March 2016

Anne Graham Lotz shares difference prayer makes

March 8 2016 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

Anne Graham Lotz encouraged listeners at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) to be like Daniel who was compelled to pray, centered in prayer and persistent in his petitions.
Southeastern hosted “An Evening with Anne,” featuring Lotz, renowned author and speaker and daughter of Billy Graham.
More than 900 guests attended the Feb. 25 event.
To open the evening, Lotz expressed thanks to everyone who has supported her family since the passing of her late husband, Danny Lotz.


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Anne Graham Lotz spoke Feb. 25 during “An Evening with Anne” at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.

“I know many of you have been praying for me and my family,” she told the crowd at the seminary’s Binkley Chapel in Wake Forest, N.C. “The Lord has heard your prayers, and we are doing so well.”
Lotz also gave an update on her father saying that at age 97 he is doing well and is stronger than he has been in some time.
Speaking from Daniel 9, Lotz posed a question, “What can one person do when we’re faced with a mess or a disaster?”
“Our world is in a mess,” Lotz said. “My challenge to you tonight is … wrap your mind around your sphere of influence – your family, your church, your nation … and [say] God I will not let you go until you bless those who are in my circle.”
Lotz outlined a pattern of prayer exemplified in the life of Daniel, specifically in chapter nine when Daniel pled to the Lord to deliver His people.
Like Daniel, Christians should pray the promises of God back to the Lord. “Daniel was compelled by the promises in God’s Word,” she said.
“So I don’t know what the problems are in your world, but whatever they are would you ask God to give you the promise to match it and then pray those to Him?”
Lotz explained how Daniel centered on God in his prayers, turning from everything else to focus on God. We likewise, she said, should put everything else aside and get in our quiet places to petition the Lord in prayer.
Daniel also prayed for forgiveness of the sins of Judah in a very unique way, she said.
“He was so identifying with the sins of his people that he took them upon himself,” Lotz said. “He stopped pointing the finger at them. He stopped blaming others, and he took on the sin of his people as though it were his own.”
Lotz said Christians today should keep short accounts of their own sins, confessing every day, and stop seeing “others” as the problem in this world.
“The basic problem in Judah was sin,” she said. “And in America the basic problem in our nation is not political, not immigration. The basic problem in America is sin.”
In closing, Lotz urged listeners to continue in prayer until an answer comes.
“My challenge to you this evening is, what difference does the prayer of one person make,” she said.
“You’re not going to know until you choose to be that one person. Would you pray until God delivers His people and takes them home?”
Lotz, president of AnGeL ministries (, spoke on material from her newest book, The Daniel Prayer, which will be released in May. She was invited to speak at the end of the Seminary Women’s Network (SWN), an annual meeting between the wives of the six Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries and other women leaders at SBC entities.
Dorothy Patterson of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said the women get updates on what is happening with women’s ministry at each of the seminaries and learn of new resources to use to facilitate ministry. The SWN meeting rotates each year to a different seminary.
“They are asking us to do a pretty big job in training women,” Patterson said.
The yearly gathering is an opportunity “to encourage women to use their gifts not only to grow personally but certainly to reach evangelistically those who do not know the Lord, and then to help disciple those who do,” said Rhonda Kelley of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
While there are 20 women on the roll for SWN, only 12 were at the meeting.
“It’s not a large group but it’s a wonderful, intimate fellowship because many of us – while our works and our maybe spheres are somewhat different – we all have a similar passion and call, so there’s quite a strong sisterhood,” Kelley said.
While the women meet together on a small scale for most of their time, the goal each event is to have a broader event, like having Anne Graham Lotz share.
Denise O’Donoghue, SEBTS assistant professor of ministry to women, said all the pieces fell in place for the event to take place.
“We’re great friends, and the Lord has just given us an incredible bond because of our relations to each other and our work with the SBC,” she said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder production editor, contributed to this story.)

3/8/2016 11:45:28 AM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal

March 8 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The highest court in Washington state has agreed to hear the appeal of florist Barronelle Stutzman found guilty of violating state laws and the constitutional rights of a gay couple when she refused to arrange flowers for their wedding, citing religious beliefs.
The Washington Supreme Court will hear the appeal of Stutzman, a 70-year-old Southern Baptist grandmother who owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richmond, possibly as early as its spring 2016 session beginning in May, according to the court’s official website.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) continues as Stutzman’s counsel in her three-year-long battle to live out her Christian faith that affirms marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.
“We hope the Washington Supreme Court will affirm the broad protections that both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution afford to freedom of speech and conscience,” ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said when the state’s highest court accepted the appeal. “Barronelle and many others like her around the country have been willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages. Join us in prayer for Barronelle and her legal team as she continues to take a courageous stand for her right to freely live out her faith.”


Barronelle Stutzman

Stutzman is among many small-business owners who have faced legal repercussions for upholding their Christian beliefs in business.
“The trial court’s and [the state’s and the ACLU’s] view – that there can never be a free speech exception to public accommodation laws – endangers everyone,” Waggoner said. “If correct, then the consciences of all citizens are fair game for the government.
“No longer could a gay print shop owner decline to print shirts adorned with messages promoting marriage between one man and one woman for a religious rally. Nor could an atheist painter decline to paint a mural celebrating the resurrection of Christ for a church. Indeed, no speaker could exercise esthetic or moral judgments about what projects to take on where a customer claims the decision infringes on his or her rights under the WLAD [Washington Law Against Discrimination].”
Stutzman is appealing a lower court’s Feb. 18, 2015 ruling that she violated the U.S. and state civil rights of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed when she refused two years earlier to design floral arrangements for their wedding. She offered instead to provide floral stems and referred them to other florists to arrange the flowers. The court held her personally liable for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and damages, putting her in danger of losing her business and personal holdings. Both the state of Washington and the couple sued Stutzman in the case stemming from the March 2013 incident.
Supporters donated nearly $175,000 to Stutzman over a two-month period in 2015 before pulled her page from the site, but with the case ongoing, it is unknown the total monetary penalty Stutzman will face.
Throughout the ordeal, Stutzman has presented Ingersoll as a dear friend whom she knew was a homosexual, and whose floral needs she had served more than nine years.
“My husband and I talked it over and … as much as I love Rob, I just couldn’t, couldn’t be a part of that. If I did Rob’s wedding, it would be from my heart, ‘cause I think he’s a really special person, and I would want to make it really special for him,” Stutzman said in an ADF video relating her experience. “It’s not something that I flippantly said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do Rob’s wedding ‘cause he’s gay.’ When I talked to Rob I did not think this would be a major issue. I was very surprised at that.”
Stutzman has continued to speak for religious freedom. The National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tenn. in February is among her latest appearances. There, she urged Christians “to stand up now” for religious liberty, according to a March 1 Baptist Press report.
“It’s me today, but it will be you tomorrow,” Stutzman said at the NRB event. If believers do not defend their rights, “when our grandkids come and ask us why we don’t have a free America anymore, we [will] simply have to say we did nothing.”
Stutzman relies on God for strength to stand, she has said.
“I have to have faith that He’s going to protect me and give me the courage and the knowledge and the wisdom to stand firm on this, but also help me understand what obedience is and … what following Christ is,” she said nearly in tears on the ADF video. “You can’t sit on the fence. Like He says, you can’t be lukewarm. That’s what I was; I was lukewarm” before the case.
Stutzman’s attorneys have used in her defense Article 18 the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and several Southern Baptist Convention resolutions, including the June 1988 SBC Resolution on Persecution of Christians, the June 2001 SBC Resolution on Covenant Marriage, the June 2003 SBC Resolution on Kingdom Families, the June 2011 SBC Resolution on Protecting the Defense of Marriage Act, the June 2012 SBC Resolution on “Same-Sex Marriage;” the June 2013 SBC Resolution on Violations of Religious Freedom and Assembly in the United States, and the June 2012 SBC Resolution on Protecting Religious Liberty.
Robert Ingersoll et al. v. Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., et al. is one of nine cases listed for a possible spring 2016 setting. The court allows gavel-to-gavel coverage of all its cases, televised year-round on TVW, Washington State’s Public Affairs Network, according to the court’s website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Stories:

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3/8/2016 11:37:25 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Once backslidden, Sanchez plants church in downtown San Diego

March 8 2016 by Jim Burton, NAMB

SAN DIEGO – At age 16 Manny Sanchez tagged along with his family to an Amway Convention. They were independent business owners with the mega network marketing company that sells soap, vitamins, makeup and other products.
On Saturday, someone announced there would be an optional Sunday morning session. Sanchez went to what turned out to be a worship service. He learned that life could be about more than making money.


NAMB photo by Greg Schneider
Manny and Jennifer Sanchez are leading a church plant in San Diego with their children Noelle, 9, Luke, 7, Levi, 4, and Adaleigh, 1. 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

“The guy preached an evangelistic message,” Sanchez said. “I went forward and got saved. My heart really did change. I was the first in my family to get saved.”
Sanchez’s salvation happened in a vacuum. He had no Christian orientation and didn’t know what to do next.
“I didn’t know anything. Didn’t know to go to church. Didn’t know to read the Bible. All I knew was that something had changed,” said Sanchez, who was born in Mexico.
Common teenage rebellion followed, and he engaged in blatant sinful activity.
“I really see this as Satan’s attempt to destroy my life,” Sanchez said.
After a serious traffic accident became his wake-up call, his two sisters, 10 and 11 years older, stepped into his life. One of them enrolled him in a Christian school, Valley Christian Academy, in Santa Maria, Calif.
“That became my season of discipleship,” Sanchez said. “I started growing in Christ.”
He gave up the party life, drugs and other non-edifying habits and behaviors. After he saw Christ modeled in his new friends, Sanchez began soaking in the Bible and wanted nothing more than to obey Christ.
Stan Bickley, a youth pastor at First Baptist of Santa Maria, which sponsored the academy, became a major influence in the absence of a father.
“I wanted to be what my youth pastor was to me to other kids in my same stage (of life),” Sanchez said.


NAMB photo by Wally Nell
Send North America: San Diego church planter Manny Sanchez, right, talks with Robert during a community outreach for Catalyst Church. Sanchez and his family make a point to spend time in the community to meet people, build relationships and invite people to attend Catalyst Church. The Sanchezes are North American Mission Board 2016 Week of Prayer Missionaries. The goal for the 2016 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is $70 million.

College and a call to missions

Following high school, Sanchez attended a Christian college in San Diego. One of his sisters, the one he calls “super mama bear,” got into his business again, signing him up for Vision, the college’s singing group. Sanchez joined the group, which toured to promote missions and spent three to six weeks each summer on an international mission trip. He was in Vision for three of his four college years and visited Brazil, Portugal and Malawi.
“Everything that I experienced from high school to college has, in some way, shaped my ministry,” Sanchez said. “Our church is very discipleship focused. I don’t want anybody to slip through the cracks like I did and be fresh bait for Satan.”
He spent several years as a youth pastor at several churches before joining the senior staff at Shadow Mountain Community Church, pastored by David Jeremiah. While there, he completed seminary masters studies through Southern California Seminary, which the church sponsors.
“Our church became Southern Baptist, and that just opened up the door for me,” Sanchez said of his journey toward church planting.
Having grown up in Los Angeles and attended college in San Diego, Sanchez feels comfortable in the Southern California culture. Through research, he learned that San Diego is the eighth largest unchurched city in America. One reason is what he calls the “San Diego factor.”
“San Diego is beautiful 350 days out of the year and there is so much to do here,” Sanchez said. “The culture of San Diego is entertainment and to enjoy life. For some reason, church isn’t on that list for most people.”
With his wife, Jennifer, their four children and a core group from Shadow Mountain, Sanchez turned his attention to planting Catalyst Church in downtown San Diego–a place that has seen an estimated 10 church plants start and fail in the last five years.


Eventually, he found a meeting place downtown at the corner of 16th Street and G Street inside a warehouse. The venue is only available for three hours on Sunday evenings.
“Our goal was to focus just on that one-mile radius of the 25,000 people who live in the heart of downtown,” Sanchez said of a city with very few evangelical churches.
The city is transient. Between military families and others on a determined career path, establishing a stable membership has been challenging.
“We started the church with 18 people at our preview, then the second month we had 42,” Sanchez said. “The third month we lost 11 couples. It’s like trying to keep a leaky bucket filled.”
Catalyst reflects the diversity of upscale urban America, though there has been one surprise.
“You attract who you are,” Sanchez said. Young adults with children are attending Catalyst Church.


“On a typical Sunday we average about 130 people, and 40-50 are kids,” Sanchez said.
Eventually, Sanchez wants Catalyst Church to have a storefront presence that is at the hub of downtown and constantly interacting with the city. He has no allusion of growing into a mega church downtown like Shadow Mountain. Instead, the goal is for Catalyst to be “large enough to dare, small enough to care.”
He also wants to reproduce and develop a “well-oiled church-apprenticeship program.”
“We started with the goal of planting another church,” Sanchez said. “We want to plant pregnant.”
The establishment of Catalyst Church would not have happened without the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® and the Cooperative Program.
“We would not have been able to plant without the North American Mission Board,” Sanchez said. “They really supported us financially.”
In their first year, Catalyst Church had 40 professions of faith and 20 baptisms.
“You can’t orchestrate it. It feels like God is at the center of this and we’re along for the ride.”
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 To read about the other 2016 featured missionaries, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer living in Atlanta.)

3/8/2016 11:20:54 AM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments

One Day seeks to help churches create disciple-making culture

March 8 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

God calls people out of the world, grows them in His image and sends them back into the world to demonstrate that the best life is one that is lived God’s way.
This pattern is demonstrated throughout the Bible with both the Old Testament people of God and the New Testament church.
Cris Alley, who serves the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) as the strategy coordinator for the Triangle region, will address these themes and how they impact modern-day disciple-making at two upcoming training events for church leaders – One Day East and One Day West.


“At the One Day conferences in April and August, we will explore how to create a disciple-making culture in your church,” Alley said.
One Day will provide training and equipping for pastors, church staff and lay leaders who serve in virtually any ministry in the local church. The events will be offered in two locations to make it easier for more churches and leaders to take advantage of the training being offered.
One Day East is scheduled for Sat., April 9 at Temple Baptist Church in New Bern. One Day West is scheduled for Sat., Aug. 20 at Western Avenue Baptist Church in Statesville.
Each conference will include a keynote presentation by Alley as well as numerous equipping sessions covering a variety of local church ministries.
Individuals can attend the trainings for as little as $15 per person, if registration is completed by the respective early-bird deadlines. Early-bird registration for One Day East closes Fri., March 25.
Registration includes the equipping sessions, conference materials and lunch. Churches can also receive one complimentary registration for every 10 leaders who register from a single congregation.
Registration information, including pricing, deadlines and a complete list of equipping sessions is available at
Neal Eller, BSC team leader for church strengthening who is organizing both One Day events, said the goal of the conferences is to help everyone who serves in local church ministry – pastors and members alike – to understand and live out their role as disciple-makers in obedience to the Great Commission.
“I want people to understand what their responsibility is in disciple-making and how that can impact lostness,” Eller said.
“Whatever a person’s role is and whatever their ministry is, they have been called to their role for a reason, and they can make an impact for Christ.
“As people follow Christ and become more like Him and begin to make disciples in their everyday lives, they replicate His method of discipleship.”
Consultants from the BSC’s evangelism and discipleship group will lead equipping sessions in ministry tracks for Sunday School, small groups, children’s and youth ministry, worship and music, women’s ministry, evangelism, special needs ministry, pastoral leadership and more. A Hispanic track is also available.
A sampling of equipping session topics include: conversational evangelism, relational disciple-making, next steps for discipling new believers, how to create a disciple-making culture, and many, many more. A complete list of equipping sessions is available at
“All of the sessions – whether they address children’s ministry, small groups or pastoral leadership – are going to be focused on making disciples,” Eller said. “Both One Day East and One Day West seek to support churches in their efforts to create a disciple-making culture that impacts lostness in our state.”
For more information about One Day East or One Day West, please contact Lauren McCall at or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5628.

3/8/2016 11:16:30 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Bikers support Baptist Children’s Homes

March 8 2016 by BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Convention Relations Office is sponsoring the first annual Ride to Clyde motorcycle charity ride to support the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).
The ride will take place over three days in May. Riders will gather Wednesday evening, May 4, at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell and head west from there. The ride will be completed Saturday morning, May 7, when the group reaches BCH’s Broyhill Home campus in Clyde, N.C.
Along the way, riders will visit Cameron Boys Camp and the Mills Home Campus while enjoying the scenic byways of North Carolina.


Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer for the BSC, says, “The Ride to Clyde will be a great opportunity for those who love riding to not only enjoy the back roads of our state, but to see and hear the testimonies of lives that are changed by the gospel through the ministry of BCH.
“I’m not only looking forward to the ride, but to the fellowship and the opportunity to share my faith in Christ with those who will join us.”
Rit Varriale, senior pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, is also joining the ride. Varriale believes this event not only has the potential to raise much-needed support for BCH, but also to introduce riders to BCH ministries.
“We will only get to visit three of the 20 children’s homes campuses across the state, but after this trip, riders will have a much better understanding of the unique ministries of the children’s homes.
“We hope that they will become ambassadors for the children’s homes in their churches.”
Varriale is also excited about the opportunities that a multi-day event provides for riders who are Christians to interact with riders who are not Christians. Having participated in other multi-day charity rides, Varriale says the opportunities for disciple-making abound.
“We want riders who are Christians to bring their friends who are not believers along,” he said. “As we share meals, take rest stops and unwind at the end of each day’s ride, we’ll have opportunities to share the gospel.”
The full itinerary for the ride, as well as registration and fund-raising information, may be found at
The Ride to Clyde is also open to those who can only join the group for a portion of the route. Information for day riders may also be found on this same webpage.
Riders may also contact Cynthia King at (800) 395-5102 or via email at

3/8/2016 10:48:04 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Baptists confront refugee crisis at Greek border

March 7 2016 by Seth Brown, BR content editor

“Europe faces an imminent humanitarian crisis,” warned the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) in a March 1 report that focused on the rapid build-up of migrants in Eidomeni, Greece. A team of North Carolina Baptists recently volunteered at the border crossing to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where they aided desperate migrants and shared a message of hope.
Alisha Houston launched the idea of mobilizing a team after hearing one of her husband’s sermons at Beach Road Baptist Church in Southport, N.C. She felt compelled by God to serve Middle Eastern refugees amid the crisis that has dominated the lives of millions.

“It is overwhelming how many people are being affected … so many young families just trying to get to safety and make a better life for themselves,” she said. “They are broken and we have the very thing that can give them hope and a future.”
The team’s primary job was to help a local, non-governmental aid organization (NGO) relay important information and resources to incoming refugees.
BR photo by Seth Brown

They offered basic guidance in the Eidomeni camp, including directions to food, bathrooms, clothing and doctors. The team also supplied practical items like plastic handbags and helped prepare food for distribution.
“We helped them achieve the second highest production day,” she said, “we packed over 2,500 boxes of fresh pasta.”
Houston especially enjoyed keeping a small stash of treats on hand for young migrants.
“The children were all smiles when you give them candy. Just looking at them and smiling makes them light up,” she added. “They seem happy that someone is paying attention to them.”
Recent UNHCR estimates show more than 2,000 refugees arrive daily on the shores of Greece, totaling more than 1 million since January 2015. People from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran make up 94 percent of asylum seekers coming into Greece by sea, according to the latest figures.
They take the short but dangerous voyage across the Aegean Sea in inflatable dinghies or larger boats with no crew. The cold, unforgiving waters have claimed 410 lives in 2016, said UNHCR reports.
Numerous migrants said they risk the mortal hazard because there is no other option. War and terrorism have created unlivable conditions in their home countries.
“They live [in Iran] with no hope,” said *Amir, an Iranian college student. Fighting back tears, he continued, “It was so hard living there.”
Another refugee told aid workers he would rather die in the ocean than return home.

Devastated by violence

Syria’s economic collapse drove *Khalil and his wife out of the country in search of a new life. Unsure of the danger awaiting them, the couple decided to leave their two children with extended family until they find a safer place to settle in Europe.

Holding pictures of the young boy and girl, Khalil said in broken English, “I very sad, very sad. Sometimes I cry.”
The family endured the early years of Syria’s civil war, hoping for a peaceful resolution.
BR photo by Seth Brown
Alisha Houston, right, hands out candy to refugee children. “The children were all smiles when you give them candy. Just looking at them and smiling makes them light up,” she said. “They seem happy that someone is paying attention to them.”
They resisted leaving despite the apparent danger, due to close family ties and careers. But the fighting became chaotic, and they could no longer tell who was attacking whom.
It was too dangerous, Khalil said. So they decided to leave.
Conflict has spread beyond Syria as governments, rebel groups and terrorist organizations clamor for territory and power.
The Islamic State (or Daesh) and an al-Qaeda affiliate, called the al-Nusra Front, wreak havoc on fragile cease-fire agreements, fueling suspicion and spawning additional terrorist groups, according to news reports.
“It’s been five years – a war in my country,” said Khalil. “Now we leave Syria because we look for a new life, a future.”
An NGO leader said he was recently overcome by emotion when a young boy, after seeing an aircraft fly over the Eidomeni refugee camp, asked whether or not it would unleash explosives on them.
“It is so overwhelming to know that this is reality for people here,” he said.

Driven by fear

*Hassan, a construction worker from Baghdad, fled Iraq because terrorists threatened to destroy his family.
His oldest son is a popular Arabic singer in Turkey. After winning a well-known television singing competition, the son shared prize money with the family. When the Iraqi Daesh learned of the financial gift, they began making grave threats. For them, Hassan said, to be rich is considered “haraam” (sinful).
The young man must stop singing or be killed, the terrorists warned. When Hassan refused to forbid his son’s career, the Iraqi Daesh kidnapped one of his other sons. Terrorists sent Hassan a video threatening to kill the teenage boy unless he paid a six-digit ransom.
Hassan secured the child’s safety and fled the country immediately.

Distressed by uncertainty

Many refugees feel safe once they land on European shores, because they’ve escaped territories gripped by jihadists and shelled by warring armies, but additional troubles often await.
Instigated by European Union political tensions, arbitrary Macedonian border closings and immigrant flow restrictions cause Greek refugee camps to overflow, leaving people without adequate shelter or food.
The initial border camp in Eidomeni was built to hold approximately 2,000 people. The UNHCR estimated between 8,000-12,000 people were gathered near the border March 7. Nearly 60 percent are women and children. Many contract illnesses due to exposure and malnutrition.
The Greek government is making efforts to manage the flow of people and construct long-term solutions, but it cannot keep pace with the current influx. Officials recently announced plans to use docked passenger ferries as temporary housing, according to the UNHCR.

Strategies to build more “hot spots” on the mainland continue, but the country is limited by economic austerity measures and a lack of manpower.
The political uncertainty that surrounds the European refugee crisis keeps many refugees in a constant state of distress.

With a despairing look, Khalil said, “I don’t know if many people love us. … What can [we] do?”
Until a permanent resettling solution is reached, aid volunteers continue to serve those caught between violent turmoil in the Middle East and political upheaval in Europe.

Drawn by hope

James Zik, associate pastor of Beach Road Baptist Church, was among the volunteers drawn to the refugee camp in Eidomeni by a sense of urgency. His Christian convictions compelled him to offer hope to migrants in seemingly hopeless situations.
“James, you have no idea what it’s like to live under a dictator,” said *Amal, whose home in Damascus was destroyed. “Where is God right now?”
Zik replied, “You’re right. I have no idea what it’s like … but I can tell you this is not the world God created. It’s broken and tainted by sin.”
He continued, “The hope we have is in Christ. … All the brokenness you see on the planet will one day be restored.”
March 15 marks the five-year anniversary of the Syrian conflict. Many Christians are drawing attention to the date, calling for people around the world to pray, serve and give for the sake of displaced peoples scattered across the globe.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships is actively pursuing ways to mobilize N.C. Baptists to engage people along the migrant pathway from Turkey to Germany.
The International Mission Board (IMB) and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have partnered with other organizations in an initiative called Pray for Refugees (#prayforrefugees). IMB has also deployed field personnel to help develop a unified strategy for serving migrants.
Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development organization, provides avenues for volunteering and donating at their website,
Zik said to anyone considering ways to help refugees, “Don’t hesitate. Just go. Sign up yesterday and get over there.”
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Find regular updates about the European refugee crisis at Contact the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships to learn how to get involved: 919-459-5536 or
3/7/2016 12:31:32 PM by Seth Brown, BR content editor | with 0 comments

GOP debate: Trump’s character draws focus

March 7 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Whether GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is morally fit to be president drew extended focus during a March 3 Republican presidential debate in Detroit that also included discussion of religious liberty, adoption by same-sex couples, judicial nominations and the water crisis in Flint, Mich.
Trump’s opponents, and at times the Fox News moderators, suggested Trump’s alleged unkindness toward others, inconsistent policy positions and business impropriety are unbefitting a U.S. president. Trump countered that he is “flexible” rather than inconsistent, his business dealings are all above board and it is logically invalid to conclude from poll data that a large percentage of Republican voters believe he is unfit for the presidency.
The debate’s opening question from moderator Chris Wallace focused on a speech given earlier in the day by 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in which he criticized Trump for “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd, third-grade theatrics.” Trump, Romney said, “lacks the temperament to be president.”
Trump responded by calling Romney “a failed candidate” whose performance in 2012 “was an embarrassment to everybody” and discussing how he differs with Romney on trade policy.


Screen capture from Fox News
The four remaining GOP candidates for president discussed front-runner Donald Trump’s character among other issues at a March 3 debate in Detroit.

In response to Romney’s critique that Trump mishandled a Feb. 28 question from CNN’s Jake Tapper on the Ku Klux Klan and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, the New York businessman said, “I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan. I totally disavow David Duke.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio defended his recent personal attacks against Trump, which moderator Bret Baier characterized as “vulgar jokes and jabs.”
“For the last year, Donald Trump has basically mocked everybody with personal attacks,” Rubio said. “He has done so to people that are sitting on the stage today. He has done so about people that are disabled. He has done it about every candidate in this race. So if there is anyone who has ever deserved to be attacked that way, it has been Donald Trump for the way he has treated people in the campaign.”
Rubio added, “Now that said, I would much prefer to have a public policy debate.” On policy questions, he alleged Trump’s foreign policies lack specificity and criticized him for having “defended Planned Parenthood for 30 seconds on a debate stage” last week.
In response to a suggestive jab by Rubio earlier in the week, Trump made a comment about his anatomy. Both comments were criticized as inappropriate by secular and Christian commentators.
Trump defended policy statements that could appear inconsistent by stating, “I have a very strong core. But I’ve never seen a successful person who wasn’t flexible.” Changes of opinion on issues like admission of Syrian refugees to the U.S., Trump said, stemmed from learning new information.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argued, presumably based on polls and election returns showing 30-35 percent support for Trump, “65-70 percent of Republicans ... recognize that nominating Donald would be a disaster.” Rubio similarly told Trump, “Two-thirds of people who have cast a vote in a Republican primary or caucus have voted against you. They do not want you to be our nominee.”
Trump said that arguing two-thirds of Republican voters are hostile to him is an illegitimate interpretation of the data. Using the same logic, Trump said, a recent CNN national poll showing approximately 15 percent support each for Cruz and Rubio would mean 85 percent of voters “don’t dig” them.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich largely stayed out of the discussion of Trump’s character, though he implied Trump falls short of the presidential standard set by Ronald Reagan.
At one point, discussion turned to Trump’s suggestion in a previous debate that as president, he would target terrorists’ families with military strikes and employ interrogation methods more severe than waterboarding. Baier asked Trump what he would do if military commanders refused to obey such orders, believing them to be illegal.
“They won’t refuse,” Trump responded. “They’re not going to refuse. Believe me.”
When dealing with terrorists, Trump said, “we should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.” He implied using military force against terrorists’ families is not always a violation of just warfare principles because family members are not necessarily innocent noncombatants.
In other discussion, Kasich was asked whether he believes vendors who object to same-sex marriage have the right not to provide services for gay weddings.
“At the end of the day,” Kasich replied, “if somebody is being pressured to participate in something that is against their deeply-held religious beliefs, then we’re going to have to think about dealing with the law. But you know what: I’d rather people figure this out without having to put another law on the books and have more arguments in this country.”
Cruz was asked whether he believes same-sex couples should have the right to adopt.
He replied, “Adoption is decided at the state level, and I am a believer in the 10th Amendment in the Constitution. I would leave the question of marriage to the states. I would leave the question of adoption to the states. That’s the way it has been for two centuries of our nation’s history until five unelected judges, in an illegitimate and wrong decision, decided to seize the authority over marriage and wrongfully tear down the marriage laws of all 50 states.”
Cruz said he will “never compromise away your religious liberty” by nominating Supreme Court justices who fail to uphold it. He argued Trump’s previous support of Jimmy Carter, John Kerry and Harry Reid demonstrates he does not “care about conservative Supreme Court justices.”
Trump countered by criticizing Cruz’s vote in the Senate to confirm chief justice John Roberts, who Trump said failed to “kill Obamacare” when he had an opportunity.
Rubio was asked by Baier why “GOP candidates haven’t done more or talked about” the water crisis in Flint, Mich. He responded that he and other Republican candidates have addressed Flint, a majority black community where lead contamination in the water has precipitated a public health crisis.
“The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue” by suggesting “that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead’ – it’s absurd,” Rubio said. “It isn’t true. All of us are outraged by what happened, and we should work together to solve it.”
Despite their criticisms of one another, all four candidates pledged to support the eventual GOP presidential nominee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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3/7/2016 12:21:03 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Reveal’ encourages life-on-life discipleship

March 7 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

When Dhati Lewis felt called to the ministry, he didn’t sense a call just to preach the gospel. He sensed a call to make disciples.
“Disciple-making is not a ministry of the local church,” said Lewis, who serves as lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga. “It is the ministry of the local church.”
Lewis shared how he lives out that calling to a group of 350 pastors and church leaders on Monday, Feb. 29 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., as part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2016 disciple-making conference.
The theme of the conference was “Reveal: Share your life. Speak the gospel.” The theme is based on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 in which the Apostle Paul wrote, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”


Lewis photo by K. Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder editor; Lawless photo by K Brown, BSC
Dhati Lewis, left, and Chuck Lawless were among the key speakers for “Reveal,” a disciple-making one-day event Feb. 29. The training was held at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro and was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Lewis was one of several speakers at the event who shared biblical and practical ways to build genuine relationships that point others to Christ and help them grow in their faith.
Speaking from Matthew 9:35-38, Lewis challenged attendees to recommit themselves to reaching their neighbors for Christ.
“(Jesus) says the harvest is plentiful,” Lewis said. “The problem is that the laborers are few. The problem is that too many of us as believers have reduced Christianity to conferences, concerts and church services. Now all the laborers are clustered together.”
Lewis added that too many believers have become “addicted to our comfort,” and reaching our neighbors will require us to get outside of those comfort zones.
“We need to really think through, ‘How do we reach our neighbors?’” Lewis explained. “I think the first thing God is saying (in this passage) is that we need to pray that God would force us out.”
Lewis said reaching our neighbors means we must take time to get to know them and get involved in their lives. Lewis called this “the ministry of presence,” adding that we must rediscover the principle of life-on-life discipleship.
“We have reduced life-on-life disciple-making to a once a week meeting at Starbucks where I’m going to ask you about your life,” Lewis said.
Lewis is so committed to life-on-life disciple-making that he and his wife, Angie, invite six to eight single adults to live with them in their home for several months. Lewis and his family model for those individuals how to study and apply the Bible as they live life together.
The principle of life-on-life disciple-making is foundational to Blueprint Church. So much so that half of Blueprint’s members have someone living in their homes that they are discipling, Lewis said.
“Living in close proximity forces you to deal with the truths of scripture in real life,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ message resonated with Jeff Holder, pastor of Society Baptist Church in Statesville.
As Holder heard Lewis describe how he disciples individuals who live in his home, Holder said he was reminded of an individual in his community who is doing the same for someone else. Holder said he plans to talk to wife about inviting a young man from his church to live with them for a period of time.
“Discipleship does involve this idea of ministry presence and life-on-life presence,” Holder said.
Chuck Lawless, professor and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, opened the day by speaking on disciple-making and spiritual warfare. He reminded attendees that it is God who fights our battles for us.
“God leads us into impossible battles so He might be our warrior and the nations might know His name,” Lawless said as he walked through several passages of scripture to illustrate that truth and how it relates to disciple-making.
In examining the life of David, Lawless noted that the shepherd boy trusted in the Lord’s strength and power to deliver him against the giant Goliath. When he later became king, David would frequently depend upon his own abilities, Lawless said.
David’s example has direct application in disciple-making. “If we’re not careful, we will train people out of dependence upon God,” Lawless said.
In disciple-making relationships, Lawless challenged the audience to ask themselves this question: “Are you David the king or David the shepherd boy? Where are you really?
“The best disciple-makers are shepherd boys and shepherd girls who teach others to be the same.”
Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church near Asheville, concluded the day with a special word for pastors. Frank encouraged pastors to model the type of disciple-making that they want to see from their congregation.
“If you’re a pastor, you’ve got to put huge importance on the quality of model that you are,” Frank said. Frank reiterated the conference’s theme about the importance of building relationships that can serve as platforms to share the gospel and make disciples. While acknowledging that it’s easy to be critical of lost people and their lifestyles, Frank encouraged attendees to intentionally pray for and seek out friendships with the lost.
“They are not the enemy,” Frank said. “They are the mission field.”

3/7/2016 12:14:15 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Abortion debate’s lack of ‘common ground’ bemoaned

March 7 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The welfare of women in abortion clinics should be, but isn’t, an issue on which pro-life and pro-choice advocates agree and work together, said members of a Southern Baptist-sponsored panel discussion March 3 on Capitol Hill.
“This ought to be a place where NARAL and NOW ought to be coming to us and saying, ‘How about we just do this together? How about we take a tour of all these clinics across the country?’“ Marjorie Dannenfelser said of two leading abortion rights organizations.
“But they are not vested in national common ground,” said Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Antony List. “They are vested in abortion on demand up to the time of birth, and they are so, so tied to that institution.”
Dannenfelser’s remarks came during Capitol Conversations, a periodic, Washington, D.C., panel discussion sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The discussion – titled “SCOTUS Takes on Abortion Without Justice Scalia: What to Expect” – took place the day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding a Texas law proponents say is designed to protect women’s health by regulating abortion doctors and clinics.
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia – a leading conservative, pro-life voice on the court for nearly three decades – died in mid-February, leaving only eight justices for the March 2 arguments and the foreseeable future.
ERLC President Russell Moore called it a “sobering reality” that the two sides in the abortion debate cannot find a “point of common ground.” The safety of women “would obviously be, it would seem,” a place for agreement, but the two groups “don’t even have commonality” in that area, he told congressional staffers and others gathered in a Senate office building.
Kim Colby agreed.
“You would think that liberals would want health and safety laws for women,” said Colby, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom. She noted the liberal justices’ apparent skepticism toward Texas’ law during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
Quoting a previous comment from Dannenfelser, Colby said, “The real question is whether the abortion industry is going to be self-regulating.” Colby added, “That’s what we’re talking about here.”
Scalia’s absence means the court could split 4-4 in the Texas case. If that happens, the Texas law would stay in effect in the jurisdiction of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also includes Louisiana and Mississippi. The Fifth Circuit upheld the law’s requirements that an abortion doctor must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a woman needs emergency admission and that abortion clinics must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.
“The dynamic of this case has changed dramatically as a result of Justice Scalia’s death,” said Michael Moses, associate general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We are in kind of a holding pattern in this case and many others.”
Moses and Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, pointed to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy as the deciding vote – a role he has played frequently for years. Kennedy’s suggestion of a remand as a possibility during oral arguments could mean the case is returned to a lower court, but Moses wondered how the justices would come up with a “governing standard” for the lower court in its reconsideration of the case.
Duke acknowledged Scalia would be missed by pro-lifers and social conservatives.
“God is sovereign. God always does what’s right,” Duke said. “I don’t understand it, but that’s the situation that we’re in at this point.”
Scalia, Moore said, not only was committed to the abiding standard of the U.S. Constitution’s text, “he also understood what constitutional principles do is ... protect vulnerable people from majorities.” On abortion, that means protecting “vulnerable women and children from the whims of decisions that are made culturally and the decisions of others.”
Christians must pay attention to the evolving standards of morality and justice in culture and the courts, Moore said.
“That means we should be very concerned when we see on the left an understanding of autonomy that leaves vulnerable people harmed in its wake, and you can see an acceleration of that rhetoric in recent days,” Moore said.
“But at the same time, there are disturbing signs on the right, with a kind of ‘South Park’ conservatism in which no pro-life witness can long be maintained. ... A pro-life witness cannot continue in an atmosphere of misogyny. A pro-life witness has to stand up for the vulnerable and has to stand up for the weak and has to stand up for the stability of structures.
“As we go through some very, very tumultuous times, we need to be the people who will say steadfastly regardless of what the political parties do, and even if neither political party will stand with us, that a human being’s worth is not defined in his or her usefulness but in the image of God,” Moore said, “and that no government and no culture has the right to pave over the consciences of anybody and that religious freedom doesn’t come with a majority vote.”
Texas’ law does not violate the “undue burden” test established by the justices in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, said Colby, who described its requirements as “reasonable regulations.”
Under the “undue burden” test, she said, “it’s okay if the law makes getting an abortion more difficult. It’s okay if it makes getting an abortion more expensive. It just can’t prohibit abortion. It can’t give the spouse or parents veto power over the abortion. So basically there’s a lot of room in there for the state to regulate. So that’s what Texas did.”
Some of the justices appear willing to return to the pre-Casey standards on abortion, said Colby and Moses.
In another important, abortion-related case this term, the “road got harder” for non-profit organizations that object to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, Colby said. March 23 is the date for oral arguments in that case, which involves a requirement that employers provide for their workers not only contraceptives but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions.
Colby has not “given up all hope” in that case despite Scalia’s absence, she said. For one thing, the court is concerned about its public image. “The image of nuns and bishops going to jail because they won’t comply is not a pretty one, especially during a presidential election,” she said.
Duke said, “We’re going to need to be praying even harder for the justices to make these decisions, and praying very hard for our leaders to do the right thing when it comes to filling this seat that’s going to be very hard to fill.”
Dannenfelser told the audience, “One thing I’m real sure of, and that is our whole system of government is under a test. [The] responsibility we have to engage in the political process, I think, is more obvious now than at any time I can remember.”
In closing, Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, urged those attending “to persevere and to not lose heart,” citing Galatians 6:9.
“These are the circumstances in the providence of God that have been thrust upon us,” Lorence said. “I think that one of the things that should give us some comfort is that everybody lives their life with an uncertain present.”
The latest Capitol Conversations event – which was moderated by Steven Harris, the ERLC’s director of advocacy – followed three held in the previous eight months, one on same-sex marriage and religious liberty, one on Planned Parenthood and the sanctity of human life and another on the Syrian refugee crisis.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/7/2016 12:08:38 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Churches keep commitment to CP despite struggles

March 7 2016 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter/Southern Baptist TEXAN

First Baptist Church of Iowa Park has a long, committed history to giving 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to through the Cooperative Program (CP). The only problem came when the Texas church’s budget expenses outstripped income.
“We were having the financial secretary cut the checks, and then she would mail it if the money was there,” explained pastor Glen Pearce during a March 1 Cooperative Program luncheon as part of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower Conference in Irving. When funds were tight, other commitments took precedence over giving through the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) channel for supporting missions and ministry.
“We did this over and over again,” he said. “At the end of the year we’d sit down the finance committee and if there wasn’t enough money [for the CP portion] we’d release some of it and void the other.”


Pearce admitted, “We felt guilty, repented a little bit, felt terrible about it and promised to do better. But the same cycle happened again, and this went on and on and on.”
God eventually convinced Pearce of the need to pray specifically for the church’s financial situation, inviting staff and deacons to join him.
When an administrative assistant proposed writing a check for CP giving every Monday based the previous day’s offering, Pearce agreed. “Every Monday they would count the offering. She would write the check and mail the check,” he recalled.
“For 52 weeks that happened, and we ended the year in the black because we pulled money from our contingency fund,” he explained, “but the Cooperative Program (commitment) was met that year.” As the church began 2015 with no money in the bank and no contingency fund, Pearce said, “I think God was testing us to see if we’d keep doing that.”
There were times when the staff held their checks, waiting for another Sunday to come through. “But the Cooperative Program check went.”
By the end of last year, receipts exceeded budgeted expenses, depleted reserves were replenished, and excess income covered the cost of remodeling an entire floor for children’s ministry. Once again, the church kept its commitment to allocate 10 percent of undesignated receipts for distribution through the CP.
“I believe what we’re seeing is that God hears our prayers,” Pearce shared, interrupted by applause. “God blesses, but we have to do what it takes to be obedient.”
Encouraging pastors to make good on their support for the CP, Pearce said, “Our church isn’t huge, and we don’t have a lot of rich people, but if you’re faithful to God and pray and expect Him to come through, He will come through.”
Darryl Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntington, described giving to the CP as an investment in a kingdom that reaches around the world.
“Many times it is easy to look within our four walls and our city limits,” he said in describing ministry in a small town. “Obviously we’re responsible for reaching Huntington for Christ, but the Cooperative Program is a great way to invest in God’s kingdom that’s going around the world.”
Early into his 17-year tenure as pastor, Smith heard a young man express appreciation for prioritizing missions giving. Looking at the financial report during a business meeting, the man asked if Smith had noticed that after making a commitment to give sacrificially to missions and the CP, God had blessed the church with more than they had planned on receiving.
“It’s the paradoxical truth that’s throughout the scripture that as we give our life away more and more, we receive more and more of life,” he noted.
“Missions is a part of my DNA, and it became a part of the DNA of our church,” Smith said. “The Cooperative Program is very personal to us because it’s real people.”
First Baptist Church in Huntington has adopted an unreached people group in West Africa and travels to the site four or five times a year. When members of the church give their offerings, they know they are supporting missionaries who serve through the International Mission Board like the couple with whom they work.
“They came from churches just like ours,” Smith said. “I look at them as my kids and tell them, ‘We have to take care of you.’”
Following the testimonies, Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement at the Executive Committee of the SBC, told those attending the luncheon, “We have a great cause to cooperate together to do what Christ Jesus is calling us to do.”
At a time when criticism of the local church abounds, Weathersby praised what is right, starting with the mission found in the Great Commission. Drawing from Matt. 16:16, Weathersby said, “We’re to knock the gates of hell down and go in and set the captives free.”
The method of “witnessing, evangelizing and sharing Christ out of the overflow of an intimate walk with Christ” provides further evidence of what is right with the local church that is empowered by God, Weathersby said. For Southern Baptists, the mission strategy of the Cooperative Program serves as a tool to accomplish God’s work, he said.
“How are you going to be able to do all this?” he said. “We accomplish what Jesus Christ has called us to accomplish because the minister is right,” he said, referring to the work of the Holy Spirit in coming alongside believers in the local church.
“We are grateful and thankful for what God is doing through this convention that sacrificially sends more money for national causes than what you keep in the state,” Weathersby said in closing. “What a sacrifice from the churches, but what a sacrifice from the convention of churches who give 55 percent away. That is a testimony in itself.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, at, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

3/7/2016 11:51:17 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter/Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

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