March 2015

Waypoint Church employs gospel in global market

March 23 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

What do the Bible and a company employee manual have in common? For some, they both collect dust. For Waypoint Church in Durham, they’re both important tools for taking the gospel to the nations.
 
Waypoint wants Christians to put the gospel to work in the professional world; they believe doing so in a city with a swelling immigrant population is an effective missionary strategy for impacting the nations.
 
Waypoint began September 2014 in Durham, N.C. as a church plant from The Summit Church. Josh Benfield, associate pastor for formation at Waypoint, said the motivation to start a new church came from the high number of people immigrating to the area near Research Triangle Park (RTP), a commercial district between Raleigh and Durham that’s one of the most prominent technology and research centers in the U.S.

 
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IMB photo
Josh Benfield, associate pastor for formation at Waypoint Church in Durham, sees many opportunities to reach internationals with the gospel.

They want to be a church “comprised of many nations.” It’s a vision shared by Benfield, who is a former international missionary, and Waypoint’s lead pastor, Lawrence Yoo, a Korean American.
 
“Being from an immigrant family, I have experienced first-hand the struggle of finding my own cultural identity. … It is my desire to awaken people to their true identity that is found in the gospel,” Yoo said on the church’s website.
 
Benfield sees lots of opportunities for reaching internationals with the gospel in Durham – and by extension, their friends and relatives overseas. “If you can reach Durham,” he said, “you can reach the nations.”
 
Many immigrants come to the area for political asylum. There are entire communities in Durham comprised of refugees. They often face cultural, linguistic and citizenship obstacles and are not able to find employment. Waypoint ministers to these groups. There are others working high-level jobs at technology companies or in the large healthcare system across RTP; still more are studying at one of the 15 major colleges and universities. Waypoint church members work and do business with many of these immigrants.
 
By integrating the gospel into their vocational settings, Waypoint church members can express their faith in everyday life and reach the nations at the same time.
 

Market missionaries

Benfield said engaging the workplace as a mission field is both a part of Waypoint’s identity and a part of their evangelistic strategy. “Whatever your station in life … we feel that God has placed you there for a purpose. You are a missionary in that place.
 
“You wake up every day on the mission field,” said Benfield. Whether as a spouse or parent, everyone has a ministry in their own home.
 
That ministry extends out the front door too. “Going to work should not feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to work so I can get my job done … so that I can get to the church and do something significant for the kingdom,’ he said.
 
“If you’re at RTP, if you work at Chick-fil-A or Panera Bread, or if you work for the City of Durham – no matter what you do, you are a missionary to that place and that context.”
 
Benfield said Waypoint values this vision for everyday missions, and wanted to know more about practical, ethical ways to share the gospel in the workplace. So, they reached out to Marketplace Advance, a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, to conduct a training session at Waypoint.

 
On the job training

On Feb. 21, Waypoint invited the Marketplace Advance team to lead a portion of a weekend “Missions Marathon” at their church. “People were very interested in developing goals and strategies on how to effectively communicate the gospel and reach people at their workplace.”
 
In a breakfast session, the Marketplace Advance team gave practical advice and helpful training on starting gospel conversations and Bible studies. They also talked about ethical questions related to sharing the gospel at work.
 
Jayson Georges, a missionary to Central Asia for nine years and writer behind honorshame.com, was the keynote speaker of the weekend. He offered Waypoint principles about evangelizing people from honor-shame and fear-based cultures.
 
The missions marathon was bookended by times of celebration and prayer for missions around the globe.
Attendees left the training with homework, said Benfield. The task was to find their company’s employee manual and determine what kinds of discussion topics are acceptable at their workplace. Sometimes Christians feel like they can’t share their faith at work when their company may actually allow it, according to Benfield. Others may in fact be restricted from doing so.
 
Either way, the veil of uncertainty lifts and Christians can be sure about what they can and cannot say at work. “Satan sometimes uses [uncertainty] as a strategy to put fear in our hearts,” said Benfield.
 
Attendees will gather again in the near future to discuss what they’ve discovered about restrictions in their work environment.
 
Benfield said they’ve seen results from the training already. A software engineer in their church began meeting with junior colleagues regularly to pray, talk about the faith and fellowship. There are others in the church too that are using the strategies they learned to share the gospel with their co-workers.
 
“Evangelism was at the heart of our people, but maybe it wasn’t necessarily coming through their lips,” said Benfield. “Some of the training taught them some easier practical strategies which has helped them say, ‘Hey, I can share my faith. This has given me a way to do it that is easier than what I’ve done before.’”
 
Visit waypointrdu.com and marketplaceadvance.com.

3/23/2015 2:02:34 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Two University Hills teens named National Acteens Panelists

March 23 2015 by Julie Walters, WMU Communications

Kiara Curry and Haley Harrison, both of University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, are two of six Acteens selected by national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) to serve on the 2015 National Acteens Panel. These girls were selected based on their commitment to missions and participation and leadership in their Acteens group, church, school, and community.
 
Curry and Harrison will serve on the panel along with Grace-Ann Combs of First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas; Victoria Hernandez of Freeman Heights Baptist Church, Garland, Texas; Ashley Johns of Tallowood Baptist Church, Katy, Texas; and Hydiatu Konneh of Fern Creek Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.

 
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Acteens is WMU’s missions organization for girls in grades 7–12. Through Acteens, girls grow in their relationship with God and each other as they learn about and participate in missions, develop leadership skills, and live a missional lifestyle
 
“In reading this year’s applications for the National Acteens Panel, I was moved by the understanding these young women have of the value of Acteens and ongoing missions education,” reflected Suzanne Reece, national WMU’s ministry consultant for students.
 
“They recognize the importance of learning about missions, praying for missions, and being involved in hands-on missions experiences. They also see how Acteens prepares them to live as missional disciples in the world every day.”
 
In her application, Curry wrote, “Missions brings me joy, gives me a chance to impact others, serve Christ, and learn to be flexible and less self-centered. Each time I go on a missions trip, God shows me something different about myself that I didn’t know before.
 
Helping others and doing missions is one of my favorite ways of worshipping. It gives me pure joy to know that I’m learning and growing in my faith while I’m serving Christ.
 
“The value of Acteens is something not often found in teenage culture and something I feel is irreplaceable,” she continued.
 
“Acteens gives teenage girls the opportunity to grow in their faith and to understand the importance of Christ in their lives. We learn speaking skills, leadership abilities and how to carry ourselves at all times. Acteens has shaped me into the young woman I am today and continues to shape me and mold me into the woman God wants me to be.”
 
Harrison wrote, “Acteens teaches girls about missions and gives them opportunities so they can go into the world and show an example of Jesus. I have learned about the needs of unreached international people as well as rural and city life here in America.
 
“I believe all churches should have Acteens,” Harrison continued, “because Acteens do more than just go to church regularly or have a meeting. Acteens strengthens your relationship with Christ and trains you to use your gifts. God has used Acteens to change my life.”
 
Julie Keith, youth specialist for North Carolina WMU, recommended both girls for the national panel. Keith said, “Kiara strives to be inclusive in all she does and is great at making people feel welcomed and loved. She has a heart to serve and to love others like Christ loves. Haley is truly a servant leader with an incredible ability to lead and encourage others. She shares Christ very naturally and in doing so she spreads God’s love in such a beautiful way.”
 
Curry, who is a student at Vance High School in Charlotte, and Harrison, a student at Crossway Christian Academy in Charlotte, are serving on the N.C. Acteens Advisory Panel for 2014-2015 with Leeann Easley, a student at St. Paul’s High School in St. Paul’s and member of Great Marsh Church in St. Paul’s; and Ashton Stepanek, a student at Reborn Christian Academy in Kannapolis and member of Jackson Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis.
 
The National Acteens Panelists, who serve from Feb. 1 to Dec. 31, each receive $1,000 from the Jessica Powell Loftis Scholarship for Acteens from the WMU Foundation. These National Panelists will be featured during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 14-15, where they will also have opportunities to meet national and international missionaries and interact with missions leaders from across the country. They will also write articles for The Mag, the Acteens missions magazine, and for the Acteens website, wmu.com/acteens.
 
Churches, associations, and/or state Acteens and WMU groups may request the Acteens Panelists to speak to their group. Applications for the 2016 National Acteens Panel are due to national WMU by Nov. 1, 2015, and will be available in the fall issue of Acteens Leader. For more information on Acteens, visit wmu.com/acteens.

3/23/2015 1:51:01 PM by Julie Walters, WMU Communications | with 0 comments



Family takes 'insane' step to plant church

March 23 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Rob Burgess couldn’t help but laugh. His wife’s suggestion seemed preposterous – move their family of five, including a junior in high school, from Orlando, Fla., to Denver for a year to help start a new church.
 
“You’re insane,” Rob told Amy with a laugh. Amy’s response? So were the disciples.
 
“If the disciples had told any wise Christian financial counselor they were going to give up everything, quit their jobs and follow Jesus around for three years, do you think he would say it was right?” Amy asked. “Not a chance.”

 
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Photo courtesy Burgess family
The Burgess family moved from Orlando, Fla., to metro Denver last August to spend a year helping to start Storyline Fellowship in Aurora, Colo. From top left to bottom right, the family is Rob, Amy, Mary Brittan (14), Bo (17), Sam (8), Elizabeth (6) and Jud (9).

Despite the “insanity” of the move, less than six months later the Burgess family had relocated to metro Denver and were helping Tennessee pastor Ben Mandrell start a new church near the Mile High City. Storyline Fellowship launched with two full services – and 500 in attendance – Feb. 7 in the Denver suburb of Arvada, Colo.
 
The Burgess family’s journey to Denver began when Mandrell spent five months at First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., which is serving as Storyline’s sending church. Mandrell spent much of his time at the church urging members to consider whether God might be leading them to join his church planting effort.
 
Before Mandrell’s arrival at FBC Orlando, the Burgess family had given little thought to church planting. More than a decade earlier, FBC Orlando had helped start a church in Philadelphia. At the time, Amy says, she had just given birth to her second child and gave little thought to the new church plant. In 2010, when Amy took her oldest son on his first mission trip to help at that now 10-year-old Philadelphia church, she met a woman who was led to Christ by an FBC Orlando woman on one of the early mission trips to the city.
 
“I thought, how fun would it be to be in on the beginning?” Amy said. “What a reward for that person! She went to Philadelphia for a prayerwalk and she got to lead someone to Christ!”
 
That lady’s experience was on Amy’s mind as she learned more about the Mandrell family and their plans in Denver. Listening to Mandrell share about the need for new churches in Denver, Amy became the first in her family to sense God’s urging for them to join the effort. Rob had recently been given a new job that would require more travel during the first year – where he was based made less of a difference than it would have previously.
 
But before Amy brought the idea to her husband, she did some math. If the kids weren’t going to a private school and instead went to a public one, they’d save enough money each month to rent an apartment in Denver. Realizing the family had dwindling time with all five of the children (two of the children were teenagers) at home, Amy also knew that a bold move like this had the potential to be a defining moment in her children’s faith journeys.
 
After continuing to pray about the possibility of a move, she brought the idea before her husband, who dismissed it quickly. Rob’s concerns centered on their two older children, particularly their son who was heading into his junior year in high school. Because Rob would likely be away in Orlando a few days each week, he worried about having the family separated for that amount of time.
 
But God wouldn’t let the issue go. Whenever Rob would bring up an objection, God had an answer – either through the weekend messages at his church or his daily quiet times. About three weeks after Amy had first made the suggestion, Rob took a run by a nearby lake and clearly heard God say, “Go.”
 
“I’ve had very few times where God spoke to me clearly,” Burgess said. “That was one of them.”
 
By the beginning of last August the Burgesses had rented an apartment in Denver and were helping Mandrell prepare for the launch of Storyline.
 
They went to work right away, meeting their neighbors, building relationships at the school and pitching in at the church with everything from children’s ministry to worship service setup to simply being a source of encouragement to the others on the team.
 
The Burgess children, who are in the midst of their first year as public school students, have seen firsthand the Denver mission field in their schools. Thirteen-year-old Mary Brittan Burgess has seen her classmates become more and more open to hearing about Jesus since she arrived last fall. Bo Burgess, who was admittedly reticent about the move when his parents first approached him, feels like his time in Denver is preparing him for an ongoing connection to church planting and missions in future years.
 
“I’ve learned a lot about imbedding yourself in a place as a missionary whether that’s in a school or in other stages of your life and getting in there, going with the flow and meeting new people, letting them see Christ through your life,” said 17-year-old Bo. “That’s what we’re called to do – to show our light.”
 
Rob admits the transition has been tough. Finances have been tighter and family time has been more difficult to come by since making the move. Still, Rob says, God has made His presence clear to him on numerous occasions.
 
“The first step is always the hardest,” Rob said. “But once you take that step and realize you’re doing what God has called you to do, you know God has it in His hands.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about Send North America: Denver, visit namb.net/Denver.)

3/23/2015 1:32:59 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



March Madness wagers, critics say, not harmless

March 23 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Putting $10 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament office pool may seem harmless, but some contend it violates federal and state laws as well as biblical principles.
 
“Christians would be wise to refrain from gambling on the NCAA Tournament,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “That is the best way to make sure they are not violating their responsibilities before God and their fellow man. They should share their convictions with others and encourage them to refrain as well.”
 
The FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion is wagered on March Madness each year, exceeding the amount bet on the Super Bowl, according to the NCAA website. The American Gaming Association estimated that Americans have filled out 70 million brackets this year with the average bet per bracket coming in at $29. The total number of brackets filled out exceeds the number of votes cast in the last presidential election for either President Obama or Mitt Romney.
 
The NCAA “opposes all forms of gambling – legal and illegal – on college sports,” according to the group’s website. Betting on college sports provides children an entry point to gambling, prompts individuals involved in organized crime to contact student-athletes and “threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of the game,” the NCAA said in a statement on its website.
 
NCAA Tournament betting also violates federal law and gambling laws in many states, law professor Marc Edelman wrote in Forbes.
 
“Most participants who pay entry fees into NCAA Tournament pools will probably never stop to consider the legal implications of their actions,” Edelman, associate professor of law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, wrote. “However, while the participants in NCAA pools are rarely prosecuted, there is a strong argument that pay-to-enter contests violate both federal and state law.”
 
At least three federal laws, Edelman wrote, appear to prohibit NCAA Tournament pools in which money is involved:

  • The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 has been interpreted by numerous courts as forbidding gambling online.

  • The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 makes it illegal for any private person to operate a wagering scheme based on a competitive game in which “professional or amateur athletes participate.” A grandfather clause exempts previously authorized gambling in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.

  • The Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits those “engaged in the business of betting or wagering” from knowingly accepting funds connected with unlawful Internet gambling.

“Beyond these three federal laws, there is also a strong argument that many pay-to-enter NCAA Tournament polls violate state gambling laws,” Edelman wrote.
 
Biblical principles relate to betting on college basketball as well, Duke said in written comments.
 
“When we gamble, we misuse some of the resources entrusted to us by God, we set a dangerous example for others to follow, and we lend credibility to a practice that destroys millions of people every year. First Corinthians 10:31 reminds the Christian of his stewardship responsibility. The Christian must use all the resources at his disposal in a manner that glorifies God. This includes the little things as well,” Duke said.
 
“He must also remember that his actions influence the decisions of others. In 1 Corinthians 8:13 the apostle Paul instructs the Christian to be sure his activity does not cause another to stumble by following his example. While someone may be able to control his gambling, someone else who follows his example may not.
 
“Also, the principle of neighbor love is important. Jesus illustrated the principle of neighbor love in Luke chapter 10 with the story of the Samaritan. Neighbor love puts the needs of others first. The Christian must bear in mind that he has a responsibility to help others flourish. Engaging in an activity that takes what belongs to another is not putting others first,” Duke said.
 
Not all forms of gambling are “equally egregious,” Duke said, noting that “the most egregious forms of gambling involve high levels of chance and significant potential for repetition” – activities like playing roulette, betting on slot machines and buying lottery tickets.
 
High levels of chance and significant potential for repetition “are not as prominent in an activity like betting on a sports bracket that occurs once a year,” Duke said. Nevertheless, casino gaming, buying lottery tickets and betting on March Madness “are all forms of gambling since they depend ultimately on varying degrees of chance. The faithful Christian would be wise to refrain from any form of gambling.”
 
Companies “whose business model depends on people gambling and losing are by nature predatory” and “bear greater responsibility before God for their treatment of others than the person who puts a few dollars down on a sports bracket,” Duke said.
 
“The Christian must understand, however, that gambling is not a harmless form of entertainment, like going to the movies,” Duke said. “The movies do not destroy millions of lives every year. A Christian should do all he can to avoid empowering gambling organizations to continue to prey on people.”
 
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said gambling “is a growing problem in our nation as well as in Kentucky” – where the University of Kentucky is the overall number one seed in this year’s tournament and the University of Louisville is a four seed.
 
“When we stop to consider that organized crime is the big winner when people gamble, that the integrity of the games and athletes we love is threatened and that countless thousands of children suffer the consequences of their parents’ gambling addiction, one could hardly call gambling a harmless endeavor,” Chitwood said in written comments.
 
Placing even minimal wagers on basketball games violates biblical principles, Chitwood said.
 
“The Bible warns us repeatedly against the sins of greed and covetousness, both of which are the essential motivations in gambling,” Chitwood said. “Moreover, Christ followers are called to love our neighbor. Taking our neighbor’s money, even if it is the person in the neighboring cubicle at work, is a poor expression of the love of Christ.”
 
While most NCAA Tournament betting appears to be illegal, there is some disagreement among Christian denominations regarding whether some forms of gambling are permissible. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes “games of chance” or “wagers” are “not in themselves contrary to justice,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
 
Instances of wagering become “morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others,” the Catechism states. “The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.”
 
In contrast, a 1997 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution “call[ed] on all Christians to exercise their influence by refusing to participate in any form of gambling or its promotion.” The resolution noted that gambling “has left in its wake pain and destruction in the lives of countless people.” A 2014 SBC resolution opposed all government sponsorship of gambling.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/23/2015 1:22:48 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ferguson's healing envisioned block by block

March 23 2015 by Baptist Press

Changing the streets of unrest in Ferguson to streets of love and ministry is the aim of an “Adopt a Block” initiative now underway amid the Missouri city's racial tensions.
 
Adopt a Block is “a good, simple plan,” said Stoney Shaw, pastor of First Baptist Church, one of the participating local congregations.
 
“We want to join with other churches and minister. Walking the streets and praying is a simple yet powerful plan,” Shaw told The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

 
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Photo by Victor Miller
Ferguson residents began putting their city back together after late-November rioting stemming from a grand jury decision not to indict a local police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

The Adopt a Block initiative is being organized as racial tumult continues in the city of 21,000 just northwest of St. Louis, triggered last August when a Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in a heated confrontation. Tensions mounted with the March 4 release of a Justice Department inquiry that exonerated police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown but found widespread discrimination by police against the city's black residents. The police chief, city manager and a municipal judge soon resigned. Two police officers were wounded in gunfire on March 12. On March 16, the accused shooter's attorney claimed that his client was beaten by police officers and coerced into confessing.
 
The new Adopt a Block initiative is being led by Jose Aguayo, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response Team and pastor of Dorea Ministries in Ferguson.
 
Teams of several church members will adopt a block in Ferguson for ongoing outreach. “This is a point of connection with the community and a way to show love,” Aguayo said. “We want to establish a relationship with the people in the neighborhood.”
 
In the beginning, Aguayo said, the visitation will involve an introduction – “a hello with prayer.” As relationships develop, Aguayo noted that “discipleship will follow. Eventually sports teams, community outings and study assistance for children and adults will take place.”
 
Adopt a Block is a ministry model begun about 20 years ago at the Dream Center in Los Angeles, part of a network of ministries nationally, Aguayo said.
 
First Baptist hosted one of the initial training sessions, providing training and resources developed by the Billy Graham ministry. First Baptist also hosted a Nov. 13 prayer summit and has been part of local efforts to provide child care and revitalize downtown businesses that were looted in rioting after a grand jury declined to indict Wilson in late November.
 
“Prayerwalking and talking with people is so important,” Shaw said. “They need to see our faces in the community.”
 
Shaw noted in written comments to Baptist Press March 20, “We have been an outreaching church for a long time, but this is a steady outreach to the same block or area of our community either weekly or every other week. We hope to get to know people on our block of ministry – to pray for each person and anything that is important to them and to develop a relationship with each one as we go back. After a few times we will actually know who we are relating to....
 
“As it develops, anyone in the church can have such a ministry anytime they want to,” Shaw noted. “I believe most Christians want to have a ministry and once they understand this approach I believe most people will desire this type of ministry instead of a 'hit-and-run' approach, cold turkey calls or confrontations.
 
“This way, you can have a relationship with a person you know by name before you ever begin talking with them about the gospel. People will 'see' the gospel (of love and care) before they ever hear it. We know it is easier to hear the gospel from someone you know than a complete stranger. Why? Because we know this person (the adopt-a-block person) has paid the price and earned the right to share the most important news a person has ever heard.”
 
The Adopt a Block plan will entail a central location for monitoring the progress of the churches, setting a place for weekly reports, follow-ups, networking and resourcing.
 
Shaw said churches of every size can embark on this type of ministry. “But it must be regular. Count the cost before you start,” he said. “If it isn't sustained, it will be just like the other things we have done and then dropped.... Just think, what if every church would adopt such a ministry. Ultimately many will come into the Kingdom and our churches will become a place that the world will say, 'Those folks really do care.'“
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reported by Vicki Stamps, a correspondent for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), the newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/23/2015 1:13:23 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Family Christian Stores drops bankruptcy plan

March 20 2015 by Lynde Langdon, World News Service

Family Christian Stores (FCS) has withdrawn a proposal for a controversial bankruptcy plan criticized by debtors for ties between the seller and buyer that were too close for comfort.
 
FCS President and CEO Chuck Bengochea told Christianity Today, “The stewards of the ministry have done this out of love for the mission of [FCS].
 
“We believe that this will help to satisfy certain objections of the Creditors Committee and the US Trustees. This action will lead more quickly to a successful outcome in which we can continue to serve our customers and glorify God.”
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Image captured from FCS video
Family Christian Stores President and CEO Chuck Bengochea said the company has withdrawn its plan to file Section 363 bankruptcy "out of love for the mission of [FCS]."

 
According to documents filed with a Michigan bankruptcy court last month, FCS owes $57 million to banks and another $40 million to publishers and vendors for inventory it bought on credit. Add in miscellaneous debts, including unpaid taxes and utility bills, and it has a total of about $107 million in liabilities.
 
Its suppliers, mostly Christian publishers, want the company to survive, but along with the company’s creditors, they raised concerns about how it planned to do so.
 
Under the original proposal, FCS wanted to pay about $28 million of the $57 million it owes to banks and walk away from the rest of its debts, including its unsettled accounts with publishers. It promised to keep all of its stores open and all of its workers employed. A spokesperson for FCS said the company would not comment on the bankruptcy while it was in progress.
 
FCS had proposed selling all its assets to a single buyer to raise money to pay off its creditors. That move, known in bankruptcy law as a Section 363 sale, or simply a “363,” is quicker than writing a traditional restructuring plan and is subject to less oversight from creditors, said Steve Ware, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law who specializes in bankruptcy. In one of the most famous 363 sales in bankruptcy history, General Motors sold the bulk of its assets to a newly formed company in which the U.S. government was a majority stockholder.
 
FCS wanted to do something similar. Under the umbrella of its non-profit organization, Family Christian Resource Centers, it formed a new company called FCS Acquisition that would have bought the stores and their assets for $28 million cash and assumed many of the stores’ leases. The total value of the sale would have been about $74 million, but only the $28 million cash would have been available to pay off creditors, and FCS would have walked away from the rest of its debt.
 
Ware said the fact the company wanted to buy itself should have given creditors pause. The arrangement raised the question of whether FCS would do its best to minimize creditors’ losses by getting a good price.
 
“The president of the debtor ought to be thinking, like a seller, ‘I want to get as high a price as possible,’” Ware said. “But if he is also the buyer, than he’s conflicted, and he won’t want the seller to get as high a price as possible.”
 
Adding to creditors’ concerns was the fact that the senior secured creditor – the one first in line to get paid after the sale – is backed by Richard Jackson, the president of the board of Family Christian Resource Centers. Attorneys at an initial bankruptcy hearing on Feb. 17 said FCS owes Jackson $23 million through another related entity, FC Special Funding, Publisher’s Weekly reported.
 
Jennifer Hagle, a lawyer for Credit Suisse, the creditor in line for $34 million behind FC Special Funding, said at the Feb. 17 initial bankruptcy hearing that the case has a “significant issue of transparency,” according to local news site MLive.
 
U.S. bankruptcy attorney Michael Maggio agreed.
 
“In essence, at the moment, it would appear we’re only moving this case for the benefit of Mr. Jackson,” he said. Neither Hagle nor Maggio returned requests for interviews for this article.
 
Jackson did not respond to an interview request made via Jackson Healthcare, the healthcare staffing company he founded and operates in Atlanta.
 
A review of records from bankruptcy court and the IRS showed the company’s sales have declined by about 25 percent since 2008. In 2013, its expenses exceeded its revenue by about $4.7 million. The company attributes the decline to the Great Recession and a customer shift away from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. FCS argues it can maintain its important role in the market for Christian books and gifts if it can get some debt relief.
 
“The basic idea of business bankruptcy … is to distinguish a company that’s been going downhill and it’s going to keep going downhill, from a company that’s been going downhill but it has a good chance of rebounding,” Ware said. Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code allows a company to present a plan to its creditors to reorganize into a profitable business. Meanwhile, the courts protect the company’s assets from creditors until the plan is approved.
 
WORLD reached out to a sample of the companies to which FCS is in debt. Many did not want to comment on the bankruptcy. Those that did said they don’t want to see the company go out of business.
 
“Obviously, we are disappointed that we and all the other trade vendors will take a huge loss in this process,” said Mark Taylor, president of Tyndale House Publishers, in an email statement. “But we hope Family Christian can survive as a chain of stores. Our industry needs them. We hope other suppliers will recognize this.”
 
FCS owes Tyndale about $2.2 million.
 
Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, said the FCS bankruptcy puts publishers in competing positions as both creditors and suppliers.
“None of our publishers want to lose 260 outlets for Christian resources, particularly because those stores are focused on Christian retail and carry more breadth than a general market retailer might,” he said.
 
Publishers also have taken issue with the FCS plan to include inventory it holds on consignment in the bankruptcy sale. A group of publishers and other suppliers filed a lawsuit over the consignment inventory earlier this month.
 
Now that it’s withdrawn its initial bankruptcy proposal, FCS must go back to the drawing board. Though the details are still being hammered out, Kuyper said the bankruptcy will undoubtedly leave a long-lasting mark on the Christian publishing industry.
 
“You can see … when you look at the initial data in the filing that it’s a lot of money, and there’s no way to minimize that impact,” Kuyper said, adding later, “Regardless of how it ultimately goes, it will be a hardship for publishers. It is just a question of how much.”
3/20/2015 2:27:17 PM by Lynde Langdon, World News Service | with 0 comments



SEND tour calls ‘ordinary people’ to radical mission

March 20 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

“Do not underestimate for a second what God can do in and through your life,” said David Platt, keynote speaker of the SEND North America Experience Tour and president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB). With his characteristic vocal swings from mobilizing enthusiasm to God-fearing whisper, Platt revealed a radical vision for missions that begins with what he called “ordinary people.”
 
The tour kicked off September 2014 and runs until mid-April 2015 at 29 sites scattered across the U.S., including one in Vancouver, B.C. After a March 16 event in Winston-Salem, the nationwide tour stopped at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest on March 17 before going on to the final four locations in other states.

 
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The intent of the tour is to be “a gathering for the church that challenges you to leverage your life in a way that counts for the kingdom,” according to its website, sendconference.com.
 
It featured two breakout sessions in the afternoon, including the LoveLoud Lab led by the North American Mission Board’s evangelism team and a church leadership and revitalization lab called “Leading for Change,” led by Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.
 
Labs offered at other tour locations are “A Worship Conversation” led by Shane and Shane and “Multiplying Urban Leaders with the gospel” led by Rebuild Network.
 
The event also included a dinner and panel discussion called The Church & the Mission of God with Platt, Tony Merida and J.D. Greear. Matt Capps, brand manager of The Gospel Project and teaching pastor at The Fellowship, Nashville, Tenn., interviewed the panel about how local churches – as collective bodies of individual Christians – can engage the mission of God.
 
Passion Band, fronted by Kristian Stanfill, led musical worship at the evening service and Harris III, illusionist and communicator, introduced the program with a live, interactive, multiscreen, digital presentation that was half TED talk and half infographic.
 

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David Platt

The presentation showed on a timeline the rising population of the U.S. compared to the plateaued rate of growth for new church plants from 1900-2015.
 
Platt then introduced statistics about the number of people globally that have never heard the name of Jesus – over 2 billion.
 
The numbers are enough to overwhelm the average Christian that sincerely wants to obey God’s command to make disciples of all nations, according to Platt. How could one person, of average gifts and talents, begin to comprehend how he or she might play a part in taking the gospel across the globe? “If that thought is anywhere near your mind,” said Platt, “then I want to speak specifically to you.”
 
Platt preached from Acts 7:54-8:8 as he progressively revealed a multipart statement about how God intends to make His gospel known among all the nations of the earth.
 
“God’s design starts with ordinary people,” said Platt. He noted how unnamed, ordinary Jews started the church in Antioch that became one of the greatest missionary sending churches in all of history.
 
He added to his initial statement that God offers extraordinary power to His people through the Holy Spirit, that prayer is essential to the work of missions, that material generosity enables missionaries to go forth and that many of those sent to the nations will suffer for Jesus’ sake. “Our suffering may be inevitable,” Platt said, “but, brothers and sisters, our mission is unstoppable.”
 
The SEND North America Experience Tour leads to a national conference Aug. 3-4 in Nashville, Tenn.

3/20/2015 1:43:26 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Key Bapt. leaders to speak at MBTS symposium

March 20 2015 by MBTS Communications

A collection of key Southern Baptist leaders that includes Frank S. Page, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, Thom S. Rainer, R. Albert Mohler Jr. and David Dockery is slated to speak at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Sept. 28-29 symposium, “The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment.”
 
Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen, who will also present a keynote address, announced March 18 the symposium will be the first edition of a triennial symposium held on the Kansas City, Mo., campus. He said the symposium is designed to address the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), its heritage, identity and future.
 
“This is shaping up to be one of the most consequential events in the SBC in recent years, and we are grateful to be hosting it at Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “Nothing quite like this has been held for some time within the SBC, but I believe engaging these issues is integral to our Southern Baptist work, and the opportunity is ripe for this event to make a substantial contribution to the SBC for years to come.”
 
Allen noted the symposium is open to anyone who would like to attend.

 
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Image captured from MBTS promotional video

“‘The SBC and the 21st Century’ is for pastors, denominational servants, laypersons, and anyone else who cares about our collective work as Southern Baptists,” he said. “For all those who care about the SBC and its future, this is the place to be this year. We designed the symposium for key SBC stakeholders to speak to urgent denominational matters in a way that serves the entire SBC. It is going to be a special two days, and I believe that God is going to use it in a profound way to impact our Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
The event will be available via livestream, through postings on the school’s website, and each presenter’s paper will be compiled into a book.
 
“We are pleased to be partnering with B&H Publishing to produce a book that will stem from the conference. The book will be released at the 2016 SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis,” Allen said. “We believe the presentations taking place at this symposium will serve to strengthen the SBC, and the release of this book will extend its reach.”
 
Floyd, SBC president, said, “I look forward with great excitement to learning, growing and investing in the upcoming Midwestern Symposium on the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
“I am convinced this gathering has the potential to be a defining moment for each of us who are seeking God’s future for our convention,” he said. “Any conscientious Southern Baptist will discover this experience to be both enlightening and challenging, so join us in this journey.”
 
Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “I am excited about being a part of the upcoming symposium, ‘The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment.’
 
“We desperately need this kind of event to have a clear understanding of where we have been, where we are, and where we need to go,” he said. “My prayer is that it will result in our being more effective in accomplishing the Great Commission of our Lord.”
 
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “This generation of Southern Baptists stands at Ground Zero of cultural transformation, missiological opportunity, and theological emergency.
 
“This is the right time for Southern Baptists to ask hard questions, think seriously about the future, and talk about what faithfulness to Christ will demand of us. ‘The SBC and the 21st Century’ is the right conversation at the right time.”
 
More information on the symposium, including a full schedule of events and how to register, can be found at mbts.edu/sbcsymposium.
 
Speakers and their topics for the conference are as follows:

  • Jason Allen, “Training the Next Generation of Pastors, Ministers, & Missionaries: Southern Baptist Theological Education in the 21st Century”

  • Frank S. Page, “The Cooperative Program and the future of Collaborative Ministry”

  • Ronnie Floyd, “Kindling Afresh the Gift of God: Spiritual Renewal, Strategic Reinvention, & the SBC”

  • Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, “Guard What has been Entrusted to You: Counsel to a new Generation of Southern Baptists”

  • Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, “By the Numbers: What SBC Demographics Tell Us about our Past, Present, and Future”

  • R. Albert Mohler Jr., “Southern Baptists and the Quest for Theological Identity – Unavoidable Questions for the 21st Century”

  • David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, “Who are Southern Baptists? Toward a Trans-generational Identity”

Panel discussion sessions include:

  • Allen, Floyd, Mohler, Patterson, and Page, “Passing the Baton: Raising Up the Next Generation of SBC Leaders”

  • Anthony Jordan, John Yeats, Paul Chitwood, Tim Lubinus and Jim Richards, “The Future of State Conventions”

  • Allen, Rainer, Floyd, and Mohler, “Facing the Future Together”

Breakout session presentations include:

  • Jason Duesing, provost of Midwestern Seminary, “A Denomination Always for the Church: Ecclesiological Distinctives as a Basis for Confessional Cooperation”

  • John Mark Yeats, undergraduate dean of Midwestern Baptist College, “16,000,000 Southern Baptists? Recovering Regenerate Church Membership”

  • Christian George, assistant professor of Historical Theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Seminary, “Downgrade: 21st Century Lessons from 19th Century Baptists”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The communications team at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary submitted this article.)

3/20/2015 1:37:52 PM by MBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Gay marriage festering in CA, AL, PCUSA

March 20 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

From churches in California and Alabama to the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, gay marriage continues to prompt concern in the larger evangelical community.
 
City Church in San Francisco has drawn criticism from evangelicals for lifting its requirement that members with same-sex attraction not engage in homosexual behavior. The church has about 1,000 attendees at two locations and is part of the Reformed Church in America. Meanwhile, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., has been disfellowshipped from its local Baptist association after its pastor and an unpaid minister to the community expressed their support for same-sex marriage and the volunteer minister performed at least one same-sex wedding.
 
Both developments occurred amid a growing push for gay marriage among Christian churches and denominations, with the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) approving an amendment to its constitution the same week that affirmed same-sex marriage. The amendment changed the PCUSA’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
 
The PCUSA General Assembly approved the amendment in June but approval by a majority of regional presbyteries was required for the change to take effect. The Presbytery of the Palisades in New Jersey cast the decisive vote of approval March 17.

 
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A spokesman for the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), an organization that that seeks to foster renewal in mainline denominations, told Baptist Press the PCUSA’s action will exacerbate tensions among Presbyterians.
 
“The decision of the PCUSA to redefine marriage as between any two persons will not ease conflict or put this matter to rest for the denomination,” IRD communications director Jeff Walton said in written comments. “Departures from the PCUSA – well underway for over two years – will only increase. The fight over same-sex marriage is symptomatic of deeper issues dividing Presbyterians, chiefly centered upon the authority of holy scripture.”
 
In San Francisco, City Church announced that nine months of discussion among the congregation’s elders preceded the change in policy regarding homosexual behavior.
 
Jeff Iorg, president of the Bay Area’s Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said City Church has “invented a new hermeneutic to support their experience-driven conclusions that several thousand years of biblical interpretation has been wrong.”
 
“The decision by City Church is not really about sexuality; it’s about biblical authority,” Iorg wrote. “The crux of the matter is this: Does the Bible define morality or does our experience define morality? The answer to that question has far more significant implications than affirming any form of sexual behavior. The gospel itself is at stake. If the Bible is wrong on defining sinful behavior, then why should we assume it’s correct when it also prescribes the solution?”
 
City Church pastor Fred Harrell Sr. wrote in a March 17 letter posted on the church’s website, “We will no longer discriminate based on sexual orientation and demand lifelong celibacy as a precondition for joining. For all members, regardless of sexual orientation, we will continue to expect chastity in singleness until marriage.”
 
Harrell noted that two members of the elder board had resigned, but he did not specify a reason for the resignations.
 
City Church’s former practice of “demanding life-long ‘celibacy’“ of members with same-sex attraction “was causing obvious harm and has not led to human flourishing,” Harrell wrote. Recent disagreements among scholars over whether scripture permits same-sex behavior should “counsel humility with how we each hold our views.” Harrell recommended that church members read former Vineyard pastor Ken Wilson’s book on homosexuality A Letter to My Congregation.
 
But Robert Gagnon, a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said Wilson’s book presents an unbiblical view of same-sex sexual behavior. Gagnon noted that the apostle Paul included homosexual behavior among “behaviors that Christians must now either give up or face the loss of eternal life.”
 
“Wilson contends wrongly that the biblical indictment of homosexual practice is limited to exploitative relationships with adolescents, slaves, and temple prostitutes, as though these were the only forms of homosexual practice known to persons of the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world,” Gagnon wrote in the journal First Things. “In fact, adult-committed relationships in the ancient world were widely known, with early Christians and rabbis forbidding even adult-consensual marriages between persons of the same sex as abhorrent acts.”
 
In Alabama, the Madison Baptist Association’s executive board voted 74-5 on March 16 to withdraw fellowship from Weatherly Heights, The Huntsville Times reported.
 
Associational leaders met with representatives of the congregation Feb. 17 to discuss Weatherly Heights’ position on same-sex marriage after news broke of the pastor and volunteer minister’s activities and opinions. Director of missions Charlie Howell said at the time it was “evident that there would be no agreement on this issue concerning same-sex marriage, and that the association’s constitution and bylaws, with relation to this issue, would not be adhered to.”
 
Weatherly Heights’ exclusion from the association marked “a sad evening for Southern Baptists and the Madison Association Baptists,” Howell said in a statement obtained by The Times. “Our association has lost one of its sister churches. But our executive board ... has deemed it necessary that we remain true to the biblical definition of marriage in belief and practice. The culture in which we live may change, but we must stand firm upon the Word of God.”
 
Weatherly Heights pastor David Freeman said the association’s action “will not further the cause of Baptists.”
 
“Weatherly is a Baptist church,” Freeman told the executive board, according to copy of his remarks released to The Times. “We always will be. Removing us from the Madison Baptist Association will not further the cause of Baptists nor the cause of Christ. My fear is that it will make us look petty and unloving. Our tent is large enough to include you. Our hope is that you will decide that your tent is large enough to include us.”
 
Weatherly remains a cooperating church with the Alabama Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC could take action related to Weatherly at its June 16-17 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Alternately, the SBC’s Executive Committee could act on behalf of the convention at its next meeting June 14.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/20/2015 1:29:57 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Nigerians facing terrorism battle ‘nominal Christianity’

March 20 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Nominal Christianity fueled by a lack of discipleship is a major obstacle in standing against Boko Haram’s persecution of believers in Nigeria, said a leader of more than 10 million Baptists in Africa.
 
Yet, Baptists in Nigeria still manage to teach the gospel at refugee camps and other locations where 1.5 million have been displaced by Boko Haram violence, said Durosinjesu Ayanrinola, general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship of 62 unions and conventions from 33 African countries.
 
“The issue of nominalism is nothing more or nothing less than lack of discipleship, when Christians are not discipled; so you have a case where they will not grow their relationship with Jesus,” Ayanrinola said. “We discovered that even though many attend church, the issue of discipleship is the case. Not many have gone through what it means to be Christian. Not many can stand on their own. They go to church, but they don’t have that in-depth relationship that can make them to stand [during] the difficult times like this.”
 
Ayanrinola spoke to Baptist Press while in the United States in March, when he greeted worshippers at First Baptist Church in Nashville and visited his alma mater, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
 
“But the good thing is that during this time, there are people who are ministering today, even in their refugee camps, to assure them of God’s presence, to assure them that they are not alone,” Ayanrinola said. “It’s just like when the Israelites were in exile and God is raising up prophets to minister to them. I believe that even during these difficult times, there are some pastors who have seen it as a ministry, even to minister to these displaced people, to pray for them, to comfort them, to assure them. They go to them one by one and collectively. And where it is possible outside the Boko Haram place to meet, they are meeting.”

 
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Sahara TV screen capture
A mother and child inside the Happy Home refugee camp in Lagos.

Christians who are not strong in their faith are easily sidelined by the terrorists who seek to drive out Christianity from the country and establish strict Islamic law.
 
“This is a difficult time in their Christian journey. Some of them came out from idolatry and because of this attack on their faith, some of them are saying ‘Where is the God that we’ve heard can save us in difficult times like this?’“ Ayanrinola said. “So you have some of them going back, who are not strong, going back to their idolatry, especially for protection.”
 
Boko Haram has intensified attacks in northeastern Nigeria since President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the region in May 2013, and at one point had captured territories totaling more than 20,000 square miles, establishing Islamic caliphates under Boko Haram rule. The violence forced Nigeria to delay Feb. 14 national elections until March 28.
 
Security forces in neighboring Chad and Cameroon, where refugees have fled, have joined with Nigeria military in pushing back the terrorists in some areas, including the towns of Yobe, Adawama and Bama, Nigerian national security spokesperson Mike Omeri said in news reports.
 
Boko Haram has killed more than 13,000 Christians and nominal Muslims in Nigeria since 2009, according to some counts. In a video posted online March 7, a man believed to be Boko Haram caliph Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance and obedience to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 
The All Africa Baptist Fellowship has received lists from the Nigeria Baptist Convention detailing Boko Haram destruction among church memberships in the area. Although the lists are not exhaustive, they give faces to the victims of violence often reduced to numerical estimates in news reports.
 
Representative of the thousands included on the lists: Mrs. Esther J. Ahidjo: father killed; Joseph Jingi, killed; Hauwa Tizhe, husband killed; Rev. Ezra I. Chitang, house and office looted; Hajara Ibrahim, brother killed; Andrew Ngargwa, farm destroyed; First Jerusalem Baptist Church, farm destroyed, members raped and scattered. The needs of survivors are comprehensive, including financial resources, food and supplies in refugee camps, Ayanrinola said.
 
“There is need even to get some money to help build the schools that are destroyed. In the Nigeria Baptist Convention, I know that the president said in order for students in the Boko Haram [affected areas] to continue with their education, they have moved them to another state that is free [of Boko Haram],” he said. “So they are going to school in another state which is free, and they are allowing these students to go to school [at no cost].”
 
Southern Baptists can help by praying for the specific needs persecuted Christians face in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, Ayanrinola said.
 
“So we need to pray that the Lord Himself will encounter His people in a new way that their faith will continue to grow. We need to pray for boldness because what Islamic agenda is, is to create fear in the hearts of Christians so that on Sundays they may not be able to go out and worship, and they are achieving that,” he said. “It takes the grace of God for the committed ones who are even ready to die for their faith, to go out on Sunday. So let’s pray that their faith in the Lord will increase. ... Let’s pray for those workers among them who are helping them to grow in the Lord, that they should not be terrified, that God Himself will protect them.”
 
Pray also for the salvation of Boko Haram insurgents, Ayanrinola asked.
 
“Let’s pray for the Boko Haram too. Like Paul persecuting the church – and in a very dramatic way – he became an instrument in the hand of the Lord. Let us pray that the Damascus experience will also happen among Boko Haram, that many of them will come to encounter Christ,” he said.
 
The All Africa Baptist Fellowship has helped persecuted Christians by raising funds and raising awareness of Islamic insurgency. They are fighting nominalism by encouraging Christians to faithfully endure and training Christian leaders to write educational discipleship materials.
 
“What we are doing is to work with the country where these Islamic fundamentalists are, one, to create awareness, because in some countries they even know the agenda of the Muslims. We are creating the awareness that they need to be very, very careful, especially Christians,” Ayanrinola said. “What we are doing is that we are also encouraging them to be strong in their faith. We are fighting nominalism.”
 
Ayanrinola served as associate pastor at two Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky before returning to Africa in 2000. He holds master of divinity and doctor of missiology degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
“In my traveling around Africa, I have seen one great deficiency. The study of God’s word is lacking, it is seriously lacking. In many churches, they don’t have any literature. They don’t have something to help them grow spiritually, no devotional materials, no Sunday School materials. It is something that is dear to our hearts – no Sunday School materials even to teach,” Ayanrinola said. “We have taken it upon ourselves to see that in the next few years some of our conventions in Africa will be writing their own literature.”
 
Formed in 1982, the AABF is a regional arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)
 

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3/20/2015 12:44:19 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



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