finances.

The following year, Kluth’s financial consulting firm recruited Christianity Today International in compiling the report. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability joined both organizations this year to analyze self-reported 2010 data from churches.

The survey is a constituency survey, based on email responses submitted by 1,507 congregations and is not a traditional random phone sample with a margin of error. Almost all responding churches (91 percent) expressed concern over the potential of a government revision of the rules for charitable deductions. Kluth said the Obama administration’s proposal to reduce tax deductions for high-end charitable donors will impact gifts given to churches.

“If the government’s plan to change the rules on charitable tax deductions goes through, giving to charities and churches and the help they give to others will likely be negatively impacted at a time it is needed the most,” Kluth said in a statement.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/31/2011 4:18:00 AM by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

‘Not done weeping yet,’ missionary in Japan says

March 31 2011 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

ISHINOMAKI, Japan — “Disaster” says it all.

Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteers finally distributed relief goods in Ishinomaki, Japan, this week after two weeks of attempting to gain access to the quake-stricken areas. Power outages, gas rationing, an escalating nuclear crisis and relocation of International Mission Board (IMB) personnel hampered earlier attempts.

Ishinomaki — a small city of around 120,000 people — was devastated March 11 by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Officials estimate that more than 18,000 people died and thousands more are missing along Japan’s northeastern coast.

The 11-member team spent two days distributing relief goods at multiple locations throughout the city, including an apartment complex, a nursing home and a bus station. Everywhere they went, they found grateful Japanese, eager for someone to listen to their stories.

Residents of Ishinomaki, Japan, help the combined Southern Baptist and CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope) team prepare staple food supplies for distribution.

International Mission Board missionary Jared Jones helped one man shovel debris from his home. The day before, the man received a call from local officials to identify his wife’s body. The man — a Buddhist — talked with Jones about how his wife often encouraged him to read the Bible. The couple had been married 40 years.

“He just needed somebody to listen to him,” Jones said.

Missionary Ed Jordan had a similar experience. Jordan, who works with the deaf, was distributing goods in a bus station when a colleague asked for help. One of the victims was a deaf woman who was unable to communicate with the hearing volunteers.

When Jordan talked with her in sign language about her family and her home, the woman was thrilled. “If she shook my hand once, she shook it a dozen times,” Jones said.

Both Jordan and Jones noticed uncommon openness from the Japanese during their trip. “They look you in the eye,” Jordan said. “They need somebody to talk to and many are willing to let us pray with them. No one turned us away.”

On Saturday International Mission Board missionaries living in and relocated to the Osaka area loaded a 2-ton truck and three mini-vans with rice, vegetables, baby food, cleaning supplies and other relief goods. Then they drove the nearly 600 miles from Osaka to Ishinomaki.

The group was overwhelmed by the scope of the destruction that greeted them. A large fishing boat leaned against a damaged power line in the middle of a city street. Battered cars sat atop mounds of trash and debris. Black mud, the color of crude oil, filled the streets and the ground floor of homes and businesses.

Members of a joint Southern Baptist and CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope) relief team and the Be One Japanese house church network clean out mud left behind by the March 11 tsunami in Ishinomaki, Japan.

“This is not like any other disaster I’ve ever seen,” Jones said.

“There was a debris field everywhere you looked,” Jordan agreed. “Cars were stacked on top of each other. One car had washed through the plate glass window of a 7-11.”

As they make plans for future relief work in the quake area, the team asked for prayer that they would have opportunities.

“Our biggest prayer is, ‘What can we do in the next few weeks to get reorganized and get back up there?’” Jordan said. “There is such great openness, and we want to be able to respond.”

Jones agreed, adding that the scenes and experiences from this trip will continue to affect him. “I’m not done weeping yet,” Jones said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer with the International Mission Board based in Southeast Asia. The International Mission Board has established a relief fund for the Japan earthquake. Donations may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or you can give online by going to and clicking on the “Japan response” button. For further information, call the IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. North Carolina Baptist Men is also collecting funds to help with recovery efforts. Make check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Designate your check Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/31/2011 4:07:00 AM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Egypt relief focuses on struggling families

March 31 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

CAIRO — Turmoil in Egypt that began Jan. 25 has left thousands of families struggling to make ends meet, and Southern Baptists are responding to the need through their World Hunger Fund.

Working with humanitarian partners in Egypt, food, clothing and medicine are being distributed to families struck particularly hard by the soaring cost of provisions. Small business loans also are being offered to Egyptians facing job loss or having trouble staying afloat in a floundering tourism industry and suffering economy.

“The Middle East has experienced what has been described as a political earthquake that has shattered people’s lives, and that ‘earthquake’ has affected Egyptians in ways that are difficult to deal with,” said Abraham Shepherd, who with his wife Grace directs work in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief and development organization.

The project, which focuses on both immediate and long-term needs, is being funded with $200,000 from the World Hunger Fund. About 150 households in 23 Egyptian communities — more than 20,000 people in all — will be touched by the immediate-need gifts. The food parcels distributed also will strengthen local economies, as all supplies will be purchased in-country.

BGR partners in Egypt will provide ongoing counseling and guidance to those receiving business loans.

“Please pray that through the physical hunger and significant personal loss that many Egyptians are feeling their hearts will be turned to the One that can satisfy their deepest needs,” Shepherd said. “Pray that many lives will be changed by this act of love.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is on the web at

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/31/2011 4:01:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Agriculture missionary from N.C. dies of leukemia

March 30 2011 by Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press

CHAPEL HILL — Chris Alan Ingram, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Uruguay for 24 years, died March 25 at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, after a nearly year-long battle with a rare form of leukemia. He was 53.

“Honestly, I can close my eyes and see his smile,” said Jackie Miller, a family friend and IMB missionary to Chile who earlier served with Ingram in Uruguay. “I know the missionary kids just all loved him. He’s going to be very, very missed.”

Those who knew Ingram describe him as a hard worker, an effective storyteller and an encouraging friend. And he was someone willing to try anything to share the gospel with the people of Uruguay.

“Chris is the kind of guy, if you gave him an idea and said, ‘Hey, here’s an idea. What do you think?’ He’d say, ‘Well, let’s try it,’“ said IMB missionary Cliff Case, a friend who also had worked with Ingram in Uruguay. “He was willing to use different methods to open up doors to share the gospel. He was that kind of guy. Anytime he (could), he’d share the gospel.”

Ingram was born into a farming family on Sept. 20, 1957, in High Point. Growing up, he attended Reavis Memorial Baptist Church in High Point with his family. He was 8 years old when he became a Christian.

Involved in agriculture throughout his life, Ingram earned both a bachelor of science degree in agronomy and a master of arts in agriculture degree at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He later attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. Ingram’s vision was to integrate his knowledge of agriculture with his passion for missions.

Chris Alan Ingram

“Since I was a young boy in my teens, I have always sensed that God had a special plan for my life,” Ingram once wrote in a missions testimony. “Christ can use agriculture to meet the needs of individuals physically and open the doors to meet their spiritual needs.” Ingram married the former Claudia Lamb in 1980 and they had three daughters. In 1987 he and Claudia were appointed as missionaries to Uruguay for service in agricultural evangelism. Their ministry in Uruguay revolved around a farm called “El Sembrador” (Spanish for “The Sower”).

“Chris had multiple ministries going at different times,” said Ron Roy, an IMB missionary to Uruguay who once served as Ingram’s supervisor. “Orchard, dairy cattle, garden plots. At one point they raised chickens, hundreds at a time. Another time the land was used to grow strawberries for a cooperative.”

The farm was an effective tool for ministry, and Ingram, a gifted storyteller, often wove illustrations from farming and outdoor life into his teaching and preaching.

“The Ingrams opened doors with their farming stuff, and they were planting churches in that area and doing a lot of things to help the churches grow,” Case said. “They would share with the community and go out and talk to schools and open doors. And they even planted the Sembrador (Baptist) Church” on the farm.

Sembrador was one of 11 mission congregations Ingram started during his missionary career, IMB missionaries in Uruguay said.

Later Ingram’s job description changed from agricultural outreach to training and encouraging Uruguayan believers to serve as missionaries. But El Sembrador farm remained central to his ministry as the unofficial base for training these new missionaries.

“One of the things he enjoyed doing was called the ‘survivor training,’” Roy said. “It was a few days out in the country where you had to hunt, fish, etc., to get your own food. It was like a super-rustic campout to help (future missionaries) see what it was like to go into the more radical approaches of working with indigenous people.”

Ingram’s current supervisor, Phil Kesler, said that according to records Ingram most recently was mentoring 11 Uruguayan missionaries — some in training and some already on the field. But Kesler suspects that Ingram was investing in more lives than he officially listed.

Early in 2010, the Ingrams returned to North Carolina because of some problems with Claudia’s health. It wasn’t until they were back in the U.S. that Ingram’s own health became a concern.

“Chris, from the moment he took his wife back to the States for treatment, to when he first got treatments himself, continued to make calls, write emails and coordinate events back in Uruguay,” Kesler said. “Even as late as two or three weeks ago, we were talking about what needed to be done and how I could help him get the training he needed down there.”

“When he felt called to something, he had a commitment that wouldn’t allow any obstacle to stand in the way. He didn’t give up or give in,” said IMB missionary Jim Sexton, a friend of Ingram’s who worked with him in Uruguay.

“He fully was planning to come back and did not let anything stop him — not even a dangerous case of cancer,” Kesler added. “That was the way he was.”

In addition to his wife, survivors include daughters Emily Christine Ingram Peduzzi of Uruguay, Megan Elizabeth Ingram of Greensboro, and Maryann Kathryn Ingram of Uruguay and his parents, Richard and Kathryn Ingram of High Point. The Ingrams’ daughter, Emily, is expecting the couple’s first grandchild soon.

A memorial service for Ingram will be held at 4 p.m. March 31 at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, 4800 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro, with visitation afterward.

The family suggests memorial contributions for the completion of Ingram’s dream of establishing a Uruguayan missions training center. Gifts may be sent c/o Jessie Crooks Evangelistic Association, P.O. Box 2445, Thomasville, NC 27361.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Taylor is an International Mission Board writer living in the Americas. Maria Elena Baseler, also an IMB writer in the Americas, contributed to this story.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/30/2011 9:48:00 AM by Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Israelis, Palestinians in never-ending battle

March 30 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

JERUSALEM — It’s blood and grief, random rockets and sudden explosions. It’s sudden tragedy for people like Mary Jane Gardner of Wycliffe Bible Translators, killed by a bus bomb in Jerusalem on March 23. And for Israelis and Palestinians, it’s never over.

“Each strike by Palestinians against Israelis and each strike by Israelis against Palestinians are in retaliation for a previous attack,” said Stephen Johnson*, a Christian worker among Palestinians. “‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is never ending.”

It’s been years of territorial back and forth for the two groups, ending most recently in 2009 after a war that saw 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis die. Since then, relative calm had pervaded, and Israel had seemed like the eye of the political storm sweeping the region.

But that all changed in the past few weeks.

More than 80 rockets and mortar shells have been launched from the Palestinian territory of Gaza into southern Israel, and the bus bomb that killed Gardner injured more than 30 others. Retaliatory attacks by Israel have killed 10 Palestinians, with Israeli officials voicing regret over the deaths of two teens playing football outside their house.

International media have questioned why the unofficial ceasefire broke recently, and some commentaries suggest the attacks perhaps were used to detract attention from protests staged in Palestine. In March, thousands of Palestinians have followed suit with the rest of the region, calling for Gaza’s power-holding party Hamas and its rival Fatah to come together.

Plenty of other theories exist as to why tumult has erupted anew.

“It’s an ongoing story,” said Bruce Mills of Jerusalem Baptist Church. “There’s conflict in many layers and levels.”

In Mills’ church — an English-speaking international body — Messianic Jews and Palestinian believers in Christ sit side by side every Sunday.

A Palestinian driver navigates through a Bedoin area on the road to Bethlehem, which has been of the flashpoints in Jewish-Palestinian tensions over the years.

“They worship in spirit and truth, as brothers and sisters with no territorial claims,” Mills said.

It’s because they both have the same peace — peace that the rest of their countrymen need, said Ben Martin*, a Christian worker among Jews.

“Both are groups that need Jesus. We are not dealing with saved people — that’s why we are here,” Martin said. “Both sides of the conflict need the knowledge that we know will bring peace.”

The Messianic Jews he knows “cry out for the salvation of the Palestinians,” Martin said. And Palestinian believers want to reach out to Jews too, so that they can come to know salvation in Christ.

“I have a heart to work with Jewish people, to minister with Jewish people, to make a bridge between Palestinian and Jewish people, to see them come to Christ together,” said Esa*, a Palestinian believer in Jesus.

Palestinians “are caught in a seemingly never-ending cycle of violence,” Johnson said, noting that believers among them are just as affected by the tensions as other Palestinians.

Amid the turmoil embroiling the Mideast and North Africa, Arab and Muslim peoples are questioning long-held assumptions, Johnson said. “The result could be a time of more openess and individual freedoms, but it is too early to tell,” he said.

He asked that Christians would pray:
  • That as people weigh their questions, they would understand that Jesus is the answer.
  • That people who are already believers will be bold in sharing that they know the Truth and He has sent them free.
*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.)

Related story
Palestinian Christian reaches out to Jews

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/30/2011 9:42:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Palestinian Christian reaches out to Jews

March 30 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — It stings when people think he’s a terrorist. Esa* is a follower of the Messiah who was born in his hometown — Bethlehem — 2,000 years ago.

“When I was in America, my wife and I visited different churches, Esa recounted. “I met a lady and she started to shake my hand.” But when she found out Esa was Palestinian, she snatched her hand away before he could shake it, and she left. “It really hurt,” he said.

“Christian” and “Palestinian” just don’t go together sometimes for people, Esa said. “But we have Palestinians here who love Jesus. We pray for our brothers in Christ.”

A Dutch photographer plastered portraits of Palestinians across a 30-foot wall that divides Bethlehem from the rest of Israel in an attempt to make light of the otherwise tension-laden coexistence of Jews and Palestinians.

That includes those on the other side of the dividing wall that separates Bethlehem, where so many have yet to know Jesus as Savior, from nearby Jewish communities adrift in spiritual emptiness.

“God is at work in my heart,” Esa said. “It’s very hard when you grow up and someone hits you ... it is very hard to give them forgiveness. Growing up in this land, I saw blood — the Arabs and the Jews were always killing each other, no peace, no love, nothing.”

It is a reality he has seen up close and personal amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian tensions. When he was 10 years old, Israeli soldiers occupied his home, dictated when his family could leave the house and took his brother to jail after breaking three of his ribs, Esa said.

Then one turned to him and told him he was a terrorist.

“I could not understand what he was talking about — I was 10 years old. And I’m crying and shaking and scared with five soldiers with guns coming into my home,” he said. It wasn’t the last time he heard that accusation.

But years later after he’d become a believer, when he felt that hurt again in an American church, he said God began to work on his heart and the way he felt toward the Jews.

“I said, ‘God, in the name of Jesus I give forgiveness to the Jewish people with all my heart and I don’t need anything from them. I love them, and I believe you heal me and you work in my heart to love Jewish people,’” Esa said. “And I heard Him say, ‘You have to make peace.’”

After that, in addition to his passion for reaching his own people in Bethlehem, his heart burned to reach out and love his Jewish neighbors across the way. Every Christmas and Easter he gets permission to cross into Jerusalem, and when he does, he goes straight to the Western Wall.

“I go there to meet Jewish people and build relationships with them,” Esa said. “I want to be able to take our (ministry) teams to work with them, too, and for us to work alongside Jewish (Messianic believers). For us to work as a group ... it’s still my vision, and I never give up.”

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.)

Related story

Israelis, Palestinians in never-ending battle

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/30/2011 9:37:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The gospel according to John — three Johns

March 29 2011 by Billy Haselton, Special to the Recorder

It’s a rare thing to see three generations of preachers speaking together at one service. And when they’re all named John, what would you call the event? “The Gospel According to John.”

And their texts? First John, Second John and Third John.

On March 6, Pastor Johnny Tiller, along with his son John David Tiller and grandson John Matthew Tiller, preached to a packed crowd at Liberty Baptist Church in Ellenboro. Great-grandson J.D. Tiller was also on hand to quote John 3:16 in English and Spanish. It was the first time the three preachers in the Tiller family had ever spoken together in the same service.

“It was like living a legacy,” remarked David Tiller, “like the culmination of a lifetime of influence.”

That influence began in the heart of a 13-year-old boy named Johnny Tiller back in 1939, who felt the Lord calling him to preach. Since he started to preach at age 13, Johnny, now 84, has never quit. In his seven decades of ministry, Johnny has followed God’s call in pastoring several churches in western North Carolina and now teaching at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Hendersonville. He estimates that he has taught 1,500 students over the years, and countless others have been influenced for Christ through his church ministry. But, the greatest influence has been on his family.

His son David comments that he had a drug problem growing up. “I was always ‘drug’ to revival meetings,” David remarked.

Johnny’s grandson Matt had a different kind of drug problem.

“Matt was on drugs and in jail — he lived a wild life,” observed Johnny.

Young Matt had struggled with Tourette’s syndrome, a disease of the neurological system that causes a person to make involuntary movements or sounds called tics. Being teased by his peers, Matt began to rebel. That led him to turn to alcohol and drugs, and he wound up in jail. The prayers and godly influence of his father and grandfather were not lost on Matt during that time.

Contributed photo

Four generations of Tiller men recently took part in a special event at Liberty Baptist Church in Ellenboro. Matt Tiller, from left, J.D. Tiller, Johnny Tiller and David Tiller were part of “The Gospel According to John.”

“I was paying attention to their example,” Matt said, “even though they didn’t think so.” Later, at a candlelight service at church, he had “an amazing encounter with God.”

That began a new chapter in Matt’s life, which ultimately led him to surrender to preach — in Spanish. As a freshman at Gardner-Webb University, sitting in Spanish 101 class, Matt sensed that God was telling him he would preach in Spanish one day.

A few years later, he felt a definite call to that ministry. Matt now serves as the Hispanic pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, with his wife, Adriana, who is from Costa Rica, by his side. He also teaches Spanish at East Rutherford High School.

Because Matt has only been in the ministry since 2009, Grandpa Johnny had never heard him preach before.

“I was surprised to hear Matt preach,” said Johnny. “He preached a powerful message, like someone who had been preaching for many years.”

Johnny was also amazed to see how far God had brought him in such a short time, considering Matt’s checkered past. For Matt, who came up with the idea for the event, it was a humbling experience.

“It was a great honor to preach with such men of God,” reflected Matt, “especially when it was my father and grandfather.”

Although Johnny’s son David surrendered to the call to preach at age 25, he and his father had also never preached together at the same event — until March 6. While he was pastoring, David had his father Johnny to speak at churches where he served, but they had never preached during the same service.

Currently, David teaches in the College of Education at Tennessee State University.

God’s hand was obviously at work in putting together the messages preached by all three pastors.

“We prepared our messages separately,” commented Matt, “but you could see a woven pattern. All the messages just fit together.”

Matt preached the first sermon, based on 1 John 4. He emphasized the love of God, explaining that if God’s love has touched your heart, you’ll touch someone else. David preached a message from 2 John 8 entitled “Lost and Found.”

He warned against losing your influence, your integrity, or your joy because of doing things your way instead of God’s way. Finally, the elder John Tiller capped off the service with a stirring challenge from 3 John entitled “Three Portraits of Today’s Church Members.”

He used the examples of Gaius (who was easy to love), Diotrephes (who loved to be first), and Demetrius (a man of love) to highlight types of people we find in churches today.

All three pastors were amazed at how God led them to make similar applications. Then again, since their sermons were based on the writings of John, the Apostle of Love, that would seem fitting.

The “Gospel According to John” event was not primarily about the John Tiller family, they contend. “It’s not about us, but about bringing glory to God.”

A DVD of this event is available for a suggested donation of $7 through T-E-A-M Ministries (Tiller Evangelism and Missions Ministries), led by Mark and Ann Tiller. For more information, contact P.O. Box 6616, Asheville, NC 28816.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Haselton is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches English as a Second Language at Wake Technical Community College.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/29/2011 3:39:00 AM by Billy Haselton, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

NAMB commissions 81 new missionaries

March 29 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

BRANDON, Fla. — The North American Mission Board (NAMB) commissioned 81 new missionaries and chaplains at a commissioning service attended by some 800 people at First Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., on Sunday, March 20.

In his first-ever missionary commissioning sermon, Larry Wynn, NAMB’s new vice president for evangelism, drew the crowd’s applause when he looked out over the pews of missionaries and told them that “you are the real heroes.”

“You are sacrificing to go where God is calling you. You’re leaving family, friends, familiar surroundings, your comfort zone, and the things you love, to go and make a difference. We’re going to reach North America because of men and women like you,” Wynn said.

Arnold and Teresa Wong were commissioned as Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries for church planting in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. The Wongs formerly were International Mission Board missionaries in China.

“We’ll be planting churches among the 60,000 Mandarin-speaking Chinese in the Richmond Hill area,” Wong said, noting that “99.9 percent of them are non-Christians. They’ve never been exposed to the gospel. It’s a challenge to make them understand the gospel. First, we have to be their friends because being from communist China, they’re suspicious of other people. They have to trust us first. We have to win the right to share the gospel.”

Wong said the Mandarin Chinese to whom he’ll be ministering — highly educated professionals such as computer experts and accountants — are basically amoral and don’t understand the sacrificial, unconditional love of Christ and Christians.

Among those also commissioned was U.S. Navy chaplain Stephen Griffin, 30, and his wife Julie of Portsmouth, Va. Stationed at Norfolk Naval Station, Griffin soon will leave Julie and their two-month-old daughter Tierzah for active duty in Afghanistan where he will minister to U.S. Marines.

“Julie and I prayed and cried over my assignment but finally we just came to the conclusion that it’s an opportunity God is putting out there for us. We just said, ‘Roger that, God, we’ll do it.’ But we’re sober about the difficulties.” Julie and Tierzah will stay behind in Portsmouth during her husband’s six-month deployment.

Kyle Yocum was commissioned as a NAMB US/C2 missionary based in Peoria, Ill., where the 26-year-old single will combine church planting and evangelism in an effort to plant a new collegiate church in the area, the home of Bradley University.

“I’ve been looking forward to being commissioned,” Yocum said. “It’s nice to talk to other missionaries who are going through the same things you are — to know you’re not out there by yourself. And it’s wonderful to have people who don’t even know you to pray for you. That’s totally empowering and reassuring.”

Edward and Donna Villarreal were commissioned as Nehemiah Church Planting missionaries in Salinas, Calif. They’ve planted His House Christian Fellowship, ministering to a hardcore group of unchurched bikers and gang members who come with their addictions, tattoos and body piercings.

“Because of the hard lives they’ve lived, they also come with hard hearts,” Villarreal said. “Before we get them, they’re heavy into clubbing and partying. They try to be family guys through the week but party all weekend.

“I started going after the men because if you can get them into a men’s group, you can get their families,” Villarreal said. He started by forming a house church that grew to 30 members — baptizing new believers in the apartment complex’s hot tub. The church now meets in another church’s building for free. About 50 people attend His House Christian Fellowship on a typical Sunday.

Betty Barham Newsom was only one of the new 81 missionaries but she stood out. Revealing she was 81 years old, Newsom left the applauding congregation of 800 in both awe and surprise as one of the oldest MSC missionaries ever commissioned by NAMB.

Photo by John Swain

Betty Barham Newsom, 81, became one of the oldest NAMB MSC missionaries ever commissioned during a March 20 service at First Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla. She will be serving in southwest Mississippi mobilizing churches for missions.

Based in Brookhaven, Miss., Newsom drives a seven-county circuit in southwest Mississippi, mobilizing churches to get involved in and to support the WMU, the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and mission education.

“This is what I want to do because of my love for the Lord Jesus and His love for me,” Newsom said in her sweet Mississippi drawl. “Last year in this area, I went to 44 different churches, large and small.”

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell thanked First Baptist Brandon for hosting the “Send North America” commissioning celebration and for the church’s “weekly investments to plant churches across North America.”

“We in the South think everywhere is like us,” Ezell said. “In Florida, there is one church for every 6,800 people. But in New York, there’s only one church for 59,000 people. In New Jersey, there’s one church for 76,000 people. And in Canada, there’s only one church for every 123,000 people.”

Tommy Green, senior pastor of the 5,100-member Brandon church for the past 15 years, called First Baptist a church “committed to missions in terms of giving, going and praying.”

“We’re committed to the Cooperative Program and to Annie Armstrong. Just to be host for this service is an honor for our church — and a chance for us to love on these folks and let them know how thankful we are and prayerfully excited about what God is doing in their lives,” Green said.

Two NAMB missionary couples commissioned during the service — Greg and Victoria Shawgo, US/C2 missionaries in Missoula, Mont., and Matt and Amber Peavyhouse, church planting missionaries in Hollywood, Fla., — are former members of First Baptist Brandon.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
3/29/2011 3:34:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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