March 2015

National CP shows signs of rebounding

March 11 2015 by Sing Oldham, Baptist Press

Despite a five-year decline in church membership and a corresponding decrease in per capita giving, the national portion of the Cooperative Program (CP) shows signs of rebounding through the first five months of fiscal 2014–2015.
Year-to-date contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program Allocation Budget through Jan. 31 totaled $64,702,035.77, the highest amount since the Jan. 31, 2012, report. Though lower than the $67.8 million received through January 2010, the $65.6 million in 2011, and the $65.1 million in 2012, this marks the first increase through the first four months of the fiscal year since 2012 and may be a harbinger that local churches are recovering from the lingering effects of the Great Recession.
As of Feb. 28, receipts totaled $82,098,104.34, or 104.81 percent of the $78,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support SBC ministries globally and nationally. The total is $2,371,418.56 more than the $79,726,685.78 received through February 2014.
The two SBC seasonal missions offerings – Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO) and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (AAEO) – have also shown positive signs of rebound. After plummeting from $150 million in 2007 to $141 million in 2008, offerings to the LMCO slowly edged upward through 2012 before reaching and surpassing 2007’s previous high in 2013, topping $154 million for a new record, though still short of the $175 million goal.
Similarly, gifts to the AAEO declined from its record $59 million in 2007 before beginning to recover in 2011 and reaching $58 million in 2014, the third highest amount in history.
While monthly CP Allocation Budget reports often show significant swings based on the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee, this increase through five months, coupled with strengthening support for LMCO and AAEO, show signs that the long-term impact of the global economic crisis may be past.


Five years of local church decline

This positive report stands against the stark reality that giving to Southern Baptist churches for all causes – general budget gifts, missions offerings, missions trips, and other church ministry needs – declined by more than $911 million from 2008 to 2013, a decline of 7.52 percent, according to the Annual Church Profile submitted by cooperating Southern Baptist churches.
Total membership declined by 3.04 percent during the same period of time, from 16,228,438 to 15,735,640, a decline of almost one-half million people (492,748).
Per capita giving also declined over the same period, from $746.91 per member in 2008 to $712.37 in 2013. The combination of declining membership and declining per capita giving impacted the ability of local churches to do ministry in their communities and beyond and has been felt by both state Baptist conventions and the SBC.
For example, even though churches increased the percentage of their undesignated receipts forwarded through the Cooperative Program from 5.407 percent in 2011 to 5.414 percent in 2012 and to 5.50 percent in 2013, the actual dollar amount of CP continued to decline, hovering at a 14-year low the past two years.

The Cooperative Program model

The Cooperative Program was established in 1925 as a collaborative effort between the SBC and state Baptist conventions to assist churches. Prior to that time, ministry leaders from scores of state and national ministries routinely asked churches for time in their worship services to promote their ministries and to receive designated offerings from the church members.
The churches being asked to fund the ministries of the SBC were, by and large, the same churches being asked to support the ministries of individual state Baptist conventions. Inundated with so many requests from so many legitimate ministries, pastors and churches alike grew weary.
Recognizing the drain these requests made on the churches, pastors and convention leaders hammered out a plan that sought to address the problem of so many special offerings. The plan was remarkably simple:

  1. individuals give their tithes and offerings to their local churches;

  2. the churches would forward a percentage of their contributions to their state Baptist convention for ministry in the state;

  3. the state convention would then forward a percentage of its funds to provide support for SBC missions and ministries.

Through a unified, cooperative program of giving, both sets of ministries could be funded – state ministry needs and ministry endeavors of the SBC. In 1925, this cooperative venture between churches, state conventions, and the SBC was given the name Cooperative Program.

The “50/50 ideal” CP division

When the Cooperative Program was formed, a 50/50 division between the state conventions and the SBC (after shared ministry costs associated with promoting CP were deducted) was lifted up as an ideal goal. This target has been reemphasized at SBC annual meetings several times over the years, most recently in 2010 with the adoption of the Great Commission Task Force report.
The actual division, however, has never reached that suggested ideal.
During the CP’s first five years, the division languished at the 80/20 rate (or lower) – 80 percent remaining in the state, 20 percent forwarded to SBC causes. The division finally surpassed 70/30 in the opening years of the 1930s before falling back to a more or less steady 74/26 rate during the remainder of the Great Depression.
During the World War II years and, indeed, for the majority of the CP’s ninety-year history, the division forwarded by the states to the SBC fluctuated between 33 percent and 37 percent per year, with three notable exceptions.
During the post-World War II growth spurt in Southern Baptist church attendance and baptisms (1946–1952), the division of CP funds forwarded by the state conventions to SBC causes exceeded 38 percent for the first time, reaching an all-time high of 40.5 percent in 1951.
During the first decade of the SBC’s Bold Mission Thrust initiative, which corresponded with the height of the SBC Conservative Resurgence, both of which began in 1979, the division of CP funds forwarded by the state conventions again reached and exceeded 38 percent (1985–1991), reaching a high of 39.1 percent in 1988.
The third era in which the percentage of CP gifts from the churches forwarded by the state conventions to the SBC exceeded 38 percent is in the current post-Great Commission Resurgence time frame (2011–2013), reaching 38.8 percent in 2012 before falling back slightly last year. Figures for 2014 will be released later this spring.

State conventions take strides

Each of the first two periods when the CP percentage forwarded by the states to SBC causes exceeded 38 percent came at times of unprecedented economic prosperity, denominational optimism, and corresponding growth in church membership. The current era stands in marked contrast.
As noted above, the current economic realities faced by cooperating churches have been challenging. The amount of CP funds contributed by churches to the state Baptist conventions has fallen from a high of $542 million in 2008 to last year’s $482 million, a decline of 11 percent, putting significant strain on state convention budgets.
Despite the drastic drop in CP gifts to the state conventions, the states have increased the amount they forward to the SBC from 36.55 percent in 2008 to more than 38 percent each of the past three budget years. In order to meet these demanding goals, states began streamlining ministries and reducing staff by hundreds of ministry specialists and support staff (from 1,750 to 1,350 in 33 state conventions that responded to an Executive Committee survey in 2013).
State conventions continued forward progress in sacrificial giving during their fall 2014 annual meetings. Messengers in Iowa and Nevada increased support for SBC causes by adopting 50/50 percentage splits between their respective state conventions and the SBC with no shared ministry deductions. The Baptist Convention of Iowa moved from 20 to 50 percent, while the Nevada Baptist Convention voted to raise its percentage of CP gifts to SBC causes from 35 to 50 percent.
These two joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which has forwarded 50 percent or more of its CP gifts to SBC causes since its founding, as the only three that have met the ideal suggested in 1925 – without deducting shared ministry items.
Five state conventions increased the percentage they forward to SBC causes by more than 1 percent while messengers to an additional 15 state conventions voted to increase the SBC portion in amounts ranging from 0.02 to 1 percent.
The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia is in the process of phasing out its shared ministries category with a goal of forwarding 51 percent for SBC missions and ministries.

Churches, CP, and why they give

Churches continue to believe in the ministry objectives their messengers have assigned to the Convention’s entities. Cooperating churches forwarded, on average, 5.5 percent of their undesignated receipts through CP in the most recent year of record (2013). While the increase is modest, the 5.5 percent figure marks the second year of growth in average gifts through CP, reversing more than 20 years of decline.
This growth parallels the findings of a 2012 CP survey that asked pastors about the “1% CP Challenge” issued by Executive Committee President Frank S. Page in 2011. More than 7 percent of pastors reported their churches had accepted the “1% CP Challenge,” increasing their CP contributions by 1 percent or more of the church’s undesignated receipts in their churches’ 2012 annual budget. A 2014 CP survey found that an additional 3,500 churches reported a similar commitment for their 2014 budgets.
At the national level, messengers to the SBC have assigned a specific set of ministry responsibilities to each SBC entity. These ministry assignments are listed in the Convention’s Organization Manual and published in each year’s SBC Book of Reports and SBC Annual and are posted online at
The following highlights come from the 2014 SBC Book of Reports:

  • IMB reported supporting more than 4,800 fully-funded overseas missionaries who, in conjunction with their work with national partners, reported nearly 6,200 new churches and more than 114,000 baptisms.

  • NAMB reported more than 2,600 fully-funded, jointly-funded, and student missionaries, 3,514 endorsed chaplains, 169 church planting catalysts, and 936 new churches planted.

  • The seminary presidents reported 15,993 Southern Baptist students among its 18,259 non-duplicating head count enrolled for ministerial training through the Convention’s six seminaries.

  • ERLC actively engaged hundreds of pastors, churches, elected officials, and the courts and had more than 1,200 “strategic media contacts” on numerous issues of biblical ethics, public policy, and religious liberty.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee. This story first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of SBCLIFE.)

3/11/2015 11:42:56 AM by Sing Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Biochemist: Newfound fern ‘a problem’ for evolutionists

March 11 2015 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

Evolutionary biologists have announced the recent discovery in France of a hybrid fern species they claim to be as exciting as discovering a manatee could produce offspring with an elephant or a human with a lemur.
The fern, Cystocarpium roskamianum, appears to be the product of two species of ferns that diverged from each other 60 million years ago, according to evolutionary theory, and have not interbred since, the researchers reported in the journal The American Naturalist.


But this discovery is nothing new, said Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
“It’s been long-known that plants can hybridize, and many plants appear designed to form hybrids,” he said. “Many of our own cultivated garden plants are the result of hybridization.”
Although the fern is a fascinating discovery, it is not problematic for a creationist, said Fazale Rana, a biochemist at Reasons to Believe. The discovery actually attests to creationism in two ways. First, “it represents a problem for evolutionists because it shows there are things being discovered that fail to affirm the evolutionary paradigm,” Rana said. “You wouldn’t expect that hybridization to take place. It’s the work of a creator used to create a novel organism.”
Second, a species that can adapt to the environment and give rise to a sister species demonstrates God’s design in giving living things the ability to respond to changes in the environment. Rana compares this adaptability to the way a thermostat works, signaling the air conditioner to kick in when the room becomes too warm and the heat when the room becomes too cool. It is a feedback loop in which the thermostat responds to changes in the environment.
Evolutionary biologists assume all life arose from a common ancestor and different species diverged through the processes of natural selection and random adaptation. Once a new species evolves, they say, it gradually develops reproductive incompatibilities that prohibit it from reproducing with the “parent species” from which it diverged, creating the diversity of species.
“The formation of reproductive barriers between populations is of central importance to evolutionary biology,” the scientists said.
The researchers concluded the fern’s discovery implies the diversity of species that exists today may not be wholly accounted for by adaptation, but may also be the product of varied rates of the speciation clock, the rate at which a type of organism develops reproductive incompatibility with other related species. The speciation clock is calculated by fossil records and molecular clock techniques that look at genes and rates of change at the molecular level to deduce the time in history that two species diverged.
But molecular clock techniques are notoriously fraught with difficulties and make dubious assumptions, Luskin said. For example, some molecular clock studies have yielded widely divergent dates for the supposed most recent common ancestors of animals. Some of those calculations would absurdly place the common ancestor as having existed prior to the origin of the universe, Luskin noted in an Evolution News article. The errors exist because “mutation rates aren’t necessarily constant, researchers ignore the possibility of intelligent design, and common ancestry was a dubious assumption to begin with.”
And, biologists’ comparison of the new fern to a manatee mating with an elephant seems highly inappropriate, Luskin said. While hybrids can occasionally occur between very closely related animal species, animal hybrids are exceedingly rare. Genetic differences between living organisms are often far greater than an evolutionary view would suggest.
“Maybe that’s because evolution isn’t what generated their history,” Luskin said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine ( based in Asheville, N.C.)

3/11/2015 11:35:51 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments

N.C. Baptist Men: narrow purpose, widening mission

March 10 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Richard Brunson has seen major changes in the way North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) does ministry over the 39-year life of the organization. But the basic purpose remains: “Every Christian is a missionary; all Christians are called, gifted and sent; and our job is to help churches involve their members in missions,” he said.
He did not say, “involve MEN in missions.” He said “members.” And more than 20,000 Baptist volunteers accepted the invitation to serve last year.
Brunson, executive director of NCBM since 1992, said, “We want to challenge all men, women and students to be involved in missions. We provide opportunities for them because we think it changes their lives, and it changes the church.”

For that reason the organization’s title has confused some. Incorporated as North Carolina Baptist Men in 1976, the legal name is unchanged. But in the last 15 years they have used the name Baptists on Mission because, “it helps churches realize our purpose is to be on mission,” Brunson said. “It’s not just men. It’s men, women and students – this better communicates who we are, and that there is a place for everybody.”


BSC photo
Richard Brunson

Baptists on Mission is the title of their newsletter, promoted on the ministry’s website and emphasized in other materials.
The nucleus of NCBM began in 1959 when Clyde Davis served as the first full-time director of North Carolina’s Brotherhood organization. Every church had a Brotherhood, and every church had Royal Ambassadors in those days, according to Brunson.
Ed Bullock followed Clyde Davis as the leader of Brotherhood, which was organizationally part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “It was during Ed’s time the idea of N.C. Baptist Men as a separate organization began,” Brunson explained.
“We existed as a separate entity to support Brotherhood and Royal Ambassadors in those days,” he said. “That’s how we did missions, was through Brotherhood.”
At that time churches did not typically do hands-on missions. Missions was done through programs and organizations like WMU and Brotherhood. The focus was on missions education, not on doing missions.
That’s where the greatest changes have happened. “In the last 40 years we have moved from just supporting the programs to helping churches involve their members in missions,” he said.
People didn’t seem to think they could be a missionary, he said. “They thought, ‘we’re praying, we’re giving, that’s all we can do.’ Missions has changed and I think a lot of that is because people see they can be a missionary. They can go and do something – not just pray and give.”

Missions involvement rises

Baptists who were just sitting in church on Sunday began to get involved in NCBM disaster projects like Katrina, Floyd and Sandy. When they returned home, they gave, prayed and impacted the church by telling their story. “There are so many people – men, women, students – who want to get involved in missions. So a long time ago we realized that our future is with men, women and students.” The focus shifted from missions education to missions involvement.
Although known mostly for disaster relief projects, the ministries of NCBM have exploded to include national and international partnerships, aviation ministry, medical and dental clinics, prison outreach, construction projects, agriculture, mission camps, training, summer camps at Caraway Conference Center and Camp, Deep Impact, Operation Inasmuch and a host of other hands-on mission resources.
Disaster relief has expanded to more than 15 unique ministries that include construction, clean-outs, chaplaincy, childcare, food preparation, food service, laundry and water purification. “There have been some amazing changes in how we do missions. I couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago that we would be involved in so many different ways of doing missions,” said Brunson.
NCBM operates Southern Baptists’ largest disaster relief operation and has pioneered many innovations. More than 50 service units are used to respond to needs, according to Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator for NCBM.
Five mobile kitchens feed thousands of people. The largest unit can serve up to 30,000 daily meals. There are three generators mounted on trailers, four tool trailers, two recovery units filled with tools, five sleeper trailers, three laundry units, five RV motor homes, seven shower units, four road tractors, seven pickup trucks, two water tankers, a command unit, mini-excavator and other service equipment. Each piece of equipment is born out of a specific need. Six sleeper units were built during the hurricane Katrina response. Used horse trailers were purchased and volunteers did most of the up-fitting. Brunson estimates the value of the equipment at 10 times NCBM’s investment. Another unit is being built by volunteers in the eastern part of the state. “Pastor Richard Weeks is a carpenter who has built all of the cabinetry in the unit. Each bunk has a shelf where you can charge your phone, curtains and earplugs so you can get a good night of sleep. That’s a big need when you are working hard all day on location,” he added.
The first laundry units were built in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York’s Twin Towers. NCBM set up in the old Navy shipyard in Brooklyn, providing lodging and food for volunteers from many states. We washed clothes for the volunteers and rescue workers, then wrote scripture verses on the plastic bags with the clean laundry,” Brunson said.

Helping churches

One of the best ways NCBM helps churches is by providing managed projects. Smaller churches benefit from this ministry says Brunson. “Right now we have an on-site coordinator in Seaside Heights, N.J. A church can go there, and our coordinator will have building material ready with food and lodging. We can help make it a meaningful mission trip for them. And for some that will be their first mission trip.”
When a disaster strikes, Brunson’s staff works with churches in the region. Last spring tornados struck in eastern N.C. NCBM sent an on-site coordinator to Elizabeth City, and Corinth Baptist Church continues to provide space for volunteers to serve locals.
“Internationally we are developing a camp in Honduras,” Brunson added. “Mike and Ginger Green are there year round. Volunteers are building facilities with a mission camp model. We’ll be able to house volunteers, serve people in the community and offer many services to the community. The churches in Honduras will be able to use it for a retreat facility, also.”


NCBM photo
North Carolina Baptist Men is not just an organization for men but for women and students as well. The organization has a multitude of ways for people to get involved in missions. 


What are the mission camps?

NCBM operates two mission camps in North Carolina. Facilities in Shelby and Red Springs are equipped to house and feed more than 200 volunteers at a time, with on-site coordinators in both locations. They function year-round, but fill up with volunteers in the summer. Mission camps were born out of the disaster relief ministry. In the Katrina project some volunteers built over 700 homes. Other volunteers set up and serviced kitchens and sleeper units.
Brunson said, “We realized that people really want to be involved and churches really want to help, but they don’t know what to do logistically. There are so many things that have to be managed in a disaster and limited resources in the area of the disaster. So we thought about having mission camps in N.C. in areas where there is a lot of need. This helps churches get involved in missions in our own state; it keeps people involved and it trains them.”
Also, there was a lot of equipment left over when projects were completed. “The mayor of Gulfport, Miss. had no further need for the kitchen equipment we installed there, so he asked us to take it,” Brunson said. “So we took it to our first mission camp in Red Springs.”
Red Springs is a 52,000 square-foot facility on 15 acres with a large fenced parking lot in Robeson County. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) was able to purchase it for less than $300,000. Larry and Teresa Osborne are on-site coordinators. There are many needs in the area. Volunteers work with the battered women’s shelter, help churches with Backyard Bible Clubs, work with schools, hold eye glass clinics and lead events in cooperation with the local association.
Brunson calls the Shelby camp another “God story.” The town’s mayor helped NCBM and BSC locate 40 undeveloped acres for $170,000. Metal buildings serve as a dormitory, dining area, auditorium and warehouse. Ministries for volunteers include wheelchair ramps, working in the homeless shelter and the potato project. Sweet potatoes are grown on-site, harvested and shared with needy families. David and Janet Brown serve as coordinators.

Medical Dental Bus

Medical personnel across the state birthed the idea of a medical dental bus. “When we started providing that as a way to get people involved in missions, more people got involved and more churches saw the needs in their communities,” Brunson said.
Today there are three medical dental buses. Two are mobile, and one has become stationary in the Truett Baptist Association. The association manages it, staffs it and coordinates appointments. The two mobile buses see over 4,000 patients each year in 170 locations.

How is NCBM funded?

The organization’s budget is funded entirely by the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). Some support comes from Cooperative Program resources, such as rent in the Baptist Building and employee benefits. But all program expenses and salaries come through NCMO. Brunson said the offering is essential to the ministry. When there is a disaster, many churches respond with an offering and send designated gifts to NCBM. The funds are used immediately to pay for meals, lodging and other direct expenses related to the disaster.

Aviation ministry

A lesser known, but important part of NCBM is the aviation ministry. More than 200 pilots are involved that either own or have access to an aircraft. Working with Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, they offer medical mercy flights. “About every other day, they are flying somebody for medical care. Sometimes they are taking an N.C. patient out of state and sometimes they are flying an out-of-state patient to one of our fine hospitals in North Carolina,” Brunson said.

Other disaster relief organizations

NCBM understands the importance of good relationships with other disaster relief organizations. “We have good relationships with other partners and with government,” Brunson emphasized.  “Government can be in a position to stop what you are doing or to enhance what you are doing. We especially have a great relationship with N.C. Emergency management. We see ourselves as partners with them.”
Strong bonds are established with the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse and Salvation Army, among others. In some disasters Salvation Army asks NCBM to assist them. “There are other situations where we are serving in the same location with Samaritan’s Purse. We coordinate our work so we are not competing. We are there to serve those in need,” he said.
In Haiti Samaritan’s Purse (SP) and NCBM worked out of the same facility. SP provided the building materials and NCBM volunteers built more than 800 houses.
The Southern Baptist Convention has an agreement with Red Cross in every state. Red Cross provides the food and the state Baptist disaster teams provide whatever it takes to prepare food including cooking units, propane and volunteers.

Annual missions conference

The annual missions conference is a major event for the ministry. The purpose is to encourage the men, women, and students who are already involved, thank them, provide ministry updates, expand training and boost the challenge of missions. The meeting features prominent speakers, testimonies and popular Christian musicians. It has become a reunion for many volunteers.
This year’s conference is April 10-11 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Visit

3/10/2015 2:28:43 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments

N.C. sheriff bans sex offenders from church

March 10 2015 by Jon Ostendorff, Religion News Service/USA Today

A sheriff in one of North Carolina’s smallest counties told registered sex offenders they can’t go to church, citing a state law meant to keep them from day-care centers and schools.
Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps told sex offenders about his decision Feb. 17, according to a letter the Asheville Citizen-Times obtained March 6. About 9,000 people live in Graham County, which abuts Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee line in western North Carolina.
“This is an effort to protect the citizens and children of the community of Graham (County),” he wrote. “I cannot let one sex offender go to church and not let all registered sex offenders go to church.”
He invited them to attend services at the county jail.


North Carolina Sheriff’s Association photo
Graham County Sheriff Danny Millsaps told sex offenders about his decision Feb. 17, according to a letter the Asheville Citizen-Times obtained March 6.


In an interview Friday, Millsaps said he may have made a mistake when he wrote that offenders “are not permitted to attend church services.”
He said he understands the Constitution gives everyone the right to religious freedom. But he said he’s standing by his take on North Carolina law blocking offenders from places where children are present.
“I understand I can’t keep them from going to church,” he said. “That may have been misunderstood. I’ll be the first one to say I might have made mistakes in the wording of that letter.”
Millsaps has no immediate plans to arrest a sex offender should one of the 20 in his county attend church Sunday, he said.
Graham County Manager Greg Cable said the county attorney is looking into the matter and any legal mistakes would be corrected.
At the Citizen-Times’ request, the American Civil Liberties Union in Raleigh is reviewing Millsaps’ letter. The newspaper also sent a copy to the North Carolina Department of Justice for an opinion on the law.
Neither responded immediately.
Other North Carolina counties have dealt with the same issue:
In Chatham County, deputies in 2009 arrested a sex offender for attending church, citing the same law. A state Superior Court judge eventually ruled the law as applied to churches was unconstitutional.
 In Buncombe County, sex offenders are permitted in church as long as pastors know and are in agreement, Sheriff Van Duncan said. That’s similar to the county’s policy for allowing sex offenders at school events like ball games. They are allowed as long as school administrators have warning, and the offenders are monitored to some extent, the sheriff said.
The law allows schools to do this, a factor the judge noted in 2009 in the Chatham County case.
If a sex offender threatens a child at a church or school event, Duncan said the law can be enforced and used to ban the offender.
Church leaders in Buncombe County, where Asheville is located, generally want to minister to sex offenders, he said.
The law applies to public, private and church schools that have weekday classes. Sex offenders generally are banned from school property.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon Ostendorff reports for the Asheville Citizen-Times and USA Today.)

3/10/2015 1:43:29 PM by Jon Ostendorff, Religion News Service/USA Today | with 0 comments

Relatives, friends say goodbye to Ridings

March 10 2015 by K. Allan Blume & Dianna L. Cagle, BR staff

Family and friends gathered March 8 to say goodbye to Kenneth Ridings, 78, the longtime Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) professor and then president.
“Kenneth Ridings, who preached the written Word, has met the Living Word,” said Greg Mathis, Ridings’ pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church, to open the funeral service held at the church. Ridings died March 5.
Mathis and D.L. Lowrie, former executive director-treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and a visiting professor at Fruitland, shared during the service. Lowrie recounted his long-time friendship with Ridings that began 57 years ago in Myrtle, Miss.
“Both of us have a rich heritage,” Lowrie said. “I’m here to join you in thanking God for this man.”
Lowrie said Riding’s influence and impact will continue to be felt for years to come. “When you absorb into your soul the truth that God raised Christ from the dead, that changes everything,” he said. “The gospel says that every work [Kenneth] did here that was worth doing, followed him and will follow him to the judgment seat of Christ. ... It’s not over for the man or woman in Christ. It’s not over for brother Kenneth.”


Kenneth Ridings died March 5. He was president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) in Hendersonville.


Mathis shared that Ridings was a unique individual.
“Kenneth never wanted to be like anybody else,” Mathis said. “He was most comfortable being Kenneth Ridings.
“Personally I never met anyone that felt a greater priority or purpose in preaching than Kenneth Ridings. Preaching was his passion. He considered his role as a pulpiteer to read the Word, explain the Word and apply the Word. That was his supreme calling.”
Mathis read a statement from David Horton, current president of Fruitland: “Throughout his ministry, Dr. Kenneth Ridings was a living legend among Baptist preachers. His exceptional homiletical skills placed him in the category of such notable expository preachers as Stephen Olford, Ron Dunn, and Adrian Rogers. His legacy as a pastor, professor, and previous president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College will continue throughout the years as we build on the foundation that he laid. Today, Dr. Ridings has joined the other heroes of the faith in ‘that great cloud of witnesses’ and he is cheering the rest of us on!”
Ridings, a South Carolina native, became a Christian in 1953 with the help of his now wife, Ann. He is a graduate of North Greenville College, Furman University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He received doctor of divinity degrees from Fredericksburg Bible Institute and Covington Seminary.

He served as pastor of churches in South Carolina and North Carolina, including Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hendersonville, N.C., and Grassy Branch Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C., where he led for 22 years while teaching at Fruitland.
Ridings began his service to Fruitland in 1968, teaching church administration and pastoral counseling. He started what would become a 39-year tenure as professor of homiletics the next year.
He was on the board for the International Mission Board and was second vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Ridings retired as Fruitland’s president Dec. 31, 2008, and was named president emeritus on July 16, 2009. He was president for 11 years and taught at the school for 40 years. Fruitland honored Ridings with a Baptist Heritage Award in 2009. During his retirement service, Ridings revealed his heart about Fruitland: “You can go to heaven from many places. But when you go to heaven from Fruitland, you don’t notice the difference as much.”
In a statement released March 5, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention, urged people to pray for the family and to thank God for Ridings’ impact on the “lives of pastors, and as a result, the churches of this convention.”
He said, “Ridings was more than a faithful employee of the Baptist State Convention and more than an excellent professor of homiletics; he was a dear friend and a tremendous influence upon my life. Like so many students at Fruitland, the members of the churches he served, and those impacted by his extensive preaching ministry, Kenneth helped me to not only appreciate expositional preaching but modeled for me how to preach God’s Word. I will miss him greatly, but find comfort in the truth that we will meet again.” 
Ridings is survived by his wife, Ann; daughter, Beverly; and one granddaughter. Donations can be made to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College Chapel Fund that bears Ridings’ name: Fruitland Baptist Bible College, 1455 Gilliam Rd., Hendersonville, NC 28792.
To view the sermon online, visit and choose the “Kenneth Ridings Funeral Service” from the list of episodes.

Related Column:

Kenneth Ridings: In the spirit of John the Baptist

3/10/2015 1:33:16 PM by K. Allan Blume & Dianna L. Cagle, BR staff | with 0 comments

God uses ordinary people – like Henry Blackaby

March 10 2015 by J. Gerald Harris, The Christian Index

Most ordinary people never achieve an extraordinary life because they are too fearful to take that leap of faith and simply take God at His word.
Elijah was an ordinary man, “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). One translation says, “He was a mortal man just like we are.” Yet he became an extraordinary man who could pray and shut up the heavens so that it did not rain and he could also pray so that the heavens were opened up and rain came in abundance. In fact, on Mount Carmel he outdueled the prophets of Baal when he successfully prayed down fire from heaven.
Extraordinary men are in scarce supply today, but Henry Blackaby is an ordinary man who has become a mighty instrument in the hands of God.
Blackaby was born in British Columbia. He studied English and History at the University of British Columbia as an undergraduate and earned his bachelor of divinity and master of theology from Golden Gate Seminary. He also holds five honorary doctorate degrees. Henry and Marilynn Blackaby served in churches in California before serving 18 years in Canada, where they saw many new churches begun. They raised their five children in Canada.
It was also at that time that God taught the Blackabys the truths concerning walking with God that would eventually become the basis for the best-selling book Experiencing God.
Raised in that environment, all five children sensed a unique call of God into ministry. Their oldest son, Richard, currently serves as president of Blackaby Ministries International and resides in Atlanta. Thomas is the former senior pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway and now is the international director of Blackaby Ministries International. He and his family reside in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Mel is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, south of Atlanta. Norman Blackaby is a professor at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. Carrie Blackaby-Webb is a career missionary serving in Germany.

A God-perspective

The Blackabys have 14 grandchildren; and the three older ones are currently enrolled in seminary and several others have sensed a call into some form of ministry. “I prayed that I would live out my life with God in such a way,” Blackaby said, “that my children and grandchildren would choose to be involved in ministry.”
In 1970 Blackaby began serving a small church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. During those days he began to mentor some of the students at the University of Saskatchewan. Among the many students that he encouraged and discipled was one French-Catholic by the name of Gerry Taillon. Taillon was saved and called to serve an Indian church ninety miles from Saskatoon. He presently serves as the National Ministry Leader for the Canadian National Baptist Convention.


Blackaby Ministries International photo
Henry Blackaby, seen here receiving an honorary doctorate from North Greenville University in 2012, will be celebrating his 80th birthday this year. 


Taillon recently commented, “Henry Blackaby is the most theocentric person I know. He is always more concerned about God’s perspective than the human one. He influenced me more than words can tell.
“Henry was my first pastor and my mentor. His life has formed the greater part of my theological outlook and forms the core of my confidence in God and His mission in our world. Henry is a dear friend and a wonderful example of a man who walks with God. I am forever grateful for his influence in my life.”
In addition to impacting the lives of many university students Blackaby has also mentored numerous CEOs of large corporations. Mac McQuiston, director of Institutional Development for Focus on the Family, had his life amazingly transformed by reading Experiencing God and began to relate the principles of the book to CEOs around the country.
One day McQuiston called Blackaby and asked, “Henry, would you help me disciple these CEOs? They are asking for some spiritual counsel, for someone who can guide them through the scripture and then through the scripture to the relationship.”


A greater meaning

McQuiston added, “Many of the CEOs were connected to President Bush and all the cabinet – you name it – but they were asking, ‘How can we use our lives?’ Forty-seven of those CEOs met and agreed to make decisions regarding television sponsorship that would insure that prime time television would be more family friendly. A lot of that came out of their studying Experiencing God.” There are now more than 200 CEOs being mentored by Blackaby.
Blackaby’s ministry to missionaries has also been a vital part of his ministry. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he called Blackaby one day and said, “I would like for you to go around the world and encourage our missionaries.”
In a recent interview with Richard he indicated that he was speaking at a missions conference in Florida when three missionaries shared with him how much his dad had blessed and encouraged them in his visit to their missionary outposts.
Richard explained, “One missionary in Central America was so discouraged that he was ready to quit, but when Dad came to see him on the mission field things changed. One day they got in a boat to travel to some destination and while they skimmed across the water they talked. By the time they docked the boat the missionary had decided to stay at his post of duty.”
While visiting in Russia, Henry encountered a forlorn missionary who complained, “The people here are unreceptive. They won’t even talk to us. It is unfair for us to spend our time in a place where the people are so cold and sometimes even hostile.”
Henry replied, “Well, you are getting to experience in a small way what Christ experienced when he left heaven to come into this world.” The missionary decided to renew his commitment to serve where God had placed him.


Given a platform

It is obvious that the publication of Experiencing God opened innumerable doors of opportunity for this gentle, yet powerful man of God, now approaching his 80th birthday. In July of 1990 and prior to the publishing of Experiencing God Richard was speaking at a missions conference at Ridgecrest to preview the new workbook that was to come out in November.
He had been assigned a room that was arranged to accommodate eight people. When more than 200 showed up his conference was relocated to the spacious Spilman Auditorium. It was obvious that God was up to something with Henry’s book.
Since that time Blackaby has spoken in the East Room of the White House for the National Day of Prayer, the Pentagon, the United Nations, and in churches and conferences all over the world. He has also addressed people in churches of many denominations including Lutherans, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Mennonites, Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists.
He explained, “If they are inviting me to preach the message God has given me and placing no restrictions on what I have to say, why not?
“When Bob Russell was pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., he bought thousands of the Experiencing God books. When Governor Mike Huckabee was a pastor in Arkansas he was greatly influenced by my book.
“But,” Henry added, “my ministry would not be possible without Marilynn. Words fail me to describe how instrumental she has been in my life and ministry. She is the major force in my life apart from God.”
Although Blackaby has officially retired, he knows that God still has a work for him to do. He explained, “My future is open-ended with my service to CEOs, pastors, and political leaders. There is no limit to what the future holds for me. “My philosophy is if you save your life you will lose it, but if you give it away you will save it. Jesus’ plan for the ages was and is the local church. He loved it and gave Himself for it; and I believe any church wholly given to God has unlimited potential. Those first century disciples turned the world upside down and it can happen again. We want to believe that all our churches and denominational agencies have their ministries bathed in prayer, but it is foolhardy to assume that people are praying fervently and frequently. We must make prayer a priority!”


Celebration in worship

On April 17-18 the public is invited to join Blackaby for his 80th birthday/retirement celebration at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga. It will be a time of worship and fellowship. Special guests will include Frank Page, Johnny Hunt, and Michael Catt. The worship service on Friday evening begins at 7 p.m. To get details about this special event or indicate you are attending, go to Henry Blackaby’s only explanation for the anticipated celebration may be found in Zechariah 4:10 where God says, “For who hath despised the day of small things.” Ralph Waldo Emerson might well have had Henry Blackaby in mind when he said, “A great man is willing to be little.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is the editor of The Christian Index, news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. This story first appeared in the Index and is used by permission.) 

3/10/2015 1:28:29 PM by J. Gerald Harris, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

Selma provoked GGBTS to demand ‘equal justice’

March 10 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., 50 years ago provoked Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary students to put segregationists and civil rights leaders alike on notice that many Southern Baptists supported equal rights for all Americans regardless of race.
After law enforcement officials in Selma beat and tear gassed demonstrators advocating voting rights for blacks, injuring some 100 people, Golden Gate students voted to send telegrams to Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition, some students wanted to send a representative to participate in a march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery beginning March 21. Student Anthony Vos volunteered, and students and faculty donated money to pay for his travel. They instructed that any overage be given to King and his associates to defray their costs, Vos’ widow Pat told Baptist Press.
Anthony Vos’ “understanding when he went to the march was that he was going there ... to let [civil rights leaders] know that Golden Gate Seminary was agreeing with their freedom march,” Pat Vos said.
Anthony Vos, who died in 2011 at age 72 after pastoring churches in California and Louisiana, arrived in Alabama March 24 and marched on the final leg of the journey to Montgomery, where 25,000 people gathered to protest the police brutality three weeks earlier and to demand equal voting rights for the state’s black population. Vos attempted to speak with King but was unable to make contact with him, Pat Vos said. Instead he spoke to members of King’s staff and expressed Golden Gate’s support of their efforts.
In 1983, former Golden Gate President Harold Graves published a history of the seminary titled “Into the Wind” in which he wrote that Vos “was so tired upon his arrival [in Alabama] that he went to sleep and actually had very little to report upon his return.” Pat Vos, however, said her husband was “disturbed” by the inaccuracy of that account and wrote a letter to Graves underscoring his active participation in the march. Vos never mailed the letter though, wishing not to appear disrespectful toward a leader of his alma mater.
At Golden Gate’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus, students voted without opposition in a March 1965 chapel service to send King a telegram stating, “We deplore the use of physical violence against those individuals protesting what they believe to be existing injustices. We encourage you in this struggle for civil rights and pray that from it will come equal justice for all men.”
In the same chapel service, students voted without opposition to send a message to Wallace stating, “We believe that sincere individuals ought to be able to protest the injustices they believe existing. We feel that police power should protect [t]his right of protest rather than deny it,” BP reported at the time.

The Selma campaign

Selma became the focus of voting rights activism because of a strategic plan by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Dallas County, where Selma is located, had just 156 blacks registered to vote in 1961 of a voting-age African American population of 15,000. Among the ways blacks were prevented from registering was a difficult “knowledge of government” test administered to applicants for registration and a tendency by county official to deny blacks’ applications for registration because of minor errors on written forms, according to David Garrow’s book Protest at Selma.
In addition to committing voter discrimination, Dallas County had a sheriff that the SCLC believed would lose his temper and confront protestors violently – a response that the SCLC felt could draw national media attention to their campaign, according to Garrow.
The SCLC’s Selma campaign launched on Jan. 2, 1965, with a speech by King. Ongoing protests and violent clashes with law enforcement officials drew the hoped for media attention and culminated in an attempt to begin a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7. King was not in Selma that day, perhaps alerted to the likelihood of violence, when 600 marchers were brutalized by a combination of state troopers and local law enforcement officials.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Vos
This photo, taken in 1965 by Golden Gate seminary student Anthony Vos, shows fellow protestors during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.


Protestors’ injuries included fractured ribs and wrists, severe head gashes, broken teeth and one possible fractured skull, Garrow reported. After a federal judge approved plans for a follow-up march on March 21, protestors successfully made the journey to Montgomery – joined by Vos on March 24.
The Selma campaign, according to Garrow, played a major role in the enactment of a federal Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

Backlash at Golden Gate

Supporting the voting rights campaign in Selma came at a cost to Golden Gate. After BP reported March 19 on the telegrams to King and Wallace, Graves received a letter from a seminary classmate who lived in Alabama.
“I am confident that this official action of your student body was conscientiously motivated, but regret the fact that greater wisdom was not exercised on the part of the faculty and administration in guiding your students into an appreciation of the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to pass judgment upon states, people, organizations and conditions, without having all of the information, and having lived under the pressures that can be exerted in such circumstances,” the classmate wrote according to Into the Wind.
The letter continued, “It is real strange to us who live in Alabama and who are dedicated and consecrated to the cause of Christ and live under the authority of Scripture, to see our brethren, and particularly our youth taking sides, determining positions and exercising pressure without consideration to the effect of such action upon those who are struggling to maintain fellowship and financial support in the institutions that represent us in Southern Baptist life.”
Graves wrote in reply, “Do you understand our situation as well? We are the only Southern Baptist institution outside the sharply defined Southern tradition. By its location, the Golden Gate Seminary family is in the midst of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the North and West. Many Christians feel that the Scriptures have much to say concerning the worth of individuals in God’s sight. In the light of this truth, it is easy for people in this area to feel that a great host of people are being denied their rights and to want to speak out against it.”

Southern Baptists in Selma

Though Vos reported encountering no other Southern Baptists marching to Montgomery, there were those in Selma who believed in equal rights of all, regardless of race or nationality. Among them was Henry Lyon Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church in Selma from 1965-86. Lyon arrived in Selma two months after the March protests, but he told BP he experienced the city’s racial tension.
On three occasions, Lyon sought to admit black people to activities at First Baptist, but the church’s deacons maintained a policy of not allowing black worshippers, Lyon told BP. On one occasion in the late 1960s, however, a black protestor attended worship and was not removed, Lyon said.
Relations between Lyon and some members of the congregation became “very tense” late in his pastorate after he said from the pulpit, “How can we brag about how much we give to [the] Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering for International Missions] and then prevent someone from worshipping with us who was won to Christ by our missionaries” in Africa?
Lyon’s comment came after the deacon chairman told him he could not continue as pastor if he allowed a black student from a foreign country to attend First Baptist’s Christmas program.
When First Baptist received its first black member around 2001, the pastor called Lyon and said, “You laid the foundation. God took it and used it. Don’t feel like you failed,” Lyon, now 79, told BP.
Lyon never participated in a civil rights protest but remembers watching demonstrations from the church’s parking lot. He called his pastorate in Selma “very happy” and said he had “friends of all races.”
In 1965, Selma Mayor Joe Smitherman and director of public safety Wilson Baker were both Baptists, BP reported at the time. Smitherman was a member of First Baptist and taught a boys’ Sunday School class at one time, Lyon said.

A gospel of reconciliation

Jerry Light, the current pastor of First Baptist, told BP Selma has come a long way.
“Last Sunday we had a unity march for the entire community of Selma,” Light said March 6. “Between 2,000 and 2,400 attended – all ages, all races from all the different churches all over Selma.”
First Baptist has black members, former Shiite Muslim members and former Hindu members, Light said. The congregation also has embraced its God-given role as salt and light in the community.
“The church is responsible for the community,” Light said. “I’ve led this church to realize that the government doesn’t solve problems. It’s not their responsibility to do that. They can’t fix broken lives and broken families. It’s our responsibility [as] the church.”
Meanwhile, Golden Gate has continued to teach the gospel’s multicultural implications. In 1968, it had more black students than any other seminary on the West Coast and more foreign students than all other West Coast seminaries combined, according to Golden Gate’s portion of the 1968 “Crisis Report” to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Today, more than half of the students in Golden Gate’s master of divinity program, the basic ministry preparation degree, are non-white, according to the seminary’s 2014 report to the Association of Theological Schools’ Accrediting Commission.
In 1987, Golden Gate hired Leroy Gainey as the second fulltime black professor at any Southern Baptist seminary. Gainey told BP that the 50th anniversary of the Selma protests is an important moment for Southern Baptists to look back and look ahead.
“As I look back, the spiritual education is definitely correct now,” Gainey, J.M. Frost Professor of Educational Leadership, said. “Preaching a system of apartheid, or that people are less, or segregation – that doesn’t serve anybody. But preaching a Gospel that speaks to reconciliation” leads to healing.
Gainey added, “History always helps us to have a better perspective on the future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/10/2015 10:43:35 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boko Haram’s ISIS pledge viewed as survival tactic

March 10 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Boko Haram’s pledge to follow the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has psychological, financial and tactical implications, putting the African terrorists in a subservient role intended to increase funding from the Middle East, Nigeria relations expert Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
Boko Haram released an audio clip online March 7 pledging allegiance to ISIS. The audio featured statements by Boko Haram caliph Abubakar Shekau.
While Boko Haram has long modeled itself after ISIS, Ojutiku said, Middle Eastern Arabs consider the African terrorists racially inferior and have never fully accepted them. Ojutiku is a Raleigh, N.C., Southern Baptist who leads the Lift Up Now grassroots outreach to his Nigerian homeland.
“While the origins of the two organizations are distinctly different, Boko Haram has constantly fine-tuned its Islamic Caliphate [an Islamic-ruled government] agenda and progressively strived to make it similar to that of ISIS, in order to be recognized and accepted by ISIS,” Ojutiku said in a written statement to BP.


Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, whose symbolic flag is shown above.

“Even though ISIS has maintained a strong communication relationship with, as well as logistical support of Boko Haram, it has shied away from being publicly associated with Boko Haram,” he said. “The recent pledge to subserve the Boko Haram … Caliphate to the ISIS Caliphate is to finally acquiesce to the existing psychological inferiority of Boko Haram, in exchange for ISIS support, in a master-servant relationship.”
A senior Nigeria military intelligence official, who requested anonymity, told Ojutiku he believes that Boko Haram’s sole tactic is financial.
“Surely they will get extra funding,” the official said, Ojutiku told BP. “Boko Haram is aligning with ISIS to make it look like an affiliate of ISIS and the end result is financing. There [has] been [an] exchange of emails between the two organizations to show that [there] is a bond.”
Chad and Cameroon military forces have joined Nigeria in recapturing territories in Northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram had established caliphates, according to news reports. As of mid-January, Boko Haram had established its own governments in towns covering more than 20,000 square miles in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, but they have been toppled in some of the towns, Nigeria military officials have said in widely disseminated reports.
Boko Haram’s strategy to increase its financial support is related to its desire to survive and renew, and to improve its standing as an international terrorist organization, Ojutiku said.
“By this, Boko Haram hopes to put a heightened sense of fear into the public’s perception of its global reach of terror and brutality,” Ojutiku said. “The Boko Haram ISIS pledge is also a desperate move of survival, from the continuing onslaught of Boko Haram defeat, as well as its organizational deconstruction and displacement from the captured territories of Northeast Nigeria, by the combined regional forces of Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.”
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission postponed Feb. 14 elections until March 28, citing security concerns in the midst of Boko Haram aggression and the resultant displacement of an estimated 28 million voters.
“Boko Haram hopes that ISIS will come to its aid, in order to replenish its equipment, weapons and ammunitions resources,” Ojutiku said. “Through ISIS acceptance of its pledge, Boko Haram hopes to be enabled to retool, as well as re-strategize for long-lasting and more devastating acts of terrorism, continuing into the aftermath of Nigeria’s presidential elections, regardless of [the election’s] outcome.”
ISIS, in efforts to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, has rendered minorities in Iraq nearly extinct as a result of religious and ethnic cleansing, the Christian human rights organization 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative said in a Feb. 11 report. In addition, the terrorists have executed at least one American, and have systematically killed, sexually exploited and enslaved children.
The international community can weaken the terrorists in Africa and the Middle East by exposing their sources of funding, said the Nigerian military officer who communicated with Ojutiku.
“The international community will do well to help expose those financing terrorism and also help the developing countries who have been plagued with terrorists activities to fight terrorism,” the officer said.
“This can be achieved through real time intelligence, supply of equipment and capacity building.”
According to media reports, Caliph Abubakar Shekau made the following statement in the released audio clip.
“We announce our allegiance to the caliphate … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against and not to dispute about the rule with those in power except in the case of infidelity,” Shekau reportedly said. “We call on Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the [ISIS] caliphate and support him, as obedience to Allah and as their application of the absent duty era.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.)

3/10/2015 10:36:44 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Grants help Liberian schools to re-open

March 10 2015 by Candice Lee, WMU Foundation

A total of $44,000 in grants assisted in re-opening Liberian schools Feb. 16. National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and the WMU Foundation made the grants from the Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow (HEART) Fund to provide assistance as Liberia recovers from the Ebola crisis.
“Schools have been shut down for seven months. This gift ignites renewed hope in a seemingly hopeless situation,” explained Olu Menjay, principal of Ricks Institute, a Baptist school in Liberia that serves more than 600 children in kindergarten through high school.
Ricks Institute will receive $35,000 of the HEART Fund grant to provide meals for its boarding school students. According to Menjay, it costs approximately $5 per day to feed a student at Ricks. The grant will cover meals for the first month that school is in session.


WMU photo
More than 600 children attend Ricks Institute in Liberia. 


The Marla Corts School and the Dellanna O’Brien School, both located in rural Liberian villages, will receive $9,000 to help them comply with new safety protocols designed to control the spread of disease. All schools will be required to use chlorinated water and soap, monitor temperatures using thermometers, and wear uniforms that leave less skin exposed.
The number of Ebola cases has significantly declined in recent weeks, leading the Liberian government to re-open schools. More than 3,500 Liberians have died from Ebola since the outbreak began last year. Many families faced unemployment and a desperate hunger crisis. Re-opening schools is a significant step in moving forward after Ebola.
“Although returning to school is a great sign of improvement, many Liberians have been unemployed for months,” explained David George, president of the WMU Foundation. “There will be a number of financial needs, and these grants will help meet some of those needs.”
At the height of the Ebola crisis last fall, the WMU Foundation partnered with Liberians in Birmingham Alabama to pack a shipping container with rice, beans, and other dry goods to send to Liberia. The food arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, in December, and an emergency response team from the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention began distributing the food to families in need.
“We opened our hearts and our arms to our friends in Liberia. We want to send our prayers but also provide something tangible,” said WMU Foundation board member Judith Edwards.
The WMU Foundation will continue collecting financial gifts to provide food for children at Ricks Institute. “We’ve had a great partnership with Liberian Baptists for many years, and we remain committed to helping in meaningful ways,” George said.

3/10/2015 9:07:19 AM by Candice Lee, WMU Foundation | with 0 comments

‘A.D.: The Bible Continues’ slated for primetime

March 9 2015 by Ginny Dent Brant, Special to the Recorder

Actress and producer Roma Downey and reality producer Mark Burnett announced recently at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville, Tenn., that the success of “The Bible” series has opened doors to a follow-up TV series called “A.D.: The Bible Continues.”
It is a 12-part continuation of The Bible that portrays the history of the early church as described in the first 10 chapters of Acts. The series will air on NBC beginning Easter, April 5. Filmed in Morocco, A.D. will delve into the book of Acts and show the humanity and true character of the apostles, as well as their undying devotion to take the gospel to the known world no matter the cost. The persecution of the early church and its miraculous growth are also highlighted.
“We pulled from history and Acts using scholars from both areas and wove it together into a cool, relatable, true and compelling story so people can see what the early church was like,” said Downey.


Contributed photo
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey announced during the National Religious Broadcasters convention that their follow-up to “The Bible” debuts April 5. “A.D.: The Bible Continues” covers the first 10 chapters of Acts following the apostles as they spread the gospel no matter the cost.


Jerry Johnson, NRB president, commended Downey and Burnett for their good work researching the historical and political setting. Burnett was thankful for God’s provision through scholars and pastors, saying, “God doesn’t always call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
The success of The Bible has opened this door. He noted the 100 million viewers who watched this series and added, “In Canada, The Bible series even beat out hockey!” Nothing would please the producers more than for people to be talking about A.D., God and Jesus ... They are hoping “The Bible will become a regular series and open the door for many others.”
Burnett added, “Christians need to be noisier in regards to letting Hollywood know what we want.”
Devon Franklin, a rising producer in Hollywood who just formed his own company to make God-honoring films, echoed Burnett’s sentiment. “The power of our unified voices (as believers) is important,” he said. “The biggest way we vote is when you turn on your TV and pay for your movies at the box office. So choose those that honor God.”
Burnett and Franklin’s comments resonated as Christians at the NRB convention were coming to grips with the initial success of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Burnett also commented that the characters in A.D. look much like people in today’s society. The Roman Empire was a melting pot in its day. So after heeding advice from his African-American friends that The Bible series was “a little white,” Burnett said this cast is more diverse. Burnett also pointed out the providence of God in that Jesus was born at a time in the Roman Empire when “Roman roads were the Internet of their day.”
The series begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and then chronicles an intense time in history. Downey refers to it as, “A time filled with enormous faith, persecution, brutal Roman oppression and the desperate Jewish revolt – a time when history would be changed forever.” 
A musical score by Hans Zimmer – of “Gladiator,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” fame – highlights the dramatic twists and turns in the series’ plot.
Downey said Rick Warren warned her, “The most dangerous prayer you can pray is, ‘Lord, use me’ – because He might just answer you.” Although that has been her prayer for years, both Downey and Burnett confessed the past year had been a time of spiritual warfare as they made strides to make the Bible come alive on television. Their son Cameron collapsed while they were filming in Morocco and was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. Burnett said, “We covet the prayers of God’s people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is an author, speaker, counselor and soloist. She is editor-at-large for Sonoma Christian Home Magazine. Visit 

3/9/2015 3:39:34 PM by Ginny Dent Brant, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

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