March 2011

Platt to nominate Wright as SBC pres.

March 23 2011 by Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Georgia pastor Bryant Wright will be nominated for a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Alabama pastor David Platt announced March 11. 

Wright, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, will be nominated by David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

The SBC annual meeting will be June 14-15 in Phoenix.

Platt praised Wright for providing “Kingdom-minded, Christ-exalting servant leadership” for the Southern Baptist Convention this past year.

“I have known Bryant for many years and have great respect for him both personally and pastorally,” Platt said in a statement to Baptist Press. “Bryant possesses a deep love for the local church he leads and for the convention of churches of which he is a part. Over this past year as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he has graciously and faithfully served Southern Baptist churches, encouraging us to work together for the advancement of the gospel in North America and to all nations.

“Bryant pastors a church full of people who are passionate about spreading the gospel locally and globally,” Platt added. “They are active in sharing Christ in the Atlanta area, baptizing hundreds of new believers this last year and ministering to urgent spiritual and physical needs in their surrounding community. In addition, they are directly involved in ministry to people in more than 30 different countries around the world. They give selflessly — during 2010, their total missions giving comprised over $3 million dollars.”

Wright, a native of the Atlanta area, holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a bachelor of arts in English from the University of South Carolina. He earned his M.Div. at  Southern Seminary and was minister to single adults at Second Baptist Church in Houston before accepting the pastorate of the fledgling Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in December 1981.

The church has since grown to more than 7,600 members. Wright and his wife Anne have three children and three grandchildren.

(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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/23/2011 10:49:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christians question divorce stats

March 23 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America. 

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ... and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.

“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”

The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.

Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42 percent. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50 percent.

When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38 percent of weekly attendees.

Wright questions the approach of The Barna Group, evangelical pollsters based in Ventura, Calif.

Barna’s latest published divorce statistics say one-third of all adults, including “non-evangelical born again Christians,” have ended a marriage. Barna’s statistics are tied to its highly specific — and controversial — definitions of born-again Christians and evangelicals.

For instance, Barna labels Christians “born-again” if they have made a personal commitment to Jesus and believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted him as their savior.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, are those who fit the born-again definition but also meet seven other conditions, including sharing their beliefs with non-Christians and agreeing that the Bible is completely accurate.

David Kinnaman, Barna’s president, said the statistical differences reflect varied approaches, with Wright looking more at attendance and his research firm dwelling on theological commitments.

“We’ve tried to measure it based on theological perspective, not merely their church attendance or whether they call themselves Catholic or mainline,” Kinnaman said. Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family wrote a recent column in Baptist Press highlighting Wright’s interpretation of the state of divorce for Christians.

“The divorce rates of Christian believers are not identical to the general population — not even close,” he wrote. “Being a committed, faithful believer makes a  measurable difference in marriage.” Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion. 

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20 percent more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

(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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/23/2011 10:35:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



SBC Pastors’ Conference slate raises ire

March 22 2011 by Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press

LAS VEGAS — The president of the 2011 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference defended a program he’s put together for June 12-13 in Phoenix, Ariz., saying critics who find it outside the convention’s mainstream hold too narrow a worldview.

“The Kingdom of God is bigger than Southern Baptists,” said Vance Pitman, 2011 Pastors’ Conference president and pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, a church plant in partnership with First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“The main intent of our conference is to communicate the big picture of the Kingdom of God,” Pitman said in a telephone interview March 18. “God is alive and at work all over the world. We as the Southern Baptist Convention are one very small part of that.”

The Pastors’ Conference has long been a barometer for Southern Baptist theological weather patterns and a launching pad to the SBC presidency for its leaders. Consequently, although it is not an official organization of the SBC, its direction is closely monitored.

Negative reaction has included placement on the worship team of Jamar Jones, executive director of music and fine arts at the Potter’s House Church of Dallas. That is because he is on the ministerial staff of T.D. Jakes, who critics claim holds to the heresy of “modalism.”

Modalism, a non-Trinitarian view that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different aspects, or modes, of one God rather than three distinct, co-equal and co-eternal persons, was first condemned as heresy in the fourth century but is held by some Pentecostal and Apostolic churches today.

Dwight McKissic, an African-American pastor in Arlington, Texas, and former trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who advocates greater inclusion of minorities in convention life, said that even though he doesn’t think Jakes is a heretic that the pastor was the real target and Jones “a casualty of not so friendly fire from fellow Kingdom soldiers.”

Jones, a boyhood friend of Pitman’s worship arts pastor, withdrew to avoid controversy, a move that McKissic called “tragic, sinful and shameful” because Southern Baptists “missed an opportunity to bridge an obvious racial divide and to fellowship with a Kingdom saint who is not of the SBC fold.”

Vance Pitman


People Pitman trusts tell him “Jakes is not a modalist.” Besides, Pitman said, his books are for sale in SBC bookstores. “How ridiculous is it that we can sell his books but his music guy can’t play piano at our meeting?” he asked.

Others have protested inclusion of speakers who are prominently recognized as Calvinists and the fact that the Pastors’ Conference is heavily subsidized by the SBC operating budget.

While Calvinism is now the de facto systematic theology of Southern Baptists’ oldest seminary, and the favored perspective of an increasing number of young pastors, the majority of Southern Baptists reject the “particular” nature of Calvinism that says Jesus died only for those “elected” for salvation before the dawn of creation and not the “whosoever will” that Baptists traditionally hold dear.

Included among speakers is Acts 29 Vice President Darrin Patrick. Acts 29 is a church planting network linked to the “emergent church,” a movement that presents the gospel in culturally relevant ways that critics call theological compromise. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Baptist Church in Seattle and Acts 29’s founder and leader, was the target of eight negative motions at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Also on the docket is John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, not affiliated with the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist State Convention or the Southern Baptist Convention. His writings have been a strong influence among young Calvinists.

“We are wandering in a wilderness in our current SBC life,” said blog writer Ron Hale. “Our leaders are hyper on Piper; LifeWay materials encourage our people to visit Mark Driscoll’s website to download his sermons ... and we have a couple of ACTS29 guys preaching.”

Pitman termed accusations that he has put together a “Calvinist” conference “beyond my wildest imagination.” He pointed out the lineup includes well-known non-Calvinist preachers like former SBC President Johnny Hunt and nationally prominent pastor Rick Warren.

“The vein that unites all of them is that they are all practitioners,” Pitman said. “They are all engaging nations and planting churches.”

Pitman, exasperated at what he feels is unmerited criticism for a conference lineup that will inspire pastors and give them an encouraging view of God’s work in the world, agrees it is important for believers “to be defenders of the faith.”

There is a difference, however, “in being discerning and in having a judgmental spirit.” Other questions have been raised related to conference expenses. While the public image is that the independent organization pays its own way, and offerings are collected each session to “cover” conference expenses, in fact the SBC heavily subsidizes the meeting, first held in 1935.

The Pastors’ Conference reimburses the SBC $38,000 — as it has since 1992 — to reimburse expenses for additional use of the meeting hall, shuttle buses, audio visual expenses and security. In 2012 that amount will increase to $50,000.

SBC Executive Committee records show that the SBC operating budget covered $141,549 of Pastors’ Conference related expenses in 2010, in addition to the $38,000 reimbursement received from the conference participants. 

Pitman says in a series of video presentations at www.sbcpc.net that this year’s “expenses” already are covered by sponsors. All offerings received at the meeting will be dedicated to translate the “Jesus” film for evangelistic use in the Arabian Peninsula and to start pastor’s conferences on two other continents, reaching and training pastors in as many as 20 countries.

“Diamond level sponsorships” costing $10,000 each are listed at the site. They include through March 21 the North American Mission Board, Crossway and LifeWay, three SBC entities. Others are LOGOS Bible Software, Maranatha Tours, Dayspring International, Ministry Partners Investment Co., CCL Associates real estate development and investment, Life Action Ministries ConnectionPower.com, Institute for Creation Research and ImpactStewardship Resources.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of North Carolina’s 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/22/2011 9:52:00 AM by Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Japan missionaries relocate, vow to return

March 22 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

TOKYO — Suitcases and backpacks sit neatly lined up, waiting to be loaded in the vans. International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Tokyo shuffle nervously and make jokes in an effort to cope with their relocation orders.

No one knows how to react to Japan’s nuclear crisis. For more than a week, scenes at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have worsened. While the U.N.’s nuclear agency says there have been positive developments in stabilizing the nuclear reactors, the overall situation remains serious. Thus, all IMB personnel north and east of Nagoya must move to southern Japan.

Questions swirl around the circle waiting to leave: Will our Japanese friends think we’ve abandoned them? How do we leave our friends behind in a time of crisis?

IMB photo

Relocation meant IMB missionary Wendy Hoshizaki had to say goodbye to people she has worked among for years, including this group of homeless women in an image taken last year.


These questions haunt Mark and Wendy Hoshizaki so much that they spend their final hours March 19 handing out the last of their food to the homeless in a Tokyo park. Mark Hoshizaki says the aftereffects of the earthquake and tsunami have greatly affected the people they work with — food shortages for the general public means there’s even less for the homeless.

The Hoshizakis’ ministry to the homeless averages around 80 individuals who come for food and Bible study. Today, however, more than 115 came. Wendy Hoshizaki says there are so many in the park right now. One woman tells her that she just can’t trust anything and anyone since the earthquake. When the woman remains adamant after Wendy encourages her to trust in the Lord, the missionary’s heart breaks.

“It’s horrible. We are leaving,” she says. “They are even worse off because the homeless are always forgotten. We had so little bread to give today, yet, they were so thankful. One man said, ‘We don’t have anything. We are so thankful for the little bit we received today.’”

The Hoshizakis pray with their friends as tears fill their eyes.

“We are saying ‘sayonara’ but it’s not goodbye,” Wendy Hoshizaki says, tears now falling. “We want to be back as soon as the ‘powers that be’ allow us to come.”
Mark and Mie Busby leave on a somewhat higher note, but it’s just as hard for the veteran missionaries. The Busby family is among the last to leave so they can baptize a city councilman and his wife. The baptism was originally scheduled for March 12, the day after the earthquake. The councilman’s wife begged Mark to baptize her before the Busbys relocated.

The borrowed church where the baptisms take place overflows with joy, giving everyone the chance to briefly forget Japan’s triple disaster. This is the first baptism here in five years, and today there are two.

“Leaving right now is a hard pill to swallow. I’m not ready to go,” Busby says. “During a time like this, we just want to do everything we can for our Japanese brothers and sisters. We can listen and share their pain. We believe we will be back to work soon.”

Busby admits there is no way the missionaries can physically get to the survivors right now. Special government permits are required to be in the tsunami and earthquake areas and no one is allowed near the nuclear plant.

Spinach and milk produced near the plant was found to contain levels of radioactive iodine higher than the legal limits, although not at levels that would be a risk to human health.

There are even reports that water has been affected. The missionaries discuss the day’s latest news when veteran missionary Tak Oue gathers everyone to pray before making the trek south.

“Lord, our hearts are broken and grieved over the devastation and loss of lives. God, we know that You are in control,” Oue prays. “We all feel the pain of having to leave when our brothers and sisters are here. Lord, we really don’t know what to do. I pray you give everyone a rightness, a sense of peace.

“I pray that in some way you’ll turn this into a witnessing opportunity.”

Friends and supporters can pray:
  • that the relocated missionaries will be a witness in their temporary locations.
  • for the ministries and partners they left behind.
  • for the relocated missionaries who are living in “tight quarters” and sharing homes.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an International Mission Board writer/editor living in 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 www.imb.org 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
3/22/2011 9:48:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Japanese layman buses 31 from danger zone

March 21 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

SOMA, Japan – Just 30 miles from Fukushima Daiichi’s troubled nuclear plant, anyone in the town of Soma who could evacuate did. But thousands still remain, squeezed into a high school gymnasium serving as a makeshift shelter.

Children try to play but there’s not much room. Some people sit and stare off into the distance in a state of shock. Others talk in low murmurs, reliving the horrors since March 11: a massive earthquake that buckled highways, a tsunami that left a carpet of debris –shattered buildings, wrecked cars and washed-up boats – a food shortage, a snow storm, and no electricity or gas.

Then, of course, there’s the nuclear crisis.

Everyone wonders what is going on when an empty bus pulls up outside the shelter and a young, energetic Japanese man jumps out and bounds into the packed gym. The stench of 2,000 people living for days in a confined space startles Koji Imanishi, but it doesn’t deter him from his task – offering a free ride and a place to stay outside of the nuclear danger zone.

Several hundred people gather around the 30-year-old but instead of rushing to get on the bus, they drill him with questions – suspicious of his intentions. Why would a stranger risk his own health by driving into danger to rescue them? Why would anyone offer something for free?

“I am just following God’s leading,” Imanishi answers. “He teaches Christians to show His love.”

The young man assures the group the offer is totally free, no strings attached – all they have to do is get on the bus. After a lot of discussion, 31 people finally decide to board and relocate to Imanishi’s vacant company building just outside of Chiba, about 90 miles away.

The scene didn’t quite play out like Imanishi imagined when the idea first came to him. He envisioned an overflowing bus. But, as he explains, this is the “Japanese way.”

“People do not easily trust here,” he says. “They are suspicious until you create a relationship, even in times of crisis.”

Imanishi first found this shelter two days earlier, after an employee mentioned that some of his friends had not been able to evacuate from the danger zone. Imanishi’s heart ached for their suffering, so he jumped in his small car to rescue them.

The trip was arduous. Because he didn’t have the special government permits needed to travel the expressway, Imanishi drove the back roads, where gas and supplies are scarce.

“It is hard to describe the damage – it’s so massive, but the worst thing I saw was the state of the people,” Imanishi says. “There were thousands in one space. No room to move. It was so cold.

“I felt in my heart that this was not a place of hope,” Imanishi continues. “I left that first day broken because I could only take three people in my small car.”

Imanishi spent the next day petitioning government offices to send evacuation buses to the shelter. He was told 4,000 people had already been relocated from the area. The needs throughout northeastern Japan are so great right now, he was told, the best thing for the people is to stay put.

The answer did not satisfy Imanishi, so he prayed. He remembered the fear he felt after the earthquake and knew people in the shelter needed someone to share their pain and fear.

“I just decided to offer assistance by myself,” Imanishi says. “People don’t trust or think about the meaning of the Lord here in Japan. I’m a Christian and the nature of the Lord is to offer assistance and love.

“I have no money, but I had no choice but to help,” he adds. “I just prayed, ‘Show me the way, Lord.’”

Members of Imanishi’s family and house church rallied to help pull the plan together. One person with government connections lined up permits to travel into the disaster zone. Another found a bus company. Others prepared the empty building for the evacuees.

“I know it is not much, in the big picture of this situation,” Imanishi says. “But if we can help just one person and let him experience the love of the Lord, then we’ve done our part.”

Imanishi is asking Christians around the world to join his house church in praying that:
  • victims are able to share their pain and not hold it in.
  • supplies, food, blankets and water make it to the shelters throughout the disaster zone.
  • the Japanese will learn to trust in the free gift Jesus has to offer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Asia. IMB has established a relief fund for the Japan crisis. 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 www.imb.org and clicking on the “Japan response” button. For further information call 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/21/2011 8:47:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cardinals pitcher’s blog helps N.C. player

March 21 2011 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

GREENSBORO — Eric Chiz couldn’t wait to get back on the baseball field.

A junior at North Carolina A&T State University and a catcher on the baseball team, Chiz sat out all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He had spent weeks working hard and rehabbing so he could get back to playing the game he loves.

But in January, prior to the season’s start, Chiz got hurt again — this time a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow that will keep him out of action for about a year. Another season gone for the baseball-loving Chiz.

BP photo

Eric Chiz of North Carolina A&T State University’s baseball team found encouragement in how St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright blogged about his faith after a season-ending injury.


“It felt like my whole world crashed down,” Chiz said about the injury. “It took every bit of my power not to be angry with God. It was something I didn’t understand, and I still don’t understand.”

A member of Burkemont Baptist Church in Morgantown, Chiz attends Life Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Greensboro, while at college.

A men’s ministry at Life Community has helped Chiz work through the “Why?” questions that have dogged him.

He also found encouragement from another source: St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Wainwright, the ace of the St. Louis pitching staff, got his own disturbing news recently when tests confirmed that he had torn his UCL, just like Chiz.

Wainwright underwent a surgical procedure (known as “Tommy John surgery”) to repair the ligament, but he’ll miss all of the 2011 season.

That news was a significant blow to Wainwright, who finished second in Cy Young Award balloting last year. But in a blog posting, Wainwright wrote about how his identity is first and foremost tied up in who he is as a Christian, and not as a baseball player.

“This injury, the one that makes me miss an entire year of baseball, has allowed me to stop missing what is right in front of me,” Wainwright wrote Feb. 24.

“I am blessed with an amazing God. A God who continues to teach me lessons in mysterious ways. I’m blessed with an amazing family. I’m blessed with friends who really care for me, and I have felt it this week.

“And I’m blessed with teammates that started out as friends and have become family,” he continued. “I believe this to be a test from God, and it has opened my eyes. I believe I can still greatly impact God’s Kingdom from this disabled list.”

Though Wainwright and Chiz have never met, Wainwright’s testimony lifted the injured Chiz, who left a comment in response to Wainwright’s posting.

“When I saw that you had also injured your elbow I thought to myself that if he can stay positive then so can I,” Chiz wrote.

“I believe that God uses times like these to test our faith. So thank you for being a brother in Christ and staying positive.”

Chiz, who underwent his own Tommy John surgery March 10, continues to wrestle with the reasons for the injury. But he has come to an important conclusion.

“It’s not our plans that matter,” he said. “It’s the plans that God has for us that matter the most.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

(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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/21/2011 4:55:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Church planter uses Kung Fu to build bridge

March 21 2011 by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

MOUNTVILLE, Penn. – As a child, Ron Wilson dreamed about one day growing up to be a martial arts instructor. What began as a simple interest in learning to defend himself against bullies developed into a deep-rooted passion for the skill and practice behind martial arts. Wilson dedicated himself completely to the study of martial arts, striving to carryover his passion into adulthood and a career in the field.

God took Wilson’s passion for the martial arts and transformed it into a passion for telling others about Jesus Christ. Kung Fu became God’s vehicle to carry Wilson and his wife, Angela, from city to city before landing them in Mountville, Penn., to serve as church planters. Martial arts remain a huge aspect of their ministry at their church plant, The Connection. “People come in to take Kung Fu classes, and we start building this relationship, this trust,” explains Wilson, a Mission Service Corps missionary for the North American Mission Board. “After a period of time, they’re willing to listen to what you have to say and as time goes on, I’ll invite them to church. There’s a trust factor.  “And that is basically what church planting really is — it’s building relationships with people.” Wilson always wanted to be a martial arts teacher, but he never thought it would be possible. “I went back and forth with my parents and it was always the same thing: I needed to get a real job.”

In his early 20s, Wilson left behind martial arts and went to work in a chemical plant. Just one year later, he was unexpectedly laid off. His days were suddenly filled with hours of free time bookended by driving his wife, Angela, to and from work each day.  Like many in his situation, Wilson was left wondering if there was any sort of plan or purpose for his life. “Being laid off work I would just watch TV when Angela was at work,” Wilson said.  “And one day I happened to flip to Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. He was talking about Jesus being our Lord and Savior and it was like he was talking directly to me.”

Wilson dropped to his knees in his living room and asked Christ into his life.

“I was crying out to the Lord, ‘Come into my life. Make me into the person you want me to be. I lost my job … I don’t know what I’m going to do.’”

BP Photo

Ron Wilson began to see his work in martial arts not just as a career but an opportunity for evangelism as well. See Video.


Within days, Wilson began to see God answer these prayers. Angela returned home from work one day with a story about two co-workers that found themselves in an unexpected scuffle on their lunch break.  She told them about Ron’s martial arts experience and three weeks later, he received a phone call from the two men asking for a few Kung Fu lessons. Within nine months, Wilson’s Kung Fu classes had grown from just a handful of men in his living room to nearly 45 people weekly. Soon, the Wilsons decided the time was right to move forward with Ron’s long buried dream of teaching martial arts and opened a Kung Fu studio in South Jersey.

“It was God,” Wilson explains, “I knew that He gave it to me.” 

Wilson began to see his work in martial arts not just as a career but an opportunity for evangelism as well. He began having one-on-one time with some of his students, studying the Bible and talking with them individually after class. Inside the classroom, he incorporated scripture memorization, designating a scripture verse with each Kung Fu ranking as well as including devotions in the middle of each class helping to relate the principles learned in Kung Fu to the truth of the Christian life.

“It ties in so great … once you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit dwells in you and at that point, you have to let go of resistance and let someone else fill you up,” Wilson said. “This letting go, not resisting, is essential to the practice of martial arts.” God continued to grow in the Wilsons a passion for evangelism, placing a call on their lives to move beyond simply teaching martial arts and into a greater field of service.

“We just felt God calling us to take this to another level,” Wilson said. “It felt like God didn’t want me just teaching Kung Fu anymore.”

Together the couple made the move to Michigan where Ron enrolled in the New Tribes Bible Institute to further develop his knowledge and skill for evangelism. After one year, they returned to New Jersey to continue work in their Kung Fu school as well as beginning outside campaigns to reach their community for Christ.

“I had this thirst, and I felt God giving me the ability to go out there and really share the gospel,” Wilson said.

This thirst became satisfied when Ron met Pastor Norm Blackaby. The two quickly hit it off and bonded over both of their past experiences in Kung Fu and ministry. Blackaby saw Wilson’s Kung Fu classes as a perfect outreach ministry and directed him to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) for assistance.

“I came to NAMB and they helped me figure out how I can do this as an evangelistic outreach program,” Wilson said. “I came up with my own curriculum with Bible verses and using martial arts to tell people about Jesus Christ.”

For Wilson, the life and career he has now have far exceeded his childhood dreams. God carried him far beyond simply teaching martial arts and into a life fully directed at sharing Christ with others. “A lot of times young people think, ‘if I come to know the Lord, I won’t be able to do this or that.’  That’s not the way He works. He loves us and he knows us better than anybody. And if you follow Him, He’ll give you the desires of your heart in a way you never expected — in His way, to glorify Him.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shelton is a writer 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/21/2011 4:50:00 AM by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Campbell, Mars Hill publications recognized

March 21 2011 by Wire Reports

The North Carolina College Media Association (NCCMA) held its awards ceremony Feb. 19. Among the small college category (6,000 and fewer readers), Campbell University and Mars Hill College received recognition. The Campbell Times placed second in the state for the best student newspaper. Both The Campbell Times and Mars Hill College’s The Hilltop ranked in the top five for best web sites. Mars Hill came in second and Campbell was fifth.

Mars Hill designers Rachel Conner, Yi Lu, Joshua Doby and Mary Elise Jones placed third in the design category for “To Text or Not To Text.”

Andy Specht, a 2010 graduate who studied journalism at Campbell, won second place for his reporting on stimulus money. Kaylynn Baker of Mars Hill received honorable mention for a tuition story. Sam Hartshorn received an honorable mention for an untitled work of fiction in Mars Hill’s Cadenza. Another honorable mention was given to Pine Burr, Campbell’s yearbook.

(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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/21/2011 4:46:00 AM by Wire Reports | with 0 comments



Disaster pushes Japanese beyond secular thinking

March 19 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE — All International Mission Board personnel in east Japan began relocating southwest of Tokyo March 18 in response to deteriorating conditions following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power crisis. They will be given temporary assignments south of Nagoya. The relocation is expected to be complete by Saturday, March 19. Navy Admiral Robert Willard had announced March 17 that the military has developed contingency plans to evacuate 87,000 Americans — including Defense Department personnel — from Tokyo and the surrounding areas.)

TOKYO — Thousands of the little wooden prayer tablets rattle softly in the cold, spring breeze, a symphony of soft clattering that drifts out from the Shinto shrine.

Images and characters burned on one side of the tablet symbolize hope. On the other side, carefully handwritten prayers and wishes are written to the deities of the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Not surprisingly, the “prayer wall” focuses on Japan’s triple disaster — a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and nuclear crisis.

“My sister is missing. Please bring her back.”

“Prayers for the victims.”

“These disasters will not destroy us. Be strong.”

One young Japanese woman spends 15 minutes writing her request in perfect characters. She stuffs her prayer, “… protect my family from nuclear radiation …,” in a waist-high box. Don’t try to estimate the number of these requests — people just keep stuffing whether there is room or not.

“I do not normally come here to pray,” the young woman explains, “but given the disasters, I am not sure what else to do.”

Proud of their secular society, most Japanese are not religious. But in a time of crisis, International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Gary Fujino says they tend to fall back on an old Japanese expression, “The god that you depend on in times of crisis.”

“What that means is when things are bad, you will go to the temple and shrine because nothing you’ve tried thus far worked,” Fujino explains. He notes that, once the crisis is over, no one goes back to the temple or shrine.

BP Photo by Susie Rain

A young Japanese woman prays at Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine, in Tokyo.


Thousands of prayer tablets hung in one-day testify that the crisis in Japan continues to grow and people are trying to find ways to cope. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site has been rated a 5 on a 7-point international scale for atomic incidents, just two levels lower than the Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog warns that stabilizing the plant is a race against time. In Japan’s disaster-ravaged northeast, 6,405 people are confirmed dead and about 10,200 are listed missing.

While most Westerners often are preoccupied with causes of disaster — the questions of why God would allow an earthquake, for example — Eastern traditions like Buddhism and Shinto focus on behavior in reaction to tragedy. It is very important in Japanese life to react in a positive way, to be persistent and to clean up in the face of adversity.

Fujino says it’s always been like this. His elderly Japanese neighbor assures him this is just like World War II — a time when the nation pulled together and persevered.

The neighbor has no doubts that Japan will rebuild and make it on their own.

“They really believe that in themselves they have what they need, which makes it very difficult to share the gospel,” Fujino says. “What we need is for people to be shaken and realize that you need something outside of yourself — God.”

BP Photo by Susie Rain

Shinto “ema” (prayer tablets) are used for personal prayers at the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo. Thousands of tablets were hung in one day as Japanese tried to find a way cope with the disaster that has engulfed their country.


The 1995 Kobe earthquake did just that for Yoko Dorsey. She lost everything. In Japan, she explains, people work for material things. They are defined by what they own. So when it is lost, you lose everything — worth, pride and value.

The 60-year-old member of Tokyo Baptist Church says she thought at the time she could depend on herself, just as many Japanese feel today.

“I learned in the Kobe earthquake that I needed God. I learned that I don’t need material things. My heart opened up,” she says. “I think God saved me back then because He wants to use me now.”

Dorsey took in a single mother and her daughter whose other family members remain missing. As people evacuate from the disaster zone to Tokyo, she plans to bring even more to live with her.

She explains that the Japanese government will take care of things and rebuild houses in a few months, but she can do something even bigger — introduce people to the God who can rebuild their lives.

“I have a really strong God,” she says. “I want those people in the disaster to know my God’s strength and power.”

Dorsey cannot make it to the disaster zone yet because of radiation fears, not to mention the lack of government permits, but she’s doing what she can in Tokyo.

From her church just a few miles from the Shinto shrine, she prays for her country.

Dorsey’s prayers are different than those hanging in the shrine. Hers are not “wishes” or “hopes.” She knows her God personally and knows He will provide.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in 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 imb.org 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/19/2011 4:12:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB appoints 67 new missionaries

March 19 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — It was a secret Ishaq* held close for 13 years — one that caught journeyman missionary Craig Evans* by surprise when the young man revealed it.

In 2007, Evans began visiting a quaint Central Asian village where he befriended Ishaq. One day while Ishaq’s family answered the local mosque’s call to prayer, Evans was able to talk with his Muslim friend alone for the first time. Glancing around nervously, Ishaq leaned closer and whispered, “My one desire in life is to be near to God.”

He explained that he had happened upon a Bible 13 days earlier and began reading it. But when the Bible was discovered by Ishaq’s parents, both devout Muslims, they took it and harshly discouraged any further interest in Christianity. What his parents couldn’t take, though, was the seed that already had been planted in Ishaq’s heart. And so, without any other gospel witness, Ishaq waited for the day when God would send someone who could tell him about Jesus.

Ishaq’s story was one of dozens of testimonies at an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary appointment service March 16 hosted by First Baptist Church in Dallas. Evans and his wife Katie* were among 67 new missionaries sent forth on Tom Elliff’s first day as IMB president.

“I immediately recognized (Ishaq’s words) as something divine, something God had orchestrated,” Evans said. “This is an area that is very much unreached by the gospel, to the point that an average guy, from the time he’s born to the time he dies, without God’s grace will probably never even rub shoulders with someone who understands the gospel.”

Indeed, Evans was the first Christian Ishaq had encountered, and the pair soon began meeting discreetly to talk about the Bible. But after months of conversations, Ishaq wasn’t yet ready to make a commitment to Jesus, and Evans’ two-year term as a missionary journeyman was ending.

“I left the country without him having professed faith,” Evans said. “I don’t know where God has led him. I would love it if we could run into each other someday and I could see how God’s been working in him since.”

IMB photo

Fourth-generation church planter Sebastian Vazquez and his wife Erin speak about God’s call to missions during IMB’s March 16 missionary appointment service at First Baptist Church in Dallas. More than 100 years ago, a Southern Baptist missionary to Argentina led Vazquez’s great-grandfather to Christ, starting a missions legacy that continues today.


Evans just might get that chance. Energized by short-term mission trips and divinely appointed encounters like his meeting with Ishaq, Evans is returning with his family to minister full time in the same area where he formerly served.

“Ishaq’s story encourages you in a way an appetizer prepares you for a buffet,” Evans said. “Knowing that we serve a God who is drawing people like Ishaq — people who have not humanly had any chance to hear — but have been given by God that hunger and longing to know Him … that is the kind of stuff that encourages you to go back.”

Breaking the mold
Like Evans, more than half of the new missionaries share similar stories of calling through short-term missions experiences. For Matt Hartwell*, who pastors a Southern Baptist church in Texas, affirmation of God’s call came on a short-term mission trip to Ecuador with his wife Lilly*. A year later, on another short-term trip, God revealed where they would be serving. As the Hartwells prayerwalked an unreached mountain village in North Africa and the Middle East, His direction was clear.

“We really felt God speak to both of us, saying, ‘This will be home,’” Hartwell remembered. The couple is preparing to return to that same mountain area where they will pioneer Southern Baptists’ efforts to spread the gospel.

But missionary calling isn’t reserved for pastors and those with careers in ministry. Many of the new appointees came from secular careers with little or no professional ministry experience. Their work won’t necessarily fit the stereotypical missionary mold, either.

Before following God’s call overseas, Ryan Williams was a general contractor. His wife Melinda was a math teacher. After an evangelism-focused Sunday School series sparked their interest in sharing their faith, the Williamses couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“We were your typical American family — two kids, a dog and house in the suburbs,” Ryan said. The Williamses are trading their “comfortable Christian life” in McKinney, Texas, to share Jesus and plant churches in Romania, where they will serve as logistics coordinators for a small IMB team.

George Dyer has spent much of his life in front of a computer. But after a short-term mission trip to Russia, the 50-year-old Nebraska man felt God leading him to give up his job in information technology to serve overseas. Dyer and his wife Laura are going to Chile, where he’ll use his computer skills to provide technical support for hundreds of Southern Baptist missionaries working throughout the Americas. But Dyer admits that I.T. wasn’t how he imagined God would use him to reach the nations.

“Our thought was that we’d (primarily) be doing church planting, evangelism, outreach — things of that nature,” Dyer said. “Everybody wanted an I.T. person … but we said, ‘No — we’re called to missions, not to do I.T. support.’ But God challenged us as we were fasting and praying and said, ‘Are you willing to serve Me any way I need you to serve?’”

While some of the appointees, like Dyer, were called to missions later in life, many say they felt God drawing them to missions as children. Sebastian Vazquez and his wife Erin are carrying on a family legacy, serving among international university students in Toronto, Canada, as fourth-generation church planters.

Nearly 100 years ago, Vazquez’s great-grandfather, Angel, was led to Christ in Argentina by a Southern Baptist missionary from Mississippi. Angel, a baker who immigrated to Argentina from Spain, eventually became a church planter, as did his son, Ramon (Vazquez’s grandfather). Ramon’s son, Raul (Vazquez’s father), became a pastor and church planter in Texas after the Vazquez family moved there.

“At first, I carried it (his family’s legacy) as a burden because I thought that it was something that was pushing me into ministry, sort of like the family business,” Sebastian Vazquez said. “But now I really have peace with it and love to share the story because I really think it shows God’s faithfulness — a missionary 100 years ago who probably never realized that the one little baker he led to the Lord would be the first of four generations of church planters.”

Fifteen of the 67 appointees are bound for service in North Africa and the Middle East — a region that’s experienced an unprecedented season of unrest since the beginning of 2011. Those missionaries include Hank and Ruby Greene*, who have the unique challenge of sharing Jesus with deaf Muslims.

“If governments that have previously opposed the gospel are toppling, this is a pretty good opportunity to go in,” he said. “We may as well take advantage while the foundations are cracked and let the gospel fill the gaps.”

The appointment service was a historic event for Southern Baptists’ deaf missions work. The Greenes were among six missionaries specifically appointed to reach the deaf, the largest number in a single appointment service. More than 250 deaf attended the service, including several deaf pastors and Jim Dermon, president of the Southern Baptist Convention of the Deaf.

First things first
Drawing upon his years of ministry experience, Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright encouraged the new missionaries to keep their priorities in order.

“I think the biggest challenge that anybody has over the long haul of ministry is confusing their ministry with their love for Jesus,” Wright said. “As you get excited about doing the Lord’s work … it is easy to get so wrapped up in your ministry that you substitute the ministry for Jesus. Whatever you do, keep that love for Jesus Christ as the preeminent concern for your life. And secondly, love your spouse — love your family.”

Before praying over the appointees, Executive Committee President Frank Page expressed hope that the missionaries would be such powerful witnesses for Christ that even demons would know their names.

“One of the most fascinating chapters in all of the Bible is Acts 19,” Page said. “It tells an unusual story of seven sons of Sceva who were casting out demons. They got ahold of a world-class demon. The Bible says it beat them up and sent them out of the house naked and bleeding.

“But in Acts 19:15, the demon looked at the sons and said, ‘Jesus we know, Paul we know, who are you?’ I pray that these missionaries will be so powerful in the spirit of God that demons in hell will know their names.”

New IMB President Tom Elliff spoke specifically to the missionaries’ parents. As a former missionary and father of two missionaries, he said the parents may be thinking, “Why is my son or daughter being called to the mission field?” Elliff said the answer begins with the reality of hell.

“Hell is an actual place. It’s an awful place. And it’s an always place. There’s never a moment where a person who spends eternity in hell will say, ‘Well, I’ve about got this handled.’ No — there’s always as much out in front as there is behind.

“There are soon to be 7 billion people on this globe. Over half of them have very little access to the gospel. (These new missionaries are) saying, ‘Well, not the ones that I meet. Not the people where I’m going, no sir — I’m going to share the name of Jesus with them.’”

The appointment service brings IMB’s global missionary force to 5,014. The next IMB appointment service will be Sunday, May 22, at Mandarin Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International 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 dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
3/19/2011 3:55:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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