March 2015

Kingdom moves forward in Moldova partnership

March 2 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Aaron Wallace heard leaders of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) talking about the launch of a partnership between N.C. Baptists and the Baptist Union of Moldova in 2012, and it piqued his interest. Wallace, lead pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, saw this as a great fit for his church.

A vision trip to the small Eastern European country convinced him to lead Hephzibah in a partnership with a northern region of Moldova on the Ukraine border. On the trip he met Moldova Baptist leaders, church planters, pastors and regional coordinators.
 
But when he met Peter Mikhalchuk the connection to Moldova came alive. Pastor Peter, as he is commonly called, is an enthusiastic, deeply committed pastor who has served the northern region for more than two decades. His testimony includes opposition to his ministry from communists.
 
When he began the work there was only one evangelical church for every 25 villages in the north. Today there is one church for every five villages.

 
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Contributed photo
When the Hephzibah Baptist Church team departed Moldova, all 250 students from the camp overwhelmed them with cheers and high fives. Larry Lindsay, right, a Wake County high school teacher and coach, enjoyed the moment.

“One of the reasons we chose northern Moldova is that we wanted to work with a pastor who has a vision,” said Wallace. “We wanted to work with churches that are willing to have ‘some skin in the game.’ We didn’t want to carry the whole load financially, but work with people would be willing to sacrifice. They have faithfully done that.”
 
He added, “We found Pastor Peter and other leaders in Moldova to be very well equipped. We’re getting to join what God is doing, and we get to be part of the vision and direction of these pastors. Every time we go we see the kingdom moving forward.”
 
Wallace understands that pastors in the states may be reluctant to commit to a partnership with leaders in another country. “For a lot of people the hesitation with missions is they get over there, the pastor is distant and things are not organized,” he said. That is not what he has seen. “Our experience is that there seems to be such a passion for outreach and discipleship. We feel like everything we’re investing in is productive.”
 
Effective partnerships are not simply a relationship between two pastors. Lay leadership is a critical ingredient says Wallace. That’s where Steve Johnson enters the picture.
 
Johnson, a member of Hephzibah, became a Christian after he retired from the Raleigh Police Department.
 
“When I was a police officer, I was one of those guys that people said, ‘I hope he gets saved, but I just don’t know,’” he said. Johnson had a dramatic conversion, and now wants his life to impact others for Christ.
 
“You never repay the Lord [for salvation] but you can always say ‘thank you.’ My hope is just to say ‘thank you’ every day to Him for what He has done for me,” he said. “The Lord placed on my heart the need to be a witness for Christ.”
 
He began to witness and to train others to be a witness. The desire to better understand the Bible led him to enroll in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I got the MDiv in evangelism and biblical languages. So I’ve been teaching evangelism and going on mission trips,” Johnson said.
 
When the potential for a partnership with Moldova surfaced, Wallace called Johnson, who had been on short term trips to Eastern Europe. “Aaron knew I had a heart for Eastern Europe so he invited me to go on the vision trip,” said Johnson.
 
Now he coordinates the partnership that includes medical clinics, youth and sports camps for ages 16-22 and preaching events in churches. Johnson believes Hephzibah’s work adds strength to the pastors in Moldova. “We’re trying to help pastors have a better standing in the community in the face of the Orthodox Church. Pastors show the villagers the love of Christ. We help with medical missions and camps, then we leave, but [the pastor] stays and has better standing in the community.”
 
A nine-day medical clinic is held each year covering 14 villages. The first year 550 Moldovan villagers were examined for a variety of medical needs including blood pressure and diabetes. Prescription medications that are not normally available are distributed by Ukrainian doctors who partner with the North Carolina team. During the 2014 clinics 650 people were served.
 
The greatest expense of the clinics is the medicines. The church works with medical professionals in Moldova, sending money ahead of the teams so the medicine can be purchased all year long and stored up for the clinic. “There are no medical doctors in the villages and even if they have a doctor, they don’t have access to the medicines, so that makes the clinics important and effective,” Wallace said.
 
Last year 115 people came to know Christ through the medical clinic and camps. Johnson said the local pastors are heavily invested in reaching teenagers. “The pastors bring the youth to the camp. Then they spend a week in the camp with the youth. Then they go back to their communities with a relationship with these kids that they built at the camp.”
 
Pastor Peter reports that most of the decisions for Christ happen the week after the camp when they returned to the churches. “That shows that its not about presenting Christ and walking way,” Johnson added. “It’s about that long term desire to have discipleship that continues on in relationship-building.”
 
Wallace said, “Our goal is long term discipleship. We want to help pastors [reach] people but also lead those people to be disciple-makers.”
 
When Hephzibah church got involved in the partnership, there were nine regions in Moldova that needed to be adopted by churches in North Carolina. Seven of those regions now have committed relationships in progress. Two regions are yet to be adopted. The church’s goal is to help other churches build a partnership with a church in Moldova.
 
Wallace said the needs are great in Moldova. Realizing the limits of his church in reaching everyone, he has an offer for North Carolina Baptists. “If any pastors or church leaders in North Carolina want to see what missions looks like in Moldova, we would like to invite them to go with us,” he said.
 
“We’ll be glad to go a few days earlier and introduce them to the leaders and show them the needs. There are still two regions that have not been adopted in the partnership,” Wallace added. “We’ll be glad to show them what a medical clinic looks like. Please let us use our mission trips as a vision trip for you and your teams. There are other pastors across the state who are involved in Moldova and will be glad to help, also”
 
Partnership missions has strengthened Hephzibah church. “We have watched our church grow through partnerships over the last four years,” said Wallace. “Last year we had more than 160 people who went on a partnership trip to Moldova or Canada. When you look at the giving of the church, I believe 80 percent of our people are financially involved in the mission of the church and praying for missions. That’s been huge for us.”
 
Chuck Register, BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, said, “The church-to-church model that Hephzibah is exhibiting is at the very heart of what we are seeking to accomplish through the office of Great Commission partnerships. It’s where a church in North Carolina develops a church-to-church partnership with a congregation of a different people group or a different country that the most is accomplished for the Kingdom.”
 
The BSC-Moldova partnership was designed to establish relationships between churches and to see churches in the state adopt all nine regions of Moldova. Register added, “There are two regions left in Moldova where we are prayerfully trying to facilitate additional church-to-church partnerships. If there is any way that we can resource such a partnership, we would love to assist North Carolina Baptist churches.”
 
The partnership will continue as long as churches in North Carolina are actively engaged with churches in Moldova.
 
For more information on how your church can join the partnership, contact Steve Johnson at Slj4him@live.com or Steve Hardy, at the Office of Great Commission Partnerships at shardy@ncbaptist.org.

3/2/2015 3:17:29 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Millers Creek Church celebrates worship through art

March 2 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Worship comes in different forms. While many equate the term with music heard during a church service, others say the word has a broader meaning.
 
“Worship is much more than music,” said Andrew Heathershaw, worship pastor at Millers Creek Baptist Church in Millers Creek.

 
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Contributed photo
Linda Joines’ entry – “We Have Come to Worship Him” – to her church’s art exhibit displays the three wise men as they follow the star to Jesus. Millers Creek Baptist Church is hosting an exhibit featuring “Encounters with God” March 29-April 19.

The church is hosting an art exhibit March 29-April 19. The theme – “Encounters with God: Biblical Scenes of Worship and Transformation” – was aimed at offering artists a broad definition of items to display.
 
“I was just trying to find ways to expand our congregation’s idea of worship,” Heathershaw said.
 
While this is the first art exhibit the church has done, Heathershaw said he hopes it is not the last.
One of Millers Creek’s church members has been working closely with Heathershaw on the project. Linda Joines has been a member of the church for 14 years. She found the church after her retirement from Lowe’s Home Improvement headquarters.
 
She wanted to be involved in ministry, and Millers Creek offered her that opportunity. She sings in the choir, teaches Sunday School and volunteers with various ministries at the church including adopted grandmother to Heathershaw’s children.
 
“I’m in all these classes with all these wonderful people who have natural talent,” said Joines, who belongs to an artist group that meets once a week. She began painting after she retired. It was something she had always wanted to try.
 
Since oil was the first medium Joines used, she finds it hard to choose another, but for her submission into the church’s exhibit she went with acrylic.
 
Her painting is a silhouette of the three wise men on their camels following the star from Matthew 2:1-12.
 
“I’m a perfectionist, a realist,” Joines said. “It has to look like something.”
 
Normally, Joines said, it takes her a long time to complete a painting because she wants every detail to be perfect. This piece was different.
 
“I was really relaxed,” she said. “I was not concentrating” as much as usual.
 
She liked the painting so much she’s already chosen it as this year’s Christmas card. Joines said she works with three or four art groups and has been amazed at their responses.
 
Joines said only two topics are off limits at the art classes she takes – religion and politics. She received a little pushback when she tried to let the group know about the exhibit, but they were able to send out an email announcing the call for submissions.
 
Another member who has training with museum exhibits is helping with the frames and displays. The church often has opportunities for musicians to share their art with the congregation but this is a different kind of talent, Heathershaw said.
 
The church, which is the site of Millers Creek Christian School also has submissions from students of all ages.
 
Submissions have varied from oil paintings to stained glass and mixed media. Art will be displayed in the main hallway of the church with labels next to each piece indicating the artist’s name, title of the piece and a verse of scripture that inspired the art. Heathershaw hopes artists will dig into the Bible to find many instances of worship.
 
“We’re hoping that as people look at [the art] that they will be inspired,” Heathershaw said. “I would hope that it would grow from here.”
 
The exhibit will be open during church office hours and before and after church services.
 
The church is taking submissions up to early March. Contact (336) 838-4446, ext. 26, for more information about submissions or visiting hours.
 
Visit millerscreekbaptist.org.

3/2/2015 3:11:28 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Raleigh radio show hits syndication

March 2 2015 by Christian News Service

The USA Radio Networks announces it has signed Steve Noble to its growing number of syndicated talk show hosts. Steve is host of CALLED2ACTION currently broadcast throughout North Carolina.

 
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Steve Noble

The show will air from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday beginning March 2.
 
A housepainter, turned Christian activist, turned Christian radio show host, Noble contends he wants to be the last evangelical Christian anybody expected to meet: resolute in his allegiance to a biblical worldview while also being curiously likable and winsome.
 
“I am thrilled to join the USA Radio Network family because we share a common vision to have a profound impact on our nation by offering a different kind of dialog,” said Noble. “A dialog that will necessarily create some uncomfortable exchanges, but also one that is bathed in humility, patience, and yes... even love.”
 
A Biblical Recorder story from June 2013 featured Noble’s efforts with California pastor Greg Laurie’s Harvest America campaign. Noble is a North Carolina Baptist. 
 
Visit c2athisweek.org.

3/2/2015 2:57:32 PM by Christian News Service | with 0 comments



Same-sex parents: ‘possible,’ ‘not moral’

March 2 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Same-sex couples could soon have their own biological children by utilizing a reproductive technology being developed by researchers at Cambridge University and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. But Christian bioethicists have classified the potential new technology as rife with moral problems.
 
Exuberance over such technologies is “all expressed in terms of what the adults want and desire,” Paige Cunningham, executive director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, told Baptist Press. “I would like someone to say, ‘What about the children?’ They don’t have any voice in how they are constructed. They don’t have any voice in how they are the subject of an experiment like this.”
 
The Cambridge and Weizmann Institute researchers have discovered how to take skin cells from an adult, transform them into what are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) and then develop those iPS cells into the precursors of human eggs and sperm, various news sources have reported. The production of iPS cells is not new, but their potential development into eggs and sperm is.
 
The next step of the research process will be to develop the precursor cells – known as primordial germ cells (PGCs) – into mature sperm and eggs. The maturation process will involve inserting the PGCs into a human or animal ovary or testicle, or developing a laboratory process to achieve the same effect.
 
If the research proves successful, an egg could be developed from the skin cells of a male and then combined with the sperm of another male to produce an embryo. A surrogate mother would have to carry the resultant baby to term. Alternately, a female’s skin cells could be developed into sperm and combined with an egg from another female, with one of the two female partners carrying the baby to term.
 
The same process, if developed successfully, could allow a single person to contribute both an egg and sperm and produce a child without a second parent.
 
“We have succeeded in the first and most important step of the process, where we succeed in reaching the progenitor cell state for sperm and egg (though it is very important to emphasize that we have not achieved mature sperm and eggs),” Jacob Hanna, one of the lead researchers in the project, said according to The Daily Beast. “So we are now focusing on completing the second half of this process. Once that is achieved this may become useful for any individual with fertility problems.”
 
If lesbians someday use this technique to become parents, they will only be able to produce female offspring unless a Y chromosome is somehow imported into their genetic material – because female genetic material does not contain the Y chromosomes necessary to produce baby boys.
 
“We’re talking about manufacturing children in all of these [scenarios],” David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C., said. “If you get into that mindset, you might envision having not a sperm bank, but a Y-chromosome bank where you can just add a Y chromosome to some of these cells – find the right mix that you want of traits and add that Y chromosome in there. It’s of great concern.”
 
Producing rather than procreating a baby is “intrinsically wrong,” Cunningham said.
 
“When we start constructing children by using some cytoplasm from this cell or the nucleus from that cell and start mixing things up, we are no longer welcoming [the children], but we are creating them, in many cases to fulfill a desire or need of our own,” Cunningham said.
 
Another danger of developing babies from PGCs is that the research process may involve the destruction of embryos as scientists seek to develop a human by trial and error, Cunningham said. She also expressed concern about the need for surrogate mothers in some cases.
 
“The introduction of a variety of third parties into the process of creating a child” is “not the way that children were intended to come into being,” Cunningham said. “Just because technology makes it possible doesn’t make it moral.”
 
Developing babies from PGCs could produce children with genetic defects as well as cause psychological harm not quantifiable with science, Cunningham said.
 
“Anytime you start messing around with genes, there is a high likelihood of harm,” Cunningham said.
 
Biological same-sex parents could be a reality by 2017, The Daily Beast predicted. The research was published in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Cell.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/2/2015 2:48:09 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GenSend hooks Hunt on urban church planting

March 2 2015 by Jim Burton, North American Mission Board

Perhaps this is only supposed to happen in movies. But with a little help from Google and one click of a mouse, Sarah Reese Hunt found her life’s direction and then her husband.
 
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) can’t guarantee the same result for every college student. But NAMB can guarantee that checking out Generation Send (GenSend) can be life-changing for college students and the cities they serve as summer missionaries.
 
Hunt, a native of Louisville, thought she had her life figured out. After high school mission trips to the Philippines and Guatemala, she became further engaged in missions during her senior year in high school in a Louisville community called Portland. The area is rough, Hunt said, but she was able to minister by tutoring inner-city kids and doing Bible studies with the girls through a Salvation Army boys and girls club.
 
“I had been overseas,” Hunt said, “but 25 minutes down the road from me people were broken.”
 
The tutoring pointed her toward education as a college major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. During a church-planting emphasis week there, her plans began to change beyond a “traditional” church ministry role.

 
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NAMB Photo by Susan Whitley
2015 Send North America Week of Prayer missionary Sarah Reese Hunt holds a photograph of herself with fellow GenSend missionaries while they served in Portland, Ore. Hunt is completing her studies through Liberty University and plans to be part of a church planting team in Denver.

“If I am the cornerstone of the church and the church is the vessel that I want to accomplish My purpose with,” Hunt said paraphrasing the words of Jesus, it would make sense to be a part of the church’s mission.

 

GenSend Portland

Seeing the GenSend initiative on the Web, she applied and was accepted for assignment to another Portland – in Oregon. GenSend is the student portion of NAMB’s Farm System, assisting churches in the discovery, development and deployment of everyday missionaries.
 
After arriving in Oregon in the summer of 2013, Hunt and the Lord “woke me up to the need for healthy bodies of believers to exist within America. Coming from the South, it’s hard to fathom that within America there are places where healthy [church] bodies don’t exist. When you see the darkness and the idolatry and the lostness ... the gospel is not planted like it needs to be planted.”
 
Hunt’s assignment sounded relatively simple: Go, live and learn how to do life in Portland. The formula NAMB gave the team she joined also was simple: Identify the city, invest in relationships, invite people into your biblical community and increase through sustainable discipleship.
 
The objective was not so much to start a church in one summer as it was for the students to learn how to be a biblical community and to discover the foundations of church planting.
 
In addition to Portland’s liberal socio-political bent, Hunt said she often encounters religious pluralism espousing multiple pathways to know God. Consequently, she doesn’t find hostility toward the gospel. Mostly, it’s apathy.
 
“Oh, you’re a Christian,” people will say. “Good for you.”

 
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NAMB Photo by Susan Whitley
Sarah Reese Hunt, a 2015 Send North America Week of Prayer missionary, studies with friends on the campus of Liberty University in Virginia. Hunt has served as a GenSend missionary in Portland, Ore., with the North American Mission Board and as a campus mobilizer at Liberty.

That response represents what Hunt calls a facade of tolerance.
 
“I had never been exposed to that where I was looking into the face of a real person who believes that [pluralism],” Hunt said. “Going overseas did not prepare me for the culture shock I’d find within our own country.”

 

Mobilizer

Spending the summer in Portland hooked Hunt on urban church planting, and she wanted other students to have the same experience. She became a NAMB GenSend mobilizer. Her assignment: Recruit 10 students from her university to go back to Portland, one of 32 cities in NAMB’s church planting initiative across North America.
 
Hunt returned to Portland for the summer of 2014 with a team. Three other GenSend teams went there as well. With 42 students on the ground, two teams focused on two areas of urban Portland: Saint Johns and the Pearl District. Neither is impoverished as some envision inner cities to be. Hunt worked in the Pearl District, an area she describes as “super wealthy” with many young urban professionals. The students’ work was foundational for church planters who would eventually be coming to those areas.
 
“The Lord has convicted me that being part of church is what we’re called to do,” Hunt said. But like most Millennials, she believes that church can’t be the way it’s been for so long.
 
One of those differences is how Millennials view the church. They see it as the body of Christ forming authentic biblical communities.
 
“The body of Christ is a very biblical term,” Hunt said. “My devotion needs to be to His [Jesus’] bride, the church. Church planting is how we bring the bride to places where she’s not.”
 

Denver-bound

Denver is similar to Portland in many respects except, for Hunt, there is one major difference: Her husband Jonathan Hunt is co-planting with a lead church planter through Send North America: Denver.
 
Hunt met his future wife during NAMB’s Send North America Conference in 2013. He was a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student in Louisville and attended Highview Baptist Church, as did her family. But they didn’t know each other then. The couple became engaged in the summer of 2014 and married later in the year.
 
Sarah Hunt, in addition to changing her marital status, changed her major at Liberty to women’s ministry and hopes to focus on developing girls and women as disciples. In a church planting context that can mean any number of ministry avenues for women.
 
“Everyone needs the gospel,” Hunt said. “The white, middle-class suburban churchgoing little girl needs the gospel just as much as the little girl on the streets of Pacux, Guatemala, who is starving.
 
“The gospel is the foremost need.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer in Atlanta. To learn more about the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, with a 2015 goal of $60 million, and how your church can be mobilized to help reach North America, visit anniearmstrong.com. NAMB’S GenSend initiative is on the Web, along with a video, at SendNetwork.com/GenSend.)

3/2/2015 2:15:40 PM by Jim Burton, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments



Michigan pastors dispel Sharia law reports

March 2 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist pastor Carlos Liese recalls entering a mosque near Dearborn, Mich., sitting on the floor with Islamists and sharing the gospel. An elderly Muslim man who said little during the conversation invited Liese to his home.
 
“And they had just told us we were going to hell, and we had gently told them that they were going to hell too, in a gracious way,” Liese told Baptist Press. “But we stood our ground. We shared the gospel and it was well received again, even though we ended up not agreeing.”
 
Such encounters are not uncommon for Liese, who helps lead monthly evangelism efforts in Middle Eastern coffee shops, hookah bars and restaurants in Dearborn, a city where at least a third of the population is Arab-American, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 report, “Arab Population in Selected Places,” and 2009 numbers from the Arab American Institute. Many concede the U.S. Census undercounts Arab-Americans. And to improve its count, the Census Bureau is considering adding a “Middle Eastern/North African” category to its racial and ethnic background question in the 2020 survey, the Arab American Institute reported in November 2014.
 
Contrary to news reports dating to as early as 2010, Dearborn is not under Sharia law, a strict – and sometimes tortuous – theocratic form of civil and criminal law based on the Quran, Southern Baptist pastors in the Detroit suburb of about 100,000 say.
 
Liese, who lives in Dearborn Heights and pastored First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit for 25 years, called such reports “yellow journalism,” aimed at riling people and increasing readers and viewers.
 
“And making statements like that only frighten people and that doesn’t accomplish anything,” said Liese, who today pastors Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Lansing, 60 miles away.
 
While Sharia varies in implementation in Islamic countries that impose it, common Sharia punishments, according to the Duhaime.org online law dictionary, include prison or death for criticizing the government, which is considered blasphemy; death by stoning for a woman who has a child out of wedlock, even in cases of rape; and jailing or caning for vagrancy, the crime of being intentionally unemployed and failing to care for one’s family.
 
Regardless of rumors, 37 percent of Christians fear the establishment of Sharia law in the U.S., according to a September-October, 2014 poll by LifeWay Research.

 
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Photo from City of Dearborn official website
Southern Baptist pastors say rumors of Dearborn, Mich., which has a high concentration of Arab Americans, being under the control of Sharia law have hampered evangelistic outreach there. Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly has refuted the claim, helping to remind the public that Dearborn is a democracy governed by a mayor and seven-member city council elected by a vote of the public.

The rumors are so well established, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly has refuted the claim in letters to individuals, appearances on international media and in an Oct. 30, 2013 press release stating emphatically, “Dearborn is not under sharia law and has never at any time even considered such an action. ... One unique aspect of our community is the strong working relationship that exists among our diverse faith leaders, who foster understanding and tolerance.”
 
Through an outgrowth of the Greater Detroit Baptist Association, Liese has partnered since 2012 with Dave Ferraro, pastor of discipleship at Merriman Road Baptist Church in Garden City, Mich., to spread the gospel among Muslims in Dearborn. The two are regularly well received among Muslims, Liese said, and have even sung Christmas carols to the applause of Muslims gathered at Middle Eastern restaurants where the two frequently dine.
 

Gospel seed planting

“We set out in hopes of putting together a coalition of like-minded Southern Baptists, Michigan Southern Baptists, who have a passion to reach Muslims for Christ,” Liese said. “We’ve not seen anybody added to the church, but we’ve done a lot of seed planting and people have been very, very receptive. Our experience has been nothing but positive.
 
“People have always been gracious,” Liese said. “In all these years that we have been doing this we have been able to share the gospel with many people, so many seeds have been sown, and we have never been mistreated or disrespected, ever.” The two men have been invited to the homes and family events of Muslims, including weddings, and Muslims have visited the homes and churches of Southern Baptists.
 
The North American Mission Board has adopted Detroit as a Send City for targeted evangelism and church planting, but the area remains largely unreached for Christ, said Dearborn resident Eli Garza, current pastor of First Spanish Baptist Church.
 
“We are barely hanging on as a denomination in the state,” Garza told Baptist Press. “Dearborn is a largely unreached city; there’s lots to do here. But not only Dearborn, but I would say our suburbs as well, even though they’re populated by a large number of Anglo-Americans, they are not evangelical.”
 
Rumors of Sharia law in Dearborn only hamper outreach efforts, said Garza, who strives to build relationships with Muslim neighbors.
 
“It’s shocking, absolutely shocking how people enjoy the sensational,” Garza said, “but don’t support the facts.”
 
Garza strives to be a Christian witness among the diversity of Muslims in his immediate neighborhood, shoveling show and performing other acts of kindness. His next-door neighbor, a Muslim, commends him, Garza said.
 
“I go out of my way to shovel the sidewalk for them. I’m going to show my respect for them by helping them out,” Garza said. “We’re making headway.”
 
“But let our good works open doors; obviously good works do not present the gospel, but [good works] demonstrates to them that if we say we are followers of ... the Messiah, then we’d better behave like it,” Garza said. “[Good works say] even if we just disagree with them in our faith, we’re going to love them anyway.”
 

Muslim diversity

Matthew Vroman, pastor of Eastside Community Church in Harper Woods, Mich., served nearly 10 years as a church planter in Turkey. Vroman said the Muslim community in Dearborn is diverse, including Shiite Lebanese, Arab Chaldeans, Albanians, Bangladeshi, Yemeni and Hamtramck.
 
“Dearborn is full of a community that likes to go to Walmart to shop, loves to eat, wants to educate their kids in their values, and a lot of their values are good. It’s not full of a bunch of jihadis who want Sharia law,” Vroman said. “In general, people just want to live there. That’s the thing that people don’t get, that at the end of the day they are people. ... They just want to make a living, and they’re worried about their kids [and] families.”
 
However, Muslims do want to rear their families with Muslim values, and whether the public images of Muslims in Dearborn mirror their private lives can only be left to speculation, Vroman said.
 
“The leaders, not jihadists, they do want to be able to marry, and bury and divorce and live according to the rules of Islam, and that’s true,” Vroman said. “They do want their people to live according to Islam. ... They do want dialogue because they believe in what they hold to. The other thing they want to show is that ... there’s a peaceful side to the Muslim culture. ... So many Muslims really want their voice to be heard because they’re tired of [it] being said, ‘You’re a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, you’re a terrorist. Everybody looks at you funny.’ Talk about profiling.”
 
Among Muslim leaders, Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn has spoken frequently and publicly against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and terrorism.
 
“It’s a big lie to call yourselves Islamic State,” Elahi said of ISIS at an August 2014 anti-terrorism rally in Dearborn. “You are not Islamic and you are not a state. You are a bunch of gangsters and criminals who choose the tools of torture, intimidation, explosion, theft and disruption against innocent people.”
 
Elahi promotes Islam as a religion of peace.
 
“There is no such thing as radical Islam,” Elahi said in a Jan. 15 CNN interview. “Islam is a religion of reason, a religion of peace, a religion of respect for human rights, a religion of responsibility.
 
“And any mentality and any kind of teachings that are against human common sense, against peace, against rationality, against respect for human life and human property and human intellect, and human integrity, it is against Islam,” he said. “And this is why we consider these guys ... real enemies of Islam. But unfortunately we don’t receive the support from the world in our fight against terrorism. We need to provide more awareness and education to the families themselves.”
 
The Dearborn mosque held a community prayer vigil and memorial service Feb. 15 for three Muslims killed by a self-described atheist in Chapel Hill, N.C., newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19.
 

Pray for Dearborn

Vroman said Southern Baptists who allow fear to inhibit their outreach to Muslims are living in disobedience to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
 
“I think we need to repent of our walking in fear and not caring about the souls of Muslims, and I think as Baptists we need to get intentional about showing love to Muslims so we can reach them,” Vroman said. “We need to believe what the Bible says and not talk radio. I wish that Christians would befriend Muslims, because they’re not the enemy, but we act like they are.
 
“Are we an American first or a disciple of Jesus first?” Vroman asked.
 
Southern Baptists need to pray for evangelistic outreach in Dearborn, pastors told Baptist Press, and should consider funding or physically participating in long-term outreach to the community. Many have moved to Dearborn and lived among Muslims to reach them for Christ, Liese said.
 
Muslims and Christians are united by our sin problem and need for a Savior, Liese said.
 
“The same place that all religions lead to is an attempt to deal with our sin problem; all of us deal with that,” he said. “The only difference is we have a Savior who is the Son of God who came, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as our substitute, rose from the dead bodily, and ascended and is at the right hand of God. And we don’t back down on any of that. We believe that. That’s Who we worship. That’s our Savior Lord Jesus.”
 
Liese often asks Muslims how their religion absolves them of sin, and finds they often can’t identify a particular point at which their sins are forgiven.
 
“They say, ‘We fast at Ramadan and we pray [five] times a day and we give to charity,’“ Liese said. “They’ll say, ‘If I’m lucky I might be good enough.’ And they’ve used that word [lucky] several times with me. And so I’ll say, well, that right there is the great difference, not that I’m any better than you, but I have a Savior, and this is what I believe.
 
“Eventually we get to share the gospel, and that’s what we do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 

Related Stories:

Islamic jihad, in many forms, ‘gaining ground’
Poll: 1 in 4 Americans say Islamic State represents true Islam

3/2/2015 2:03:50 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



SBC presidents send open letter to Obama

March 2 2015 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

In an open letter, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd, along with the support and signatures of 16 former SBC presidents, called on President Barack Obama to “take the necessary actions now” against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists.
 
“Since ISIS is a continuing threat to world peace in a way unknown to us since the Nazis of World War II, we humbly call upon you to use the influence and power of your distinguished office to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour to bring an end to these human atrocities,” the March 1 letter said.
 
“The abuse, brutalization, and murder of children, women, and men that is occurring before the world calls our country to lead forward to bring this to an end.”
 
The open letter comes in the wake of numerous reports of ISIS killings that include the beheading of 21 Egyptians – reportedly Coptic Christians – the death of an American aid worker, and a Jordanian pilot being burned alive. And ISIS captured more than 200 Assyrian Christians last week (Feb. 23), CNN reported. Women, children and elderly were among those taken captive during an ISIS attack on villages near Tal Tamer in northern Syria, according to the report.
 
SBC Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page said he is often asked about the ISIS threat. “People are frightened, people are concerned. We need [President Obama] to act and to act decisively,” he said. “I join with the other SBC presidents in supporting our current [SBC] president’s call to action.”
 
Bryant Wright, former SBC president and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga., described the letter as “a plea to the president to take a stronger leadership role” against ISIS.
 
“It will be important to join with Egypt and Jordan and others in that part of the world to show this is not just the defense of Christians but you’re talking about religious liberty for all,” said Wright, who is among some Christian ministers invited to Washington D.C. this week to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference March 2. “… The government has been ordained by God to use its might, be it military might, police power, whatever it is to defend the citizens and to uphold justice and punish evil.”
 
During a Feb. 16 report at the semi-annual SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville, Floyd told Southern Baptist leaders they “must speak for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.” See full stories here and here.

Southern Baptists “need to stand for the children, the women and the men who are being brutalized and abused and murdered globally, all in the name of religion,” Floyd said during his EC report. “We need to champion, as Southern Baptists, religious liberty globally.”
 
He noted Southern Baptists also must never compromise their number one goal to “penetrate and push back the lostness in this world.” Floyd urged EC members to call on their churches “to join in this valiant effort of deep prayer for men and women and children who are being abused and murdered in all kinds of ways.”
 
In the open letter to the president, Floyd told Obama that Southern Baptists are praying for him.
 
“Mr. President, just as Esther led forward for the deliverance of the Jews in her day, we believe you also ‘have come to the kingdom for such a time as this,’“ he wrote. “You have been given an historical moment to lead in protecting the people and the principle of religious freedom in the world,” Floyd wrote. “We are praying for you to have wisdom and courage in this hour.”
 
Other past SBC presidents who signed the letter include Bailey E. Smith, James T. Draper, Jr., Charles F. Stanley, Jerry Vines, Morris H. Chapman, H. Edwin Young, Sr., James B. Henry, Tom Elliff, Paige Patterson, James Merritt, Jack Graham, Bobby Welch, Johnny M. Hunt and Fred Luter.
 
Floyd addresses this open letter on his blog at ronniefloyd.com. His weekly blog is also posted at SBC.net on the President’s Page by clicking here.
 
See full text of open letter below.
 
March 2, 2015
 
Dear President Obama:
 
Since ISIS is a continuing threat to world peace in a way unknown to us since the Nazis of World War II, we humbly call upon you to use the influence and power of your distinguished office to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour to bring an end to these human atrocities. The abuse, brutalization, and murder of children, women, and men that is occurring before the world calls our country to lead forward to bring this to an end.
 
As you do this, please know that we are not only praying for you, but assure you that you will have the unequivocal support of the vast majority of America’s largest, and some say most multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, Protestant denomination in America. The world will applaud your courage and compassion as you defend those that scripture calls “the least of these.”
 
Mr. President, just as Esther led forward for the deliverance of the Jews in her day, we believe you also “have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” You have been given an historical moment to lead in protecting the people and the principle of religious freedom in the world. We are praying for you to have wisdom and courage in this hour.
 
These former presidents of our Convention join me, the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, in making this humble, but urgent appeal to you.
 
Sincerely and Prayerfully,
 
Ronnie Floyd, President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Bailey E. Smith, 1980-1982
James T. Draper, Jr., 1982-1984
Charles F. Stanley, 1984-1986
Jerry Vines, 1988-1990
Morris H. Chapman, 1990-1992
H. Edwin Young, Sr., 1992-1994
James B. Henry, 1994-1996
Tom Elliff, 1996-1998
Paige Patterson, 1998-2000
James Merritt, 2000-2002
Jack Graham, 2002-2004
Bobby Welch, 2004-2006
Frank S. Page, 2006-2008
Johnny M. Hunt, 2008-2010
Bryant Wright, 2010-2012
Fred Luter, 2012- 2014
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

3/2/2015 1:42:57 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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