March 2012

Three N.C. Acteens to serve on national panel

March 30 2012 by Courtney Simpson, WMU

Each year, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) selects six outstanding Acteens to serve as National Acteens Panelists based on their commitment to missions and participation and leadership in their Acteens group, church, school and community.
This year, three of the six are from North Carolina: Jessica Francis and Lacey Wheeler, both of Abbotts Creek Missionary Baptist Church in High Point; and Sarah Harris of University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte. All three have also served as state Acteens panelists with WMU of North Carolina for the past two years.
Francis, Wheeler and Harris serve with three other teens – Sarah Behling and Amy Washburn, both from University Hills, and Madison Johnson of Jackson Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis – on the North Carolina panel.

Contributed photo

Six teenagers from North Carolina are serving on the state Acteens panel. From left, top row: Madison Johnson and Sarah Behling; center row: Lacey Wheeler and Amy Washburn; bottom row: Jessica Francis and Sarah Harris. Francis, Harris and Wheeler are also serving on the national panel and will be helping with the annual meeting in June and submitting items for The Mag, the Acteens’ magazine.

Acteens is WMU’s missions organization for girls in grades 7–12. Through Acteens, girls grow in their relationship with God and each other as they learn about and participate in missions, develop leadership skills, and live a missional lifestyle. 
Francis, a member of Acteens for five years, cited learning about human exploitation as one of the most meaningful things she has done in Acteens. The topic made such an impression, she chose to write her sophomore research paper about the effects of human trafficking.
“I learned even more about the tragic stories of trafficking both in America and across the world,” Francis said. “Many of my friends have also taken a great interest in human trafficking and have helped me share with others my newfound passion for this epidemic. It is spreading like wildfire, and we have the power to do something about it.”
Wheeler has also been involved in Acteens for five years and actively participates in missions trips, and community projects. “Missions is much more than humanitarian works and good deeds,” Wheeler said. “The purpose of missions is to bring others to Jesus Christ by showing His love in all we do.”
Mark Hollar, senior pastor of Abbotts Creek, recommended both Francis and Wheeler for the national Acteens panel.
“I have known Jessica all her life,” Hollar said. “She is a leader as well as a great servant. Her missions veins run both deep and wide.”
Hollar said he has known Wheeler for the past five years, and related she actually attended youth functions and missions events before her family followed her. Now her parents, brother and grandparents are all active members at Abbotts Creek.
“Lacey is fully committed to the missions and service work done in our church,” Hollar noted. “She helps with our food ministry each month, sings in the choir, and is a leader in our strong Acteens ministry. I am honored to recommend someone the caliber of Lacey to serve as a catalyst and mentor for other Acteens.”
Harris has been involved in Acteens at University Hills for six years. “Missions involvement has opened my eyes and helped me take the focus off of myself and to view the world through God’s eyes,” she said. “These experiences have helped me to personalize the Great Commission and feel that I can make a difference even though I may be just one person.”
Deborah Taylor, Harris’ Acteens leader, said, “Sarah demonstrates a Christ-like attitude on every trip I have served with her on, no matter the location or task. She is not just a ‘missions trip’ girl, but demonstrates this servant attitude with peers, school, community and family.”
The other national panelists are Sarah Gaby of Heritage Baptist Church, Grand Blanc, Mich.; Alyssa Hargrove of First Baptist Church, Spring Hill, Tenn.; and Mary Virginia Harper of First Baptist Church, Prattville, Ala. The Acteens Panelists, who serve from Feb. 1 to Dec. 31, each receive $1,000 from the Jessica Powell Loftis Scholarship for Acteens from the WMU Foundation.
These National Panelists will be featured during the WMU Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La., June 17–18. They will also write articles for The Mag, the Acteens missions magazine, and for the Acteens website,
To apply for the 2013 panel, visit the Acteens site or look for an application in the fall Acteens Leader. Applications are due to national WMU by Dec. 1.
3/30/2012 2:28:00 PM by Courtney Simpson, WMU | with 0 comments

Disaster relief training still available

March 30 2012 by BR staff

North Carolina Baptist Men still have three regions of training opportunities through June 2.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Learning how to operate a forklift is just one part of disaster relief training for North Carolina Baptist Men. The group was training in Raleigh March 16-17 for Region 4. See photo gallery.

Regions 6, 8 and 10 still have slots available to learn how to respond in disaster relief situations.

There are four levels of training available: basic, crosstrainer, recertification and advanced.

• April 20-21  (Region 6) – Union Co.
• May 18-19 (Region 8) – McDowell Co.
• June 1-2 (Region 10) – Cherokee Co.

Costs vary depending on training.

Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599, or visit; click “training,” then “training opportunities” and choose “Disaster relief.” Email
3/30/2012 2:19:31 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Baptists learn to ‘embrace‘ unreached, N.C. church leads way

March 30 2012 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

HIGHLAND, Calif. – Beyond Beverly Hills’ designer-label storefronts and gated estates are apartments and condos filled with people from diverse walks of life.

“The image is all wealthy, but once you’ve been here for six months, you understand that it’s broader than that,” said Randy Nessly, pastor of First Baptist Church in Beverly Hills.
Nessly served nine years as a missionary mobilizer for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) before becoming pastor of 40-member First Baptist in the fall of 2011.

Besides being financially diverse, Beverly Hills contains much of the ethnic diversity of neighboring Los Angeles, which has the nation’s largest immigrant population.

That’s why Nessly attended IMB’s (International Mission Board) Embrace equipping conference at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif.

BP photo

Scott Holste, IMB associate vice president for global strategy, talks with an attendee at the Embrace equipping conference at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., where Holste spoke about the challenges of sharing the gospel with unengaged, unreached people groups.

He was among approximately 115 representatives from 30 Southern Baptist churches and related organizations in California, Arizona and Nevada who attended the March 24 conference to learn more about what’s involved in embracing a people group – selecting an unengaged, unreached people group (UUPG) and committing to establish an active church-planting strategy among them.

Some of the immigrants in Beverly Hills are from people groups whose counterparts in other countries are considered among the most unevangelized in the world.

If those immigrants become Christians and travel to those other countries to share the gospel, they could make a significant impact in reaching their own people groups, said Ben Martin*, who serves among North African and Middle Eastern peoples overseas with the IMB. He has been helping Nessly think through how local and international outreach to people groups can work together.

“You can put one arm around someone,” Martin said, “and that’s something. But if you use both arms, you are … truly embracing them.”

Felix Juan, a deacon of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, said the church has prayed for UUPGs since the launch of the Embrace initiative during the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Phoenix.

Since last June, approximately 1,200 Southern Baptist churches or entities have responded in some way to the challenge to embrace a UUPG.

“I can see churches and the mission board working together,” Juan said. “We’re not by ourselves in this. It’s God’s people working together.

“I am seeing the overall picture. I used to see from the bottom up. Now I see the broad, big view.”

‘Building toward something’
The big picture missions strategy of Embrace is what interested Eric White* at Green Hills Baptist Church in La Habra, Calif.

For example, he said, a church could lead a Vacation Bible School overseas, developing and training new Christians there to be the ones to lead the next VBS.

“I like the idea of building toward something,” White said, “so we wouldn’t be random or haphazard, but focused on reaching a people group with the gospel and producing self-sufficient, indigenous churches.”

Old Town Baptist Church
Leaders of the 500-member Green Hills congregation have received guidance and encouragement from Mark Harrison, missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. Old Town is a congregation of similar size that started the process of reaching a people group in Southeast Asia about two years ago.

“It’s been good for us to see that a church our size can do it, to see what it might look like several steps ahead,” White said.

Old Town is coordinating with Southern Baptist missionaries and believers from nearby or related people groups in Southeast Asia. The goal is to work together so these believers can participate in missions efforts to another people group, Harrison said.

“Each church and each people group is different,” Harrison said, “and you have to customize how you approach things according to what will work in your situation, in your church and for your people group, but there are some common factors and a unified strategy to it that makes it a natural for churches to learn together and partner with each other in some way.”

Mitch Hamilton, pastor of Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church in Aurora, Colo., encouraged Embrace churches to mentor another congregation.

“Reach out and be available to others,” Hamilton said. “Take someone with you the next time you go [to visit your people group], teach them how, show them what you know.”

Hamilton said he was convicted to broaden his missions outlook.

“We were going places where there were already Christians, where work was already going on,” Hamilton said. “Now, instead of going 1,000 different places one time, we’re going one place 1,000 times.”

SBC President Bryant Wright, who was instrumental in launching the Embrace emphasis, encouraged churches exploring Embrace to take a mission trip overseas to “dip their toe in the water.”

“It transforms your whole outlook about ministry,” said Wright, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta. People often are more active in sharing their faith with their neighbors after they return from sharing overseas, he added.

Making that Great Commission connection is what Montia Setzler, senior pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif., hopes will happen through Embrace. The church launched its effort to embrace a people group March 25.

“This helps complete our total missions strategy,” Setzler said. “We’ve done mission trips but South Asia is the uttermost part of the earth. We’re trying to train people that Acts 1:8 doesn’t have an ‘or’ in it; it’s an ‘and,’ and that means doing all of it simultaneously,” being witnesses in the biblical paradigm of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

Two young people from the church are planning to serve as journeyman missionaries in South Asia.

“There would be no greater joy than serving with my church around the world,” said Thomas Allen*, who is preparing for journeyman service.


*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Gregory is an IMB writer/editor.)
3/30/2012 2:06:12 PM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll: Miss. most religious state, Vt. & N.H. least

March 30 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mississippi, Utah and Alabama are the most religious states and Vermont and New Hampshire the least religious, according to a Gallup survey that asked respondents about their religion and their church attendance.
The survey, released March 27, is based on interviews with 350,000 adults in 2011 as part of Gallup’s daily tracking poll. The poll asked respondents if religion is an important part of their daily life, and also asked them if they attend religious services every week or almost every week.

Southern states were the most religious, while the Northeast and Northwest states the least religious. (See the full list at the bottom of this story.)

Mississippi led the way with 59 percent of its citizens being labeled very religious, followed by Utah (57 percent), Alabama (56), Louisiana (54), Arkansas (54), South Carolina (54), Tennessee (52), North Carolina (50), Georgia (48) and Oklahoma (48).

Vermont and New Hampshire each had only 23 percent of respondents labeled as very religious. That was followed by Maine (25 percent), Massachusetts (28), Alaska (28), Oregon (30), Nevada (30), Washington (30), Connecticut (31), District of Columbia (32), New York (32) and Rhode Island (32).

The pattern of religiosity, the survey said, has “remained stable in recent years.”

Nationwide, 40 percent of Americans are considered very religious.

Following is the list of states, and the District of Columbia, based on the percentage considered very religious:

Mississippi, 59 percent
Utah, 57 percent
Alabama, 56 percent
Louisiana, 54 percent
Arkansas, 54 percent
South Carolina, 54 percent
Tennessee, 52 percent
North Carolina, 50 percent
Georgia, 48 percent
Oklahoma, 48 percent
Texas, 47 percent
Kentucky, 47 percent
South Dakota, 45 percent
Kansas, 45 percent
Indiana, 45 percent
Missouri, 44 percent
North Dakota, 44 percent
Nebraska, 44 percent
West Virginia, 43 percent
Virginia, 42 percent
Idaho, 42 percent
New Mexico, 41 percent
Iowa, 41 percent
Minnesota, 40 percent
Pennsylvania, 40 percent
Ohio, 39 percent
Maryland, 39 percent
Florida, 39 percent
Illinois, 39 percent
Wisconsin, 37 percent
Michigan, 37 percent
Arizona, 35 percent
Montana, 35 percent
California, 35 percent
Wyoming, 34 percent
New Jersey, 34 percent
Delaware, 33 percent
Colorado, 33 percent
Hawaii, 33 percent
Rhode Island, 32 percent
New York, 32 percent
District of Columbia, 32 percent
Connecticut, 31 percent
Washington, 30 percent
Nevada, 30 percent
Oregon, 30 percent
Alaska, 28 percent
Massachusetts, 28 percent
Maine, 25 percent
New Hampshire, 23 percent
Vermont, 23 percent

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
3/30/2012 2:00:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘It’s about religious freedom,’ marriage panelists say

March 29 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing editor

A panel of Christian leaders shared how the eyes of the nation will be on North Carolina May 8 when its citizens go to the polls to decide whether marriage will be defined as only between a man and a woman. Panelists contend it is an issue that is more about religious freedom than “gay rights.”
The Marriage Amendment Forum was held March 28 in Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. Moderator Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said the state has an opportunity that they may never get back. 
Although the issue could eventually go before the Supreme Court – as did the abortion issue – Harris said right now North Carolinians can take a stand and help keep marriage from being redefined.
“This time it is a little different,” said Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, recalling decades of failed efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. “There’s not a court waiting to make a decision.”
03-29-12marriage.jpgMark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is interviewed March 28 by a television news crew after the Marriage Amendment Forum at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.


“Thank God that He raised up in our state legislature a majority that would put it on the ballot … for the citizens of this state to go to the polls and determine the answer to how marriage will be defined.”
This year, in addition to North Carolina, the issue will be on the ballots of other states around the country. Those states and the justices of the Supreme Court will be watching to see where North Carolina – the first state this year to vote on marriage – falls on this issue, said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“If the people speak in North Carolina – and in the other states – and affirm marriage being between a man and a woman, I believe that it will tip the balance of the Supreme Court to reject trying to foist by judicial imperialism same-sex marriage on a populace that is clearly opposed to it,” Land said.
“If we lose,” he added. “They will exercise their judicial imperialism. That’s what’s at stake.”
Land and other panelists said the issue is not about  “sexual freedom” or “gay rights” or “live and let live.”
It’s about religious freedom, said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, an organization that focuses on promoting faith, family and freedom.
“What people don’t realize is that gay marriage means the beginning of the end of religious freedom,” she said.  
“When marriage is redefined in a state to become generalist, there are legal consequences for anyone who disagrees with it,” she explained.
“What happens is there is a sea change of law … everything from property rights, to inheritance laws have to be changed because the assumption that there underlies them is that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Many Christian ministries in some states – where gay marriage is legal – are already feeling the impact.
In New Jersey, a Methodist church camp had to close three weeks ago after a lesbian couple sued the camp because they were not allowed to be married on the grounds. The couple won their case, which forced the camp to choose their religious convictions over continuing to operate and allow same-sex marriage ceremonies.
“The court said the [state’s] constitution allows some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals,” Fitzgerald said. 
Some Catholic charities have also chosen to close their doors because they refused to allow gay couples to adopt from their organization.
During the forum, speakers also shared how the opposition to the marriage amendment is trying to take the focus off protecting marriage and put the focus on claims that it will take health care away from children, prevent private companies from offering domestic partner benefits or weaken domestic violence laws. Many of these claims, the panel says, are blatantly false.
Fitzgerald referenced a political ad that features Clay Aiken, a former American Idol contestant.
“He’s in front of a playground, and he says if Amendment One passes, … some of these children behind [him] will lose their healthcare benefits,” Fitzgerald said. 
“He never once mentions the word ‘marriage’… ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual family,’” she said.
“They are deliberately calling it Amendment One to divorce it from marriage so that the average person out in the public won’t know this amendment is about marriage. The amendment is about protecting marriage.”
N.C. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, a member of Apex Baptist Church in Apex, said many opponents leave out the full text of the amendment which refutes some of their claims that he refers to as “baseless.”
To learn more read a recent column written by Stam that was published in the Biblical Recorder’s March 17 issue.
“What you need to know is that proponents of same-sex marriage are well organized, well funded, and they are relentless,” added Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries at the Family Research Council. “They will not stop until we rise up, speak the truth in love and stop them – and do it together.”
He challenged pastors and church leaders who are for the amendment to work together, to stay focused through prayer, and to preach on what the Bible has to say about this issue.
“Don’t ever think that your influence is insignificant,” he said. “You as pastors, as ministers of the gospel, can make a positive difference … being the salt and the light here in North Carolina.”
For more information on this issue, related guest columns and stories, check out the upcoming issue of the Biblical Recorder or click here to access the Recorder’s Marriage Amendment page.
3/29/2012 3:55:45 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing editor | with 0 comments

Secrecy gone: Most adoptions today are ‘open,’ report says

March 29 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new survey of adoption agencies confirms that the secrecy once associated with adoption is no longer a reality, with 95 percent of all domestic adoptions now being “open” or “semi-open” – that is, the birth parents and adoptive parents having at least some level of contact.
The data is a virtual reversal of what was once common, a time from the 1930s onward when families on both ends of the process did not tell others about the adoption. That secrecy even extended to the children. A number of factors forced adoptions into the open, according to the survey: adoptive children searching for information about their past, birth parents wanting updates on their child, adoptive families requesting biological medical history, and the stigma of illegitimacy decreasing.

The survey of 100 adoption agencies by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is part of a 50-page report on open adoptions posted on the institute’s website ( The research found:

– 55 percent of domestic adoptions now are fully open, with ongoing contact between the birth families and adoptive families.

– 40 percent are semi-open (“mediated”), with an adoption agency serving as a third-party to facilitate the exchange of pictures and letters between the families.

– 5 percent are closed (“confidential”), with no contact between the families.

Adoption experts say open and semi-open adoptions can be beneficial for all parties involved. Kris Faasse, adoption services director for Bethany Christian Services, said she has been part of the adoption community for nearly three decades and has seen a dramatic rise in the percentage of open and semi-open adoptions. For adoptive parents, Faasse said, the benefits go beyond simply having access to a child’s medical history.

“[Adoptive parents will] feel empowered to be parents, because not only have they been selected but they know the person that selected them,” Faasse said of the adoptive process, in which birth parents typically select, by looking at profiles, the adoptive parents. “And [the adoptive parents] don’t go through life looking over their shoulder thinking, ‘I wonder if ....’ It’s very freeing, because that birth family is a known, not an unknown.”

Open and semi-open adoptions also are beneficial for birth parents, Faasse said.

“We know that moms who place their kids grieve the loss, but when they can see their child, they see them in that placement, they really have a healthier grief process,” Faasse said. “They can come to that point where they can have that peace. They also have that affirmation – ‘I made a good choice, look how my child’s doing.’“

For an adoption to be considered open or semi-open by Bethany, Faasse said, there must be face-to-face contact between the birth parents and adoptive parents at least once on the front end.

Despite the popularity of open and semi-open adoptions, Faasse said, adoptive parents often walk into an adoption agency fearful of having any contact with the birth parents, which typically is only a birth mom. The reason is simple: “Adoptive families often will tell us that they’re afraid that the birth family is going to come back later and take their child.” Such adoption “horror” stories might make headlines, Faasse said, but they’re “very, very rare.”

“I was talking with people about baby Jessica for about 10 years after it happened, because it was still getting recycled,” Faasse said of a hyped 1990s case. “So those fears last.”

It often eases adoptive families’ concerns if they hear testimonies from adoptive parents and/or birth parents who have been part of a successful adoption.

The report said adoptive parents “as a group report positive experiences with open adoptions and high levels of comfort with contact.” In fact, openness often lessens the fear felt by adoptive parents, the report said.

“For them, greater openness is linked with reduced fear of and greater empathy toward birthparents, more open communication with their children about adoption, and other benefits in their relationships with their adopted children,” the report said.

Youth in open adoptions have a “better understanding of the meaning of adoption,” the report said.

The report is only the first in a series of reports the Adoption Institute plans on releasing about domestic infant adoptions.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Read the report online at
3/29/2012 3:48:02 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Ex-Victoria’s Secret model promotes Prov. 31

March 29 2012 by Christina Darnell/

WACO, Texas – When Alex Eklund updated his Facebook status on Nov. 30, he had no idea it would make him a social media star.
Eklund was studying in the Baylor University library when he noticed a theme among his friends’ status updates. During the airing of the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show on CBS, girls posted updates like “I’m going to have to hit the gym after this” and “I’m going to starve myself for a week.” Although Eklund assumed his friends didn’t mean the statements seriously, they still made him uneasy.

“There was an underlying sense of insecurity which I sensed throughout the entire thing,” he said.

On a whim, Eklund posted in response, “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model.”

Kylie Bisutti

Almost instantly, Eklund’s post went viral. Both negative and positive comments piled up on his wall as friends, friends of friends and total strangers reposted his comment. During the next few days, Eklund discovered the power of social media to capture an audience, cultivate a following and spread a message.

Some people, like Eklund, stumble on the social networks’ ability to create overnight celebrities and scramble to make use of their instant audience. Others, like former Victoria’s Secret model Kylie Bisutti, leverage their social media presence to help strengthen their brand. And sometimes, the two strategies overlap.

Markus Pfeiffer, a digital media professor at Regent University, believes Eklund’s message generated such a strong response because his post reflected a timely trend: “An unknown person or ministry can reach a very wide audience and get discovered, because of the viral capabilities – because they are watching trends. A lot of stories are born within these tools.”

Less than 24 hours after posting his comment, Eklund realized he had struck a nerve. Leveraging the opportunity to capture so much attention, he and his friends produced a video to clarify and expand on his Facebook post. Within three days, the video had more than 120,000 hits on YouTube. “When so many people started looking at the page and talking about it, and different people reposted it as their status, it just kind of became a movement,” Eklund said in the video.

Along with four of his guy friends, Eklund founded the Live31 Movement, a group committed to redefining beauty. Just three months later, its Facebook page has more than 14,000 fans, and its Twitter account has more than 1,800 followers.

“It’s one of these really typical social media success stories,” Pfeiffer said. “One individual had a vision or idea that could be propagated, and it struck a chord.”

Social media platforms allow individuals to monitor trends in an organic way, making it easier to offer material that people will respond to, Pfeiffer said: “In this case, [Eklund] understood this was a hot topic, and he was able to turn that into a ministry that got a lot of attention.”

Live31 generated so much buzz it soon caught the attention of Bisutti, winner of the 2009 Victoria’s Secret Model Search. She had spent several years modeling lingerie for the company, but quit in 2011 because of her Christian faith. On Dec. 21, she tweeted Eklund: “I stopped being a Victoria’s Secret Model to become a Proverbs 31 wife!”

During a recent interview with Good Morning America, Bisutti said the realization that her career choices did not honor God came on gradually: “I just became so convicted about wanting to honor my husband with my body and wanting to be a role model for other women out there who look up to me.” She decided to redirect her career to model more modest clothing and says she now chooses her jobs carefully.

Michael Bartlemay, the first person to repost Eklund’s original status and a member of Live31, was amazed at how much Bisutti’s story meshed with their message. “We thought, ‘This person is incredible, and we have to get her on board.’”

Like Eklund, Bisutti wanted to spread a message. In part because of her prolific tweets, she soon found herself making the rounds of morning talk shows and evening news magazines and doing some free promotion for a fledgling ministry started by five college students.

After Live31 reached out to her, Bisutti agreed to write a blog post for the group’s website, detailing her story in her own words. In an interview with Inspired Women Magazine, Bisutti said she wanted to tell her story to young girls and show them that true beauty and self-worth comes from Christ. Pairing her message with Live31 helped her reach even more like-minded people. In February, fashion and religious blogs were buzzing about Bisutti, and the former Victoria’s Secret model was telling her story on Fox News, Good Morning America, The Glenn Beck Program and CBS This Morning. Links to videos of Bisutti’s national television interviews poured into Live31’s Facebook page, generating even more momentum for Eklund’s movement.

The convergence of Bisutti’s and Eklund’s messages is a good example of social media’s ability to level the playing field, giving users the potential to build a platform and allowing freer access between celebrities and individuals, Pfeiffer said: “That is part of the democratization of social media. Individuals have a lot more power and leverage that never really existed before, or that was more difficult. Individuals with the right message can reach a large audience and influence ethical issues.”

Bisutti has continued to promote and retweet material for Live31 to her 7,000 followers. “Their message is so biblical and Christ-centered, and it is exactly what I’m striving to be,” she said. “I love every bit of their message, and it all resonates with what I believe,” she told World on Campus in an e-mail interview.

Bisutti, who receives numerous tweets a day from followers thanking her for being their role model, praised social networks for giving her the opportunity to spread her message: “God’s telling my story using social media and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I think it’s reached a lot more people through this outlet, but nothing is too big for God.”

Eklund and his friends are developing a series of videos on the Live31 website and plan to continue leveraging social media to spread their message. “It is our platform at the moment,” Bartlemay said. “It’s not just on the Baylor campus; it’s not just Texas. Our best way to be able to contact people is social media.”

Eklund agreed: “Social media is what we are.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christina Darnell writes for, where this story first appeared.)
3/29/2012 3:39:09 PM by Christina Darnell/ | with 0 comments

DOM in hospital after motorcycle accident

March 28 2012 by Press reports

Barry Nealy, director of missions for Three Forks Baptist Association, is in the Intensive Care Unit at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee.
Nealy was riding his motorcycle March 22 when he was involved in an accident. He suffered from broken vertebrae in his neck, a collapsed lung and broken pelvis. Doctors performed emergency surgery upon his arrival at the hospital.
“I really feel the strength of your prayers, so please do not stop,” said Nealy’s wife, Donna, in an update March 26.
Nealy is on a respirator and is expected to be in ICU the remainder of the week.
“Still sedated and resting but in moments of lucidity, it is clear his sense of humor was not damaged in the accident,” wrote Nealy’s daughter, Joelle, in an update March 27 on the association’s website.
Media reports indicate that Nealy’s motorcycle crashed into a sedan on U.S. 321 near the Bethel Road intersection. The Watauga Democrat reported that Trooper David Searcy of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Nealy’s motorcycle crossed the center line into the path of a Ford sedan that was traveling at about 50 mph.
The report said the driver of the car, Christian Haithcock of Elk Park, suffered pain to his wrist and neck but was not transported to the hospital.
Check for updates on the association’s website:
3/28/2012 3:28:06 PM by Press reports | with 0 comments

Bapt. medical center names vp of faith, health ministries

March 28 2012 by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem has appointed Gary R. Gunderson as vice president of faith and health ministries, effective July 1. Gunderson, a 1973 graduate of Wake Forest University, is currently senior vice president for faith and health at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tenn., and director of its Center of Excellence in Faith and Health.
“Gary’s work, particularly his ability to understand and meet the needs of patients in the community, has been recognized nationally and internationally,” said John D. McConnell, M.D., chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist. “His model, which brings together patient need with services within the community, coincides with Wake Forest Baptist’s mission to provide a full range of caring and healing to those that we serve. Gary’s natural ability to engage patients and community partners offers a new way of thinking about what it is to provide health care.”
As head of the Division of Faith and Health Ministries at Wake Forest Baptist, Gunderson will oversee the division’s four departments (CareNet Counseling, the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education, the Center for Congregational Health and the Department of Church and Community Relations) that provide spiritual care services to patients, families and medical center employees as well as manage marketing and public relations services to more than 4,300 Baptist congregations.
In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest, Gunderson holds a master of divinity from Emory University in Atlanta. He also has a doctor of ministry from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
Gunderson is an assistant professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
3/28/2012 3:24:28 PM by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center | with 2 comments

Tim Tebow brings a little goodness to Gotham

March 28 2012 by Kevin Manahan, Religion News Service

NEWARK, N.J. – Tim Tebow is Howdy Doody in a helmet. No, he is Opie Taylor running for touchdowns – while reciting Bible verses, stopping to find a lost dog, visiting sick children in a hospital and helping a little old lady across the street, all before he reaches the end zone.
Now that Tebow has been traded to the Jets, New Jersey is about to experience a dose of wholesomeness it hasn’t seen since milk trucks stopped delivering to your door.
Tebow is the God-fearing, All-American evangelical hero – born to missionaries and delivered during a miraculous birth – who pledged his life to Jesus at 6 years old.

His priorities? “Faith, family, football.” He has overcome obstacle after obstacle to become the most popular athlete in the nation’s most popular sport, all while waging a personal battle against sin, temptation and the American way.
But you don’t have to know the “Our Father” to love him or admire him. He’s a dyslexic who can read complicated football defenses. He’s a home-schooled kid who could whup most prep-school prodigies in a battle of the SATs. Predicted to die at birth or before, he won two national championships as the “aw-shucks” quarterback at the University of Florida, and he is the only sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

RNS file photo by Chip English/The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.

Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow has been one of the most outspoken Christian athletes to take the field. His trade from the Broncos to the Jets has caused another stir.

He is the left-handed NFL quarterback with the weak arm that was ridiculed by scouts – until the Denver Broncos inserted him as quarterback last season and won seven of the next eight games (three in overtime), en route to making the playoffs.

And the first thing Tebow did, while his teammates celebrated? He knelt and prayed. Or, as it’s now known: He “Tebowed.”
But he makes enemies, too. Because for every fan (or teammate) who loves that Tebow begins every interview by praising “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” there’s another fan (or teammate) who wants a constitutional amendment imposing a separation of church and sports.
“He’s a polarizing figure,” said Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church in Morristown, N.J. “But whether you’re a fan or a critic, everyone agrees that his faith is authentic.
“Some players are flashy and invoke God when things go good. Tim Tebow seems to be the real deal. It’s been baked into him from early on.”
In one of those storybook victories last season, Tebow beat the brash-talking Jets by leading the Broncos on a last-minute 95-yard drive that some believed had given Jets coach Rex Ryan a heart attack.
Paramedics were called to the Jets’ team bus as it headed for a Denver airport after the stunning 17-13 loss, capped by Tebow’s 20-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds remaining.
As the charter flight idled, Ryan thought his life was ending. Turned out, it was only indigestion. But when paramedics asked how he was feeling, Tebow’s future coach responded, “I was doing fine until (bleep-bleep) Tebow had that (bleeping) 95-yard drive.”
How will Tebow’s new teammates receive his godliness?
“That’ll be very curious,” Lucas, the pastor, said. “New Jersey is the land of ‘The Sopranos’ and Snooki. A lot of people say New Jersey is a graveyard for the Christian faith, but the graveyard is where resurrections take place.”
Tebow might not find the local streets paved with rose petals. A recent poll of readers by the Daily News indicates fans are torn: 44 percent hated the trade (30 percent loved it), but 53 percent said Tebow should be the starter.
Yet those who know Tebow insist he will fight to be the starter.
“His work ethic is off the charts,” said Nathan Whitaker, the co-author of Tebow’s memoir, “Through My Eyes.” “I walked away from each encounter with Tim thinking, ‘Man I really should apply myself harder. This guy’s really something.’”
Tebow’s a self-professed virgin. He doesn’t lie, cheat, drink or use drugs. He’s handsome, goes to church regularly, has a foundation that builds hospitals, and he makes several million dollars a year. When he doesn’t come right home after work, it’s because he’s doing charity work.
Every woman with a daughter knows that’s code for: He’d make a great son-in-law.
Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations in New York, has represented Sean “Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, pro basketball players and a host of evangelical organizations, and he knows that when Tebow so much as hugs a woman, it’s going to make front-page tabloid news.
“He has always been someone who’s talked about being a private person,” Torossian said. “Well, the concept of being private doesn’t exactly exist in New York.”
Until now, encounters with women have been, well, cute. In Denver, women – single and married – wore his jersey and held proposal signs. At a recent Q-and-A session in Butte, Mont., 17-year-old Ciera Schwartz came to pop her question: “Will you marry me?” Tebow blushed. Then moved on.
In January, Tebow told USA Today that he was “too busy with football and life” for a girlfriend. Within days of the December announcement that pop star Katy Perry was divorcing, her parents – preachers Keith and Mary Hudson – were trying to fix her up with the squeakiest guy on Earth.
Perry’s mom told a friend: “The best cure for a heartache is to fall in love again,” and why not Tebow? “He’s handsome, charming, intelligent and, above all, a Christian.”

The meeting hasn’t happened yet, and Perry reportedly has a new beau.
“I’m blessed to have a close-knit (group) around me,” Tebow told USA Today. “I love meeting and talking with people, socializing and hanging out. But people can read it the wrong way.”
No matter how big Tebow gets in the biggest sports and media market in the world, his co-author doesn’t believe it will affect him, because only a few people have his ear – starting with God.
“People already watch everything he does and tweet about it,” Whitaker said. “He’s already so scrutinized and it doesn’t affect him. I’m not sure how much more intense it can get.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Manahan writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. Conor Orr and Matthew Stanmyre contributed to this report.)
3/28/2012 3:11:36 PM by Kevin Manahan, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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