March 2014

Olympics widens platform for Christian hockey player

March 25 2014 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Gisele “Gigi” Marvin is a forward who helped the USA Women’s Hockey team win an Olympic silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and a silver in Sochi, Russia. She played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 2005 to 2009. And Marvin is a three-time member of the U.S. Women’s National Team for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship (IIHF) who won her fourth International IIHF gold medal in 2013.

Recently, Roman Gabriel III interviewed Marvin about her experiences in Sochi, her love of the game as well as her passions off the rink and her faith.
Q: Gigi, tell us about your most recent Olympic experience in Sochi.
A: It’s truly a blessing to be able to compete with that group because everyone was able to witness that gold medal game. The hearts of my teammates and the coaching staff around us was amazing. We definitely poured everything out that game.

Contributed photo
Gigi Marvin, #19 USA, was a defenseman during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Q: Now that you look back on the last game in Sochi, do you wish you and the team could have done anything differently?

A: I think hindsight is 20/20, and absolutely there may be some little things that could have gone our way. So, obviously as competitors we would have loved to have won the gold. Most important though is resting in the fact that we truly did play with absolutely everything on the line. We did everything in our power to use the gifts that God has given us.

Q: Tell me about some of the passions that you have off of the rink.

A: Well, I work with schools and hang out with a lot of kids. I love kids. My aunt and I own a hockey school for young kids that we have done every single summer for seven years now. And I have a huge passion for speaking about what God has done in my life.
Q: From a faith standpoint, what type of atmosphere surrounded Team USA?
A: God has done such an amazing job. And that was one of the prayers before we left [to go to Sochi]. My heart has grown stronger and I think that’s true for others as well. You know, the point of this life is to grow more like Christ every single day. So training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things so that was something very evident to us. It’s amazing to see growth in those people who’ve never known about Him and choose to follow Him. It has definitely encouraged my walk, and it has encouraged my teammates.
Q: Do you raise your money like everyone else in the Olympics through corporate and individual donations?
A: That is definitely one way. We also get a stipend from the United States Olympic Committee. However, you definitely need to go and be your own advocate and reach out to others and basically put yourself out there in order to finance and facilitate what you have been called to. That’s the path that I’ve been on. It is an interesting spot but I’m very thankful for what I have and what I’ve been blessed with.
Q: So, you grew up in Minnesota, you played for the Gophers in college. Obviously hockey is huge in your area, but how did you first get interested in it and how did you know that you wanted to start?
A: I started when I could walk, so before I was two. I grew up in a hockey town and in a hockey family so it would have been going on whether I liked it or not. Everyone talks about hockey and you pretty much live at the rink. I skate every day and just grow in the gift I’ve been given. I love that the family who first put the skates on me continues to celebrate my growth in it.
Q: Now your dad was the manager of the 1965 USA National Ice Hockey team. What kind of influence did your dad have in terms of you loving hockey?
A: He was the first guy that put the skates on me. He took me to the rink every single day, and he was there to share his experience, knowledge and love of the game. So, yes, it influenced me greatly. You see a lot of parents that see a dream in their child and they say, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to do everything to support you, encourage you and provide for you.” That was my dad.
Q: What is the biggest thing that you’ve taken from your experience on Team USA?
A: The biggest experience is the fact that the Team USA jersey is going to come off at some point, but the Team Jesus Christ will absolutely never come off. My physical training ultimately means nothing compared to my spiritual training if my heart is not right in Christ and truly seeking Him every day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at It’s all about faith, family and sports. Visit his website:; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: See more stories.)
3/25/2014 11:48:29 AM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 1 comments

Phil Roberts joins Truett-McConnell faculty

March 25 2014 by Baptist Press

CLEVELAND, Ga. – Truett-McConnell College (TMC) is adding to its faculty Phil Roberts, former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Roberts led Midwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Kansas City, Mo., from 2001-12. He will teach in Truett-McConnell’s new master of arts in theology program beginning this fall.


BP photo
Phil Roberts

Brad Reynolds, TMC’s vice president for academic services, said Roberts and another new faculty member, Mael Disseau, “not only bring with them a vast knowledge base combined with international experience in education, they are committed churchmen whose lives of service to God will enhance their impact upon our students both academically and spiritually.”

Truett-McConnell College, located in Cleveland, Ga., is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Roberts, who holds a Ph.D. from the Free University in Amsterdam, served seven years at the SBC’s North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. He was vice president of the strategic cities strategies group and, earlier, director of the interfaith evangelism team, authoring the 1998 book Mormonism Unmasked. Roberts also has been on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned an M.Div. degree.

Among various places of overseas ministry from 1985-94, Roberts was pastor of the International Baptist Church in Brussels, Belgium.

“Dr. Roberts has a heart for education, missions and evangelism that knows no borders,” said Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell. “Faculty and students alike will benefit from Dr. Roberts’ commitment to and compassion for the mission and ministry of our college.”

In addition to his duties at Truett-McConnell, Roberts will remain as director of international theological education for Global Ministries Fellowship, a Memphis-based organization that ministers internationally through crusade evangelism, theological education, and educational and spiritual ministries to children in India, Africa, Central America and Thailand.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Norm Miller, director of communications at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.)
3/25/2014 11:38:03 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

When missions meets ‘glory’ of God

March 24 2014 by BR staff

“The reason we have breath is that we may live for all peoples. There are individuals who live, die and never hear the gospel. This cannot be tolerable for us,” said David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., at the 2014 North Carolina Missions Conference.
Sponsored by Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men), the “For the Glory of His Name” missions event took place March 21-22 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. About 1,600 registered for the event.
“The need is urgent,” Platt said, “to be on the front lines of the battle. Are we going to spend our lives for the accomplishment for the Great Commission or not?”

BR photo by Emily Blake
During a breakout session at the 2014 N.C. Baptist Missions Conference, churches were given opportunities to do various mission projects in the community surrounding Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. One of the projects available was a block party held in a diverse apartment community populated largely with Burmese immigrants. Here, volunteers help children to make bracelets with beads representing the gospel story.

Founder and president of AnGeL Ministries and daughter of Billy Graham, Anne Graham Lotz spoke on the subject of forgiveness among Christians.
She said, “Forgiveness is an act of worship. If you ask me, the greater the wound forgiven the greater the act of worship.”
In order forgive, Lotz explained, Christians need to bring their wounds to the Lord, choose to forgive, seek reconciliation and then leave the rest to God.
In Matthew 25:31-47, “Jesus is not preaching works-salvation,” said Brian Loritts, lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multicultural church ministering to urban Memphis, Tenn.
Narrating the life of William Wilberforce – English statesman, philanthropist and abolitionist – Loritts said that the main question for young Wilberforce was, ‘How do I reconcile the gospel of freedom with a culture advocating the evils of slavery?’”
Loritts emphasized to the attendees that for “Wilberforce and for us, salvation precedes works. Your redemption in Christ will lead to fruitful action. And that fruit is a change in lifestyle that is in proportion to the Holy Spirit in your life.”
The conference also held a hands-on mission breakout session where attendees could serve the neighborhoods and people of Charlotte. Opportunities included a mobile dentistry clinic, a block party, prayer walking and a children’s ministry.
Cabin Missionary Baptist Church in Duplin County had many participants at the apartment ministry.
“We’re here trying to share the gospel,” said Dennis Kennedy, a member of the church. Referring to a man playing corn hole with him he said, “I can’t speak [the language of] this fellow, but he seems happy about the game. I’m glad to get his mind off the stress of life for a while.”
Kennedy hoped to later show him a gospel presentation video in Burmese on his friend’s iPhone.
E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and visiting distinguished professor at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon, Leonard Sweet said that the average American views nearly 3,000 advertisements daily.
Sweet warned that these can become “sermons” the individual begins aligning his or her life to.
Identity requires narrative, said Sweet, and America is shaping our identities with a narrative contrary to true story of scripture. One particular place where identity is shaped is around the dinner table.
“The whole ministry of Jesus is one big table,” Sweet said. “If you are reading the Gospels and not getting hungry, you’re not reading them correctly. Jesus ate good food with evil people.
“The first command from God’s mouth in the Bible is ‘Eat freely’ and the last command is, ‘Drink freely.’ Everything in between is a table. Scripture is not to be a snack or smorgasbord. It is a meal and Jesus is served up on this platter.”
Platt encouraged the attendees to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel. He asked, “What if God really wants the entire world to hear His gospel? We have the Holy Spirit residing within us and because of this, we should be intentional about using the power of the Spirit to make disciples all over the world.”
The 2015 conference will be at April 10-11 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
There is a DVD available for each of the three sessions at a cost of $5 per DVD. The resource includes only the speakers. Visit for more information or contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599, or NC Baptist Men/Baptists On Mission, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
3/24/2014 3:10:49 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Wilmington association hosts T4T training

March 24 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

When Jeff Sundell returned to the United States after serving overseas for more than a decade with the International Mission Board, he recognized a need for renewed disciple-making efforts among American churches. 
“It’s so clear that disciple-making is just missing in many of our churches,” Sundell said.
Feeling a burden to renew a passion for disciple-making in the U.S., Sundell began training believers in his local church in an evangelism and discipleship strategy originally designed for the foreign mission field known as T4T (“Training for Trainers”).
“T4T is evangelism and discipleship connected. These two were always connected with Jesus,” Sundell said. “We must get back to connecting evangelism and discipleship.”
Soon after implementing the training in his local church, a number of people came to faith in Christ and soon neighboring churches asked to receive training. From there he began hosting T4T training in cities across North Carolina. Now with the help of additional partners, he and his team are leading T4T movements in 27 cities throughout the U.S.
He said God is moving in each of these cities in ways he never imagined. “Every day we receive emails from people we have trained who tell us about the new people they are reaching for Christ,” Sundell said. “Every day people are coming to faith in Christ.”
Sundell spoke during a T4T training event held March 4-5 in Wilmington. The event was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and hosted by the Wilmington Baptist Association. During the training, pastors and lay leaders learned the basics of T4T, including how to share the gospel and how to train and disciple new believers. 
The overall goal of T4T is to train disciples of Jesus Christ to make disciples, who in turn make disciples.
“The guiding word is reproducing,” Sundell said. “We want to make disciples who reproduce themselves.”
Lester Evans, BSC team leader for Associational Partnerships, said T4T fits closely with the strategy of the BSC, which emphasizes reaching the state’s 5.8 million lost people through disciple-making.  
“T4T is a method that can be used to develop and mobilize every believer to become a multiplying disciple of Jesus Christ,” Evans said. “This is where the Great Commission happens.”

Evangelism and Discipleship

T4T begins with a focus on evangelism. The training prepares Christians to share their testimony and the gospel with nonbelievers in natural conversations and equips them to ask for a response to the gospel during the course of the conversation. 
Sundell said combining the gospel with personal testimonies help people understand God’s grace and their need for forgiveness of sin. “Our testimony is not the power unto salvation, the gospel is the power unto salvation,” he said. “But our stories are experiences that others can relate to.”
Evangelism is an important part of the process, but Sundell said the key to T4T’s success is its emphasis on discipleship. Within 48 hours of coming to faith in Christ, every new believer is taught a simple gospel presentation, but they are also placed in a one-on-one discipleship relationship with a mature believer for a minimum of nine months.
“When people come to Christ, we don’t want to stop there,” Sundell said. “We don’t want to birth them and walk away.”
The end-goal for T4T is to connect new believers to the church, a process that is not always easy, Sundell said.
“New believers sometimes find it difficult to navigate the church,” he said. “Disciple them through that. Most of the time you can work new believers through a lot of those things if you just invest in them.”
Although T4T was originally designed to reach unreached people groups on the foreign mission field, it has found success in the U.S. Sundell said that is not surprising, given the rise of secularization combined with the increasing number of unreached people groups migrating to the U.S. in recent decades.
“The bottom line is that the ends of the earth have come to our doorsteps,” he said. “We’ve got to proclaim the gospel to them. We have to love them and tell them about Jesus.”
Sundell said that will only occur when churches rediscover their mandate to make disciples of all people.
“The gospel is clear. We have to go make disciples,” he said. “We have to get to where the church house is a training center to equip people to fulfill the Great Commission.”
For more information about T4T in the United States, visit For more information about the Convention’s five-year strategy, visit www.ncbaptist.og/strategy
3/24/2014 3:01:20 PM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Handbell festivals ring in good cheer, better choirs

March 24 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Gathering handbell choirs together may seem odd to an outside observer.
But choir directors across North Carolina find the annual youth and East/West adult handbell festivals a great place to learn better techniques and to practice and learn songs together.
“Our students look forward to this event every year,” said Dawn Tatum, youth handbell choir director for First Baptist Church in Huntersville. “It’s a highlight of the year’s experience. Festival helps our individual groups be a part of the bigger picture of music ministry. It encourages them to achieve a higher level of excellence in their ringing skills, while affirming their own abilities.”
Tatum said the youth handbell choir has been attending the annual festival, which is sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), since 2001.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Seventeen handbell choirs took part in the East Adult Handbell Festival Feb. 28-March 1 at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington.

Comprised of students from grades seven through 12, Tatum said the festival helps the youth advance their music reading and helps “them become great ‘appreciators’ of music. These kids also gain poise and presence, and confidence that transfers to all areas of life.”
Both the Youth Handbell Festival and the East and West Adult Handbell festivals met in February. Planning the festivals takes time and organization said Jim Davidson, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Hickory. Davidson is the handbell event coordinator for the BSC.
For the youth festival, Davidson said seven choirs totaling 85 people (including drivers and directors) attended this year’s festival at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. The adult choirs are divided most years with one gathering in the East and one in the West. The East festival attracted 17 choirs totaling about 180 people at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. The West festival is usually bigger. Its location was at the LeGrand Center in Shelby. Around 400 ringers from 34 choirs participated.
“Each clinician brings some new insights into music and into handbell ringing,” Davidson said.
The festivals help ringers with technique and provide fellowship. If churches have a handbell choir there is usually only one so they never have the chance to hear another choir unless they come to the festival.
“Having the chance to ring under the direction of a widely known director is a privilege and a pleasure,” Tatum said. “It’s exciting and exhilarating to ring alongside so many other choirs. Festival truly unites our ringers through a specific musical art.”
Tatum considers handbells a team sport because it requires elements of team play and commitment to the group. She also believes involvement in handbell choir “enhances the students’ spiritual development through the teaching of scripture, praise and prayer.” 
Davidson has a tough job of mapping out where choirs are located in the festival space. Since the choirs bring their own equipment, Davidson has to figure table lengths appropriate for each choir. Each festival has a set list of music which helps build the church’s repertoire for its playing schedule at its respective church.
Every five years, Davidson said the BSC hosts PraisRing, which joins East/West festivals together. Next year’s PraisRing is April 17-18 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. At least 60 choirs are expected to attend. Directors will be Tim Waugh and Ed Tompkins from The Charlotte Bronze. The festival is for TINS (2-3 octave choirs) and COPPERS (4-5 octave choirs). PraisRing also offers breakout sessions teaching anything from handbell repair to various types of techniques like ringing four bells in hand.
Registration will open July 2014 for the adult festival.
The 2015 Youth Handbell Festival is scheduled Feb. 27-28 at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. Registration will open later this year.
For more information, contact Sherry Thompson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5624, or
3/24/2014 2:48:38 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Conference equips parents, teens to work together

March 24 2014 by Marty Simpkins, BSC Communications

Life as a teenager can be full of uncertainty, transition, peer pressure and more, and parents have trouble traversing those angst-ridden years.
The Tag! Parents and Teenagers Together conference March 1 at First Baptist Church in Garner was meant to help parents and teenagers learn how to build solid relationships with each other.
“We all were teenagers at one time and we all made mistakes,” said Merrie Johnson, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship. “As our family grows, we become the parent of a teenager, trying to instill in them our number-one goal, which is to have an everlasting relationship with Jesus Christ and ... following after Him.”
The conference, sponsored by the convention, involved teens and parents worshipping the Lord, playing games and sharing personal experiences together.
Following an introductory session, teens participated in gender-specific breakout sessions while Johnson teaches parents how to prepare their sons and daughters for the difficulties of life ahead.
The conference schedule provides opportunities for parents and teenagers to enjoy lunch together and to spend time during the afternoon engaged in activities revolving around building trust, learning to listen to one another and finding ways to do more fun things together.
Teaching from Joshua 1:9, Johnson used this passage to illustrate the fact that teenagers go through a period of transition that is comparable to the Israelites’ transition from being led by Moses to being led by Joshua.
“I want [parents and teens] to make a commitment to do one thing by the end of this session, and that’s to ask themselves, ‘What’s the one thing that they want to change in their family?’” Johnson said. “Our emphasis is to bring the parents and teenagers together, mainly because teenagers just stop talking. We’ve got to be a voice that is as loud as what the world is telling them,” she said. “Somewhere along the way, we think that they don’t want us around anymore, but they still have to have guidelines and to have someone fighting for them in the things that they are going through.”
The purpose of the “Tag! You’re It” theme is to equip Christian students to make their lives count and to stand up for what they believe. Participants are trained in a form of apologetics specifically tailored to the young audience at this conference.
The results from the North Carolina Baptist Youth Ministry Survey in 2011 revealed that out of 4,281 students who completed the 83-question survey, 3,744 failed the biblical literacy portion.
“This was the ‘cream of the crop’ of students from N.C. Baptist churches: involved in youth ministry that were attending youth camp,” Johnson said.
She admitted that she knew the scores would be low, but she never anticipated more than 87 percent failing in what they know about God’s Word. The survey results also revealed that this generation is neither being mentored nor getting involved in discipleship groups.
The Tag! conferences help combat this by training students how to pray, how to share the gospel, how to defend what they believe and how to be leaders.     
The “Tag! You’re It” theme was developed upon the conviction that the BSC should assist churches in making disciples among teenagers. Scripture instructs parents to engage in disciple-making with their children and to discover how to grow as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ together.
For more information on upcoming BeDoTell events and future “Tag!” conferences, contact Merrie Johnson at (919) 459-5566 or email Additional information may also be found by visiting
3/24/2014 2:30:47 PM by Marty Simpkins, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Steve Green stands on faith against Obamacare mandate

March 21 2014 by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Once Steve Green sets his path, there’s no turning back.
Not when he and his high school girlfriend, Jackie, totaled their cars playing chicken. “No one turned off,” he said, recalling how he aimed right at her and she just kept coming. A year later, she married him.
Not when he saw no point in college, going directly into his family’s Hobby Lobby craft store business. Green, now 50, rose up from assembling picture frames for “bubble gum money” at age 7 through every job, including cleaning toilets, to president of the $3.3 billion national chain, one of the nation’s largest private companies.
And certainly not now when, he says, the U.S. government is challenging his unshakeable Christian faith and his religious liberty.
Next week (March 25) Green’s path leads straight up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to witness oral arguments in the case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
That’s Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The department included all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of contraception among services required for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Hobby Lobby has provided insurance with contraception coverage for years, paying for 16 of the FDA-approved forms, from barrier methods to pills that prevent fertilization. Not covered: intrauterine devices and morning-after pills such as Plan B. Those, the FDA acknowledges, could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Photo courtesy of Green family
Left to right, Steve Green, wife Jackie, Green’s son (with wife and kids), Green’s daughter and her husband outside the coliseum in Rome in 2012; the family was in town for the opening of the Verbum Domini exhibit of The Green Collection at the Vatican.

Blocking implantation would “terminate life” says Green. “We won’t pay for any abortive products. We believe life begins at conception.”
While scores of faith-based organizations and private business owners have filed suit seeking exemption from the mandate, Hobby Lobby has become the standard-bearer for religious opposition. The potentially landmark case is a First Amendment battle testing whether a private corporation can have freedom of religion rights and, if so, whether the government has a “compelling interest” in overriding such rights.
The justices will wade through thickets of questions: Can a company pick and choose laws to obey, based on the personal beliefs of the owner? Is it the job of government to decide whether those beliefs are worthwhile and sincere, deeply and consistently held?
Steve Green is a Southern Baptist, grandson and nephew of Pentecostal pastors, a Sunday school teacher for decades and leader of a business that has declared its Christian principles from opening day. Hobby Lobby stores are all closed Sundays “to allow employees time for family & worship,” the front door signs say.
He may be the ideal plaintiff “for such a time as this” – the line from the Book of Esther that believers often call on for courage when standing on faith.
Jackie and Steve Green, side by side in a Washington hotel restaurant crowded with people in town for February’s National Prayer Breakfast, remember another day when standing on faith carried them through a crisis.
Nearly 30 years ago, long before they were tagged as Oklahoma City billionaires, Steve Green’s father, Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, brought the whole Green clan together to consider – and pray for – the company’s survival. The 1985 Oklahoma oil bust had devastated the state economy. Hobby Lobby, never in the red before, was in deep trouble.
David Green founded the company in 1972, the only one of six children who didn’t become a pastor like their father in the Church of God of Prophecy denomination. After months of struggling alone to save the family business, he admitted, “I don’t know how to make this work.”
Steve Green was 21, his wife, 19 and pregnant with their first child. Married the year before, they had just bought their first home. Fear was not an option.
The whole family doubled down on work and on faith, “shared the stewardship,” they said, and never looked back. It turned out to be the only year Hobby Lobby ever lost money. Now, the company has 640 stores, with 70 more opening in 2014.
Steve and Jackie Green, who met at a church camp as young teens, are a double-team interview. They have the same eyes, pale blue green. They share the same easy laugh, the same “no regrets spirit,” Jackie Green says.
After all, not even a head-on collision could derail them.
Not surprisingly, he had his driver’s license suspended for speeding a few years later. (Who would know this was the same Steve Green who won the driver’s ed award among 68 students in his Bethany High School graduating class?) But he gave up the lead-foot driving – and parachute jumping and later his pilot’s license – as their family grew. The Greens have six children including a daughter, now 7, adopted from China.
The Hobby Lobby kingpin has little time for hobbies of his own. The family enjoys skiing and the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team. He became the chocolate chip cookie baker in the family when his wife didn’t make them as often as he had a hunger for them.
Their family foundation’s charitable gifts focus on gospel outreach efforts in the U.S. and abroad, contributing to the building of a dome for the Oklahoma State Capitol, and supporting social services such as the City Rescue Mission.
The mission is a 640-bed homeless shelter in Oklahoma City run by CEO and president Tom Jones. He was Steve Green’s youth pastor who became a lifelong friend (and an eyewitness to the infamous collision).
Jones still recalls how impressed he was by the teenage Green in his youth class at Sunday school.
“As a young man, when many others were just talking about everything from football to dating, his conversations were always centered around the importance of knowing and living by the truth of God’s word as the way to move through life toward success.
“I told him, ‘You need to share this!’ and he was all, ‘No, no, I’m good.’ So, finally, I just announced one day that he would be teaching the class. He’s been teaching ever since,” said Jones.
Across three decades, says Jones, “I’ve never seen Steve angry.” He’s also never seen Green turn away from a challenge, certainly not one where, said Jones, “he could be forced by the government to do something contrary to the word of God.”
Family, faith and business were the sole centerpieces of Steve Green’s life until the late 1990s when a professor with a passion for ancient manuscripts brought him the idea to build a collection of Bible texts. He’s since written two books, Faith in America and The Bible in America.
Now, the Green’s family foundation is building a Bible museum five blocks southwest of the U.S. Capitol to house an unparalleled collection of rare and ancient Scripture manuscripts: 40,000 biblical texts, artifacts and antiquities, from the most ancient manuscripts in Jesus “household language” to Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust.
It’s planned to open in 2017 and research to choose a name is underway. Just don’t expect to see “Green” in that name.
“Our hope is that the Bible is the hero of the museum, not me, or the Green family,” he said last week, in a phone interview from Egypt. He was traveling to Jerusalem and Rome as well to discuss possible exhibition partnerships (and take a side trip to climb Mount Sinai).
The average American has four Bibles at home and rarely reads any of them. Steve Green has worked his way through his Bibles uncounted times.
Lately, it’s the Book of Daniel that comes often to his mind. In Chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would rather face a fiery furnace than bow to an idol at the command of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Green said, “They told the king ‘Our God is able to deliver us.’”
As he faces the white-hot spotlight of the Supreme Court case, Steve Green said, “God has allowed us to take this stand. I don’t want to be presumptuous to say this is God’s will.”
If the ruling goes against Hobby Lobby, “I don’t know what we will do but I am sure what we will not do,” he said. He will say as the three men told the king, “even if God does not deliver us, we still cannot do this.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
Of more than 25,000 full-time and part-time Hobby Lobby employees, there are “13,000 lives” depending on their health plan, said Steve Green.
And the “greatest misconception” about the Green family and this case, he said emphatically, “is that we are trying to impose our religion on these workers or others. Not at all! That would violate our religion to do that.”
Yet through that religion, he said, they can face any court ruling with peace of mind.
“We are just going to do what God would call us to do, what he teaches us is right and trust him to do what is out of our control.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.)
3/21/2014 11:18:11 AM by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Hawaii’s moral challenges prompt ministry

March 20 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

HONOLULU – The legalization of gay marriage and a sex education curriculum that normalizes sexual activity for children under 14 are among the latest developments that have prompted Hawaii Baptists to engage their culture with renewed commitment.
Andrew Large, pastor of Waikiki Baptist Church, told Baptist Press he’s not willing to watch “society go downhill because [he’s] being silent and staying passive.” The Great Commission demands that believers “be engaged in the civil issues and [let] our community know exactly what Christianity is all about, what the Bible has to say,” he said.
In November, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill granting marriage rights, benefits and protections to people of the same sex. The bill, passed in a special legislative session with vocal support from Abercrombie, made Hawaii the 15th state to legalize gay marriage. More than 1,000 citizens testified before the legislature regarding the bill, with about 80 percent opposing it.
Meanwhile, a sex education curriculum for children ages 11 to 13 that is taught in at least 12 Hawaii public schools describes the anatomy of homosexual and heterosexual intercourse and fails to mention that intercourse with a child under age 14 is a felony in the state. Known as Pono Choices, the curriculum also does not discuss the benefits of monogamy, stating only that “limiting the number of sexual partners a person has can greatly reduce their risk of getting an STI [sexually transmitted infection],” according to a report by State Representative Bob McDermott.
The word “pono” in the curriculum’s title is the Hawaiian term for righteousness, a fact that pro-family advocates consider sadly ironic. The Hawaii state motto also contains the word pono and is rendered in English, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
Among other headlines, a Hawaii court dismissed two churches in January from a lawsuit brought by atheists alleging that five congregations committed fraud by paying substandard rent to the public schools where they met. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who represented the exonerated congregations, called the lawsuit an attempt to “bully churches into settlements when they did nothing wrong.”
Amid these developments, Hawaii Baptists have found ways to advocate morality in the public square while also presenting their neighbors with the message of salvation in Jesus.
“I’m very proud of our churches’ engaging our communities across the board when it comes to sharing the transformed life,” Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention executive director Christopher Martin said.
“They are engaging the communities,” he said. “They really have a heart to see Christ change their neighbors and their families and even the tourists out here.”
The Hawaii Pacific convention passed a resolution advocating traditional marriage the week before gay marriage became law. During the debate, the convention hosted webinars and posted resources on its website, including arguments against same-sex marriage, advice on ministry to homosexuals and suggested language for church bylaws to protect congregations from being forced to host same-sex weddings.
As the legislature’s vote approached, the Maui County Baptist Association ran an ad in its local newspaper quoting the Baptist Faith and Message’s statement that “marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” The ad urged citizens to tell their legislators to vote no on same-sex marriage.
Rick Lazor, pastor of OlaNui! in Honolulu, said Hawaii Christians should respond to the Pono Choices curriculum by adopting public schools and serving them. That would demonstrate believers’ care for students and help Christian leaders gain a hearing regarding what’s taught about sex, he said.
“My dream is for a Southern Baptist church to be in every school complex in Hawaii,” Lazor said. “We only have basically one school system here and one board of education for the whole state. We as a church need to adopt elementary and middle and high schools and be there for the principals when things are right and not only when things are wrong so that relationships are built.”
Although many Hawaii pastors “steer clear” of politics, “the homosexual marriage vote in September and October shook loose a lot of guys that have never been involved before,” Lazor said. “Right now I’m just hoping that momentum will stay alive.”
Hawaii’s moral tolerance is a misdirected byproduct of its friendliness and openness to all people, Lazor said. The state’s emphasis on personal warmth often makes Christians fearful of speaking out on public square issues for fear of being perceived as mean, he said, but many believers are learning that engagement is not the same as unfriendliness.
It’s difficult to find unfriendliness at OlaNui!, a congregation named with the Hawaiian word for “abundant life” from John 10:10. Located in the state’s fastest growing urban area, the church includes a mix of doctors, business people, retirees and homeless people. They sit at five-person tables during worship, and food is served before and after services.
“You have the wealthiest and one of the poorest census tracts in the state in the square mile surrounding our church,” Lazor said. “Our dream is that our church would be a place where both of those kinds of folks could sit down together for Sunday morning. And it’s somehow becoming that.”
In the wake of gay marriage legalization, Large said helping churches amend their wedding policies to avoid lawsuits by homosexual activists is an important ministry. The church amended its bylaws to stipulate that only the church’s paid clergy may officiate weddings on church property. The new policy was approved by the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and allows Waikiki Baptist to stand against gay marriage while still complying with the state’s public accommodation laws.
But Waikiki Baptist, which is located in a resort area, doesn’t limit its cultural engagement to the realm of public policy. Every Thursday night between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., church members set up a table outside with a sign reading, “Need prayer?” It draws tourists, locals, prostitutes, drug dealers and homeless people, affording opportunities to share the gospel.
Once people receive Christ as Lord and Savior, Waikiki Baptist involves them in a series of discipleship classes and home groups that meet across the island. Teaching these new converts how to honor God with their votes is part of the discipleship process, Large said.
“Part of discipleship is showing people that in every area of their life God is relevant,” Large said. “It’s not compartmentalized. We don’t put our civic duties in one box, our work ethics in another box, our church attendance in another box. Christianity is the whole basis of what we do. It’s who we are 24/7.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
3/20/2014 10:25:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tim Lubinus named Iowa Baptists' exec

March 19 2014 by Baptist Press

Church missions leader and former missionary Tim Lubinus has been elected as the Baptist Convention of Iowa's (BCI) new executive director/treasurer.
Lubinus, a native Iowan, was elected by the BCI Executive Board on March 10. He will replace interim executive director/treasurer Tom Law on March 24.
Lloyd Eaken, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Anamosa and president of the Baptist Convention of Iowa, said Lubinus "will be a great asset to the work of the Lord here in Iowa.… I believe God has led us to this moment and this man. I encourage all Iowa Baptists to support Tim and lift him to the Lord daily."
Lubinus, 50, was recommended by the BCI's executive director search committee Feb. 22 after what a convention news release described as a "year-long process of prayerfully sifting through resumes and interviewing applicants."
Lubinus has been the regional and global ministry director at Cornerstone Church in Ames the past eight years. His responsibilities have included Cornerstone's church planting strategy, which has started six new BCI churches with nearly 2,000 attendees.

BP photo
Tim Lubinus

He isn't done planting churches, telling members of the search committee he has "more vision and energy for church planting and church health/development across the state." Lubinus also was involved in the sending of Cornerstone short-term mission volunteers, preparing long-term missionaries and creating new ministries to reach the needy in Ames.
Lubinus was baptized while attending Iowa State University and became a member of Grand Avenue Baptist Church. He was called to the ministry in 1982, recounting that he and his wife Darlene "went forward after IMB missionaries to the Philippines Bill and Lyn Hyde [for whom the Iowa State Missions Offering is named] spoke at Grand Avenue Baptist Church. We pledged to serve Jesus wherever He would call us." Hyde was among 22 people killed in 2003 when a bomb exploded at the Davao City airport.
Lubinus completed his undergraduate degree in public service administration in 1985 at Iowa State. The couple then moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1988. Following graduation, Lubinus became the university student ministry director at Northern Illinois University for the Illinois Baptist State Association.
In 1990, the couple and their children became International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Korea where he was a university student ministry director for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
The family moved to Central Asia in 1996 where Lubinus started, led and expanded a team of more than 100 IMB missionaries in 12 cities while serving as the strategy associate on IMB's Central Asia regional leadership team. In 2005, Tim also became a trainer for ministry supervisors in Central Asia.
"While in Central Asia I worked hard to create a quality organization that missionaries joined because they wanted to, not because they had to," Lubinus recounted. "As a result of high growth and low attrition rates, our team became one of the fastest-growing IMB teams at that time in one of the most closed countries in the world. I have a similar vision for the Baptist Convention of Iowa in which pastors are excited about participating and inviting their friends to join for the vision, strategy, structure and excellence provided and because of the benefits they receive from being part of the organization."
Search committee chairman Dan Doolin, pastor of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Wappelo, said Lubinus comes to the BCI "with a depth of experience and with a heart to reach not only his community and state where he lives, but also the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an exciting day for me to think that God has raised up a native Iowan to lead the ministry of the BCI and has given to us a person that not only understands our culture but the cultures of the world."
The Lubinus family returned to Iowa in 2006 when he began work with Cornerstone Church in Ames. He recently completed his doctor of ministry degree through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City with an emphasis in church planting and church revitalization.
Lubinus thanked all the people God has used to bring him to the state convention staff, saying, "God used Grand Avenue Baptist Church and [then-pastor] Tom Nesbitt, the Baptist Student Union and Jack Owens, Bill and Lyn Hyde, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Cornerstone Church to develop my faith. I love the opportunity to give back to Iowa Baptists what I have received from them."
Ken Livingston, pastor of First Grace Baptist Church in Sheffield and BCI first vice president, said, "It is wonderful to see how God worked with and through the search committee and the Executive Board to bring Tim and Darlene Lubinus to this place in their lives. I see God in this decision and therefore I am anticipating great things for Iowa. It will be an honor to minister with them and support them as we serve the Lord Jesus together."
In addition to Doolin, members of the search committee appointed by the Executive Board were Mike Carlson (vice chair), Eugene Guthrie, Ted Keys, Jerome Risting, Chuck Spindler, Bob Stout and John Faulkner (alternate).
Lubinus and his wife Darlene have four grown children: Jacob Lubinus, 20; Nathan Lubinus, 21; Andrew Lubinus, 24 and Linsey Gravlin, 26, who is married to David Gravlin.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Jon (Ole) Olsen, publication editor for the Iowa Baptist News.)
3/19/2014 12:44:42 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Reflecting on ‘God-ordained,’ difficult days in Haitian jail

March 19 2014 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Paul Thompson considers it a beautiful thing to reflect on the days he and nine other Baptists were detained in a filthy Haitian jail, falsely accused of trafficking the orphans they were trying to help.
“They were difficult and perplexing and complex days, but God ordained them,” Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told Baptist Press four years after the ordeal. “It’s easy to see that, especially as I read back through my journal entries from those days.”
Thompson has compiled a 60-page journal of his time in Haiti, recording times when he wept with his face to the wall and times when he rejoiced over God’s provision.
The group of volunteers from two Idaho churches traveled to Haiti in January 2010 to rescue orphans from the earthquake-ravaged country and move them to safety in the Dominican Republic. Shockingly, they were charged with child kidnapping instead.
Eight of the volunteers, including Thompson, were released after 19 days. Another team member was allowed to leave after 37 days, and the final volunteer was held more than 100 days.

BP photo
After being detained in Haiti for nearly three weeks on false child trafficking charges in 2010, Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, has returned to Haiti multiple times to establish New Horizon, a home for 20 girls.

Among the good that God brought from those bad days was the establishment of New Horizon, a ministry supported by Eastside Baptist Church that houses, feeds and educates 20 girls in Port-au-Prince. It was during the volunteer group’s detention that they met a Haitian named Alex, who now serves as director of the ministry.
“That connection with Alex was clearly the providential hand of God,” Thompson said.
Because of the spiritual need in the community where the ministry houses the girls, Eastside has planted its first international church plant, New Horizon Baptist Church.
“Spinning out of our engagement there for the last four years, since the arrest days, they’ve been days of unfolding for church planting, caring for orphans, being a witness for the gospel there in Port-au-Prince,” Thompson told BP.

Crisis management

When news broke that the volunteer group had been arrested, Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, the second church with members on the trip, was home preparing his usual 5th Sunday sermon – a Gospel presentation.
“I knew that the world was going to cave in on some of the families,” Henry told Baptist Press. “It was tempting to think maybe I should preach a different message.”
But as he watched the mainstream media begin to surround his church, Henry knew God was telling him to stay the course and preach the message he planned to deliver. He did, and the standing-room-only crowd heard the Gospel loud and clear.
One of the positive developments that came from the Haiti ordeal for Central Valley Baptist Church is that now they are prepared with a crisis management team to help mitigate any chaos that might arise if a similar event happens on another mission trip.
“I think as more and more churches are doing overseas ministries, the possibility for unexpected things is always there, and I think some churches aren’t as prepared as they ought to be,” Henry said.
Central Valley Baptist has remained strong in their commitment to international missions. The church, with 450 regular attenders, has sent teams to more than 30 countries. What happened in Haiti didn’t deter them any more than it deterred Eastside Baptist.
Those days when the volunteers were locked in putrid conditions in a Haitian jail were hard for sure, Henry remembers, but God taught him some “amazing spiritual lessons.”
The first thing Henry had to surrender, he said, was his right to a good reputation. Growing up, a person’s name meant something, and Henry was seeing his name, as pastor of a church tied to child trafficking, smeared. Not only that, his church’s reputation was maligned.
“I was reminded that people didn’t think well of Jesus Christ. He didn’t have a good reputation either,” Henry said, “but that didn’t keep Him from continuing to do the Father’s work.”
The church received hate mail because of falsehoods reported in the media, “but we just had to keep laying down our right to have things work out our way or be thought of the way we wanted to be thought of or have this thing end as quickly as we wanted it to end,” Henry told BP.
Thompson, in his Feb. 6 journal entry, wrote that a group from a television news network had brought in a pizza from Domino’s and MREs for them one day. “One of our MREs had a mobile phone in it. They wanted us to use it to call our families,” Thompson wrote in his journal. “As tempting as this was we have chosen not to use it. I am of the opinion that the media wants to listen in to gather information. This may be an innocent gesture of good will but we have decided that there is no media we can trust or want to trust right now.”

‘God can do what we cannot do’

Looking back four years later, maybe the most significant lesson the people of Central Valley Baptist learned from the group’s detention was being reminded “that God can do what we cannot do,” Henry said.
The families of the volunteers wanted to take care of their loved ones by providing meals, water and other necessities, but they could not because they were thousands of miles away.
“That became an incredible daily challenge that was really kind of beyond our ability to take care of, but God answered that prayer through a Christian organization that came to our aid and through people that showed up at the jail – Christians in Haiti that brought water and food and things like that to our people,” Henry recounted. “It was constantly a reminder to us that God does meet our basic needs.
“Sometimes it was humorous because our team was full of God’s love for the people down there so a lot of times when we did get supplies to them, they gave them away to the other people that were incarcerated with them who had no one to take care of them,” Henry said. “Sometimes after we got what we thought they needed to them, we immediately had to get more because they had given it away.”
In his Jan. 30 journal entry, Thompson recorded, “The cell is only concrete. No bunks. No mattresses. The Dominican, Jean, came back offering his sleeping bag. Jim is kind to accept his gift. Not sure when this bag was last washed but from the odor, it has been some time ago. Kindness from God in a dark place.”
Thompson’s recorded prayer that night was, “God, protect us tonight. We are without everything but You. You and you alone do we have. Praise be to God.”
Though the days inside the jail and at home in Idaho were intense and difficult, “the Lord showed us that He was faithful,” Henry said, “and I think that gave a number of people in our church the courage to believe that even though they were going through difficult things in their own lives, God would be there for them too.”
Henry quoted Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.”
“We had this plan of ministry that we thought we were going to be involved in, but it turned out to be something very different,” Henry said. “It often works that way, and we just have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and be willing to do what He leads us to do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
3/19/2014 12:30:07 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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