March 2016

Erin Davis wants to bring young women All Together in N.C.

March 23 2016 by BSC Communications

Erin Davis is the founder of Graffiti Ministries and is also a popular speaker, author and blogger. Davis has addressed women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s Truth with others. She and her husband, Jason, work with youth and families at their church in Southwest Missouri. Together, they have two sons, Eli and Noble.
 
Davis will be one of the keynote speakers at Embrace’s upcoming young women’s conference titled “All Together.” She recently took time to answer some questions that provide a preview of what she’ll be sharing at the conference on April 22-23 at Life Community Church in Greensboro. Registration information can be found at ncbaptist.org/alltogether.

 
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Erin Davis

Q: Why is the involvement of young women important to the church today?
 
A: The involvement of young women has been important to the church in every era. Since the time when Jesus laid the foundation for the church during His time on earth, women have played a vital role. Plus, Paul teaches that every believer is critical to the health of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). We can’t afford for anyone to sit the bench, especially a group as passionate, talented and faithful as the young women I know.
 
In this era of cultural change where God’s truth is in question, it’s all hands on deck. We need all believers to contribute to the God-ordained ministry of the local church, including young women.
 
Q: What do you hope attendees take away from what you share at “All Together?”
 
A: First, I hope they fall in love with the church. She is, after all, the bride of Christ. He loves the church so much, warts and all. I want to impassion young women to ditch a consumer mentality toward church and see her as the beacon of truth God designed her to be.
 
I also hope they catch a vision for their vital role in the church. There will be women joining us at this event with a wide variety of gifts and talents and abilities, and I hope they all leave ready to surrender them all for the sake of the Kingdom.
 
Q: Why should young women attend this event?
 
A: I hate to sound like a broken record, but I want you to attend this event because the church desperately needs you.
 
I want to look you in the eye and tell you how vital you are to the earth-shaking mission of the church. I want to pat you on the back for the Kingdom work you are already doing. I want to look ahead to the future with you and dream about what God can do with a room full of young women passionate about His truth and His church.
 
Q: What are some of the benefits you have seen in building relationships with older ladies?
 
A: Women teaching women is God’s idea. We see it clearly outlined in Titus 2:3-5. And while it’s great to have friends who are in our same stage of life, we have so much to gain from the next generation. Personally, I have gleaned so much wisdom and encouragement from my older friends. I can’t imagine life without them!

3/23/2016 10:57:52 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. lawmakers convene early over LGBT ordinance

March 22 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

North Carolina lawmakers were called into a special session today (March 22) to address the controversial non-discrimination ordinance passed last month in Charlotte. House Speaker Tim Moore and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made the announcement yesterday, just hours after a coalition of Christian political advocates urged lawmakers to overturn the LGBT policy at a press conference in downtown Raleigh.
 
The North Carolina General Assembly was set to reconvene April 25, but the disputed ordinance is scheduled to take effect April 1.

 
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BR photo by Seth Brown
Chloe Jefferson, a high school junior at Greeneville Christian Academy, said, “I have a right to privacy and wish to not be exposed to young males changing and showering beside me.”

The sexual orientation and gender identity law potentially allows sexual predators to visit the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice, endangering women and children. It would also place Christian business owners and others who oppose the practice in danger of legal consequences for not opening gendered bathrooms to self-identifying, transgender individuals.
 
Moore and Forest said in a joint statement, “We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state.”
 
Details about potential legislation have not been released.
 
Gov. Pat McCrory signaled that swift action by the state legislature was expected shortly after the ordinance passed. Yet, he avoided calling a special session due to concerns about legislative overreach, according to The News & Observer.
 
State lawmakers could potentially overturn all or part of the ordinance, allow N.C. voters to decide in a referendum or prevent other municipalities across the state from enacting similar ordinances in the future.
 
“I don’t believe there’s reason for concern,” Moore said. “This bill is drawn as narrowly as possible to deal with the issues at hand.”
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, celebrated the announcement of a special legislative session.

 
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BR photo by Seth Brown
Kami Mueller, spokeswoman for the N.C. Values Coalition read a letter on behalf of Guilford County Sherriff B.J. Barnes.

“We applaud their leadership in calling for a special session to overturn Charlotte’s unconstitutional bathroom ordinance,” she said in a press release, “and we look forward to Gov. McCrory staying true to his word to take ‘immediate action’ by signing the common sense legislation that is likely to pass through the special session this week.”
 
The coalition that gathered March 21 outside the old Capitol building included representatives from churches, schools and law enforcement offices. With a group of students from Greeneville Christian Academy behind the podium, and stacked boxes filled with thousands of petitions from N.C. residents in front, the speakers urged lawmakers to overturn the LGBT ordinance.
 
Mark Creech, director of the Christian Action League, said his organization is “tied into thousands of churches across this state,” and he implored lawmakers “to deal with this urgent matter before this ordinance can become effective on April 1.”
 
Chloe Jefferson, a high school junior at Greeneville Christian Academy, expressed sympathy for transgender individuals but feared for her safety and privacy if the ordinance were to take effect.
 
“I sympathize with those who are working through difficult personal issues – I imagine it’s very confusing,” Jefferson said. “But being a teenage girl is really confusing too. I have a right to privacy and wish to not be exposed to young males changing and showering beside me.”
 
Kami Mueller, spokeswoman for the N.C. Values Coalition read a letter on behalf of Guilford County Sherriff B.J. Barnes.
 
“An ordinance such as the one proposed by Charlotte presents a problem for law enforcement to enforce since it requires us to make a judgment call on whether the person is truly desiring to identify with the sex opposite that assigned him at birth or is a sex offender taking advantage of a weak ordinance,” the letter said. “The desires of a handful of people who are struggling with their sexual identity should not cause the majority of people to compromise their safety and privacy in public bathrooms, showers and locker rooms. And, it should not place law enforcement personnel in the uncertain position of enforcing a law based on feelings, not facts.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown is content editor and writer for the Biblical Recorder.)
 

Related Stories:

Charlotte council passes LGBT ordinance, expects state overruling
Charlotte ordinance bad for everyone
Christian political advocates target 2016 legislative sessions

3/22/2016 10:35:43 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



IMB addresses baptism numbers

March 22 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Decreases in the number of baptisms and new churches reported by International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries during the past decade reflect changes in data-reporting methods and missions strategy, not a lack of evangelistic ministry.
 
That’s the conclusion of a March 21 IMB news release issued in response to observations that overseas baptisms for 2015 are at their lowest level since 1969 – 54,762, according to the IMB’s 2016 Ministry Report to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), down from a high of 609,968 reported for 2007.
 
IMB President David Platt said questions about the entity’s 2016 report “are good and valid.” He stressed the SBC’s international missions entity is “absolutely committed to practically accurate, biblically faithful reporting to the SBC.”

 
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BP photo
A decrease in international baptisms reported is due largely to changes in data-reporting methods, the International Mission Board said.

Among the factors IMB leaders cited to account for the decreases:

  • A halt to the practice of reporting baptisms performed by partner conventions and other ministries “in which IMB personnel were less directly involved.”

  • A shift toward work among unreached people groups, which yields fewer visible results initially.

  • An inability to report some 2015 statistics because “visa denials and family circumstances” prohibited IMB missionaries from collecting on-the-ground data related to several “large movements of national believers.”

Executive Committee President Frank S. Page told Baptist Press in written comments, “We rejoice at all evangelistic efforts everywhere. At the same time, this office has been encouraging the IMB to evaluate its reporting system to bring greater focus to the work directly empowered through our Cooperative Program gifts. We are grateful to Dr. Platt and his staff for moving in this direction. While the numbers may initially look negative and some may focus on the apparent decline, the reality is we are seeing a clearer picture of the impact our missionaries are making and I am deeply grateful for that.”
 
Among those to note the decreases was Will Hall, editor of Louisiana’s Baptist Message newsjournal. In a March 18 news story, Hall said the 2016 “baptism figure represents the lowest level reported in 46 years.” Hall also noted a decrease in “new churches” reported by the IMB from 13,824 in 2014 to 3,842 in 2015, according to the Ministry Report.
 
Some explanation of the decrease was included in the Ministry Report, which was posted online in February at sbc.net/cp/ministryreports and emailed to EC members, Baptist state convention executive directors, Baptist state paper editors and SBC entity leaders. Decreases in new churches between 2012 and 2013 and again between 2014 and 2015 each was “due to one large CPM [church planting movement] no longer reported,” according to question 22 of 25 in the report – an observation Hall noted.
 
Not commented on in Hall’s report was a response to a subsequent question in the Ministry Report that states, “IMB is committed to seeing indigenous movements within every people group and urban center engaged with church planting teams. As teams reach the point where a movement is occurring, they hand off their work to capable indigenous leaders and move on to an unreached people group that needs a team to begin work.
 
“When teams move on, IMB no longer counts statistics from their former work, and these are no longer reported in the annual statistical report,” the IMB stated.
 
“The years of 2012 and 2015 were characterized by such transitions as IMB missionaries responded to the needs of unreached people groups in hard places. With this said, IMB missionaries planted 3,842 churches last year, and the number of Baptist churches in people groups and urban segments grew to 41,172,” the report stated.
 
In addition, annotations in SBC Annuals appear to reflect two separate changes in data reporting methods since 2009, a fact to which Hall alluded. In 2011, the IMB stated, “Beginning with this report [on 2010 statistics], figures reported are for work related to IMB personnel only, and no longer include reports related to partner conventions and unions.”
 
Accordingly, reported baptisms decreased from 506,019 for 2009 to 360,876 for 2010.
 
In 2014, the IMB noted on its report for 2013, “Major movements that are self-sustaining and require only occasional guidance and assistance from IMB personnel have been removed from the statistics this reporting year, which results in some statistics being somewhat different from earlier reporting periods.”
 
Accordingly, the number of baptisms reported declined from 266,451 for 2012 to 114,571 for 2013.
 
Platt said “complications” and apparent “discrepancies” in IMB statistics demonstrate “that we need to reevaluate our current methods for collecting data from the field.”
 
“This is one of many reasons why months ago we began a process of reevaluating the quantitative and qualitative measures of our work around the world,” Platt said. “This process of reevaluating is focused on defining terms, minimizing inconsistencies, increasing accountability and ensuring accuracy in our reporting. We look forward to completion of this process with a view toward consistent implementation of it in the future.”
 
One reality unquestionably reflected in IMB statistical reports, Platt said, is that “every single day God is using Southern Baptist church members who have been sent to the nations to lead people to Christ, to make disciples, to plant churches, to train pastors and to train missionaries.”
 
Page noted, “We continue to pray for our International Mission Board and its president, Dr. David Platt. We pray that the days ahead will see far more baptisms, far more church plants and far more missionaries on the field to spread the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ with all who have not yet heard. It remains my heart’s desire that every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the earth will get to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
See the complete IMB news release below.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent 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.)
 
********************
 

IMB reiterates commitment to biblically faithful reporting

By IMB Staff
 
RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board, along with other SBC entities which receive Cooperative Program funds, recently submitted an annual ministry report to the SBC Executive Committee. IMB’s report has provoked questions regarding how the mission agency’s personnel collects numbers and how the current report relates to previous years’ numbers, but IMB leaders welcome the opportunity to share plans for consistency in future reports.
 
“These questions are good and valid,” IMB president David Platt said in response to questions raised about IMB’s most recent report, particularly related to baptisms and new churches. “IMB leaders are absolutely committed to practically accurate, biblically faithful reporting to the SBC.”
 
Throughout IMB’s history, various approaches to missions have been employed and various standards for reporting have been used. In some eras, the majority of IMB missionaries have worked in areas more reached by the Gospel, which inevitably meant more established churches were spreading the Gospel, resulting in greater numbers reported by IMB. In contrast, most IMB missionaries today live and work in high-security locations where there is little Gospel access and fewer established churches spreading the Gospel, which has led to smaller numbers reported by IMB.
 
In addition, IMB missionaries previously included numbers from partner conventions and unions, as well as work in which IMB personnel were less directly involved, in annual reporting. However, in recent years IMB decided to no longer include such numbers. Such factors create differentiations (and even declines) in numbers.
 

Complex factors

Various differentiations in numbers are due in part to the complex nature of reporting numbers for IMB work. IMB personnel are commissioned around the world not only to proclaim the Gospel; baptize new believers; gather them together into churches; and train leaders from those churches – but also to equip national believers to do all of the above. As national believers are equipped by IMB missionaries, they begin making disciples and planting churches in ways that are increasingly difficult to track and report accurately.
 
“There comes a time when the work is led more by the national believers than the IMB missionaries, and the numbers become less and less ‘ours’ to report,” Platt said. “This is actually success for IMB missionaries, for we are always working toward raising up national believers to join in the missionary task with us. However, such success ironically leads to a reduction in numbers to report, for the work now belongs more to national believers than it does to IMB missionaries.”
 
In such situations, IMB missionaries have freedom to move on and start work in a new place, where the numbers they report will almost always be smaller because their new work will almost always be slower at the start.
 
Challenges and complexities in reporting are further compounded when factoring in circumstances in working with national believers. To accurately report numbers, IMB missionaries must remain closely connected to national believers. This connection requires deep relational knowledge, language competency and cultural understanding. However, if for governmental or medical reasons IMB missionaries become less connected to national believers, the missionaries are less able to report accurate numbers; as a result, they refrain from reporting them, even if it means the IMB, therefore, reports a lesser number of baptisms and churches planted than is actually the case.
 
This is part of the reason for the decline in numbers from 2014 to 2015, for certain IMB missionaries connected to large movements of national believers were kept stateside due to visa denials and family circumstances, the specific details of which the IMB cannot comment on due to security concerns. In these situations, the missionaries did not believe it to be responsible to report numbers that they could not personally verify on the ground. These IMB missionaries were confident that people were continuing to come to Christ and churches were continuing to multiply, but because they were limited in their ability to measure that multiplication, they chose not to report specific numbers.
 
Such complexities provide a clear reminder that IMB missionaries work in areas where governments, religious organizations and social structures directly oppose Gospel work, making the collection of data regarding new believers and churches not only difficult, but even dangerous at times. Reporting numbers of new believers, baptisms and new churches can cause risk both for the ministry taking place in certain areas and for the lives of IMB missionaries and the national believers with whom they work.
 

Biblically faithful reports

“Even in light of all of the various complications in reporting numbers from the field, a sudden discrepancy in numbers from 2014 to 2015, in addition to similar discrepancies in previous years, demonstrates that we need to reevaluate our current methods for collecting data from the field,” Platt said.
 
“This is one of many reasons why months ago we began a process of reevaluating the quantitative and qualitative measures of our work around the world. This process of reevaluation is focused on defining terms, minimizing inconsistencies, increasing accountability and ensuring accuracy in our reporting. We look forward to completion of this process with a view toward consistent implementation of it in the future.”
 
IMB leadership has focused on establishing clear definitions for “evangelism” and “conversion,” and what IMB personnel report as “disciples” and “churches.” IMB leaders want Southern Baptists to know that when the IMB says a person has been baptized or a church has been planted, they can be confident that these numbers are not only practically accurate, but also biblically faithful, particularly in line with the current Baptist Faith and Message.
 
“Southern Baptists can be sure that the nearly 4,000 missionaries sent out from Southern Baptist churches and serving with the IMB are working hard in the power of the Holy Spirit to see disciples made and churches multiplied among the nations,” Platt said. “The entire IMB family asks for continued prayer that God, in His grace and for His glory, might use the faithful work of IMB missionaries to bear everlasting fruit all over the world.”
 

Faithful giving

In the video greeting to IMB’s 2016 ministry report (available at SBC.net), Platt said he hopes the report is a reflection of the people who have come to Christ, the churches that have been planted and the leaders who have been trained as a result of Southern Baptists’ faithful giving, praying and going.
 
“To see God’s provision through churches and through the entire Southern Baptist Convention ecosystem has been nothing short of amazing to watch,” Platt said. “It’s nothing short of breathtaking to see well over $250 million dollars given from churches with the express purpose of getting the Gospel to people who have never heard it.
 
“I want Southern Baptists to know it’s happening, even amidst some of the challenges we have walked through in order to get to a healthier place financially and a sustainable position for the future. Amidst it all, God has been working around the world through your praying, and through your giving, and through your going and through your sending.”
 
“Every single day God is using Southern Baptist church members who have been sent to the nations to lead people to Christ, to make disciples, to plant churches, to train pastors and to train missionaries,” Platt said, noting the 2016 report is a picture of what lies ahead as these believers and churches are multiplied for the glory of God.

3/22/2016 10:34:25 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christian political advocates target 2016 legislative sessions

March 22 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

As the state and national legislative branches of government move forward into their 2016 sessions, evangelical public policy organizations are preparing to represent and inform Christians about the issues that matter most.
 
The Christian Action League (CAL) has focused its attention on opposing the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance recently passed in Charlotte, N.C. The law potentially allows sexual predators to visit the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice, endangering women and children.
 
It would also place Christian business owners and others who oppose the practice in danger of legal consequences for not opening gendered bathrooms to self-identifying, transgender individuals.
 
The controversial non-discrimination policy is expected to meet swift resistance in the North Carolina General Assembly, said Gov. Pat McCrory in an email to The Charlotte Observer. CAL is currently asking lawmakers to call a special session to address the ordinance before it goes into effect April 1, according to executive director Mark Creech. The North Carolina Values Coalition is also focusing on the Charlotte ordinance, but that’s not all, said spokeswoman Kami Mueller.
 
“Our goal for every session is to ensure legislation is passed that protects the family unit, preserves the sanctity of life, and preserves the right that all North Carolinians have to live and work according to what they believe,” said Mueller. “We will also continue our extensive statewide pro-life canvassing efforts through November, in partnership with Susan B. Anthony List, in the hopes of electing a pro-life president of the United States.”
 
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention recently released its 2016 Legislative Agenda, outlining specific pieces of legislation and important issues to watch at the national level.
 
The ERLC is opposing the Equality Act (S. 1858/H.R. 3185), which is similar to the controversial Charlotte ordinance, but applies nationwide.
 
The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 1150) is a bill supported by the ERLC. It would create new government offices and committees to help ensure the priority of international religious freedom and, among other requirements, direct the Commission on International Religious Freedom to publish a periodic list of persons imprisoned, detained, disappeared, placed under house arrest, tortured or forced to convert religions.
 
A related bill would require the investigation and enforcement of sanctions against North Korea and anyone cooperating with the North Korea if credible information were discovered related to weapons violations, human rights abuses or censorship.
 
The ERLC is also lobbying the Broadcasting Board of Governors to fund Internet firewall circumvention technology that would allow people censored by authoritarian governments to access information and communicate with others without threat of punishment.
 
In line with their ongoing commitment to the sanctity of life, the ERLC will keep track of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
 
A series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress in mid-2015 revealed Planned Parenthood’s practice of collecting and selling aborted fetal parts.
 
As a result, the congressional committee was formed to gather information from abortion providers and procurement organizations about the controversial practice. The ERLC believes the committee findings will “create new legislative space” for future pro-life bills.
 
Predatory lending practices are also a concern for the Southern Baptist public policy organization. Payday loan providers often target poor communities and exact interest rates up to 400 percent. The ERLC partnered with other faith groups to form the Faith for Just Lending Coalition (lendjustly.com) to provide information and resources about unjust practices in the financial services industry.
 
Other statutes are described in the legislative agenda as well, such as Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 2066/H.R. 3504), the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (S. 404/H.R. 803), the Protecting Adoption Act and the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123).
 
Each of the evangelical public policy organizations also sponsor events throughout the year to equip evangelicals to promote and protect their values in the public square.
 

Related Story:

N.C. lawmakers convene early to address LGBT ordinance

3/22/2016 10:33:23 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Capps, Griggs running for pastor’s conference offices

March 22 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Two names have been announced as nominees for North Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference officers. Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, announced he will nominate Matt Capps as president elect of the group at its meeting Nov. 13-14 prior to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting.
 
Capps, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex since June 2015, began his ministry as an intern at Hickory Grove, his home church.

 
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Matt Capps

He served as one of the pastors at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, the brand manager for The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources and a teaching pastor at The Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn.
 
He is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and is currently completing a doctor of ministry degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of one book, Hebrews: A 12-Week Study (Crossway, 2015). He has written for the Biblical Recorder and a variety of websites and magazines. He and his wife, Laura, have three children.
 
Fairview has an average worship attendance of approximately 300 people. The church gives 8 percent of undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. They engage in mission trips and partnerships both internationally and domestically each year.
 
Pressley said, “Matt is a man I trust. He loves the gospel, he loves the convention and is fully aware of what goes on at the state and national levels.
 
“I think he will do a tremendous job serving our pastors. He has served churches of all sizes, and he has seen church from all sides – as a staff member, pastor and denominational employee.”

 
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Chris Griggs

In a similar announcement, Marty Jacumin, senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, announced he will nominate Chris Griggs as vice-president elect of the pastors’ conference.
 
Since 2005 Griggs has served as senior pastor of Denver Baptist Church in Denver. He has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University, a master of divinity from SEBTS and a doctor of ministry from SEBTS. He currently serves as a trustee of the seminary.
 
Griggs and Denver Baptist are active in mission partnerships with the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.
 
The church has an average Sunday worship attendance above 500. He is a regular instructor for the Tar Heel Leadership Network.
 
He is married to Tiffany, and they have three children.
 
Jacumin said, “I have known Chris for more than 10 years and have had the privilege to serve with him as a trustee at Southeastern Seminary. We worked together with the academic subcommittee, and I have experienced firsthand his love for the Lord and the church. He loves pastors and will be a great support to the president if elected.”

3/22/2016 10:32:29 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Church aims to be fort in the nation’s capital

March 22 2016 by Jim Burton, NAMB

Zack Randles believes that the nation’s capital needs another fort, and he’s willing to build that fortified structure.
 
The fort he envisions will not look anything like the military installations that protect the hub of America’s government – this fort will be a church.
 
The young west Texan set his heart toward Washington during his senior year at Oklahoma State University where he studied sociology. He committed to God in prayer to “do whatever you want me to do.”

 
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NAMB photo courtesy Zack Randles
Zack and Autumn Randles are leading a church plant in Washington, D.C., with their children, Lulu, 5, Jack, 4 and Harper, 2. The Randles are North American Mission Board 2016 Week of Prayer Missionaries. Visit anniearmstrong.com.

Randles had prayed that before, but this time was serious about obedience for the first time in his life.
 
“That day the Lord cast a vision for a place I’d never been and for people I’d never met,” Randles said. “I felt drawn to Washington, D.C.”
 
During the next several years, Randles worked on ministerial staffs of several large Texas churches while attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He regularly led mission trips to the nation’s capital with his wife, Autumn. In 2005 with 42 students, “The spirit just fell in a way that I had not experienced before. We knew that we would come back here.”
 
What he didn’t immediately know was that coming back would involve church planting.

 

A ministry legacy

Randles grew up in the pastorates his father served. Jon Randles was a pastor and an evangelist who served the Baptist General Convention of Texas as their director of evangelism. When the senior Randles served existing churches as pastor, those churches typically experienced much growth. But his father never planted a church.
 
“My dad was my absolute hero,” Zack said. “It’s very rare. It was not always this way. It’s very rare to find someone who is your dad, best friend and hero all wrapped into one. He was an incredibly godly man.”
 
Zack was already following in his father’s steps by preaching at events for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, something his father did for years. So if the Lord wanted him in Washington, there surely would be an existing church calling him.
 
“I had been filled with so much pride that I had to take over a pre-existing church,” Randles said. “I thought people planted because they couldn’t plug into an existing system. I was incredibly wrong.”

 
 


God was calling the younger Randles to a city that many churches had recently abandoned for the suburbs. During his trips there, he determined that if his calling was to pastor in Washington, he would have to plant the church. The “follow me” passages of Luke 9 helped bring him to that realization.
 
Of the three people Jesus encountered that day, Randles realized that the only person Christ called to action was the second one. He wanted to bury his father first.
 
“The second guy in the story, Jesus has a mission set aside just for him,” Randles concluded. “It’s strategic and timely.”
 
Randles then understood God to say, “Trust me, and do the mission I’ve called you to do.”
 
His father became sick before Randles left Texas. A month after arriving in Washington, the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. There was no turning back, but his heart was clearly back home.
 
As Zack and Autumn poured themselves into starting Waterfront Church, they wrestled with how best to support Jon. For Zack the answer was to preach. His dad had said to him, “If a Randles can preach, he should preach.”
 
The flights between Lubbock where his father was and Washington where he was planting a church, and the emotional roller coaster, stretched him.
 
His father died April 1, 2015. Several days later, after preaching an Easter message in Washington, he returned to Lubbock to preach his father’s funeral to about 2,500 people in attendance and several thousands more via a live stream of the service.
 
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Randles said. “Planting a church is a close second.”

 
 


Building the fort

The Randles felt God’s call to plant along a revitalized area between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, less than a mile from the capital and just two blocks from major league baseball’s Nationals Park.
 
“In the years we came here to do short-term mission work, we met brick wall after brick wall when it came to the gospel message,” Randles said. “When we moved here, it was the exact opposite. We prayed for 25 people. God sent us over 100.”
 
They now practice what he calls “M&M evangelism” because Washingtonians can have a hard shell that must melt before revealing their soft, gentle side.
 
Waterfront Church launched August 10, 2014, at the Courtyard Marriott Navy Yard. By Easter Sunday 2015, Waterfront Church had 150 in attendance. Randles baptized 15 people in the first eight months of the church – 11 of whom were adults. Randles calls Waterfront the bridge between politics and poverty.
 
Though the neighborhood is now upscale, homeless people are still in the area. “A homeless man walked in late,” Randles said of one Sunday service. “He sat next to a congressman.”
 
Waterfront is mixed culturally, ethnically and economically, Randles said. Members range from Capitol Hill workers to military to hot dog sales people at the nearby ballpark, and the congregation is not necessarily a young one.
 
“We don’t sell ourselves as the young-person church or the southern-gospel church,” Randles said. “We sell ourselves as the church that really does care about our community and wants to share the gospel message above all else.”
 
Planting a church in Washington hasn’t been cheap. Waterfront’s five-year budget is $1.3 million. An acre of land sells for $10 million. Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® and Cooperative Program funds helped Waterfront launch.
 
In spite of the cost, Waterfront’s leadership plans to have a permanent presence in the capital.
 
“Our goal is to establish a fort,” Randles said.
 
The goal for the 2016 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is $70 million. To learn more about the Week of Prayer, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and how your church can be mobilized to push back lostness in North America, visit anniearmstrong.com. To read about the other 2016 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-2016.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer living in Atlanta.)

3/22/2016 10:31:55 AM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments



Retired missionaries honored at Calvary banquet

March 21 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Addressing 33 missionaries at a dinner on March 8, Milton Hollifield said, “Even though your place of assignment may be changing, you are still Southern Baptist missionaries.” The audience was part of the 80 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries from North Carolina who took advantage of the organization’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) or Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) in the past five months.
 
The missionaries, consisting of 44 units, were invited to the dinner at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. The event was jointly sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC). The evening was designed to welcome the missionaries home and invite them to consider using their experience to serve in ministry positions in the state.
 
IMB President David Platt recently reported that 702 missionaries and 109 stateside staff took the VRI, and 281 missionaries and 40 stateside staff took the HRO, for a total loss of 1,132 personnel.
 
Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of BSC, told the missionaries that N.C. Baptists set up a $500,000 reserve fund to hire missionaries as contract workers. They will join the BSC’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making, with special emphasis on reaching internationals.

 
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BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Chuck Register

“With what is taking place here in this state with the growth in population from other countries, you are going to have the opportunity to work with some of the same kinds of people from countries where you have served, but they are now living in North Carolina,” he said.
 
“Although we understand that you would prefer to be in the place of your overseas assignment, we’re glad that God has brought you safely back to North Carolina. I speak for many when I say thank you for the years and months that you have invested your life in serving Jesus where He placed you to serve.”
 
Pointing to the illustration of the potter and clay in Jeremiah 29:11-13, Hollifield said the Bible teaches that God has a plan for our lives.
 
“Although the personnel reduction at IMB was a surprise to us,” he said, “it did not take God by surprise. ... We know that God still has another plan for our lives, ... and I hope that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina can be a small part of what God has in His plan for you.”
 
Among the people groups classified by IMB as unreached or unengaged, 154 of those nations are represented in North Carolina. Hollifield said the needs are great. The state’s school system reports that children go home from school each day and speak more than 300 different languages in their homes.
 
Steve Hardy, team leader for the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, said there are 244 million immigrants worldwide.
 
About 50 million of those are immigrants in United States. Many have come to North Carolina.
 
Amy Boone, executive director-treasurer of WMU-NC, spoke about the organization’s ministry opportunities including the work at Camp Mundo Vista and the coming Missions Extravaganza, April 1-3 at Ridgecrest Conference Center.
 
She also invited the missionaries to consider jobs that are available at the national WMU office in Birmingham, Ala.
 
A fellowship event for VRI missionaries will be held this June at the Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting in St. Louis, according to Boone.
 
WMU-NC welcomed each couple back to the state with a basket of generous gifts provided by local church WMU groups.
 
Chuck Register, BSC’s executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Partnerships shared biblical encouragement from Acts 17:22-27.
 
Like the Apostle Paul, the missionaries have been “standing on Mars Hills all over the globe, proclaiming to people who are searching [and] worshiping an unknown god,” he said.
The message identified three scriptural truths about God that believers should always remember.
 
First, “God is sovereign,” Register said. “God is Lord of heaven and earth. Nothing is outside of His control.”
 
God made every nation from one man, so all people were created by the sovereign God.
 
“That principle alone should drive a stake in the heart of any racism we have in our being.”
 
Second, “God is strategic. Everything He does, He does for a reason,” said Register.
 
“He sovereignly controls the migration of people. He determines who lives where and how long they will live there.”
 
North Carolina has approximately 10 million residents, he added. More than half, 5.8 million people, do not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. One million of the state’s population are foreign-born residents.
 
“God has strategically brought those people to North Carolina,” Register stated.
“He has lifted families, people groups, and clans, and brought them to Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville – to the Tar Heel state. Why did He do that?”
 
Register said the third truth is, “Our God is salvific.
 
“That means He is all about salvation. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Everything God does, He does so that man might come to know Him intimately through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
 
Referencing the 154 people groups in the state Register said, “God needs some Apostle Pauls to come alongside us and help us develop strategies, and help us know how to communicate the gospel to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and animists.
 
“So He has brought you here to help us. ... We need your language skills, we need your worldview understanding, but more than that, we need your passion for the nations in North Carolina. ... Come help us proclaim [the gospel] to people who are seeking and groping after a God they don’t even know.”
 
Former IMB missionaries who took the VRI or HRO and have an interest in contract work on the N.C. Baptist staff are asked to contact Kathy Bennett in the office of the executive director-treasurer at kbennett@ncbaptist.org or (800) 395-5102 x5503.
 

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3/21/2016 1:13:11 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Should churches promote concealed weapons in worship?

March 21 2016 by Emily Blake, BR editorial aide

The shooting of nine black churchgoers last year in Charleston, S.C., shocked the nation, causing many congregations to re-evaluate church security measures. Some North Carolina congregations encourage members to obtain concealed carry permits, but others say focusing on precautionary measures remains most important.
 
In 2015 there were more than 13,000 shooting deaths in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That number rose by 809 from 2014. Mass shootings also increased by 51 incidents.
 
In response, President Barack Obama and other government officials have advocated for tighter gun control. After the Charleston shooting, Obama said, “Innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

 
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Photo by Justin Hewett
Participants at Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville listen in their conceal carry licensing class.

Despite the push for more restrictions, the Social Science Research Network estimates the number of concealed carry permits across the U.S. has risen from 4.6 million in 2007 to 12.8 million in 2015.
 
In fact, concealed carry courses have become something of a trend, and are sometimes offered on church grounds.
 
The Biblical Recorder interviewed several North Carolina Baptist leaders that offer concealed handgun permit courses to understand best practices for church security and gun safety.
 

Protective measures

“I take very seriously my role as a family protector, and also as a responsible citizen,” said Bobby Blanton, pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville.
 
“If I can ever offer help to prevent harm to another citizen I feel it’s my social responsibility to do so. And because I enjoy using guns in sportsmanship, I feel a sense of responsibility to be knowledgeable in how to use them safely.”
 
Lake Norman is a large church that employs a security officer during corporate worship and other large gatherings. They also have a trained security team of members that includes police officers, nurses, firemen and others.
 
“We don’t want our church to be a soft target,” Blanton said.
 
The security team plans for emergency situations involving not only shooter scenarios, but also medical emergencies, procedures for lockdown situations and more.
 
Blanton recommended having “a frank conversation with any law enforcement in your church, letting them know that you would appreciate the further utilization of their skill set for the protection of the church.”
 
Pastor Chip Hannah of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville said, “We do want people to be prepared in case of emergency, but we pray it never becomes necessary to use force.”

 
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Photo by Justin Hewett
Conceal carry class participant practices using a firearm.

State-certified concealed carry instructor Justin Hewett said, “I feel having qualified members of the church community to protect our church family is paramount. I feel churches are [easy] targets for criminals and placing ‘good’ people inside the church with a weapon they are familiar with and comfortable with using is a great idea.”
 
Rodney Quesenberry, pastor of Broadus Baptist Church in Concord, highlighted the need to be vigilant in securing the weekly offering.
 
“Churches are vulnerable because of their offering plates,” Quesenberry said. “Criminals may view churches as soft targets because of the heavy traffic flow and openness to the community. We’ve had people come in asking if we’ve taken an offering and then searching through our offices looking for the plates.”
 
Security is a common motivator for churches offering concealed carry courses, but more often they see it as a way to interact with the surrounding community.

 

Gun safety as outreach

At First Baptist Church of Richlands, a concealed carry class was born out of the interests of members.
 
“We live in an area with a lot of people who are in the military and who like to get outdoors and hunt,” said pastor Gary McAbee. “So it’s just something that made sense for the people in our area. It’s a way to get them into the church, and maybe break down some barriers so they’re willing to come back again.”
 
He continued, “A few years ago, we launched a Sportsman’s Ministry and sponsored events like a wild game dinner, skeet-shooting tournament, fishing tournaments and camping trips as a way of reaching out to the men in our community as well as those within the church who enjoy the outdoors.”
 
Pastor Joel Stephens at Westfield Baptist Church gave similar reasons for the gun course held on church property.
 
“Security has not been our main motivator as much as the opportunity to create a bridge out to the community,” said Stephens. “It allows our staff to put a face out that represents the church. We give a gospel presentation at every class, and some participants have since joined our church.”
 

Best practices for church security

The term for a weaponless group of people – “soft target” – occurred often among the pastors interviewed. But when asked about explicit instructions for church members, none said they would openly encourage nor discourage congregants to carry concealed weapons.

“Having several concealed carry permitees at the church – preferably law enforcement officers – semi-strategically placed throughout the congregation … would be my first priority. Having a plan in place for what to do with the offering after it is collected is also a major issue in my opinion,” said Hewett.
 
McAbee recommended evaluating precautionary details such as building access, lighting, parking and awareness of one’s surroundings.
 
Captain Matthew May, who works as a police officer in Wake County, affirmed the emphasis on greater awareness and precaution, rather than focusing on arming church members.
 
“Obtaining a concealed carry permit does not automatically mean that someone is qualified and skilled enough to competently use a firearm in a deadly force situation,” May said.
“Before deciding to have armed security in a church, many factors must be considered that people don’t always think about, such as weapon retention during a physical confrontation, and how responding police officers will be able to differentiate the armed security members from the ‘bad guys.’”
 
May recommended preparing for scenarios that have lower risks but higher probability, like domestic disputes, medical emergencies, child safety and evacuation procedures. These issues arise more often, whereas active shooter scenarios are less likely.
 
“The security strategy should aim to be very holistic,” May said. “Talk to the trained law enforcement officers in your community or those who are members of your church, consult with your elders and do a lot of research.” Referencing Matthew 10:16, he expressed the desire for churches to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

3/21/2016 1:00:49 PM by Emily Blake, BR editorial aide | with 0 comments



NCAA pressed to defend transgender athletes

March 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As March Madness begins, a homosexual advocacy group is pressuring the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to exclude from its membership all schools with federal government approval to “discriminate” against transgender individuals on religious grounds.
 
Southern Baptist seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. predicted the NCAA eventually will succumb to pressure from activists and grant the request to ban schools with a biblically orthodox view of human sexuality from America’s most prominent college athletics association.
 
Campus Pride, a coalition of more than 80 homosexual and transgender advocacy groups wrote a letter to the NCAA March 9 “requesting that the NCAA take action to divest from all religious based campuses who have requested discriminatory Title IX waivers toward LGBTQ youth.”
 
The letter stated 59 “religious-based colleges and universities” have requested exemptions to Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, a law requiring equal treatment of all people based on multiple criteria, including gender, at schools receiving federal funds. Since 2014, the Department of Education has interpreted that statute to include transgendered identity. The law permits religious institutions to request and receive exemptions.
 
Campus Pride’s letter, which was posted on the group’s website, claimed “over half of the campuses with the discriminatory waivers are participating NCAA member institutions.”
 
Among the NCAA schools to receive waivers, several have Southern Baptist ties, including Carson-Newman University, Anderson University, East Texas Baptist University, Louisiana College, Mississippi College, Union University and Liberty University.
 
The NCAA responded to Campus Pride in a March 15 letter stating that the Department of Education, not the NCAA, approves Title IX exemptions.
 
Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement, said the organization provides “member schools and conferences with educational resources, many of which focus on diversity and inclusion.”
 
“For example,” Franklin wrote, “the NCAA Office of Inclusion will release the second edition of a Transgender Student-Athlete Participation Guide in April 2016. We will also host our annual NCAA Inclusion Forum in Indianapolis from April 16 to 18. The Forum’s program includes sessions for membership leaders on best practices to support LGBTQ students.”
 
Campus Pride executive director Shane Windmeyer and Haven Herrin, executive director of the homosexual advocacy group Soulforce, criticized the NCAA’s response as inadequate in a joint statement March 17.
 
“We are deeply disappointed by the lack of leadership and responsibility demonstrated in the response to our letter,” Windmeyer and Herrin wrote. “The NCAA is an organization with a stated commitment to fairness and inclusion of LGBTQ student athletes. Claiming that the Department of Education is to blame for the NCAA’s inability to divest from discriminatory member institutions, instead of owning up to their complicity, is not the kind of leadership we should expect from the NCAA.”
 
Mohler said March 15 in his daily podcast The Briefing it will be “difficult for the NCAA to withstand this kind of pressure ... because the NCAA, along with many other organizations,” has “done their very best to show that they are in sync with the LGBT agenda and that they intend to be an inclusive organization by that determination.”
 
Last spring, when Indiana adopted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allowed business owners to decline participation in same-sex weddings on religious grounds, the NCAA threatened to move a future NCAA men’s Final Four from Indianapolis, according to media reports. Amid pressure from the NCAA and other groups, the state adopted a “fix” to the bill excluding business owners from the religious liberty protections.
 
Mohler predicted, “The stage is now set for every meeting of the NCAA’s governing body to be an arena for conflict over this issue until the NCAA finally succumbs to this pressure. The question is, quite honestly, whether that’s sooner or later. In all likelihood, it’s going to be sooner.”
 
Steve McConkey, president of the sports-based ministry 4 WINDS Christian Athletics, predicted in a news release that “Christian universities under the NCAA will now be under attack.”
 
The NCAA, McConkey said, “is full of politically correct individuals that have caved in to the homosexual agenda in the past. Instead of standing up for the majority of athletes who oppose homosexuality, they could follow the politically correct road and come against Christian universities.”
 
An explanation of Title IX exemptions on the Department of Education website states, “An institution that is controlled by a religious organization is exempt from those sections of the Title IX regulations that are inconsistent with religious tenets of the organization. An educational institution which wishes to claim the exemption may do so by submitting in writing to the Assistant Secretary a statement by the highest ranking official of the institution, identifying the religious organization that controls the educational institution and the provisions of this part which conflict with a specific tenet of the religious organization.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/21/2016 12:15:50 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Is there hope for American politics?

March 21 2016 by Seth Brown, Book Review

It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Many people learned that important lesson very early in life, probably after mumbling a half-hearted apology to a sibling or childhood friend. Maybe it was a mother, grandfather or teacher that leaned in with a knowing glare, “You can be right – and wrong – at the same time.”
 
We all know what the expression means. Our attitude, tone and willingness to see things from another’s perspective are unspoken yet important aspects of communication. Despite their simplicity, these values are often difficult to uphold, not only for children, but adults too.
 
Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and Chris Pappalardo, lead researcher and writer at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, issue a call to rediscover this age-old lesson in their book, One Nation Under God.

 
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The helpful little volume couldn’t have come at a better time. As the increasingly crude 2016 presidential election cycle continues, many people long for political rhetoric that’s less caustic and abusive.
 
The book’s subtitle gets right to the point: A Christian hope for American politics. The authors aren’t promoting mere diplomacy or political correctness, but a uniquely Christian way to act in the public square.

 

A Christian vision

Beginning with a theological overview of scripture, the authors build a framework for engaging politics that incorporates biblical perspective, theological accuracy, gospel urgency, cultural awareness and godly virtue.
 
They divide the material into two broad categories, separated by an interlude. Ashford and Pappalardo use the first portion to outline the major aspects of Christian political thought. This section alone is worth the price of the book. The latter half delves deeper into specific topics in American politics.
 
When many American Christians think about politics, a short list of hot-button issues and bumper sticker slogans come to mind. Ashford and Pappalardo expose the shallowness of that mindset, opting instead for a robust worldview that draws deeply from scripture and historical Christian thought.
 
They walk a well-paved road between the equally treacherous ravines of a theocratic society and a public square that’s been emptied of all religious belief. It’s a position marked by civility toward opposing viewpoints, while retaining a healthy dose of Christian conviction.
 
In short, they offer a way forward that helps identify what God intends for politics and public life, what has gone astray in those areas and how Christians might reshape the conversation in ways that honor Christ. In their words, “This is an act of love for our neighbors, an act of obedience toward our King and an act of eschatological hope.”
 
Specific political topics govern the second part of the book, such as marriage and sexuality, race relations, war and peace and immigration. Their treatment of each subject is well-done, given the book’s relatively short length, and their positions will be familiar to most evangelicals.

 

A humble appraisal

They fairly present multiple perspectives on each of the given topics, with one conspicuous exception: the chapter on economics and wealth. Although brief, the material adequately covers the personal dynamics of wealth and poverty, addressing issues like greed and dignity, before targeting economics at a larger scale.
 
Ashford and Pappalardo promote capitalism as the reigning biblical economic theory and chose not to include any substantial mention of socialism. To be sure, most evangelicals won’t take issue with the omission. In fact, most people probably won’t even notice, but a growing number of millennials would benefit from the discussion.
 
Capitalism isn’t a forgone conclusion for scores of young Americans, and according to recent polls, socialism appears to be a popular alternative. Readers born in the 1990s entered adolescence as the misdeeds of Wall Street capitalists made headlines in late 2008. They lived their teenage years in a housing crisis, accompanied by a difficult economic recession that left many college graduates with large student debt and few jobs. They are now showing up in voting booths as a socialist presidential candidate steps onto the national political stage. Status quo capitalism hasn’t offered many viable solutions for this generation and they’re looking for alternatives.
 
Socialism can no longer be ignored in American politics, and a reasonable discussion of economics and wealth should include the topic. Despite the minor omission, the overall value of the book is not diminished.
 
One Nation Under God is a competent primer for any Christian wanting to grow in godly virtue and political prudence as he or she enters the public square. Many pastors and church leaders will find it useful as a tool for helping believers develop the intellectual and moral rigor to sustain true hope, despite the state of American politics.
 
Ashford and Pappalardo do a great service to the church by reminding us that, regardless of the accusations and insults of demagogues, we must “calmly and confidently proclaim the true story of the world.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown is content editor for the Biblical Recorder.)

3/21/2016 12:14:31 PM by Seth Brown, Book Review | with 0 comments



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