March 2014

Photographers capture missions, national attention

March 14 2014 by Baptist Press/IMB

Rahima* barely makes a living begging on the busy streets of Bangladesh. As Rahima and her two young daughters sat down on the edge of the sidewalk to eat a bag of cooked rice and vegetables, photographer Joanna B. Pinneo sees a story unfolding before her eyes and takes the shot.
 
Each year the International Mission Board (IMB) releases a special collection of their images taken during the past year. Many of those images compel Southern Baptists to give and go on missions to help relieve suffering through sharing the love of Christ. This article includes links to images and audio comments from photographers who covered the stories overseas.
 
This year, IMB’s CommissionStories magazine also was recognized by Pictures of the Year International as a finalist in their Best Publication Division/Best Magazine category. National Geographic received top honors in that category for Best Use of Photography by a Magazine. German Geo and the International Mission Board were the category’s finalists. For more information about the award go to http://www.poyi.org/71/35/index.php.
 
The following includes more details behind IMB’s collection of photographs:
 

Begging for a better life

Through Pinneo’s lens she was able to share Rahima’s story.
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IMB photo by Joanna B. Pinneo
Rahima and her family are forced to make a living in the best and most respectable way they can. “I do not have any dream for myself,” she says. “I only have dream and hope for my children.”

 
See the image here.

Listen to Pinneo's comments here.
 
Rahima and her family are forced to make a living in the best and most respectable way they can. This life of mere survival is not Rahima’s choice. Her hope and dream is that her two daughters will have a better education and environment than she has had and become “good women.” Rahima said, “I do not have any dream for myself. I only have dream and hope for my children.”
 
The Light of Hope Learning Center seeks to give girls an opportunity to expand their horizons and to make a living for themselves. The school, started by Southern Baptist worker Geri Hennerman,* lifts the girls up spiritually and provides them an education and handicraft skills. The teachers approach each girl as a whole person, treating them with respect, love and care.
 
Hennerman said, “The stories, pictures and video have gotten many people more involved in all the Lord is doing here. We have heard from individuals, churches and groups via email and have also received numerous financial gifts.”
 
Because of this, pre-teen girls like Rahima’s 9-year-old daughter Minara are able to attend the school five days a week.
 
View a video update about the center and hear the Hennermans expressing their thanks to Southern Baptists for their support here. To get in touch with the Light of Hope Learning Center directors about how you or your church can get involved, email lightofhope916@gmail.com.
 

Ongoing need

Another visual story includes a Syrian child taking a nap in a rented home in northern Lebanon, where there are no official, government-backed refugee camps.
 
See the image here.

Listen to photographer Joseph Rose's comments here.
 
Roughly half of the some 2 million refugees resulting from the Syrian civil war are children. (Read more at commissionstories.com/speakup). Southern Baptists have an ongoing relief ministry among Syrian refugees in four countries where they have fled. Contribute to the distribution of food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelters at imb.org/syrianrefugees and designate “Syria relief” in the comment line.
 

Swath of destruction

A child runs along the rocky shore at Gibitngil Island, seemingly oblivious to the destruction caused to her community by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Behind her are the ruined structures of a small beach resort that provided a valuable tourism income for the tiny community.
 
Gibitngil Island, like many communities that suffered almost total destruction, remained unreached by relief efforts for days because of its inaccessibility. Baptist Global Response (BGR) partnered with local IMB personnel to make assessment trips to many of these more isolated parts of northern Cebu Island to make plans for immediate and long-term assistance.

See the image click here.

Listen to photographer Hugh Johnson's comments here.
 
For an update on related relief efforts, click here. To donate to Southern Baptists’ Typhoon Haiyan Relief fund, click here.
 
The selections IMB submitted were presented in memory of photographer Don Rutledge, who died in February 2013 at age 82.
 
Traveling throughout the United States and to more than 140 countries for more than 40 years, Rutledge captured many moments of humanity and ministry in hundreds of classic photographs taken for the Home (now North American) Mission Board and later for the Foreign (now International) Mission Board. For many mission photographers, Rutledge revolutionized missions storytelling and influenced several generations of Christian communicators. His images helped millions of inspired viewers to understand, pray for and participate in missions.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Story compiled by IMB.)
3/14/2014 10:53:29 AM by Baptist Press/IMB | with 0 comments



Abedini, in hospital, shackled & denied care

March 14 2014 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

TEHRAN, Iran – Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, was moved to a private hospital in Iran but was shackled and denied medical care, prompting the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is working for his freedom, to say his case took a turn for the worse.
 
The next day, March 13, ACLJ reported that Abedini, imprisoned for his Christian faith, had been released from the shackles and was allowed to receive visitors again. He had not been treated, though, for severe abdominal ailments resulting from beatings by Iranian prison guards.
 
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh, on Facebook, asked believers worldwide to pray and even “fast from something” until Thursday, March 20, which marks the Iranian New Year, a day when the Islamic republic often grants clemency to prisoners of conscience.
 
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Saeed Abedini

ACLJ reported March 12 that Abedini, sentenced to eight years in prison for his involvement in house churches, was moved from the brutal Rajai Shahr Prison to a hospital. He received nourishment and underwent various tests, something ACLJ called a much-needed reprieve.
 
“Today, all that changed,” Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s executive director, reported. “This morning Iranian guards lashed out violently against Pastor Saeed and an elderly relative who had been able to visit him in the hospital. Pastor Saeed was pinned down and shackled. His elderly relative was roughly handled and expelled from the hospital.”
 
Abedini was denied surgery and was given only pain medication. He wasn’t even allowed to know the results of the tests he underwent, ACLJ said, and guards claimed they had a court order banning visitors and instructing them to keep him shackled.
 
Sekulow said the timing of the move to the hospital was suspicious given that Catherine Ashton, a representative of the European Union, was visiting Iran when Abedini was hospitalized. Once she left, he was told he would return to prison with no treatment.
 
“The EU has been faithfully raising Pastor Saeed’s case for some time, and this move would allow Iranian officials to report that he was receiving medical treatment if his case was brought up during the EU’s visit to Iran,” Sekulow said.
 
After Abedini was denied treatment and shackled, and after ACLJ drew worldwide attention to the problem, a family member of Abedini went to the prison to ask why the pastor had been denied medical care, Sekulow reported March 13.
 
“He was told by prison officials that the whole ordeal was a ‘mistake’ and that the warden called the hospital and ordered that Pastor Saeed be unchained and permitted to visit the family member.”
 
Iran’s behavior demonstrates the need for international pressure to remain strong on Abedini’s behalf, Sekulow said, adding that an ACLJ legal team was meeting with world leaders in Geneva, working toward Abedini’s release.
 
Naghmeh Abedini, living in Idaho with the couple’s two young children, challenged supporters to pray for the meetings in Geneva, stating, “I believe in the power of prayer.”
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in February, raised the possibility that Abedini and other Americans held by Iran could be granted clemency. Abedini’s wife urged believers to pray that her husband would be released in conjunction with the Iranian New Year.
 
The day before news of Abedini’s hospital beating and shackling broke, Naghmeh Abedini posted on Facebook a glimpse into how she is faring as her husband is persecuted.
 
“Many nights like tonight/today I am awakened after only 3-4 hours of sleep and I find myself struggling with hopelessness and despair,” Naghmeh wrote. “... I spend hours in prayer and crying out to The Lord.”
 
Later that day, March 11, she wrote, “Today I struggled with despair. I spent my day playing worship music, reading my Bible and devotionals, praying and reading each of your sweet messages (being surrounded by the body of Christ).”
 
God used 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 to remind her that “these pressures and uncertainties happen that I might not rely on myself, but on God.” She quoted the passage, emphasizing that “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. To sign an international petition for Saeed Abedini’s release, visit www.beheardproject.org.)
3/14/2014 10:38:02 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bible Drill now on smartphones, tablets

March 14 2014 by Eddy G. Oliver, Baptist Press

The Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) has brought the digital age to Bible Drill, developing an app to help students and leaders study the Bible on smartphones and tablets.
 
Developed as a discipleship tool for children, students, adults and families, the app allows drillers to review the Bible through different activity and study options, Maria Brannen, a GBC state missionary in discipleship/spiritual renewal.
 
"Kids are digital natives and this is a great way for them to have an opportunity for study at home during the week," Brannen said.
 
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BP Photo
The Georgia Baptist Convention has brought the digital age to Bible Drill, developing an app to help students and leaders study the Bible on smartphones and tablets.

The app provides a variety of study tools to aid in Scripture memorization, including options such as electronic flash cards. Additional activities are designed to help students learn and review Bible books. The app is pre-loaded with three translations used by Bible Drillers -- the King James Version, the Holman Christian Standard Version and the English Standard Version. Students and adults also have the option to share a verse they are learning via social media.
 
Because it is not specific to Georgia's Bible Drillers, anyone can download the app for 99 cents in the iTunes store.
 
"It's a great home study tool where students can learn even if no one else is around," Brannen said. "We hope to have a whole new generation of children who will have a passion for studying God's Word."
 
Christian parents can use the app to help their children memorize Scripture, facilitating a faith connection at home for family activities, Brannen said. The app also can be used as a learning activity on an iPad in Bible Drill, Sunday School and missions classes at church.
 
The app is already receiving five-star reviews on iTunes.
 
"All my Bible Drill parents and teachers are downloading the app and they love it," a Bible Drill leader in Calhoun, Ga., said. "We have several church members who do not have children but simply want to be familiar with the material when the competition comes. Bible Drill is contagious!"
 
An array of Bible Drill ideas also is posted on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/gabibledrill.
 
First developed in the 1920s, Bible Drill's purpose is to teach the Bible, develop skills in locating Bible books and verses and in memorizing Bible verses and names of the Bible books chronologically as well as teaching personal biblical application.
 
The GBC is the permanent host for the National Invitational Youth Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament. In 2014, the event will take place on June 20 at First Baptist Church in Helen.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eddy G. Oliver serves as state missionary in communication services at the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
3/14/2014 10:26:11 AM by Eddy G. Oliver, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Spring break students highlight for Sandy relief volunteers

March 13 2014 by Sara Shelton, NAMB/Baptist Press

One of the highlights of the continued Sandy Rebuild effort is the arrival of college students using their spring breaks to serve the people of Staten Island, N.Y., according to at least one volunteer couple.
 
This year Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, including Ronda and Randy Corn, will welcome nearly 200 students from more than six states over a two-week period to assist in the cleanup and rebuild work on the island.
 
When the Corns arrived in Staten Island in November 2012 – just five days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall – they didn’t think they would still be there today.
 
“Randy and I have been here since the beginning,” Ronda Corn said, “and we plan to stay until the end. There’s still such a mess here. Homes are gutted and unlivable. People are displaced. Below the surface there is just so much hurt. Time has passed and media attention has faded, but the people here still need so much help.”
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 NAMB photo by John Swain
Louisiana State University students Skyler Hollins (left) and Taylor Christian wield sledgehammers to remove flooring from a Staten Island home flooded by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge. More than 500 students volunteered part of their winter breaks to work with SBDR volunteers last year. Registration for this year’s Sandy Rebuild effort is now open for spring breaks and summer.

 
Serving under local construction team leaders and fellow SBDR volunteers, students will hang sheet rock, tile floors, install doors, put up walls – anything to help homes become livable once again.
 
“The students work with a construction team leader and learn a lot about skilled labor,” Corn said. “It’s hard work but really an awesome experience.”
 
The experience is a stark contrast to the way many college students spend spring break. SBDR built a volunteer village on a three-acre field on Staten Island, complete with shower, kitchen and water units. Students will camp in tents built specifically for Sandy Rebuild workers. With New York closing out one of its roughest winters yet, volunteers face the difficult challenge of braving the elements.
 
“Weather conditions this season haven’t made our work easy, and we’ve tried to prepare students for the potential wet and cold weather we’ve seen all season,” Corn said. “They’re all still excited to serve. For all of us, it’s not about the project itself; it’s about the people. That’s been our motto from day one, and keeping the hearts of the people we’re serving in mind has helped tremendously on the difficult days.”
 
It’s not just the hearts of the people they’re serving but the hearts of the college students as well that the Corns and their team hope to see changed.
 
“Our main goal is that the gospel goes out to the people, both the ones we’re serving in Staten Island and the college students here doing the work,” Corn said. “There are opportunities for the body of Christ to minister both inside and outside our camp.”
 
Last year the Corns met a student named Belle. Though she didn’t know Christ, she signed up to serve with her fellow students. She returned to her campus after the week with a new curiosity about Christ and, after talking with her group leader, placed her faith in Christ. This year, Belle is returning to serve and share what Christ did in her life through service to Staten Island last year.
 
“It’s an incredible story,” Corn said. “This girl came to know Christ, and since then, has been walking with her roommate as she begins to seek Christ in her own life. She’s even kept in touch with the homeowners she served last year, helping point them to Christ as well. Just one story like this – one soul coming to know the Lord through serving here – that makes all the difference.”
 
Students have virtually year-round service opportunities now with Sandy Rebuild. To explore more about assisting in New York, visit www.namb.net/sandy.
 
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., the North American Mission Board coordinates Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
 
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB’s disaster relief fund via www.namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board.)
3/13/2014 12:12:18 PM by Sara Shelton, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Insanity of obedience’ explored by Ripken

March 13 2014 by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Biblical obedience to God is insane. That’s the conclusion of Nik Ripken, based on his 15 years of research and hundreds of interviews with persecuted believers around the world.
 
In Ripken’s latest book, he asks:
  • Why else would a man like Dmitri,* imprisoned for leading an illegal house church in communist Russia, insist on singing a praise song to Jesus every morning for 17 years, even as prison guards beat him and fellow inmates ridiculed him?
  • Why else would overseas Christian workers in a Muslim country closed to a gospel witness gather to share Christian communion after a Muslim extremist shot four colleagues, killing three of them?
  • Why else would a man like Ripken move his family from the safety and comfort of a small Kentucky town to settle in Africa where they encountered sickness and death and witnessed unspeakable suffering among their neighbors and friends?
Insanity is the only plausible explanation by the world’s standards, Ripken states in The Insanity of Obedience. But for Ripken and other believers choosing to stay in difficult places to share the gospel, their belief in the power and love of Christ enables them to persevere.
 

A personal journey

Ripken’s first book, The Insanity of God, recounts his personal journey to relieve human suffering in war-torn Somalia, the appalling sorrow he experienced and his struggles with a God who would allow His followers to endure such pain on His behalf.
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IMB photo
Biblical obedience to God is insane, says Nik Ripken, who served with his wife Ruth in Somalia. Ripken bases his statement on 15 years of research and hundreds of interviews with persecuted believers around the world. Ripkin is the author of The Insanity of God and his latest book, The Insanity of Obedience.

 
The Insanity of God raises challenging questions for evangelical believers living in the relative comforts of the West: What is the cost of obedience? How can Christians in the U.S. come alongside persecuted believers and ignite churches in America to be serious about fulfilling the Great Commission?
 
Ripken answers these questions in his latest book. Drawing from his years of experience as an international Christian worker, he seeks to develop practical applications for Western churches.
 

Persecution redefined

Ripken challenges how American Christians commonly define persecution in what he calls a “post-Pentecost” era in America – an environment in which the gospel has been preached widely, churches are present and Christian literature and education are easily accessible.
 
“Persecution, it seems, is rare in a post-Pentecost setting,” Ripken writes. “Often pastors say to us, ‘Persecution is coming to the church in America.’ When asked to explain ... the response often revolves around conservative evangelical stances on homosexuality and abortion ... But the U.S. church’s stance opposing these activities and lifestyles is the same as conservative Islam!”
 
In what Ripken calls a “pre-Pentecost” or “Old Testament” environment, persecution is perceived differently. Approximately 9,000 people groups representing nearly 4 billion people live in settings where there are few believers and few, if any, churches. In some of these places, the gospel message has not been shared because there is no believer present to share it. In other places hostile to the spread of the gospel, believers who share their faith do so at risk to their and their families’ safety.
 
Ripken suggests that churches in the West do not face significant persecution as they become less and less a threat to a spiritually lost world. However, in pre-Pentecost settings, religious persecution comes not from taking a stand on social and cultural issues but from making Jesus known to those who have little or no opportunity to hear about Him otherwise, he says.
 
In these very different settings, discipleship approaches also differ, Ripken notes.
 
Churches living in persecution use a “New Testament house church style” of discipleship out of the necessity of believers bonding in small groups to endure persecution together, Ripken explains. They learn together and teach each other, modeling locally what being a believer in Christ means.
 
As non-believers see followers of Jesus meeting human needs and alleviating suffering, the love of Christ becomes tangible, drawing those outside the group to learn more, Ripken explains.
 
Ripken contrasts this approach with some Western-based discipleship programs that are essentially “information transfer.”
 
“Discipleship in settings of persecution is based on relationship,” Ripken writes. “New believers are asked how they are treating their wife and children ... about their use of money and their time on the Internet. In the Western world, a believer can go to a denominational college and get multiple seminary degrees and never be asked these kinds of questions! Discipleship is about building character, not simply transferring information.”
 

The scariest challenge

Learning discipleship methods from believers experiencing persecution may be a radical concept for evangelical believers comfortable with a highly programmatic style of church, Ripken acknowledges. But discipleship needs to be personal and bring about significant life changes in believers, he says.
 
True discipleship, coming alongside each other, is messy, inconvenient and rarely goes according to plan, he says, but it is necessary to life transformation and being obedient to God.
 
“Lost people must not be merely the focus of Western workers,” Ripken writes. “Instead, lost people must become their family.”
 
To build healthy, growing Christians and churches, evangelical believers must open their homes, their lives, their families and their hearts to those who don’t know Christ and those who don’t live according to conservative evangelical principles, Ripken says.
 

Obedience that influences

Dmitri learned this lesson in a Russian jail cell, Ripken shares. Every morning for 17 years, he stood at attention by his bed, faced the East, lifted his hands to heaven and sang a praise song to Jesus. He was beaten by his captors and ridiculed by fellow inmates, who often threw food and human waste into his cell in attempts to stop his singing.
 
Then, one day, after finding a piece of paper on which Dmitri had written every Scripture reference, Bible verse, story and song he could recall, his jailers beat him severely and threatened him with execution. As they dragged him from his cell down the center corridor toward the courtyard, Dmitri heard a strange sound. The 1,500 hardened criminals who had ridiculed him for nearly two decades stood at attention by their beds. They faced the East, raised their arms and began to sing the song they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning.
 
“Who are you?” a guard demands to Dmitri.
 
“I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His name!” Dmitri replies.
 
They returned Dmitri to his cell. Some time later, he was released and told Ripken his story.
 
That’s the kind of influence for which Christians should strive, Ripken says. But, it only comes through “insane” obedience to God’s commands.
 
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is an IMB writer. Both of Ripken’s books, “The Insanity of God” and “The Insanity of Obedience” are available at imbresources.org.)
3/13/2014 12:02:56 PM by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ethnic diversity viable in church, Newbell says

March 13 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Barriers to ethnic diversity in the church – barriers already torn down by the gospel of Jesus – can be eliminated in practice as Christians shed assumptions and overcome fears, author Trillia Newbell contends.
 
Newbell, who has written a new book on diversity in the body of Christ, says relationships based on a humble desire to understand can be vital in a cause she is passionate about.
 
"[Y]ou don’t want to assume. You want to ask questions," she said in an online video interview for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "It’s amazing what we can learn from each other when we are open and willing."
 
"So I think that one would enter into a relationship without assuming that you know everything, [and be] willing to ask if you don’t know," said Newbell, the ERLC’s consultant for women’s initiatives.
 
Fear also can inhibit the effort to achieve ethnic diversity, she said.
 
"If you don’t know someone or something about someone, you might just be fearful," Newbell told Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications. "Also, it’s a hot-button issue. ... And so people are, I think, just afraid, afraid to talk about it because of what we see not only in the media but in our backyards. It can be kind of a touchy topic, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be something we should be talking about, because I think when we start talking about it, it will help break these divides and barriers, especially with Christians because there isn’t one, there shouldn’t be one."
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Trillia Newbell has written a new book on diversity in the body of Christ called United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity.

 
The gospel has eradicated such divisions for followers of Christ.
 
"The gospel unites us and makes us brothers and sisters," Newbell said in subsequent interviews. "Only in the body of Christ can two people be different and yet the same (equal in creation, equal in redemption). Jesus’ blood breaks the divide that so often entangles us."
 
Despite the gospel and God’s celebration of the diversity in humanity, "the problem with the current church model and experience for most of us is that while we affirm these truths with our lips, Sunday morning reveals a different story," she said.
 
Converted to Christ as a young woman, Newbell was part of a Knoxville, Tenn., church made up mostly of white people for a decade. A request from her pastor led to the writing of her book, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity.
 
"My pastor at the time asked me to read and review John Piper’s book Bloodlines," she told Baptist Press. "I was so affected by the book because it was the first time that I had read so clearly about issues of race from a white male theologian. From there I wrote a blog about my own concerns and struggles as a black female in a predominantly white church. The response was pretty remarkable to me. So many seemed to resonate with what I was sharing. It seemed like a topic that needed to be addressed."
 
Newbell grew up in the South, and her father told her about being beaten for refusing to sing "Dixie" at a sports event, and about the suffering blacks experienced in those days. He also taught her to love all people, regardless of their ethnicity.
 
When she became a Christian, she grew to understand being black "wasn’t even my first identity," she wrote in her book. "And though the richness of that truth took some time to sink in, I had become first a Christian, then a black woman."
 
In addition to finding her identity in Christ, she also benefited greatly from deep relationships with two young Christian women – one white and one Chinese. Those friendships fleshed out for her the ethnic diversity of the body of Christ and form much of her personal pilgrimage described in the book.
 
"By building into diverse relationships, we display the reconciliation and redemption of Christ to a world that is broken and divided," Newbell said. "True unity is found first through being reconciled to God and then to each other. To walk in that unity arm in arm with people of every tribe and race is to declare to the world that Christ’s blood is enough for the fight for racial reconciliation."
 
Because Christ’s salvation of sinners cuts across all ethnicities, "our churches should be the most gracious environments on the planet," she wrote. "More than any other place, the church should be more open to and excited about having people unlike themselves."
 
Newbell; her husband Thern Newbell, who is white, and their children moved to the Nashville area last year and are part of another predominantly white congregation, a new Southern Baptist church plant.
 
Churches, especially their leaders, can take intentional steps to foster ethnic diversity.
 
"I think it’s important to try to develop a staff that reflects their desire for diversity," she said. "I also think it’s important that they talk about it and cast a vision for it to their congregations."
 
Christians can promote diversity in their families by inviting people of different ethnicities into their homes and by reading books together "about other people, other nations, other tribes," Newbell said.
 
"Hospitality teaches children, one, to love people and to serve others because you have to be others-focused to be hospitable, but also it can teach them that they welcome other people who are not like them in terms of ethnicity in their home," she said.
 
Newbell is lead editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and blogs on such sites as The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God.
 
Her book, published by Moody Publishers, is available at Lifeway Christian Stores, other Christian booksellers and Amazon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.)
3/13/2014 11:54:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Resting in their calling to plant in Northeast

March 12 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

Kevin and Kristi Cabe don’t believe God is done with them yet in the Northeast. About two years ago the couple uprooted from their life in Knoxville, Tenn., and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., to help Cornerstone Church in Bay Ridge – the only Baptist church in a community of 70,000.
 
Since then, the couple’s calling to the area has strengthened, but with that they have had to lean heavily on their faith while working in bivocational ministry.
 
The Cabes, who had the title of North American Mission Board Mission Service Corp missionaries at the time they arrived in the city, had raised enough support from churches to begin their work. But eventually that support began to dwindle with the expense of living in New York for nearly two years.
And the pressures of finding employment that didn’t pull away from their ministry also proved to be more difficult than they initially expected. Last fall, the Cabes began to wonder if God was moving them in another direction.
 
“I think the role that we came up here to play was to really assist a church planter,” said Cabe, who was associate pastor at the church.
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BP photo by Shawn Hendricks
Kevin and Kristi Cabe uprooted their life in Knoxville, Tenn., about two years ago to help a small church plant in Brooklyn. Today, they are working with Crossroads Church in Farmingdale on Long Island as church planter interns with the North American Mission Board.

 
“... We weren’t the lead planter.…We were more of the support role. So I feel like from that standpoint it was really tough [with] the fundraising.”
 
Ministry in New York City is difficult enough, Cabe said, but the added pressure of raising enough support to pay the rent and buy groceries made their move to the city that much tougher.
 
“Everybody has financial stress, [but] ... I felt the pressure of ‘I don’t want to go home broke,’” he said. “We don’t want to leave because we ran out of money. ... And I think that kind of magnified everything.”
 
Still, the couple rested in their calling to help plant churches in the Northeast.
 
“We were like, ‘Lord, you called us to this city to serve in this city,’” Kevin said.
 
Kevin, who grew up in Canton, N.C., ended up finding a full-time job working in development at a faith-based homeless shelter to help pay bills. But the hours often pulled him away from his ministry time with Cornerstone.
 
On many days, Kevin would leave the Cabes’ apartment at 7:30 a.m. and wouldn’t return home until 9 p.m. The daily grind often conflicted with the weekly Bible studies they hosted in their apartment.
 
“At the time it was the easiest place for people to come and so I would let all of the men in and I would leave and [Kevin] would not be there,” said Kristi, who led women’s ministry at the church. “Or, he would get there at the end or midway through.
 
“That’s how the Lord chose to provide at the time,” she added, “but it was just one of those things where at a certain point we kind of sat down and we were just like ‘This isn’t why we’re here.’”
 
Last July, after a month of prayer, Kevin decided “in faith” to step away from his full-time job.
 
“We had about 15 people back home praying with us ... and whether we should make the decision to do that because we’re leaving a salary,” he said. “We’re leaving health insurance ... benefits.”
 
In the fall, the Cabes wondered if God wanted to move them to another part of the city. Cornerstone Church continued developing more leaders in the church and showing signs of sustainable growth.
 
“We felt a sense that God was closing the door of ministry where we were.... We saw that church go from seven people to as many as 60,” Cabe said. “Again our desire was to always come in and help a church plant set up for success.”
 
The couple soon connected with Sterling Edwards, a church planter and lead pastor of another congregation called Crossroads Church in Farmingdale on Long Island. Edwards also leads a second campus in East Islip.
 
Edwards is in the middle of leading his church to help start 20 churches in the next 20 years in the area – a daunting challenge in Long Island. He offered the Cabes an opportunity to help the church make that vision a reality.
 
The Cabes are now leading a small group for the church. Kevin is pastor of adult ministries; Kristi is director of women’s ministry. The North American Mission Board also has offered the Cabes a church planter internship that will help sustain them financially for at least another year.
 
The new opportunity for the Cabes not only provided a new start but also free housing. Crossroads has offered the couple a parsonage for housing while they are working with the church.
 
Edwards expressed his appreciation for the Cabes to provide help in a “highly unevangelized” area where he said only 2.7 percent of the population is evangelical.
 
“Our research from the area, [shows] 94 percent of our community that’s 27 years of age and younger do not plan to attend a worship service of any kind over the next year,” Edwards said, citing research gathered from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that has an ongoing church planting partnership with New York.
 
He added that 86 percent of the 37-and-younger population has no plans to attend a worship service of any kind in the next year.
 
“What Kevin and Kristi really do for us is they’re just an extension of allowing us to build more relationships,” Edwards said. “That’s evidenced by them building relationships within the church but also outside of the church.”
 
“It’s never easy to transition a move from one place to another,” said Edwards, who experienced the challenge of moving his family from Texas to New York more than seven years ago.
 
“Ultimately following Jesus requires some determination and definitely some resolve to say that when we say we’ll go, we’re gonna go,” he said. “Transition isn’t easy but it is just a privilege to respond to the One who [has] called us.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.) 
3/12/2014 12:15:32 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Crossover Baltimore to bring hope through partnerships

March 12 2014 by Sara Shelton, NAMB/Baptist Press

Less than a year ago Bob Mackey spent a Saturday traveling around Houston. On that day, during Crossover 2013, the executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association witnessed partnership in action.
 
He saw visiting Southern Baptists working alongside the local association, churches of Houston and hundreds of other Southern Baptists from across the nation. All were gathering together for the citywide service and outreach initiative preceding the SBC annual meeting.
 
Since then Mackey and his team at the Baltimore Baptist Association have been working hard to prepare for Crossover Baltimore, taking place in their home city on June 7.
 
“We visited a lot of different events taking place as a part of Crossover Houston,” Mackey recalled. “It was exciting to see what God can do for a city through service and partnership. I left with a great sense of hope and expectation for what God will do when Crossover comes to our city this year.”
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BP photo
Baltimore Inner Harbor

 
The day of evangelism takes place the Saturday before the SBC and invites visiting Southern Baptists to serve alongside Baltimore churches by hosting block parties, evangelism outreaches, health clinics, sports camps and various other outreach events. Mackey and his team already have participants scheduled to serve from more than twelve states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland and Delaware, as well as commitments from many sister associations.
 
“We are excited about the interest we’ve seen from other states and churches to serve with us in Baltimore this year,” Mackey said. “These partners coming alongside us will help extend our reach around the city and connect our community to the local churches already at work in Baltimore.”
 
Local pastors and church planters are gearing up for the event as well. Some are opening their churches as hosting sites for the day, putting on events and working with visiting teams to set up evangelism and outreach efforts in their neighborhoods. Others are sending teams out to serve alongside sister churches around the city. Mackey said he believes this sense of camaraderie and cooperation between the churches of Baltimore comes from a shared hope for people of the region to meet Christ.
 
“Our churches are excited about the unique opportunity to share Christ with our city that Crossover will bring,” he said. “Baltimore is not like a lot of other places in the country. We’re not in a predominantly Christian region of the country; we don’t have a church on every corner or throngs of people actively seeking out Christianity. Our hope is that, through the partnership of others in the SBC, Crossover will represent Christ to the people of Baltimore and our region and lay a greater foundation for our local churches.”
 
Partnership has been a key piece of the preparation for Crossover Baltimore, and Mackey believes it will be an essential piece of the day itself. The Baltimore Baptist Association has been working closely with the North American Mission Board as well as state conventions and associations to pray and prepare for Crossover Baltimore.
 
“NAMB is sharing about Crossover Baltimore on a national level while our state conventions and associations are sharing with their congregations on a more local level,” Mackey explained. “Their help and support has been key for us. They are giving us a voice and giving people a chance to come and be a part of seeing Christ magnified in the Baltimore area.”
 
Al Gilbert, NAMB’s vice president for evangelism, said, “We want the Southern Baptist Convention meeting to leave Baltimore with more than just a brief economic boost. We want to leave behind changed lives and re-energized churches. I hope everyone attending this year will arrive a day early and participate.”
 
Gilbert said Crossover Baltimore is also an opportunity to help church planters who are serving as part of NAMB’s Send North America: Baltimore emphasis. Several projects will partner with and benefit local church plants.
 
Mackey knows firsthand the importance of a Southern Baptist outreach in an under-reached and underserved area like the Northeast. He became a Christian at age fifteen after an encounter with a Southern Baptist church in Connecticut and has since spent much of his life working to reach others in the region. For him, Crossover is more than a day of service – it’s an answer to prayer.
 
“It’s an honor and a privilege to have events like Crossover and the Southern Baptist Convention come to Baltimore this year,” he said. “To see the name of Christ glorified through service to our city is an answered prayer. Now our continued prayer is that individuals in our city who haven’t before had the opportunity to see what it looks like to see Jesus will see Him in the hands, feet and hearts of those serving at Crossover.”
 
For more information on Crossover Baltimore, visit embracebaltimore.com/crossover or contact Cindy Irizarry at cindycrossoverbaltimore@gmail.com.
 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

Related Story:

Crossover Baltimore moves into prayer & vision-casting stage
3/12/2014 12:00:50 PM by Sara Shelton, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey finds growth, vitality in multisite church model

March 12 2014 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

The vast majority of multisite churches are growing, according to a new study, and they are seeing more involvement from lay people and newcomers after they open an additional location.
 
Nearly one in 10 U.S. Protestants attends a congregation with multiple campuses, according to findings released Tuesday (March 11) in the “Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard.”
 
The report cites new data from the National Congregations Study, which found there were 8,000 multisite churches in the U.S. in 2012 – up from 5,000 in 2010 – including churches with more than one gathering on the same campus. Churches that have created worship space in a separate setting now exist in almost every state, several Canadian provinces and dozens of other countries.
 
Multisite churches typically operate with a main campus headed by the senior minister and one or more satellite locations. In some settings, attendees at the satellite location watch the same sermon that’s beamed in from the central location but have their own dedicated on-site pastor, music or small group meetings.
 
The scorecard examined 535 responses to a survey of multisite churches that had created worship space in a separate setting.
Sheppard03-12-14.jpg

Photo courtesy of Generis
Jim Sheppard, CEO of Generis

 
Among the findings:
  • By the end of 2013, the average church has grown 14 percent since it went multisite.
  • The vast majority (88 percent) report increased lay participation after having multiple locations.
  • It’s still a relatively new phenomenon: 60 percent had opted for the multisite model in the last five years.
  • Almost half (47 percent) have a location in a rural area or a small town.
  • One in three (37 percent) started being multisite through a merger of different congregations.
Although megachurches (congregations with 2,000 or more weekly attendees) were pioneers of the multisite concept, churches with as few as 50 people and as many as 15,000 have tried this approach, said Warren Bird, director of research at Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank.
 
Multisite is also an international phenomenon: One-third of the congregations on Bird’s list of international megachurches are multisite.
 
The report points out some of the challenges of juggling more than one campus for worship. Researchers found in 2010 that one in 10 multisite churches they surveyed had closed a location.
 
In this new survey, some said rented space in public schools – popular options for multisite churches – are “one of the toughest places to launch” an additional site.
 
“I can only guess that the climate of churches renting public facilities is getting more and more difficult with the number of school boards that are declining to rent either on Sundays or to religious groups on the increase,” Bird said.
 
Jim Sheppard, CEO of Generis, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that sponsored the report, warned that it is important to have a “good, sound contract” in whatever location a church picks to set up a temporary worship space.
 
“If your initial location is a public school, don’t over estimate the relationship,” he wrote. “People can change, politics can get involved and you might be forced out sooner than expected.”
 
Multisite church leaders report that they are finding a greater percentage of “unchurched” people in their new locations than at the original location.
 
“Historically, a church’s greatest impact on the community is in its early years, and so the same thing is happening with a new campus,” Bird said.
 
Both independent congregations and those affiliated with denominations are embracing the multisite concept. Some regional denominational groups, including the United Methodists, consider mergers and other multisite options as part of their revitalization strategies.
 
“One of them is vibrant but needs facilities,” Sheppard said of some merging congregations in a webinar about the report. “The other one lacks vibrancy but has facilities.”
 
Jim Sheppard, CEO of Generis, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, warned that it is important to have a “good, sound contract” in whatever location a church may set up a temporary worship space.
3/12/2014 11:49:58 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Crimean tension stirs call for prayer, Bibles

March 12 2014 by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press

CRIMEA, Ukraine – Crimean pastor Kostya Bakonov said he believes the conflict in Ukraine is not only a political battle, but a battle for souls as well, calling for more Bible and more prayer.
 
In the middle of what some are calling the biggest crisis between Moscow and the West since the Cold War, Ukrainian Christians are not panicking, but are on the offensive by praying.
 
Last week, Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization in response to the buildup of Russian forces on the Crimean peninsula, an autonomous republic within the border of Ukraine.
 
Ukrainian’s new Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has warned that the country is “on the brink of disaster,” with Crimea’s multiethnic population battling over decisions concerning its future while NATO and Russia stand on opposing sides.
 
Bakonov, who leads a church in the Crimean city of Simferopol, said that all across Ukraine churches are calling for prayer vigils to ask God for peace in their country and for His name to be glorified.
crimea03-12-14.jpg

IMB photo
A local pastor in Simferopol has called on believers across the country to pray for peace. Here believers gather, lifting their hands in praise and prayer. Simferopol is located in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

 
“In our church we have a prayer chain 24/7,” he said, asking believers worldwide to join them in praying for their country. “I fervently believe the crisis in Ukraine is not only about the political stability in the country and region but also for the souls of men.”
 
After protesters in Kiev saw president Viktor Yanukovych removed in late February, the Russian majority of Crimea began challenging the authority of Ukraine, seeking to return to the 1992 constitution in which it briefly had its own president and foreign policy.
 
It only heightened the discord when one of the first decisions of the interim Kiev government was to revoke a law that permitted Russian to be recognized as the official language in Crimea. About 97 percent of the population speaks Russian as their first language, according to a Kiev International Institute of Sociology poll.
 
Russian president Vladimir Putin has maintained his right to defend the Russian people of Crimea and was asked to do so by Yanukovych, whom Putin claims is the rightful Ukrainian president. Ukrainian and Western governments support the legality of the current government and have warned that Russia’s action on Ukrainian soil is a declaration of war.
 
Crimean citizens are divided on whether they want to be independent, remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.
 
Despite differing views, believers in Crimea are sticking to the bigger issue.
 
In the face of escalating tension and increased media speculation, Bakonov said his motto has become “less news and television, more Bible and prayer.”
 
“Yes, we are concerned about the situation in Crimea, but I encourage our congregation of 800 believers by the Word of God,” he said. “I continue to preach the gospel to the people of Crimea and beyond.”
 
Despite constant changes and rising tensions, Bakonov is most concerned for the spiritual outcome of this time of unrest. He was encouraged that, during the Maidan protests, churches in Kiev ministered in the center of the unrest and helped Ukrainians find peace in the midst of the conflict.
 
He said many people in the country are spiritually open because of the ongoing hostilities.
 
“Many people in Ukraine have been searching for answers and are seeking the answers from churches and ministers.  We praise God that He is opening hearts to reveal Himself,” Bakonov said.
 
He asks for prayer for peace in the region and for the leaders involved in decision-making, including Putin and Ukrainian president Alexander Turchynov.
 
Bakonov said Turchynov is a strong believer in Jesus and prays that Turchynov will boldly and righteously lead the country and seek Godly counsel. Turchynov is a Baptist lay preacher who frequently speaks in local churches.
 
“Our team believes that the changes going on in Ukraine are a second chance from God for the people to turn to God and seek Jesus as their Savior,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Lee is an IMB writer based in Europe.)


Related Stories:

Ukraine's 'EuroMaiden' protests escalate
Ukraine-Russia tensions expand ministry
Ukraine believers hopeful as Baptist becomes president
Ukraine's violence escalates; churches share Scripture & pray
The Ukrainian crisis
3/12/2014 11:40:39 AM by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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